Father Aris Metrakos has written a frank piece entitled There is an American Orthodoxy. Here’s a resume of the article. Please go read it all.
A myth needs to be debunked. It goes like this: Orthodox unity is years away because there is no such thing as “American Orthodoxy”. Call it an ecclesiastical instead of urban legend if you want. It’s been in circulation for at least two decades among the Orthodox Christians of the United States and it keeps us frozen in a state of tribalism and territorialism that prevents us from planting Orthodoxy more firmly in America.
This myth is advanced by people who focus on what the Church in the United States is not. Ok, so we don’t have a 1500 year-old monastic tradition. It’s also true that most of our people have never been to a vigil. And yes, the typical American churchgoer doesn’t know Seraphim Rose from Pete Rose.
But to say that these “shortcomings” imply that there is no American Orthodox identity is like saying there is no such thing as American soccer because our fans don’t pummel one another and our announcers don’t scream “G-O-O-O-A-A-L!”
Positive Characteristics of American Orthodoxy
Two decades of involvement with the Church in the United States have convinced me that Orthodox unity is closer than we think. There is such a thing as American Orthodoxy. Here are some characteristics:
Father Aris goes on to list those characteristics:
- A Eucharistic Church
- A Parish Based Church
- A Sunday Morning Church
- An English Speaking Church
- No State Identity
- A Political Big Tent
- Formality, Not Imperialism (i.e., serious about liturgy, but not pretentious)
- Simple, Participatory Worship
- Pious, Not Pietistic
- Power to the Programs
- The Role of the Laity
But it’s not all fluffy bunnies and playful kittens:
Negative Characteristics of American Orthodoxy
It’s not all peaches and cream for America’s lovers of smells and bells. If it were we wouldn’t still be talking about unity, we’d be doing something about it. Following are some points that paint a picture of the dark side of Orthodoxy in the United States.
Here is that list of negatives.
- A Profound Inferiority Complex
- Arrogantly Ignorant
- Pathological Parochialism
Again: Go read it all.