Friday, October 21, 2005

Christianity: Flying in the Face of Popular Culture

I posted the Randy Stonehill song "Great Big Stupid World" two blogs before this, because I wanted to lay down a starting point for what I am thinking about here. I landed upon the Strawmen's web site, and Bill (Seraphim's) message board the other day after I got back from the Randy Stonehill and Lost Dog's Concert in Bremerton. It got me going, talking about why I became Orthodox, and two of the main reasons are also the same reasons that I like the sort of music I like.

1) It flies in the face of popular culture
2) It has the element of Mysticism that I always felt was "missing" from my life as a Christian.

I'm going to address #1 in this blog.

I have always been, quite naturally, a loner. Add to that the fact that I've never really had any interest in "doing the coolest, latest thing." So, I find it quite easy to not be immersed in popular culture. Folks at the lunch table talk about this and that football player, baseball player, movie star, latest hot celebrity: and pretty much, most of the time I don't know who/what they are talking about. Talk about religion, history, society, literature, philosophy, and I'm right there. But, anyway, as for "popular culture" - I really don't dig it.

So, I've always found the more "extreme" and more fringe sorts of music to be to my taste. I have a feeling this pushes me even beyond the ordinary "Christian that is not a part of popular culture."

It all goes back to this: Christ said of himself:

"My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36) and also: ' "You are from below," He told them, "I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.' (John 8:23)

And of his disciples, he said:

"If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, this is why the world hates you." (John 15:19)

So, the "not of this world" concept (think: "Only visiting this planet" or "Strangers in a Strange land" ) fits in nicely with Christianity. In fact, you could go so far to say it is one of the more important concepts in Christianity.

How did this influence my transition to Orthodox Christianity? Well, first off, when I started reading about the Orthodox Church, I found out about the Holy Fools (not to be confused - albeit the similarities - with the "Fools of the World" record label). But more than the amazing simplicity of the lives and teachings of many saints (including those off-key folks that were Holy Fools) there is the entire rhythm of the Church: the feast days and celebrations, the daily services and liturgical cycles - a veritable rhythm, that very much does not coincide with the rhythm of the world.

But it goes far beyond that. One of the most exciting and interesting things about Orthodox Christianity, is the fact that it takes every element of faith all the way through to it's logical conclusion. An example for you: a woman gave birth to God. Therefore it is okay now to refer to her as the "Mother of God." This does not imply any of the nastiness some might ascribe to it. It does not imply that she was "before Him" or in any way cosmoligically existed from all eternity, or that she has any God-like features, or that she is a "goddess" or anything like that. No, we would reject such falacy all the way to the perly gates. But, we are admitting that Jesus Christ is True God whe we call her "God's Mother". Hey, we even go way beyond that. We refer to her parents as: "The Grandparents of God." We refer to The Holy Apostle James as "The Brother of God" (though we believe he was merely a half-brother or a cousin.

Anyway, that's just an example of how the Orthodox Church has always (since the days of the apostles) taken what we believe and say seriously.

Now, I could talk about how faith exercises itself in life, but I won't because that would make me a hypocrite. We call it "Orthopraxy" (the practice of Orthodoxy). It refers to acting upon what you believe, and I wont' say I'm any good at it, but I
will tell you the experts (those I read about in the lives of the saints) agree that it is primarily things like:
* Living Simply
* Loving Others and always sharing with them God's Grace
* refusing to judge and criticize others (because we are worse than them)
* a continual struggle (salvation in the scriptures is an active verb .e.g "being saved")

(Okay, it is the "continual struggle" part that I have difficulty with. Particularly the fasting and asceticism. But I'm on a diet right now, and that may help out in the end...)

That's another thing about Orthodoxy. The holier a person is, they less they have to say about how other people should live their lives. Boasting is strictly out-of-bounds, and it includes talking about how "well you are doing spiritually" and other such things. There has never been a single saint canonized by the Church that thought himself or herself worthy of that title.

Well, you can see how all that flies in the face of popular culture, can't you?

I'm going to have to split this into a second post, I see.

Up next:
- what is good about American culture
- and what is bad about American culture


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