Oct 24, 2011

Orthodox en-COUNTER-s w/ modern America

An interesting snapshot of the ways the Eastern Orthodox in America are negotiating with American culture:
"[T]he OCA Department of Christian Education [DCE] invites all [16th All-American] Council participants to attend a workshop in the Juniper Room on Monday, October 31, at 8:00 p.m., for a workshop titled 'Orthodox Living in a Challenging World.' Archpriests John Behr and Michael Oleksa will offer presentations on 'Being Human' and 'En-COUNTER-ing Culture' respectively. Mrs. Daria Petrykowski will offer a presentation on 'Addressing Abortion,' while Archpriest John Dresko will speak on 'Challenging Sunday Sports.' In addition, Matushka Valerie Zahirsky, DCE chair, will highlight various resources offered by the department."
A group like the OCA is unlikely to understand itself as in-transition, in negotiation and re-negotiation of identity. The emphasis, of course, is on continuity, and being unchanged. For that matter, the emphasis is likely to be on theological distinctives rather than points of cultural contact. Yet, as we see in this programing note, the cultural issues also come up.

There is always contact, and at those points you find either adaptation, or resistance, or both.

What makes the Eastern Orthodox in America particularly interesting in this regard, I think, is the way the immigrants and the converts tend to be at cross-currents on exactly question of encounters with the broader culture. Second- and third-generation immigrants often tend towards assimilation and adaptation, while the converts to Orthodoxy often especially value the ways in which these churches are dramatically counter-cultural.

This is also, though, at the same time, exactly reversed: the converts bring social attitudes and cultural practices and concerns which lessen the alterity of the Orthodox church. They often note, for example, that they're not converting to an ethnicity. Yet the division of religious practices and ethnic and national and even family practices can be problematic for immigrants and their children, whose identity in America includes all these ways of living blended together into a whole, that whole being who they are in this new context, these new encounters.