Saturday, August 26, 2006

The trap of "Romantic Orthodoxy"

Interesting & thought-provoking posting in Rod Dreher's blog found at:


I just finished reading Fr. Schmemman's journal, and this quote can be found on page 276. Rod (and Fr. Alexander) give much food for thought. Here is Rod's post:

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The trap of "Romantic Orthodoxy"

In a journal entry from Nov. 1, 1980, Father Alexander Schmemann,
the renowned Orthodox priest, discerned a problem with what he
called "Romantic Orthodoxy", which can be distinguished by the
following characteristics:

"+ nominalism (e.g., non-existing Patriarchates)
+ blind liturgical conservatism
+ cult of the past
+ theological preoccupation almost exclusively with the Fathers
+ "apocalypticism"
+ hatred for the contemporary world (not for this world in general)
+ emotionalism
+ cult of externals (beard, cassocks, prayer ropes, style)"

"In other words," wrote Schmemann, "it includes all that makes
Orthodoxy weak, that makes it into an internal ghetto (and not an
appeal, a fight, life). Romanticism, in life and in culture, is, above all,
a dream, the primacy of the heart over discernment and truth. It pushes
reality away for the sake of an imagined reality; it is belief in illusions."

Father Schmemann, of course, was talking specifically about the
Orthodox church, but there is wisdom there for all of us who hold on
to small-o orthodox religion, in whatever tradition. My experience is
almost wholly limited to the Catholic Church, but there are some good
general principles in this for the small-o orthodox to watch out for. We
live in a time of such chaos within the churches that it's easy for the
orthodox to substitute slavish adherence to ritual and Henny-Pennyism
(i.e., "The sky is falling!") for authentic spirituality. For me -- and this
is something I would have added to Fr. Schmemann's list -- a particular
temptation has been to get caught up in Church politics, and to allow
"churchiness" to occupy much of the attention that ought to have been
going to advancing on the path to holiness. There was a time not all
that long ago when I imagined that being preoccupied with the
advances and retreats of the forces of Catholic orthodoxy was the same
thing as being and becoming a good Catholic Christian.

The "cult of the past" is a particular temptation too for us tradition-
minded Christians. It's very easy to look around at the loosey-goosey
religion promulgated by Father Frootloop and Sister Stretchpants (and
their dopplegangers in other churches and traditions) and to idealize
the 1950s, when the Church was rock-solid. But that solidity must
have been a Potemkin village at some level, or things wouldn't have
fallen apart so quickly in the 1960s, which is the decade we love
(appropriately, I hasten to add) to demonize. Could it be that in that
decade, very large numbers of people were going through the motions,
but the living faith itself never touched their hearts?

A few years ago I was in the Netherlands talking with a professor
about the collapse of the Church and cultural conservatism in Holland.
He said that when the Second World War ended, people returned to the
social forms that had existed prior to the war. But those forms had
been hollowed out by the trauma of the war. When the first gusts from
the counterculture blew through the Netherlands in the early 1960s, it
all went down like a house of cards. I wonder, then, if the Dutch
churches in the immediate postwar period were caught up in a "cult of
externals," mistaking the form of corporate worship and personal piety
for actual faith -- and so they didn't see the internal weakness

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

It Isn't the Church ... It's You!

It Isn't the Church ... It's You!

If you want to have the kind of a church
Like the kind of a church you like,
You needn't slip your clothes in a grip
And start on a long, long hike.

You'll only find what you left behind,
For there's nothing really new.
It's a knock at yourself when you knock your church;
It isn't the church -- it's you.

When everything seems to be going wrong,
And trouble seems everywhere brewing;
When prayer meeting, Young People's meeting, and all,
Seem simmering slowly -- stewing,
Just take a look at yourself and say,
"What's the use in being blue?"
Are you doing your "bit" to make things "hit"?
It isn't the church -- it's you.

It's really strange sometimes, don't you know,
That things go as well as they do,
When we think of the little -- the very small mite --
We add to the work of the few.
We sit, and stand around, and complain of what's done,
And do very little but fuss.
Are we bearing our share of the burdens to bear?
It isn't the church -- it's us.

So, if you want to have the kind of a church
Like the kind of a church you like,
Put off your guile, and put on your best smile,
And hike, my brother, just hike,
To the work in hand that has to be done --
The work of saving the few.
It isn't the church that is wrong, my boy;
It isn't the church -- it's you.

-- Unknown

Taken from The Best Loved Poems of the American People, pp.93-94.

I got this from Fr. Joseph Huneycutt's blog: