Saturday, July 3, 2010

I Can't Become Orthodox

As I've matured (ha!), I've come to realize that there is a lot more gray in this world than I am comfortable with, but I've come to accept it. Not too long ago, I would insist that if you were a Christian and you were not Orthodox, you only needed some gentle persuasion from me (and I'm really not gentle!) and all would be well. But I've come to realize that Holy Orthodoxy works for me just as Lutheranism works for some people, Catholicism for others, etc.. At the same time, the excuses that are generated by people as to why they are not Orthodox or do not want to convert (though they may really want to at heart but are afraid) are pretty superficial. The following is a list which I've seen scattered over the internet at various sites. I refound it here.

This list should be not be taken too seriously. In a lot of ways, this list confirms a lot about how Orthodoxy has been publicized and stereotyped by Orthodox Christians themselves. Enjoy.

I can’t become Orthodox, because I was born Roman Catholic/Protestant’.
(No, you weren’t. You were born a pagan, like all of us. You were then conditioned and manipulated by a set of ethnocentric cultural values. Look at the Apostles: most of them were born Jews, only they freely changed to Orthodoxy).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because you don’t have a Pope’.
(You don’t need a Pope; Christ is the Head of the Church)

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because you don’t have the filioque’.
(Nor does the New Testament. See Jn. 15, 26 or Acts 2,33).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because you don’t have purgatory’
(The Gospel never mentions this Latin word that was first mentioned at the end of the twelfth century).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because it’s a sect’.
(For nearly 2,000 years, billions of people have not thought so. Are you so much cleverer than all of them?).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because you have saints’.
(Sadly, that is your loss. Don’t you want to know the friends of Christ?).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because your way of taking communion is so unhygienic’.
(Then why aren’t Orthodox all constantly ill?).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because you kiss icons’.
(Don’t you kiss members of your family? Don’t you love Christ and those close to him? Are you not members of the family of Christ? Or are you victims of Protestant scientism?).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because you have to confess’.
(You mean you have no sins? Then give me your photograph and I will stick it on the iconostasis).

I can’t become Orthodox, because Orthodox are sinners and argue among themselves’.
(Yes, we know about ourselves, that we are sinners. We also think our Faith is important – that’s why we argue, because we are not lukewarm and indifferent. And that’s why we go to church and go to confession and communion, repent, read the Lives of the Saints and find healing for our arguments. You mean you do not know about yourself and your own need to repent?).

‘I cannot become Orthodox, because you don’t sing our hymns’.
(Why sing Victorian platitudes, when you can have ancient spiritual depth?).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because the choir sings badly’.
(Then come and sing yourself and help improve it).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because the services are always the same’.
(You mean you have never been to more than one Orthodox service in its entirety?).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because you can’t take part in the services’.
(You mean you have never tried praying?).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because I will no longer be free to change the Faith and pick from it what I want’.
(You don’t come to the Church to change the Orthodox Faith, you come to the Church to be changed by the Orthodox Faith. Or do you consider that you do not need changing?).

I can’t become Orthodox, because I can pray anywhere, without ritual’.
(And do you? If you can live without ritual, why then do you have a daily routine?).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because there’s no difference between it and my present religion’.
(Why hesitate then?).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because it won’t help me’.
(Correct. Nothing will help you, if you don’t first make an effort to improve yourself).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because you don’t have the same calendar’.
(No, it’s you who don’t have the same calendar).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because it’s not Western, it’s Oriental’.
(Then it’s like Christ. He came for the Middle East. He wasn’t Western and secular either).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because I was born English’.
(Nor was Christ. By the way, I didn’t know that ‘English’ was a religion).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because there are foreigners in church’.
(For racists and xenophobes. As I said, Christ was also a ‘foreigner’).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because you are so diverse’.
(That’s why we are not boring).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because the other people are different from me’.
(Are you anti-social? Yet you are different from them and they accept you).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because the clergy wear beards’.
(So did Christ. More victims of their cultural prejudices).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because women can’t wear trousers in church and have to cover their heads. It’s like Islam’.
(Yes, like the Mother of God? Or do you think that She was a Muslim? Or do you mean that you have no sense of modesty?)

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because men can’t wear shorts in church’.
(Nor did the Apostles and the saints and your ancestors, when they went to church. Why this need to distract others from prayer by your immodest way of dress?).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because the services are too long’.
(You mean you are lazy?).

‘The services start too early and finish too late’.
(See above).

‘I can’t be bothered’.
(See above, but thank you for being honest).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because then I won’t be able to live with my partner any longer’.
(Yes, you will, only you will receive a Divine blessing, your union will become spiritual as well as physical, and your ‘partner’ will become your legitimate spouse, instead of your partner in sin).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because you have to fast’.
(You mean you reject Christ’s sacrifice of fasting in the desert and his Gospel instructions about freeing yourself from demons through prayer and fasting?)

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because I can’t eat roast beef every Sunday lunch-time’. (You mean you have an all-important passion for meat?).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because I can’t go to the pub on Saturday nights’.
(You mean you are too weak to stop your drinking bouts?).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because the priest says that I should try to give up smoking’.
(You mean your passions are stronger than your faith?).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because I don’t believe in God’.
(I understand. But how do you know? When you were surprised, I heard you calling on God’s name. If you start searching now, you will find faith and then be able to become Orthodox. Seek and you will find).
‘I can’t become Orthodox, because my family will reject me’.
(I understand you. But are you sure? In any case, Christ will not reject you).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because I do not live near an Orthodox church’.
(I understand you. Change your way of life, so that your priorities are based around the Church).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because I don’t understand anything’.
(If you want to understand something, then begin by praying about it).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because you have to stand and pray’.
(You mean you can’t be bothered. At least this is not an excuse, but honest).


  1. I hadn't encountered this before. Thank you for sharing it. For many people who are otherwise interested in Orthodoxy, it is just a matter of making excuses. It takes them outside of their comfort zone for one reason or another and, faced with that choice, they decide on the easier path. I don't refer to those who are adamsant that they wish to have nothing to do with the Church but to those who do, yet who find all sorts of reasons not to.

    I'm not quite sure how we deal with that seriously. If people's current homes do not require of them the painful sort of introspection that regular confession inculcates, the list above may simply entrench stubbornness and cause backs to arch, i.e., give them another excuse. So how do we reach such people?

  2. Michael,

    How do we reach such people? We don't. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. Hopefully, what we can give them is a strong system of support and help through the church, its ministries and the priest. But, with all that in place, there will always be excuses and reasons not to "go all the way." Should we give up? Of course not. We should be as St. Paul told us in the Epistle to the Romans (which was today's epistle reading at the Liturgy) and continue to reach out to them with love and kindness going so far as to "bless those who curse us."

  3. So we can't bribe them with chocolate? A pity.

    Yes, you're right, of course. I love the portion of the Anaphora of St Basil where, on our behalf, the priest prays that God may have mercy on those who love us and those who hate us. I suppose we can quietly pray in our hearts for the indifferent.

  4. I'm not sure if it is the same or taken from the Anaphora of St. Basil's Liturgy, but when I end compline in the evening and sometimes after my morning prayer, I will pray this:

    Forgive them, O Lord, that hate us and do us wrong. Do go good unto them that do good unto us.

  5. Left out some of these "no I can'ts":

    No I can't become Orthodox because your main leader, Patriarch Bartholomeos, supports abortion.

    No, I can't become Orthodox because the leader of most Orthodox in America, Archbishop Demetrios, has compared Obama, whose support for unlimited abortion is only seconded by the Chinese Communists, to Alexander the Great.

    No, I can't become Orthodox because you are so stained by Phyletism that your denomination is limited to a single, Greco-Byzantine, culture expression.

    No, I can't become Orthodox because antisemitic is rampant in your denomination.

    Gee...the list could go on and on and on...

  6. Anonymous,

    Well, if you're going to subscribe to the faith based only on the actions (and I question your accusation about his all-holiness Patriarch VARTHOLOMAIOS I) of certain men (who are always sinful), then you will only remain a church of one because obviously you're too holy to be seen with the rest of us.

    Also, there's nothing wrong with being Greek and being Orthodox.

    Where is the antisemitism?

    Finally, the Orthodox are not a denomination; we are the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

  7. Hence, your denomination is no different than the Protestant Episcopal Church; what is believed is simply a personal opinion, you have yours, and the bishops have theirs. Everyone simply believes what they want to. I am sorry, but what the leader of a church says is important, especially since no one in your denomination has stood up to him and his teachings that abortion is acceptable to your denomination.

    Antisemitism? you have got to be kidding you really do not know what this is? Please look it up and study some Russian history.

    There is no reason a Greek cannot be Christian, but when they declare that everyone else must accept their tradition to belong to the Church, there is a problem, it is heretical and it is called phyletism.

    You may say that your religion is not a denomination, and I am very happy for you. The Romans say the same thing about their church as do the Oriental Orthodoxy; but if you support the murder of children and have full communion with church leaders who do; are you even Christians?

  8. "‘I can’t become Orthodox, because it’s a sect’.
    (For nearly 2,000 years, billions of people have not thought so. Are you so much cleverer than all of them?)."

    According to this reasoning, you should be a Roman Catholic, since more people are Roman Catholic than Byzantine Orthodox!

    As a classical scholar you should know that his is a form of Argumentum ad Populum. Any first year philosophy student can see the defect in this argument!

  9. "(and I question your accusation about his all-holiness Patriarch VARTHOLOMAIOS I)"

    Please see the following from "First Things" (

    A Not So Pro-life Patriarch . . .
    Tuesday, October 27, 2009, 9:00 AM
    Hunter Baker

    John Couretas is drawing attention to statements by Metropolitan Bartholomeis of Chalcedon. And wow, these are some pretty “unorthodox” statements regarding the sanctity of life from a member of the Orthodox clergy. Take it away, John:

    Here is a direct quotation from a July 20, 1990, article, “SF Shows Off Its Ecumenical Spirit,” in the San Francisco Chronicle. Metropolitan Bartholomais of Chalcedon is the current Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

    Asked the Orthodox church’s position on abortion, Bartholomais described a stand more liberal than that of the Roman Catholic Church, which condemns abortion in all cases and whose clergy have, in some cities, excommunicated leading pro-choice Catholics.

    Although the Orthodox church believes the soul enters the body at conception and, ”generally speaking, respects human life and the continuation of pregnancy,” Bartholomais said, the church also ”respects the liberty and freedom of all human persons and all Christian couples.”

    ”We are not allowed to enter the bedrooms of the Christian couples,” he said. ”We cannot generalize. There are many reasons for a couple to go toward abortion.”
    The statement was made in 1990, but Couretas goes on to highlight the same theme in the patriarch’s thought through the years. For a church that talks about being founded in 32 b.c. this is quite a divergence from early Christian practice, which consistently exhibited tremendous concern for the value of human life.

  10. "Civil discussion," eh? Not!

  11. Anonymous,

    Part of having a civil discussion is at least knowing your opponent's name. I can only guess at the reasons you don't reveal it. Are you afraid or do you consider yourself to be somehow better than those who post their names? Let me know if I'm close.

    As far as the whole abortion debate, let's just say, for a moment, that His All Holiness, Patriarch VARTHOLOMAIOS I (and that is his correct title, btw) actually made a statement that was very clearly (and the statement you quote can be twisted any number of ways. At least be honest about that) in favor of couples terminating their pregnancy. You're going to say that the Holy Orthodox Church is the anti-christ because of one man and his own thoughts? You're going to assume that the whole church is of like mind? You think one man=church? Need I remind you that there are other Patriarchs besides the one of Constantinople, New Rome? The Church's one foundation is Christ our Lord (I think that is a Protestant hymn, no?). Hierarchs come and go. Some are better than others. Our faith and our adherence to it is dependent on Christ.

    Now, let's be clear. The Orthodox Church (and I'm talking the phronema here, not the dictates of one man, hierarch he may be), has never considered abortion to be anything other than extinction of human life. I would need to see the Patriarch's comments in full context, because, by itself, it seems that he was being very honest that the motives for abortion are varied. I don't think for a second that statement is condoning the act.

  12. Anonymous,

    ‘I can’t become Orthodox, because it’s a sect’.
    (For nearly 2,000 years, billions of people have not thought so. Are you so much cleverer than all of them?).

    You're right that this is an Argumentum ad populum.

    I posted this list not as an authoritative list as to why someone should not just dismiss Orthodoxy as the legitimate and true faith. It was more for entertainment value and not all arguments on this list are of equal value.

    Nonetheless, the characterization that Orthodoxy is a mere sect or even "cult" (yes, I have heard that term applied to us) is ridiculous. The Orthodox faith has been the faith of billions of people since Christ and the Apostles. To label it as something new or innovative or cultish is to be ignorant of history.

    --Chris, moderator