Saturday, September 27, 2008

gone Greek (and I ate too much!)

Last night my family and I went to GreekFest 2008 at Knoxville's St. George Greek Orthodox Church. I have always enjoyed my experiences with the Greek Orthodox church; the sense of culture and history surpasses anything I ever experience in my own faith tradition. It's not just the food and the dancing; I also appreciate the challenges of perpetuating a native culture from inside American culture. In the Orthodox Church Christianity also has a heavy sense of history, of connection with something older than the Information Age. I'm uncomfortable with all the icons and general decor of the sanctuary (and its supporting theology), but there is something to be said about keeping in mind brothers and sisters in Christ from previous generations as we struggle to discern and be faithful to authentic Christianity in our own day.

On another note, a guy with a microphone making announcements and emceeing the entertainment made a comment that snagged in my brain. As he was encouraging visitors to take a tour of the church and hear the history and explanation of the Greek Orthodox faith, he called the Orthodox church "the original Christian faith." After that comment I began to wonder if the combination of emphatically Greek culture and Christian Church was, for the Orthodox, more than just an expression of Christianity but rather the expression of Christianity. In other words, the icons weren't merely images of Jesus and the saints as Christian heroes; they were images of Jesus and the saints as Greek heroes! In that ideological milieu, just as in my own faith tradition, it is all the more important that we remember that Christianity isn't a Western religion but an Asian one. Christianity is the expression of the Jewish faith that has dramatically and definitively impacted the Western world.

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