Orthodoxy — a way of life?
I joined an Orthodox discussion forum recently, and got involved in a bizarre discussion full of strange non-sequiturs.
Someone posted an article (written by someone else) about Islam, which began by saying, “Islam is not a religion, nor is it a cult. In it’s fullest form, it is a complete, total, 100% system of life.”.
I pointed out that the same could be said of Orthodox Christianity, and possibly other forms of Christianity as well.
I’ve heard it said many times, by many different people, that Orthodoxy is not a religion, it’s a way of life.
I’ve also heard it said that tithing is often misunderstood. We are not to be 10$ Christians, tipping God was we tip a waiter (or “waitron”, as they are called in South African restaurants). We should aim to be 100% Christians. It’s all or nothing.
But in that forum about four or five people responded by referring to the First Amendment to the US Constitution, about separation of church and state.
It seemed (to me at any rate) a strange repsonse. At first sight it was a complete non-sequitur. Why should anyone take the US constitution as an authoritative statement of the Christian faith?
It implied (to me) that, in the USA at any rate, it was unconstitutional for anyone to aim to be 100% Christian. At least 50% should belong to the state.
Of course this is in line with the modern world view, that “religion” should be confined to a part of one’s life labelled “private”. It may be permissible for consenting adults to engage in religious activities in private, but outside the private sphere, it should be kept out of sight. Modernity, and the modern worldview generally, tends to analyse things and separate them. Life is to be compartmentalised. Work, home, family, leisure, religion etc should be kept separate, and not influence each other.
Of course in practice it doesn’t always work like that. There are some commercial enterprises that believe they own their employees, body and soul, and work must take priority over everything else. Some of them literally work their employees to death, destroying their health and their family life. Such companies also fit the description of Islam in the opening statement. They demand 100%. They are not a religion or a cult, but a complete system of life.
And so I find it odd that people in an Orthodox Christian discussion forum should apparently think that while Islam demands that Muslims should be whole-hearted Muslims, it is somehow against the American Constitution for Christians to be whole-hearted Christians. The American Constitution, they seem to believe, demands that Christians must be half-hearted at most.
So why do so many people in America apparently believe that the US Constitution demands that Christians must be healf-hearted at best, and that this is what is meant by separation of Church and State, and that it is a Good Thing — in fact one said that it was America’s gift to the world.
If one person said this, one could write it off as a personal idiosyncrasy, or a simple misunderstanding. But it was repeated by several people.
And if Muslims believe that Islam demands 100% commitment, and Christians continue to believe that a half-hearted 50% max commitment is demanded by the US constitution, then the future of Christianity looks pretty dim, at least in the USA. Perhaps it’s time to re-read the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal.