Though there were many beautiful and theologically correct things that brought me to Orthodoxy, one challenge for me was that women are not allowed to be priests. I had come from a denomination that ordains women and allows women to hold many leadership positions in the church. The idea of an all-male priesthood and the fact that women were never allowed behind the altar chafed against my conscience. I also hated the thought of my daughter never being able to be an acolyte. The fact that the early church had deaconesses only added to my chagrin. Deaconesses administered the sacraments to women and girls since back then men couldn’t touch women.
My best friend from college, who is an ordained (female) minister in the Nazarene church, asked me over and over: “How can you be part of a church that doesn’t ordain women?”
I tried to explain to her that I’d found a church that engaged in right worship, was built on historical Church tradition, and offered a community of saints. Spirituality was a practice, not an emotional experience. If I do feel moved emotionally in an Orthodox liturgy, I am certain that it is the work of the Holy Spirit, not the effect of singing Just As I Am or Lord I Lift Your Name On High twenty times. “Maybe all that is more important than women being ordained,” I said.
An icon takes something material and makes it transcendent by pointing away from itself. I think the economy should work like an icon. That means the meaning of market activities cannot be found in a market. This is something we forget a lot of times. Part of what it means to be in a market society is that we work ourselves to death and never bother to ask, “Why?” Maybe I am nuts or maybe I am naive, but I don’t think this is what life is supposed to be like.
Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production; and the interest of the producer ought to be attended to only so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer. –Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations
To explain how capitalism enables a “sick epectasis,” I need to offer a brief history of the liberal (i.e. “liberated”) market.
I have finished the “proposal” part of my book proposal and am currently revising/writing my sample chapters. The following brief passage comes from Chapter 1.
Historically speaking, the Orthodox Church likes empire. It just feels like home to us! Of course this is true to a certain extent of all Christians. But it takes a uniquely triumphalist form in the world of Orthodoxy.
Roman Catholicism has been forever shaped by its hard scrabble childhood. Its early years were spent wandering through the rubble of the once “Eternal City.” The church in Rome learned to be self-reliant. Nobody but the pope would protect the Christians of the city from the Huns, Vandals, and Lombards. The pope offered some protection from the violent political seas of western europe – the constant battering of barbaric would-be caesars against each other. The see of Peter became a rock to cling to in more than one sense. He was both a relatively stable symbol of eternal power as well as a memory of lost glory (and perhaps a hope for its return).
The childhood of the Orthodox Church was more privileged. Rome had not died, just moved to Greece. Caesar still reigned in Constantinople. Its glory was diminished, but never lost. As western Christians saw in Peter a sign of transcendent security, eastern Christians saw transcendence-made-immanent in the person of the emperor. Even as the empire began to collapse all around them, even as lands were lost to the Slavs, Arabs, and Turks, many looked to the emperor, half-praying/half trying to convince themselves that, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people.”
I sometimes write controversial things. I do not do this because I like controversy. I am an introvert by nature. I prefer to keep my head down and mind my own business. I write because I feel like I have to.
It’s not that I mind criticism. I expect it. I actually like thoughtful and respectful critique because it helps sharpen my own ideas. But the inevitable ad hominem attack and occasional phone calls to my priest bother me. When people are mean to me, my wife gets upset. My priest also has better things to do than explain again why he disagrees with what I say. I hate that sometimes I can be a burden to those I love.