Bryce Rich on “Becoming Orthodox”
I love reading unique faith journeys that don’t “fit the mold,” especially conversion stories, which is why I really enjoyed this article by Orthodox lay theologian Bryce Rich. Some of the things that he loves about Orthodoxy are the things I love about it, too. Most particularly, I find it interesting that an openly gay man could find a spiritual life in a church that is unambiguously traditional in its views on sexuality. His insights on the matter are fascinating – he notes that the strength of Orthodoxy is its unchanging nature, and how big conversations about doctrines happen on very large time-frames.
An Orthodox priest once told me a joke about his religion:
Q: How many Orthodox does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Change? What’s that?
Now I’m not going to say the views of the Orthodox church on homosexuality are wrong or right, I just find it’s interesting that a person would join a church that seems to be at variance with his identity. Many people in this world suffer when their religious identities and personal identities conflict.
That is not to say that Orthodoxy is completely at odds with Bryce Rich, as his post illustrates nicely. He certainly “clicks” with Orthodoxy’s liturgy, history, and theology. It is just that for many congregants, teachings on sexuality can be a deal breaker, even if they like everything else about the religion.
It also seems to remind me of the American tradition of “church shopping,” which is a process where people “shop around” to different denominations to find one that suits them the best. This usually means the church that they agree with the most, or the church where they are the most comfortable. However, I wonder if this is really the best way to do things. If I wanted to join a church that believed everything I believed, I would imagine I would have to start that church, and I’d be the only congregant! Perhaps there is something special about worshiping with those we disagree with, or who challenge our conceptions about spirituality.