[Previously on The Sad State Of The Greek Orthodox Church: When did going to church become like attending a music concert? A bunch of people attending an event with whose content they’re not necessarily familiar with.]
It’s the hypocrisy that gets me. The regression of faith, its degeneration to routines reminiscent of how faith was approached two thousand years ago. The clergy’s highhanded elitism. The blatantly un-Christian ways of Christianity. All those manipulations against which the figure of Jesus stands, they’re being repeated by none other than his self-proclaimed followers.
Let me tell you a story. A year ago I published nine pieces on today’s Christian Greek Orthodoxy, pointing out how the Greek Orthodox Church insists on conducting its holy affairs in Koine, a form of Greek most native speakers don’t use or understand. I compared this phenomenon to the Pharisees, who, two thousand years ago, were accused of conducting their religious ceremonies in a form of Hebrew the majority of Hebrews weren’t familiar with. I called out the Greek Orthodox Church for its current approach, labeling its clergy a bunch of modern-day Pharisees all too eager to disregard and contravene what Jesus had stood against. I called them hypocrites and manipulators, self-righteous, pompous agents of God on Earth happy to herd people into submission, obsessed with authority, and a good friend of mine took me aside and told me that I’d gone too far. If we weren’t good friends, he told me, he’d have taken me out on the street and beaten the shit out of me.
Why? I asked.
Because you go too far! he said.
Too far? Because I point out that the people in charge of today’s Church are doing exactly what the Pharisees and Scribes did back in the day? Because I point out how they conduct the sermons in a language only their own scholars can understand? How they demand rote obedience from the congregation, and screw participation? How they point the finger at anyone who challenges them, calling him or her a blasphemer?
Enough! Don’t go there!
Why not? It’s a perfectly legit argument. In fact, it’s the entire point! The whole premise of Jesus Christ, whom you are celebrating these holy days, was the takedown of the corrupt clergy and its foul elitism.
I’m telling you, man, you go too far. Let it go.
Did Jesus let it go?
You’re not Jesus!
No, but it would be great if we stopped embracing the things he opposed, at least if we’re the goddamn Church.
You go too far, man! If you weren’t my friend, I would beat the shit out of you right here, right now. Take you out on the street and thrash you. I’m just letting you know.
He said it with a smile, trying to laugh through it. It was most unsettling.
He’d meant it, every word of it.
Yet what disturbed me most was — I know my friend well enough to know that he was trying to be honest with me, not threaten me — well, he did threaten me just a little bit, but I can live with a few friendly threats. But what got to me was how he didn’t have any answers to the points I was making. He didn’t produce one single counterargument. He was just angry at me, livid, telling me to shut up.
He was offended!
This from a conservative man who hates liberalism, by the way, and who finds the whole notion of being a offended a pain in the ass.
Not that he’s wrong. Political correctness is a big pain in the ass, gone too far. I’m the first to agree.
But it has to work both ways. If people need to chill out and handle the ins and outs of open society, able to take a joke or a critical comment without screaming bloody murder, it has to work across the board. No cherry-picking. Whether you’re talking about a minority, a specific belief system, a gender issue, or God Almighty.
Not in this case. My friend had drawn a big fat line in the sand. I was apparently out of line, applying pure reason to the Church, calling it hypocritical, its approach to life un-Christ-like, and that was offensive. I was out of control, and needed to have my ass kicked to set me straight. I needed to be told I was getting away with it on account of friendship.
My answer was, Fuck off!
Part 4 to follow