In my long experience with the Byzantine Rite churches I have always fell more welcomed and accepted there than in other Roman Catholic and Protestant churches, minus the Episcopal Church. In my encounters and time spent in Methodist, Roman Catholic and Evangelical churches I didn’t always feel welcomed or I felt welcomed but didn’t feel welcomed to express myself in a way that I saw fit. Like not being free to engage in my Southern culture and heritage while attending a Methodist campus ministries because that wasn’t considered PC. Or feeling like I needed to guard against myself from coming out as a liberal in many of the local Roman Catholic churches because good Southern Christians aren’t liberals. This last bit has been a culture sock since leaving Washington, D.C.
Well, last night after the Presanctified Liturgy the gathered Wednesday night congregants started in on our Lenten lesson. The lesson for this week was on submission. As I learned the Greek Orthodox and whole of Christian Orthodoxy has a similar approach to submission as the United Methodist Church: submission as serving each other as Christians. This is very different than from what I had learned growing up in a culture influenced by Evangelical Christianity that is hyper focused on God’s so called “laws” and Americanism. Something that requires that one be a conservative, American exceptionalist and nationalist as part of the equation to make it to heaven. It’s just short of a vague mathematical equation to salvation. I learned that Orthodoxy isn’t like this.
At the start of the lesson Fr. George asked the class what we thought of this week’s lesson. One parishioner said that being submissive to each other, treating others with respect and kindness, is what Christian Orthodoxy is about. It’s about keeping an open mind. Another parishioner said that submission is realizing that there is a middle ground and that not everything is black and white. Part of this submission in the Orthodox Church is attempting to understand where other people come from and not condemning them for thinking differently. At the heart of it is about approaching people with respect and love.
In so many instances I have felt that political allegiance is more important in certain religious communities than approaching people with love. I have felt that love has been secondary. This weeks lesson has touched on why I have felt so accepted and loved in so many of the Byzantine churches that I have attended: love is more important than personal political leanings.