Category Archives: Orthodoxy in America

A Reflection on the Church in the Political Arena

by Fr. Robert M. Arida

Democracy and the separation of church and state are relatively new for the Orthodox Church. From both derive the many challenges the Church in America encounters as it stands unfettered in the political arena.

Paraphrasing the British historian and theologian G.L. Prestige, the concept, let alone the reality, of a political atheist was unknown until the modern era. Prior to the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, God, politics, and the Church were inseparable.

Father Georges Florovsky has shown that as Christianity expanded throughout the empire, the Church was faced with two options: to either remain in the world/empire and contribute to the development and improvement of the body politic or to retreat into the desert. By the time of Constantine’s conversion to Christianity the Church found itself at a crossroads. It had to grapple with Christ’s kingdom not being of this world (Jn.18: 36) and the reality of an emerging Christian empire with a Christian emperor at its head.

With the Church facing the crossroads of empire and desert two concurrent foundations were laid. The first was a Christian political philosophy upon which would be built a Christian state and culture. The other was its antithesis, manifested primarily in the monastic movement, which would serve as a continuous reminder to the Church that its true home and sovereign were elsewhere. Continue reading

“For You Were Aliens in the Land of Egypt”: Why Orthodox Christians Cannot Remain Silent on United States Immigration Policies

by Aram G. Sarkisian

In recent weeks, distressing images of detained children, renewed calls for drastic immigration restrictions, and the United States Supreme Court’s decision upholding a travel ban against Muslim-majority countries have intensified national discourse on immigration policy. These developments should strongly resonate with Orthodox Christians. Though the church’s demographics have certainly changed over the past century, Orthodoxy flourished in the United States during the early 1900s as a church built by, and for, immigrants. Orthodox Christians must draw on their histories to speak credibly to the anxieties of migration, the human toll of detention and deportation, and the negative implications of immigration restrictions, entry quotas, and normalized xenophobia.

One argument employed to support stringent immigration policies comes from those who insist that since their immigrant ancestors “came legally” and prospered, others should be held to the same standard. The truth proves a little more complicated. Continue Reding…

Headscarves, Modern Orthodoxy, and Telling Women What to Do

by Nadieszda Kizenko

Dr. Katherine Kelaidis recently published a piece in this forum on ‘Headscarves, Modesty, and Modern Orthodoxy.’ The article, a loving homage to Kelaidis’s grandmother, aunts, and mother, describes the pressures faced by Greek immigrant women of the American Mountain West two generations ago, by contemporary Muslim women, and by Orthodox women under Ottoman rule. Acknowledging head covering as a historical code for women’s modesty and chastity—shared, one might point out, by Orthodox Jews, African American ‘church ladies,’ Roman Catholics before Vatican II, and Episcopalians before the social changes of the 1960s—the author then makes two unexpected turns. She perceptively notes that, to her supremely modest aunts, mothers, and ancestors, modesty meant “not calling attention to yourself…when everyone was wearing a headscarf, you wore it. But when you when you found yourself in a time and place where women had taken it off, you took it off as well.” “Any other choice,” Kelaidis continues, “was a display of self-aggrandizement.”

This last comment—that any other choice was a display of self-aggrandizement—leads Kelaidis to a complicated place. It is one thing to suggest that discretion is the better part of valor, and that the truly modest thing to do is to bow in true humility to the reigning external cultural standards of one’s day. One is most modest by not standing out from others. Real modesty—and by extension real Orthodoxy and real propriety—lie precisely in not making a show of one’s modesty or one’s Orthodoxy or one’s propriety. Continue Reading…

Headscarves, Modesty, and Modern Orthodoxy

by Katherine Kelaidis

Yiayia Kay kept her scarves in the far upper right hand corner of the long light oak dresser. By the time I was old enough to remember, she never took them out except to garden. She would drape one of the silk covers over her perfectly coiffed hair to protect it against the dry winds of the Colorado high plains. As a little girl and even into her teens and early married life, these had been more than mere gardening accoutrements. They were the outward visible witness of her inner self, signaling to the world, not just that she was a Christian, but that she was a lady, modest and chaste. Then one day, around the time television became king, like so many Greek American women of her generation, she folded up the scarves and put them in the dresser.

The fact is that for most of my childhood in the urban, assimilated Greek Orthodox parish where I grew up, the head covering was completely absent. Continue Reading…