I saw this movie on Al's recommendation. What impressed me most about it was that the filmmakers managed to provide insights into the feelings and actions of both sides. Aside from the violence, which was unavoidable, the only thing that I found truly offensive about it was the continual use of the word "God" in translations from Arabic into English.
But the film got me thinking about other things, especially after a conversation with two friends who were received into the Church eight years ago, and who have now decided that they just can't take it any more. Their reasons: 1) "ethnic" orthodoxy; 2) contempt for converts; 3) ecclesiology; and 4) theological revisionism.
As I was talking to my friends, I found myself thinking about the film, and about the "differences" that set people against each other. The fanatics in "United 93" belonged to a religion which I do not find appealing, but even it may have its virtues. It seems to be, for example, almost completely "colour-blind".
Even its emphasis on the Arabic language seems to have the effect of dampening the kind of destructive ethnic pride that is our besetting sin. It appears that muslims will accept without hesitation just about anyone who shares their faith. I have never encountered a muslim who thinks that some people are, in a word, sub-human. Sadly, I cannot say this about putative Orthodox Christians, and it is, in part, encounters with some of these types while travelling in Europe, that have made my
friends give up on Orthodoxy.
Then there is ecclesiology. How many cities can each of us name that have in them half a dozen "Orthodox" Bishops? And things get really exciting if we count the "non-canonical" Orthodox, the newly-rehabilitated monophysites, etc., etc. We are a scandalous visible contradiction of our own ecclesiology.
Theological revisionism? Well, you all know what I mean - for example, several regular posters here have unburdened themselves at length about the new-age theology that seems to percolate ever more fragrantly at SVOTS. Even the Ecumenical Councils can now be whitewashed into revisionist irrelevance, if this might help to serve the cause of superficial ecumenism. Am I the only one who has noticed that we even
have one lurker here who waits for opportunities to take shots, however oblique, at the Council of Chalcedon? And who can blame him? We might as well have issued printed invitations.
I have now lumbered on for six paragraphs without even mentioning scandals, the sad business in the OCA being only the most recent. These usually are even more "scandalous" than they need to be because of the inept and amoral ways in which they are dealt with.
So why do I remain Orthodox? I have a certain affection for my ethnic background, but this is entirely incidental to my commitment to the faith (except when someone attacks my ethnicity from a belief that I am not fully human) and not enough to keep me in the Church.
My friends will probably end up in the great Roman family. Despite its faults, it is also, at least, pledged to the full dignity and equality of all human beings. I am beginning to see its appeal..........
So, the question is how can converts survive long term in an ethnocentric parish?