The Word February 1969 Page 6
CHRISTIANITY IS DEAD?
by FR. GREGORY OFIESH
St. Nicholas Church, San Francisco, California
In this age of “Honest to God,” “God is dead,” and “Are you running with me Jesus?” questions arise concerning the legalistic, juridical, scholastic, and intellectual structure of faith. In this age of Pike and ecumenism man has philosophized, moralized and analyzed the essence of Christianity. True Christianity cannot exist in the bosoms of analysts and philosophers. Christianity is rather the driving force of divine love from God to man, and man to man. Christianity is love incarnate, for love incarnate became a true reality, and was the driving force of unity between Christ and his apostles. Christianity was to them an actuality and a true life with God here and now. The actions of true Christians were motivated by his divine presence. There was no room for legalism and laws. There merely existed the penetrating power of divine love and a burning passion to be with Christ God.
“A new commandment I give you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” (ST. JOHN 13:34-35.)
Christianity is not dead today. We are dead. We have created a new Christianity of thought and reason through the process of rationalization. We have created a false dichotomy in the family of God, in the church. Clergymen have separated themselves from their spiritual children and the children have alienated themselves from their spiritual leaders.
Priests, ministers and rabbis exercise canon law and legalism as tools replacing faith and love. Having become as “little gods” they are releasing their own deep fears and inhibitions. Lashing out at their people, they tell them how they must live, rather than allowing them to share the love of the spirit divine. Rarely do they allow the spirit of God to descend so that they may also become witnesses and abide in love. For there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.
Whereas, on the other swing of the pendulum, the spiritual children, the faithful, have developed their own religion also. Each in his own sphere has also portrayed and rationalized a new creation of thought and morality; Christianity is for them only a ‘Sunday spouse.’ These people use their religion merely to escape from their own guilt and fears, and seek refuge in rational acceptance and psuedo reconciliations.
Yes, we are all guilty in the delusion of a diluted Christianity. We are all guilty of the death of Christianity in society today. God is love; Christianity is the incarnation of the fullness of love, and this love is Jesus Christ. This love cannot be rationalized, it cannot be legalized. This love cannot be legislated, nor can it be moralized. How can one in this world today become a true Christian in the sense of being with God?
A young man, a guest, during the Liturgy, moved by the inspiration of the choir and witnessing the mystical aura of the Liturgy, came forward and said, in the middle of the services, “Father, forgive me for coming forward, but something has happened to me. I don’t know what it is, but it overpowered me; please help me understand.” This same spirit also overwhelmed Peter, James and John on the mountain when they saw Jesus. Elias and Moses transfigured before them. This same power overwhelmed the early fathers as they shed the blood of martyrdom upon the soil of the earth granting a new life to all who called upon His name. This same power overwhelmed the apostles in their challenge to the world and overcame the spirit of oppression and affliction which attempted to destroy the faith of Orthodoxy over many centuries of survival. The enemies today of Christianity — Evil, Hatred, Jealousy, Envy, Deceit — and such handmaidens as Apathy, Indifference and Complacency, must be overcome. The attempt to reduce Christianity to a mere philosophy of life, to words and expressions, to commandments and canons, to factions and mere factors, has done a remarkable job. “Rosemary’s Baby” is a fitting example of a modern attempt to mythologize Christianity.
True Christians today must take upon themselves the yoke of Christ and accept Him as our hope and salvation.
“By this you know the spirit of God, every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of antichrist, of which you heard that it was coming, and now it is in the world already.”
(I JOHN 4:2-3.)
Where is our commitment program? Where is the presence of Christ in us? Where is the divine love which has radiated the world and given life and martyrdom to all who met him? We must awaken now and we must all feel the overwhelming power and joy of His divine presence and therein transform ourselves; only then can the world become transformed.
As the family of God, the local church must concern itself with Christ on all levels. The family of God must be nourished in its commitment to Christ, and grow as a mighty oak in the jungle of life, soaring above all, extending its wings, seeking to touch the bosom of God, and therein recline securely within the cloud of purity and love. We must become aware of the Christian education of our children; now more than ever priest and layman must see that our churches begin with a new life in Christ. We must move on to new horizons with the same spirit that made the early witnesses a living testimony to the presence of Christ. Orthodox Christians, awaken! Our faith must “shine like the stars of heaven, in thee our Lord and God.” Does it?