Secular Orthodoxy

Secularism is the removal of God from our everyday lives for the things of this world. Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos defines secularism as “the betrayal of the real life of the Church, and the alienation of the members of the Church from the genuine mind of the Church. Secularism is the rejection of the ecclesiastical ethos and the pervasion of our life by the worldly mind, the secular mind.”[1]

Orthodox Christianity is a lifestyle, not an “organized religion.” If we attend Liturgy on Sunday morning but do not take our Christianity with us to work or school on Monday morning, we are not living as true Orthodox Christians. If we attend anything in place of Liturgy on Sunday morning, we are not placing God above all else. If we do not attend the services for the Nativity of our Lord because we have a pre-scheduled family dinner at the same time, we have made ourselves victims of a secular Orthodoxy.

For years now, we have been pushing God out of our schools, government, and every other aspect of our lives, but we continue to attend church on Sunday morning. The dichotomy of our secular and spiritual lives is schizophrenic (in the original sense of the word, meaning, “split personality,” from Greek). 

Our Lord took all of the commandments of the Old Testament and condensed them into two: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-40). If we say that “God comes first” in our lives but then put the things of the world before our relationship with the Lord, we are practicing “Secular Orthodoxy,” which is not Orthodox Christianity at all. Worshiping God properly requires obedience to the teachings of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, without the input of our secular mindset. True Christianity requires that Christ be at the center of everything we do. The devil tries to convince us that practicing our faith when it’s convenient is enough – that we need to be well rounded and not “too religious.” However, our Christianity cannot be an afterthought or just another part of our lives. We must be cautious that the secular mentality does not influence our faith, even if our family and friends do not understand.

Our Lord taught: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:37-39) This is in the Bible, straight from the Lord’s mouth, yet while many Christians would not openly say that they disagree (although some do), they have great difficulty understanding and accepting this difficult saying from the Lord, though we should hold His Word as Truth. It is only within the context of our love of God that we can truly love our fathers, mothers, and children. True love is sacrificial love. It tells the truth. So often we do not tell the truth to our closest family and friends in fear of being rejected, and therefore do not truly love even our children, because our so-called love for them is actually a need for acceptance, which is a love of ourselves, or pride.

Likewise, in everything we do, if we put God truly first, all things will fall into place, but where we do not allow God to permeate every aspect of our life, we end up with darkness and chaos. (Cf. Genesis 1:2) Worshiping God at our convenience is a false worship of God, and so the Orthodox Church teaches us to be more mindful of our devotion to God as primary.

This is a decision that we consciously need to make. Will our understanding of the world come from the wisdom of the One who created it, or from the foolishness of the world itself, (Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:18-25) which promises to fulfill us, yet always disappoints? 


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"All of creation is a burning bush of God's energies."
Saint Gregory Palamas