Neo-Monasticism (no pun intended)

Muslim women dress so as not to be taken advantage of.

Jewish (Hasidic and Orthodox) men ‘wear’ their faith so that all can see.

Buddhists look like, Buddhists.

Christians priests are obvious, but what makes the body as a whole distinct?  I know, no ritual or dress ‘saves’ us, but do the rituals of Western culture bring us down to Gehenna?  I know, we love, so that all will know we are disciples, we live righteously (theoretically on both of those) but it seems there should be something physical, tangible and obvious about our faith as there is for the other faiths of the world.  We are not Gnostics are we?

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

7 thoughts on “Neo-Monasticism (no pun intended)

  1. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could find some kind of significant, physical, tangible sign that we are Christians?

    Actually, there are groups of Christians that are identifiable by their distinct appearance. If you see a dowdy, plumpish woman wearing a lace head covering on the bus in Portland, you can guess she’s some stripe of Eastern European non-conformist (Baptist, Pentecostal). At machine shows I’ve attended back East (I am in the woodworking machinery business), you can identify the Mennonite and Amish sectarians by their distinctive coveralls and hats. And years ago, when I lived in Alberta, the women in identical polka dot long skirts were going to be Hutterites. So yes, some of us Christians have distinctive appearance related to our Christianity.

    As an Orthodox Christian, I’m supposed to wear my baptismal cross. I’ve taken it off years ago, and now I am satisfied to bear my cross instead of wear it. In my case, my willingness to witness and help others on the spot, is the appearance my Christianity takes. Mu home has its share of icon corners too. But as to clothing or hair style (oh yes, I do have a beard and moustache), there is nothing uniform about me or my Orthodox brethren for the world to assign us with certainty to our religious heritage.

    I’m not sure I understand the purpose of this post. No, we are not Gnostics, but neither does Gnosticism mean that we should not have a tangible Christian cultural standard that identifies us.

    “In Christ there is no East or West, In Him no South or North; But one great fellowship of love Throughout the whole wide earth.” True respect for diversity and also true universalism exist only in the following of Jesus Christ. When the churches diverge from this reality, “I will not allow them praise That broke the harmonious globe in splintered fragments,” they rebel against the Holy Spirit bestowed at Pentecost and slide back into factious cultural exclusivism.

    What makes the body as a whole distinct?

    The Church constitutes something like an Indian reservation or a ghetto, or even worse, a leper colony within society, a social entity which should not be, but nonetheless is. It’s an embarrassment for and accusation against the classes that rule the world. Among those untouchable and unmentionable people, leaders arise, chosen not for their excellence or eminence in any worldly endeavor, but for their abject surrender to the service of the others. The world looks on in wonder at these hopeless imbeciles following a crucified criminal, surprised that they can have so much love for one another, but even more stupefied at their lack of survival instinct—they don’t fight back when attacked by the world, they pray for, and even more incomprehensibly, thank those who injure and kill them!

    They do not contribute any more than is exacted from them for the maintenance of the world system. They don’t stand up for their own rights. They don’t agitate for social reforms or strive for the betterment of any society except their own. Only among themselves, by common and unwritten consent, do they abolish customs that the world regards normal, but which they abhor—infanticide, sexual license, slavery, the “festivals.” In this regard, the world feels justified in labeling them “haters of humanity,” in segregating and controlling them by an elaborate system of “tests,” such as the performance of acts of public worship to the state deities.

    The charge of atheism brought against them is designed to infuriate the working masses of the world, which by and large are “religious,” and which can be depended upon to punish the Church at the slightest provocation, thereby freeing the world rulers from overt responsibility for the persecution of these deranged trouble makers, undeserving of the name “human.”

    No, the world has no use for, and does not tolerate, this indigestible people. It gives them no avenue for worldly success or security—economic, educational, social—not unless they, individually, renounce their allegiance to their pathetic God by publicly conforming to the world system and taking what they call among themselves “the mark of the beast.” If they do that, they are allowed the cross the border. They are free at last from the unreasonable restrictions placed upon them by their crazy beliefs.

    This is what distinguishes the Body of Christ from the world.

  2. What he said. 🙂 Nicely written, Romanós, and very true. I suppose part of our problem is how poorly we Christians usually live out our faith; and how little it resembles what you have written. No wonder we constantly pray ‘Lord have mercy!’

  3. At one point, a mark of belonging was important to our heavenly father. Circumcision. I think the mark was well-placed to tell men that God expects our passion to be dedicated to him. Now, grafted on to the vine of God’s people in Christ, we don’t have a sign that we celebrate. But I think what Neo is talking about is an outward sign of our faith might be helpful in our walk with Christ. I think so, too.

    I try to wear something visibly Christian most days: a cross (Celtic or otherwise), a fish, a T-shirt with a bible verse on it, a hat. I believe that it may help me to make my life an outward testimony to my love for Jesus. Without some visible sign, I believe it is assumed by others that I hold the beliefs of our secular society. I don’t like that assumption, so I try to at least place some doubt in my personal space that may forestall assumed inclusion in the world.

    I know that the Hutterites, Mennonites, and other Anabaptists just kept their clothing peculiarities initially because they knew how to make them, but now I believe that they want to stand out, and stand apart. I think that makes evangelism a little tough. I prefer just to have a question which may open my social space to reveal Christ in me, God willing.

    As far as clergy are concerned, I think their garb is imporant to society to remind the people that priests still exist and may represent a separate life. The priests who want to cuddle up to the culture have de-frocked willingly, which puts them in peril, I’m afraid.

    Great topic, Neo.

  4. Today while driving my wife to go shopping (she doesn’t drive), I tailgated a vehicle that had a little black bumpersticker “Got Jesus?” I’ve thought about having my inventor/mechanic son (number 3, born on Father’s Day, he turns 23 next weekend) design and install for me a paint-ball gun behind the radiator screen on the front of my van. Then, I could paint-ball bumpers that desecrate the name of Jesus, like the one I just saw.

    I live in hippie-dippy neo-pagan Oregon, but I work in whoopie-cushion Christian Washington state. Few things irritate me as much as using the motor vehicle, especially its more humble parts, as billboards to advertise one’s make and model of Christianity.

    “Only God” is another one of the stickers that I see, usually gracing the rear window of a car or pickup. “Real men love Jesus” was another one I saw last week. Aarrrgh!

    I believe that Orthodox deacons, presbyters, bishops, and monastics should go around in public in their “blacks.” No, I don’t mean just wearing something black, I mean their rassos or anderis, or whatever they call them, yeah, their black dresses! And I think they should wear their pectoral crosses if they have one. Yeah, and I think that they should have long hair tied back in a pony-tail and have at least a nice trimmed beard, if not a full, shaggy one. I don’t feel that it matters if clergy of other denominations, including Roman Catholics, wear their clerical “blacks” in public, but I do think it’s important that the Orthodox do. Why? Because our faith cannot be gainsaid, cannot be ridiculed or opposed, because ours is the ground floor, the foundation of all the others, because “we don’t move the ancient landmarks set by our ancestors,” and yet ours is the faith that does not grow old, “planted by streams of water, yielding its fruit in season, its leaves never fading.” So our men and women “of the cloth” should appear fully clad in their uniforms, just as policemen do in the keeping of law and order, because what they are keeping is even more powerful, more precious.

    Years ago, when I was a young man living in Edmonton, Alberta, the Orthodox priests used to go about downtown in their “blacks” and very often I witnessed the native people (who were Orthodox, usually) and living on the street, reduced to poverty and alcoholism, get up off their blankets and flock to the priests whenever they appeared, kneeling before them, weeping and kissing their hands, asking not for money, but for prayer and a blessing. Witnessing this touched me deeply, and affected me in two ways.

    First, that our priests really do represent not just the Church but Christ Himself when they appear publicly in their garb, and thus He clothes them with power from on high. Second, that any of us who are members of the priestly and kingly race known as Christians have the same calling, the same ministry to the lost, and can always walk with Jesus, ready to help anyone He puts in our path, in whatever way is indicated. This has made me what I am, and why I wear this attitude in place of my baptismal cross or icon button or whatever. I don’t want to wear my decorations before I earn them. I don’t want to put on my medal until the war’s over and I’ve come through it alive. Anyway, that’s my rationale as to why I don’t purposely wear anything, especially an overt religious symbol, when I’m in the world. I used to do this when I was a young Christian, but there just came a day when I saw that it had to be me and not my flag that would draw people to me for help, because they could see I loved them, and not that I had a product to sell.

    When I walk about in the world, at work, at shopping, out on the street, I often whistle a hymn from the Anglican hymnal (I have dozens memorised), one that anyone who’s ever gone to church would probably recognize. Why? I just want to remind myself, and them, that Jesus is near. I never go out anywhere without at least a pocket New Testament with me, that I can read while I’m sitting waiting for my oil change, or for my wife to finish shopping. When I go to the coffeehouse, alone or with a friend, I always try to have my Greek NT with me, and I like to read it for relaxation, out loud but softly. At work, my office cubicle has paper icons interspersed with family and friends’ photos on the walls. So yes, I do have an appearance, a sign of the presence of Christ in my life, but it’s not for show, it all has a purpose in which I live my life. Doing that unabashedly in public or in private, that’s the way I let the shadow of Christ fall across my path. And if others notice the shadow, they may ask, “Who’s your Friend?”

  5. It’s strange seeing others write about an outward sign of the Christian devotion. I am not a protestant Christian, I am a messianic, and many women in my denomination wear the veils as a sign of our devotion to G-d. Men dress visibly as Jewish men. I think it would be wonderful for Christians to have that outward sign in order that they may daily have to dress in a way that trains the brain to think of our L-rd.

  6. The “style” of Christian display is cultural. If your “style” is intellectual and socio-economically higher than your brother, you may prefer to understate. If you are simple, blue collar and direct, you might prefer a red baseball cap with white JESUS in six inch letters. I think your disdain for Christians who are not like you might lean a little elitist, Romanos. Allow some space for simple men, like Peter. Too direct. Too simple. Wore his heart and his faith on his sleeve, except when he didn’t!

    I concur that that clergy dresses are cool. They bring the body of Christ out of the closet, where the culture wants it to stay. However, I don’t agree that non-clergy have to earn the respect of others before you can claim the cross of Christ. Works righteousness, anyone? Could you be performing to the wrong audience. Just musing. Don’t take any of what I say here to be anything but loving appreciation and brotherly banter, Romanos. Your passion for Him shows in your words.

    This morning I was in a class with Fr. Neo where a visiting priest was discussing the work he did from a booth at Wendy’s, where he wrote his sermons in collar and blacks. I just want to do my part to indicate the presence of Christ in the community more visibility, not for my sake, but for His. I shall not wear sack cloth and ashes and carry a large sign which says, REPENT. But I shall signal those around me that I am a citizen of the Kingdom. Maybe their expectations will help me walk closer to Him, too.

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