Counterculture Orthodoxy

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“Unfaithful creatures! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”  – James 4:4

The culture has no answers. This is what many young people intuitively know and struggle to express. They reject the world and its promises, wear black, chains, anything to demonstrate that they know they are not a part of this world. Young rebels and punks are strongly attracted to Orthodoxy. Why? It could be we are often saying the same things which they are sensing. The world has no answers. Our clergy, monks, and nuns wear black, our clergy wear chains and crosses: All to remind us that the world is death

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.  – James 1:27

Orthodoxy understands that we are not disembodied intelligences, but persons of soul, body, and spirit. The Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ shows us that these are good, and need to be cherished and made holy. All over the world, the Orthodox faithful labor tirelessly in hospitals, clinics, hospices, orphanages, thrift shops, coffee houses, schools, nursing homes, food pantries, and rescue missions. To bring love and joy to people who need to see true faith, and the value of loving sacrifice is a daily occupation for some.

Orthodox teens can be seen wearing tshirts and other paraphernalia with the words “Death to the World” on it. What does this mean?


“The world” is the general name for all the passions. When we wish to call the passions by a common name, we call them the world. But when we wish to distinguish them by their special names, we call them passions. The passions are the following: love of riches, desire for possessions, bodily pleasure from which comes sexual passion, love of honor which gives rise to envy, lust for power, arrogance and pride of position, the craving to adorn oneself with luxurious clothes and vain ornaments, the itch for human glory which is a source of rancor and resentment, and physical fear. Where these passions cease to be active, there the world is dead….

Someone has said of the Saints that while alive they were dead; for though living in the flesh, they did not live for the flesh. See for which of these passions you are alive. Then you will know how far you are alive to the world, and how far you are dead to it.”

-St Isaac the Syrian (7th Century)

Men and women of the world truly understand this very well, and they call out Orthodoxy as a problem. Politicians in the European Union even goes so far as to say “Orthodoxy is the Enemy.”  Our leaders and teachers also know that between the Church and the world, there is no peace, because we are at war.  The more a church sounds like, acts like, and looks like the culture and world at large, the more compromised and ineffectual they have become.

The very existence of the Church is diametrically opposed to this because the Church is Christ’s answer to the world. 

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