Am I Addicted?
Can a person be addicted to Christianity, in particular Orthodox Christianity?
Addiction is a physical and/or mental dependency on a particular substance that one is unable to break from without incurring adverse effects. Some replace the word “dependency” with “enthusiastic devotion.” Addicted to alcohol. It’s a thing. Addicted to drugs. It’s real. So, what about Orthodox Christianity, is it a real thing?
I’m not certain from a professional view. From a personal perspective, it’s real. While I have seen firsthand how Orthodox Christianity has positively transformed and enhanced people’s lives, I’ve also witnessed the harm and pain it has left in its path.
Pardon the interruption. Before we go any further we need a sidebar paragraph. To be orthodox is to conform to what is generally or traditionally accepted as right or true. In other words, if 51% of people or more believe something is right, it’s the orthodox position. In the world of Christianity, orthodoxy is usually defined by creeds or statements of faith. In some settings, it may be found in a smaller group or even an individual.
The Positive Benefits
An advantage of being an Orthodox Christian is you belong. You are the majority. When you meet another Christian, more than likely, you will share some basic core beliefs and share similar lifestyles. Another benefit is you will know right from wrong. Life is complicated. Who has the time or energy to think about God and such, especially if your eternal destiny might depend on being right? Finally, it can radically transform your life. For example, you are an addict. You are making poor and even destructive decisions. You are bouncing around in life with a moral compass that doesn’t work half the time. Find yourself an Orthodox Christian community and you will be on your way to becoming a new “saved” person. Need to know the truth? Just ask. Uncertain what choice to make? There’s a Bible text with your answer. And, to top it all off, the majority of time you will find a supportive and loving community to assist you with your transformation. It works. I’ve watched it. Why wouldn’t you or anyone else not be enthusiastically devoted (addicted?) to Orthodox Christianity?
When It Becomes an Addiction
An English professor working at an Orthodox Christian private college begins to pursue his PhD at a state university. He is fortunate his employer is willing to foot the bill. All goes well until he enrolls in the class, “Biblical Literature.” His world is rocked and his belief system begins to roll. He is exposed to questions he didn’t even know were questions. He asks himself how he can go down this path in good conscious knowing the possibility the end of the trail might plop him out in a place nowhere close to where he started - a familiar place where he belongs. Fear and anxiety began to arise. He chooses to forego pursuing his degree. Better to remain in the security of the sandbox.
She should have stopped the conversations long ago. Instead, she finds her mind full of doubts and questions. She felt herself backsliding. She had tried to stop. Unfortunately, the pull was too strong. It’s too late. The low baritone voice of her hitchhiker, Skeptic, won’t be quiet. She begins attending worship less often. Subtle lifestyle changes occur. Mutual distancing from friends goes on and on. Then her marriage falls apart. She blames herself and that damn “friend” for the demise of her marriage. If only, she had remained faithful to the truth and not listened to her “friend.” She’s stuck. She can’t go back and she is afraid of going forward.
If you think you are addicted to Orthodox Christianity...
You probably can relate to one of the above stories or one’s similar. Your realization probably happened slowly. You listened to a podcast, read an unsolicited article that mysteriously pops up on your Facebook page, engaged in one to many conversations with unbelievers. With time, new ideas, insights, and questions, built their nest within and begin propelling you to the edge of orthodoxy’s sandbox. If others happened to see you moving away, they wooed you back to the middle with kind and loving voices. However, if you continue crawling and reach the side of the sandbox, the borders there for your own good, the tone of their voices will change.
Warnings turn into threats and threats into ultimatums. If you do not heed their voices and continue to crawl away, in time you will become an outsider and in order to protect the rest of the group, some will shun you. Others will pray for your soul, express their disappointment, and offer words of hope that one day you will come to your senses and make your way back. Acknowledging your addiction isn’t easy. Most recovering addicts will tell you, moving away isn’t easy. It means leaving the familiar along with what has worked for so long. These are the adverse effects of addiction.
The likelihood of remaining sober increases when you find strength and support from fellow spiritual pilgrims. These pilgrims, as you will eventually discover, realize that Christianity is a voyage not a sandbox. Healthy Christianity, like the rest of life, requires progress, movement. That is why you won’t encounter stop signs on this road. You will, however, occasionally come across yield or under construction signs. Those do exist. Step after step you will discover new and exciting ways of thinking and living. Life becomes richer and fuller. You move forward anticipating what might lie around the next bend.
So, can a person be addicted to Orthodox Christianity? I think so. What about you?
Rev. Tony Minear, PhD. is the Lead Pastor at Church of the Beatitudes a Progressive Christian Church based in Phoenix AZ.
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