“Converts Are Not People Who Shop”

An Eastern Orthodox take on North America’s consumer church culture:

“St. Antony’s response to the Gospel reading in which Christ tells a man to sell all that he has and “come and follow me,” cannot be described as rational. St. Antony heard the passage read and heard it as applying to himself (not to everyone – but to himself). Giving away all that he had and entering the desert is the act of someone who is driven by their desire for God. When such is the case, “choice” is probably not the right word. “Obey” is more accurate. St. Antony’s “conversion” is the choice to obey.

On this level, everyone should want to be a convert – to be so drawn toward God that our response is obedience rather than merely rational choice. […] Converts are not people who choose – Converts are people who obey. Consumers are people who choose.”

I think some of what is reflected in this post is the fact that Eastern Orthodoxy, outside of ethnic communities where it has been the traditional religion (Russians, Greeks, Serbians and so on), is not a common or default choice in North America. Someone who comes to an Orthodox priest as an adult with no family connection to EO in search of Christ, in North America at least, has almost certainly been on some kind of serious spiritual journey. (Rod Dreher’s wrestling with Rome comes to mind here.)

Nonetheless shopping has become the dominant mode of North American popular thought. At the same time, we hear more and more about retail politics, where ideas are pitched specifically to get the votes of particular demographics so in Canada you have the right promising handouts for sports stadiums and the left making it easier to afford gas-guzzling cars – so long as it gets the right votes. Can churches stand against this cultural temptation (like St. Anthony and his temptations above) and actually be a place where we are not thinking as shoppers?