I just had to repost this “tongue in cheek” article because it was too good not to! Don’t overlook her link to Part-2 which questions why many Fundamentalists and Evangelical Christians are not Orthodox.
To people who know of only Catholicism and Protestantism, Orthodox Christianity can seem offbeat and out of the mainstream. We often forget that Christianity originated as a countercultural movement in its own right from Jesus overturning the tables of the money lenders, to His acceptance of non-Jews as friends and disciples, to His overturning of the prevailing beliefs of a “woman’s place” on its head.
I can’t say that I have seen any smoke aside from incense, but it may seem to others that Orthodox Christians do strange things. For instance, we often kiss things. Things such as icons, crosses, and sometimes each other. We sing or chant our liturgies a cappella, many of us stand during our services, and our churches can be full of clouds of incense and lit with beeswax candles. We call our sacraments “mysteries” because we really believe that they are. Our priests and deacons are often bearded, and heavily vested in brocade. Some of our monks might be mistaken for members of ZZ Top, and our bishops wear the robes of a Byzantine emperor. Yes, in many congregations, a significant proportion of our women have been known to dress modestly and to cover their heads during services. Admittedly I have never sampled Turkish Coffee, but I have seen vodka shots passed around after our Paschal (Easter) services, but only to adults. Given that our services can last at least a couple of hours, sometimes you need to refortify yourself! I suppose we could be considered the “original vegans” if you account for the fact that our liturgical calendar has fasting days for more than half the year, and Orthodox Christians generally take fasting more seriously than our western brothers and sisters.
There are elements of truth here amongst the sarcastic humor. Orthodoxy is the original Christian church founded by our Lord Jesus Christ almost 2,000 years ago. After Pentecost, Christian doctrine was pretty well settled by the 4th Century, and it was done by councils of Bishops and they were all Orthodox. It was the Orthodox Church that vetted and compiled the books which now form the Holy Bible read by all Christians. Our first Orthodox bishops were Christ’s Apostles who laid hands on their successors in an unbroken apostolic succession that continues to this very day. You can’t get more fundamental than this. It is also true that for the first 1,000 of Christianity there was only one Christian church and it was Orthodox. That ended in 1054 for reasons that are all too human. Christianity now suffers from the tragedy of disunity, and Jesus must weep.