When I first heard his Southern drawl…let’s see… back in 2007, I felt immediately like he’d fit right in with my family- my oftentimes goofy, always affectionate family who takes our love and need for Christ and His Church very seriously. “I like him!” I told my dad, founder of Ancient Faith Radio, and my guide into the world of Internet podcasting, after both laughing through and being moved by the wit and wisdom of the Texas priest we’d all come to know (all of us Ancient Faith Radio listeners) as Father Joseph Huneycutt.
Converting to Orthodoxy, especially here in the good ol’ United States where Orthodox Christianity does not, nor has ever, played a prominent role in our American cultural heritage, can be difficult to say the least. I know after my husband and I converted in 1999, I really struggled awhile to find my place, my identity, as an American Orthodox Christian. While the theology and structure of the Church have remained mercifully and miraculously safe from differing opinions and interpretations, navigating the many small “t” traditions stemming from the various ethnicities within this great and historically rich Faith of ours can be confusing to us zealous American converts looking to assimilate ourselves into the Church (Should I, too, cover my head, grow out my beard, wear a prayer rope around my wrist 24/7?) . Our staunch determination to become the most legitimate Orthodox Christians we can be, via the imitation of our cradle Orthodox brothers and sisters, has resulted in many a changed appearance and a not a little insecurity. It is easy, I have discovered first-hand, to focus more on the externals than the internal – to, even with the best of intentions, lose sight of the “one thing needful”.
In his new book, We Came, We Saw, We Converted, Father Joseph, host of the popular blog and podcast, Orthodixie, takes on that very challenge, the challenge to be both American and Orthodox, with frankness, humor and grace. He reminds us that fumbling a bit, that not having all the answers, is not only natural but perhaps even spiritually healthy:
Knowing that you don’t know much is a sign of maturity, writes Huneycutt. Do we want to move from adolescence into adulthood? Then we need to swallow our pride and admit that the first step in acquiring an adult faith is authentically uttering, “I don’t know.”
Yes, well there it is.
But we’re getting there – one generation, one day, and one step at a time. If the Church in America, much like her members, knows one thing, it’s this: Fall down, get back up, fall down, get back up; Orthodoxy is slow, and thank God for that! In the meantime we work together and hope to one day really, really be together. After all, think about it:
Experience it like a Serbian,
Be loyal to it like a Ukrainian,
Sacrifice for it like a Russian,
Be proud of it like an Arab,
And enjoy it like a Greek,
What a great faith you’d have,
Especially if in addition you got to call yourself
In the meantime, don’t be surprised if sometimes, in the Church in America, the honest answer is simply, “I don’t know.”
This is an important and timely book. How badly I wish I’d had access to it thirteen years ago! Thank you, Father Joseph, for making us laugh and inspiring us to be prayerful, and patient with ourselves and one another as together with complete dependence upon Christ for wisdom and direction we work to infuse our American society with the Truth, beauty and Mystery of the Orthodox Christian Faith.