Tuesday, September 04, 2007


My sister-in-law was the first to clue me in. “No way,” I said “the 80’s?” It was hard imagine what could be salvageable from an era defined by parachute pants, feather earrings, and armfuls of rubber bracelets. Photos of myself from that decade made it pretty obvious, to me anyway, that some looks were not worth digging out, dusting off, and putting back into circulation. “Oh yes,” she assured me, “walk downtown Chicago and you’ll see all kinds five inch leather belts riding the hips of those more confident, or long strands of bright plastic beads bumping up against collar raised polo’s.”

“Well, that’s Chicago,” I conceded, doubting highly that the rest of America’s Heartland would jump onto that particular break dancing, “Material Girl” blasting bandwagon. We Hoosiers prefer to just blend in, if you know what I mean. Last week, however, while escorting my kids to the bus stop, I passed a Junior High student from my neighborhood all decked out in a mini skirt and pink footless leggings. Matching fingerless gloves, stretching clear up to her elbows, completed an ensemble unmistakably inspired by Valley Girls gagging with spoons all of twenty years earlier. I was like totally flabbergasted!

It amazes me how impossible it seems to stay current with the ethical, technological, and fashion conscious trends passing though our culture like Christmas time mall shoppers streaming in and out of revolving doors. “Don’t you ever IM? (or instant message for those of you, like myself, so hopelessly backwards)” my brother teased me when I guessed that LOL stood for lots of laughs. I recently heard that even e-mail is being viewed as “so last year” by teenagers who fluently text their friends in a language unrecognizable to their ignorant parents. Global Warming? Yes. War in Iraq? Yes. Smoking bans? Oh, Yes. Alternatives to Evolution? The slightest questioning of sexual promiscuity or pro-choice rhetoric? No. No. And No. It is smart to take note of them, but certainly don’t hang your hat on any one value, style, or agenda. And I wouldn't get too comfortable with your low-carb diet, caffeine addiction, and preference for bottled water because tomorrow may very well reveal that excessive amounts of protein combined with espresso and the toxins in those plastic containers is a dangerous, even lethal, combination.

Attesting to either wisdom or weakness, I am the last person you’d see out shaking and rocking the boat, but in support of free speech, equality, and thighs too dimply for leggings, would I be so out of line to ask a few questions weighing heavily upon my heart? Like can’t we all just agree that wide legged pants are more flattering? Does anyone else, besides me, feel nervous about the breakneck speed with which our nation is sprinting forward into uncharted territories? Shouldn’t some things be immune to faddishness? “Christians Can Be Cool!” I read in the Chicago Tribune several weeks ago. Church plants are sprouting up all over the city defying “yesterday’s” overly conservative approach to spreading the Gospel. Slickly dressed pastors use incense, bass guitars, and literary references to reach community members who might normally view church attendance as social suicide. “I like it here,” one new parishioner commented, who had stopped attending church ten years ago because of too many stifling rules and regulations. “I appreciate that I can completely be myself and just worship God.”

Dare I suggest that a lifetime of subtle shifting, away from the primary responsibility of all Christians to abandon everything for the sake of the cross, might compromise the fullness of the Faith? Should I not feel concern over a trend that encourages individualism in the name of Jesus, the purest example of selflessness that ever was or shall be? Is it not my place to shout “Come and See!” when asked if anything good, trustworthy, and uncompromising can be found in this overly depressed and anxious world? Is it not a privilege to espouse a doctrine that has succesfully remained impervious to the assaults of time, liberalism, and persecution?

If I have found, within the Orthodox Church, an anchor more than capable of keeping all of us who insist on fighting against the current from drifting into dangerous waters without even realizing how far off course we've gone, would it not be shameful to keep silent? Yes. Yes. Five times over, yes. Then why do I skirt the issue, tip toe around the uncomfortableness, get all flushed and fidgety when questioned about my beliefs? The truth is, I am timid. I by no means have all of the answers. I am sincerely not interested in proving anyone right or wrong. It’s just that I feel so fulfilled whereas before I was dissatisfied and I thought you’d like to know that, in case you are dissatisfied too with the slipperiness of modern values, styles and agendas keeping Truth from sticking anywhere for long.

“This is a really old show,” I told the children, prefacing our viewing of The Little Rascals.

“Tell me about it!” smirked eight-year-old Elijah. “When was it made? Like in 1986?”I chalked that comment up there with his, “Hey mom, what was your favorite dot com when you were a little girl?” And I can hardly believe the answer myself, that there was a time before Internet, before the now expected gratification of buying, knowing, and communicating anything in an instant. I forget what a busy signal sounds like, how to work a payphone, the amount of paychecks it took to get my Sears coat out of lay-a-way, and what possessed me to smear these lips with frosty pink gloss or coat my auburn eyelashes with turquoise mascara. Keep up! Keep up! If you blink you’ll miss everything, or in the words of the poet Bob Dylan,

Come gather 'round people

Wherever you roam

And admit that the waters

Around you have grown

And accept it that soon

You’ll be drenched to the bone

If your time to you is worth savin’

Then you better start swimmin’

Or you’ll sink like a stone

For the times they are a-changin’

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Mimi said...

There's a young, fashionable girl at my parish who I swear wears half of my wardrobe from the 80s.

Kelleylynn said...

"It’s just that I feel so fulfilled whereas before I was dissatisfied and I thought you’d like to know that, in case you are dissatisfied too with the slipperiness of modern values, styles and agendas keeping Truth from sticking anywhere for long."

Thank you for stating this so well...

BTW(By the way), my 8 yr.old is wearing pink plaid "buddies" and rainbow t-shirts!

Lucy said...

You sum up exactly how I feel. One of the things that attracted me to the Orthodox Church was its changelessness. In fact, my priest told me that that was a huge attraction for him, too! He came from a country where many things were changing and to know that the service would be for the most part the same as it was last week was comforting.

For me, it is such a comfort to know that even as my life changes, even as the world changes, that I have somewhere to go where things do not change, where I am connected to the past. I think this is particularly true about living in America, where nothing is old. In most of the rest of the world, people are surrounded by buildings, statues, even roads that are older than our own country. But we are so young here.

I find that I'm most hesitant to talk about my love for the Church with other Christians, because they get so defensive. It's fairly easy to talk about the Church with someone who is searching. But my Christian friends (particularly my non-denominational, evangelical friends) feel that I'm telling people about an institution, not about Jesus. And I do try to be careful to not idolize the Church to the exclusion of the One we worship, but being Orthodox has so revolutionized my Christian experience and my relationship with Christ, how can I not talk about the Church? It's like we're speaking different languages. And yet, I know that many of them are dissatisfied as well with the fads and trends that sweep through the Church.

I don't think progress is bad, but I do think that as a culture we have not stopped to think about the effects on us as humans, physically, emotionally, pyschologically or spiritually. I recently took a class that taught meditation (it was a secular class) and next week I start a class on Orthodox meditation. Practicing silence and stillness has changed my life.

Sorry this comment is so long. :) Thanks for another great post.

Molly Sabourin said...

If my kids starts asking for a pair of jams (do you remember those?) I will know things have gone way too far!

I think, like Lucy said, it is the forgetting to stop and think that most alarms me. Images and ideas that would have been outrageously offensive in the 1980's are now being tolerated by both Christians and non-Christians alike. It's like a building up of mental scar tissue. Over time, one ceases to feel anything.

Kelleylynn said...

"If my kids starts asking for a pair of jams (do you remember those?) I will know things have gone way too far!"

Do I remember them? I actually made a pair in Home Ec. I think they where florescent pink, yellow, and green flowers! Loved them!
Longer shorts -- to the knee are "back in style" - thank God b/c I loathe those "Daisey Dukes!"

Seriously, I hear what Lucy is saying. My MIL (evangelical AG) continues to say (after ten years of being Converts) that we are in a "dead religion - dead tradition" If she truly knew how ALIVE we are!
You see, she has the "don't ask - don't tell" policy only for hubby & me

I need that class on silence too...forgive me a sinner!

Susan Cushman said...

You make some good points, Molly, but I'm going to throw in a yellow warning flag, just to mix things up a bit. It's this: Jesus said His Kingdom is "not of this world." Trends will come and go, and most of them have nothing to do with our faith, one way or another. We had a women's luncheon a few years ago with Bishop BASIL as our invited guest. He allowed us to ask questions about any topics, and one woman asked his thoughts about Orthodox women wearing nail polish, jewelry, makeup, etc. His answer was wonderful. He said that most women look better with a little makeup, and nail polish and jewelry are just personal preferences. But I think his most important response was one that countered the trend in some Orthodox circles here in America to dress "like Russian peasants." He said to the 60 or so women gathered that day, "You are neither Russian nor peasants, and there is nothing innately spiritual about dressing that way."

Proverbs says, "Let not your adornment be external ONLY .... but the hidden person of the heart." And in another place the Scriptures say, "Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart."

We could all benefit from trying to see Christ in eachother, which requires seeing past the outward appearance.