Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Asceticism and the Consumer Society: An Interview with Metropolitan Jonah

The Orthodox Church is mostly known in the United States for its rich liturgical life, its adherence to ancient calendars for major Christian feast-days and, perhaps most of all, the many food and ethnic festivals offered by its multiethnic parishes. Social activism and moral witness in the public square, not so much. That has begun to change with the rise of Metropolitan Jonah, the primate of the Orthodox Church in America. This youthful bishop, born James Paffhausen in Chicago and raised in Southern California before entering monastic life in Russia, was elected to lead the OCA in November 2008. Since then, he has perhaps been the most widely quoted and covered Orthodox bishop in the United States, speaking out on social issues and traveling widely to speak to ecumenical gatherings. He delivered one of the keynote addresses at Acton University in June 2011. Religion & Liberty Executive Editor John Couretas spoke with Metropolitan Jonah about his talk.

R&L: In your Acton University address, "Asceticism and the Consumer Society," you explained how the consumerist impulse was really an addictive impulse, something that compels us fill a void where God should be. And we so frequently attempt to fill that empty spot with the wrong things.

Metropolitan Jonah: I think the void occurs because we're basically distracted from God, and we don't let God fill that void. We don't have that focus and that perpetual intuitive awareness of God for which we were created, and so we let other things get in the way. And for many people, it's pain and disappointment, discouragement, anger, bitterness, all of the passions. For others, it could be the pain that follows from having been abused in some way. And so this becomes a kind of a preoccupation and we look for things to mute that pain, to distract us from it. We look for a salve.
Read the rest here.


Anonymous said...

I suppose the Met has the same problem Aquinas did.

Makes the case for asceticism difficult though.

Priest David Thatcher said...

Dear Anonymous: That is one esoteric statement. What do you mean in your comparison of His Beatitude's views of consumerism and Thomas Aquinas? In what way does the Metropolitan's understanding make asceticism's case "difficult." (Asceticism is, by definition, difficult -- right?)