For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither female nor male; for you are all one in Christ.
Galatians 3: 26-28 [NKJV]
There are no class divisions, no artificial categories, and no biases in the Church. There is structure and order, and there are gifts and talents; but there is neither Russian nor Syrian, neither farmer nor chef, neither newcomer nor olden. We are all members of the Body of Christ, which is the Church, and each one of us functions together with the other members. Yes, we are all one in Christ, and this prohibits any vainglorious superiority of one group over the other.
Some consider religion to be inseparable from culture, or from the various expressions of national and familial traditions. Americans who convert to Eastern Orthodoxy, therefore, are thought to naturally align with the culture in which they were received into the Church or develop a personal preference for one of the traditionally Orthodox cultures (such as Greek rather than Romanian, Serbian, Bulgarian, etc.). This is probably true to some extent, whether because of lack of options or because of an appreciation of a particular culture’s contributions to the Church. However, if nationalism and culture become enmeshed with religion such that (A) cultural shortcomings are nonetheless given religious validity, or (B) a culture regards itself as holier than other populations within the Church, then divisions and biases ensue and the culture becomes cultic in perspective and practices. In other words, people lust after their own traditions and language, and sometimes the American converts desire this status just as much as those who were born into these situations. Some people are drawn to that which they can idealize, romanticize, and idolize.
You shall have no other gods before Me.
Exodus 20: 3 [NKJV]
There must also be a possibility of the desert in religion, or recognition of the desert-dweller as a type, or acceptance of the person who simply does not fit with the Slavic or Mediterranean peoples of Orthodoxy. For example, St. Anthony the Great came from a specific background, but it is not apparent that he continued any cultural expressions as a necessity in his solitary life of prayer. He renounced everything, even the good things — which seems to prove that cultural expressions are an aid or an enrichment, but never a prerequisite for sitting at the feet of Christ and learning of Him. Perhaps the desert saints need to be given more emphasis today. Not that we are capable of emulating their lifestyles, but that we need to clarify what is essential, what is connected, what is enrichment, what is dispensable, what is mistaken, and what is intolerable. If we were all desert-dwellers in attitude, then we might more plainly be one in Christ because there would be no distortions and no basis for any divisions. The focus would be on theology and liturgy, on the Cross as life-giving, and on one another as members of the same Church. However, if we truly value a specific culture, if we find it helpful, then let us offer that culture as an act of hospitality and not as an insistence on one’s own version of rightness.