Orthodoxy is fascinating to me. Really because of how confusing is the meaning. At its core, orthodoxy is an adherence to rules, or perhaps even an inability to break them. Someone who knows the particular mores of a system so well, and abides by them, in a manner that shows a resolve deeper than that majority, is said to be orthodox.
Fighting styles are said to be orthodox and unorthodox, depending on a particular set of rules. In fighting, it seems, there is an agreed upon set of principles that should lead to victory. Just as in religion, Orthodox Christians and Orthodox Jews adhere to a very specific agreed upon set of principles that should lead to spiritual enlightenment or, at the very least, salvation. One of the two would certainly be nice, especially if you aren’t getting the other. But there is a peculiar way in fighting that the idea of orthodoxy varies from religion. An orthodox fighter is very predictable. If you know all the proper rules on how to fight a man, and adhere to them, who’s to stop someone from preparing for those very things?
Unorthodox boxers like to fight ‘southpaw’, left handed, because the orthodox styles are premised on a right handed approach and a right handed opponent. By changing up the traditional approach, fighting unorthodox, one can undo an orthodox opponent. Orthodox fighters are aware of this tactic and must then account for it. Because the fight style presented to them is meant to undermine the orthodoxy, they too must fight in an unorthodox method. Now both fighters in our hypothetical scenario have deviated away from the traditional system that was created specifically and solely to win fights. But is organized religion so vastly different from fighting?
The bible, the Koran, the Torah all have their difficult to interpret scenarios, but each religion has an agreed upon set of principles that need to be abided by in order to adhere to its teachings. Life, it always seems, counts on this and will always present unorthodox problems that need to be dealt with.
So, what is a religious man to do?
For the Orthodox, it seems that there is no conflict. He is to behave in accordance with the mores of the system he has chosen to believe in. Reform religions could be called Unorthodox because they allow for their followers to deviate from the path with greater frequency but still consider them followers. Does that mean that orthodoxy is just meant to be an archaic punching bag for the rest of the world to tee off on? Not quite, because the true measure of Orthodoxy is how you get around your orthodoxy. No matter what faith or creed you follow, in this life there are constant tests of your convictions and a great many times, the orthodox response is not the best one. It is the predictable response, the expected response. The response that any unorthodox predator is waiting to pounce on.
Christianity, in all its wisdom, presented their figurehead as the ultimate in orthodoxy. His responses were accounted for by his enemies when he was challenged. And, as such, he reacted in accordance with his orthodoxy knowing that it would lead to his own demise. He set the bench mark for what all Orthodox should aspire to. But, he had a loophole, oh yes he did.
Jesus knew he was the son of god. He knew that his purpose was to serve as the lamb, that his sacrifice meant salvation to his people, and that heaven everlasting, sitting at the side of the throne of his father was his ultimate destiny. Despite his adherence to his beliefs, the ultimate example of orthodoxy had one particular quality that the rest of his followers do not: he knew his destiny and the ultimate consequences of his actions. For the rest of us poor saps, the results of our decisions are only revealed after we’ve made them.
Orthodoxy remains of course, not in spite, but because of this.
Those who maintain orthodoxies are so sure of their beliefs that they adhere to the words to the letter. But do they? Just as Christ had his loophole, so to do orthodoxies.
In a contemporary society, it is almost impossible to abide by laws written for a society 2000 years more primitive. That is to be expected. The biggest rules remain but there are always excuses made. There are excuses that justify murder and violence of every flavor despite every major religion’s instance that it despises those things. And there is always a way around it, if you look hard enough, and read it a certain way.
The greatest strength of the orthodox is not the adherence to the rules, but their ability to see the rules in adherence to them. To interpret the ancient readings in a manner that allows them to abide fiercely to most cultural customs, but be able to bend other rules so long as the appearance of obedience is followed. And because orthodoxy is so difficult to follow, the very practice requires a constant search for work arounds to seemingly impossible blocks.
How can one consider themselves to be orthodox if all they do all day is hunt for ways around their own beliefs? This is a generalization. Not every moment is searching for loopholes. But orthodoxy is hard for a reason. Which beliefs will you sacrifice in order to preserve the others? It is a question we all ask and all must answer. But why must we insist on having core beliefs if the rest are in flux?
An open mind is a dangerous thing. Keeping an open mind can allow smarter or more conniving people to poison your thoughts. Its also the only way grow and improve. In the end, we all abide by certain orthodoxies, certain rules we’ll try to never break. And there will always be danger in opening ourselves to new ideas that threaten those rules. But the greatest danger is the rules themselves. One must always know if the orthodoxy they abide by is their own, or simply what they’ve been taught. If every day is a struggle to get around the rules you believe in, then the there is no threat to you from new ideas: your old ideas were corrupt to begin with.