I am non Copt ex Catholic survivor attending Coptic Church - problems...

edited January 24 in Faith Issues
Hello all I identify as a Christian follower of Iosa Criost/Jesus Christ before IDing as any affiliation with a religious construct. When we die there will be no necessity for religious construct IDing and for that I am grateful. I have recently started attending a Coptic church - it has been good, beautiful, utterly terrifying and also disappointing at times. I find the ethnocentricity, tribalism and also the emphasis on martyrdom troubling. Have deep respect for the faith of Copts but are many just attending as part of a ritualistic sort of nationalism approach as opposed to truly believing? All cultures and believers in Christ are or have been persecuted for their beliefs. The Copts are not alone in martyrdom and decimation of culture. To be clear I see nationalism and religion rolled together... but they go for pacifist response to oppression. Pls discuss nationalism and the role it plays in the Coptic religion (I am reasonably well read in Coptic history) Actually the Coptic church reminds me of Ireland and the militant resistance by Catholics to oppression that occurred - well we had centuries of it up til the 1980's & we r still not free from it. I did ask a Copt doctor at the church why there is pacifism and she said we accept that we may die and so forth. That it is an example to non believers sort of thing... 

Comments

  • Hi SaintJaneDoe,

    My thoughts on this are based purely on personal opinion, experience, and observation. This knowledge is only as broad as my own experience, but I have been a few places. I think it overly simplifies things to say that ethnocentrism is a thorn in the side of Orthodoxy though it often feels that way. 

    I myself was born and baptized Greek Orthodox, but grew up Coptic from a very young age. As a child, my nationality was really not much of an issue. I got a few rude comments here and there from other kids because their parents pointed at me and said "he's learning to read Arabic, why not you!" As a kid, comments like these were well outweighed by encouragement from teachers.

    As I reached adolescence, I started to lose the nationalistic immunity of being a kid and I really started to see a rift forming. I did my best to learn early about the function of the family in the Orthodox Church and the function of the Orthodox Church in the family. I learned that you can't be Orthodox alone. I learned that an Orthodox Church is not a group of people, but a family of families. My involvement in school was limited and I did everything I could to be a part of the families of the church I attended.

    Nothing I could do worked. I started to see that I was never going to be able to raise a family in the Coptic Orthodox Church. I eventually fell away from the Church socially and was fully willing to change religions. I studied what I could with an open mind, but couldn't, in good conscience, leave Orthodoxy.

    I eventually met who was to become my wife and I tried again to go back to the Coptic Orthodox Church. I found more of the same thing I saw as a teenager, excellent belief and participation, and friendliness to visitors as long as they don't stay too long. My (now) wife never really felt accepted there.

    Eventually I found my way back in the Greek Orthodox Church and have an Eastern Orthodox family. The Eastern Orthodox church also has issues with ethnocentrism, but it's (1) not as bad as in the Coptic Church and (2) I am Greek, so I don't stand out as being different and neither do my wife and son.

    That was the longhand form for me to say, "yes I am familiar with the problem of ethnocentrism and it has hurt me personally". The problem is that the Orthodox Church would not exist if not for it's ethnocentrism. The Coptic Church in particular is a long enduring persecuted church. There is no way it could have survived all those centuries without some measure of tribal unity and defensiveness.

    Another thing is the influence of Origen. To Western philosophers and even to Eastern Orthodoxy Origen sounds a lot like Plato even though (if I remember right) Origen was against Plato's philosophy. Origen gives a lot of emphasis on the fallenness of the physical world and if you can leave it in such a way that secures eternal life (martyrdom) you are much better off. I'm not sure how a persecuted people could exist long without this kind of philosophy.

    The ethnocentrism, tribalism, and exhortation to martyrdom are less pronounced in Eastern Orthodox Churches because the persecution was considerably less severe. On the other hand, I think tribalism and call to participation are two sides of the same coin. If you look at the level of participation in churches that are not as historically persecuted you'll see it's much less.

    You asked "...are many just attending as part of a ritualistic sort of nationalism approach as opposed to truly believing?" My belief is "absolutely not" and this can't be emphasized enough. I've prayed with some very sincere people in the Coptic Church. I've served in the altar with a priest crying while breaking Christ's Body.

    Regarding what to do about the problems associated with ethnocentrism... I wish I knew.

    Ethnocentrism is deeply ingrained in the philosophy of the Orthodox people even if it's not a part of the Orthodox Christian belief. If there was a way to "fix" ethnocentrism in the Orthodox Church it must strongly emphasize "fixing" people and not "fixing the Church". "Fixing the Church" is a slippery slope that leads to heresy. It is the responsibility of the orthodox people to preserve the faith, and to keep all tradition passed down exactly the way it's passed down, every jot and tittle.

    Therein lies the contradiction. How to you "fix" the people and at the same time preserve everything as is. On an individual level this simply can't be done. 
  • George27 thank you brother in Christ so much What u shared help me a lot & I was moved by depth of your sharing... I think I have unrealistic expectations of Coptic church but I do find it shocking - their lack of insight and love for other cultures who are suffering...Just as a point of interest there are 7 Egyptian monks buried in Ireland and the monastic beehives of stone r built in same format as ones in Egypt. the tall circled celtic crosses - also influenced by copts who came.Before Catholicism there was orthodoxy in Ireland. The rest as they said is history. Thanks again 
  • Hello @SaintJaneDoe
    Welcome to the Coptic Church! I was very sorry to hear that some of your experiences as well as @George27 were not as you would have expected. I am Coptic Orthodox by birth and by faith. I really understand your point on ethnocentrism, tribalism, and even martyrdom. I also saw how you observed nationalism but was wondering how it related to the faith. I am not an expert but I will share with you what I have studied, I am sure you know this already as you have also read the History of our Church. 
    St. Mark came to Egypt which was worshipping the idols at the time and had given Egypt the commandments of Christ and introduced the faith in Egypt. Egypt quickly became aware of this religion and started following this faith, willingly and because they loved God and not because everyone was doing it or they were born into it, but they willingly went and got baptized because they believed. St. Mark was then tortured along with many Christians in Egypt by the idol-worshippers and it was a period of terror as Christians only knew each other by certain symbols like the Fish and were even known to be like green necked or something like this (sorry it is a term in Arabic) because of how long they would have the neck chains on that the metal would print that green rusty color on their necks, but they accepted this. If they had backed up or had not preserved this genuine faith for their children, Christianity would have not been present in Egypt, or at least the Coptic Orthodox Church. Now the primary language in Egypt was Coptic, Coptic means Egyptian, so we are Coptic Orthodox meaning Egyptian Orthodox which may explain some of the ethnocentricity and tribalism. 
    As @George27 had mentioned, this tribalism sensation may have occurred as a result of those persecutions in Egypt. Because Coptic Orthodox in Egypt means Egyptian, many traditions have built upon this nationalism because before the Copts immigrated to other countries, mostly Egyptians were Coptic Orthodox so society and traditions left their mark. 
    I can see your point on martyrdom but I believe it is because we have seen the other side of the martyrdom. We, of course, do not worship the saints and martyrs as you may know already but we ask them to intercede for us and ask them for certain things that we may have troubles with or to intercede for us that God may help us in certain things, many people even have some of the saints and martyrs as their friends and you can never stop hearing stories about these saints and martyrs in peoples daily lives.            
    You seem to not like maybe our reactions to martyrdom like maybe that it may seem a little overexaggerated. Yes, we are not the only church who has been in persecutions but like other churches, we are still in persecutions today in Egypt, as most of Christianity. I agree with George that "If you look at the level of participation in churches that are not as historically persecuted you'll see it's much less." Maybe many people are now talking about these persecutions now in media more than the earlier ages because of the media but when we hear the testimonies of those parents who were taking their children to the monastery in Egypt to get baptized and the ones who survive pray on TV for those who persecuted them just as Our Lord commanded us. The goal of this exposure of the persecutions is not to show the world how much we are persecuted but it serves as a chance for us and for our children to learn how to be always ready and to have this faith in our God that we may proclaim it in front of the whole world if we had to. Also, we like to recognize our Church as the Church of the martyrs because as George said: "The Coptic Church in particular is a long enduring persecuted church" because after St. Mark and Egypt became Christianized, the Muslim conquest came in and the Christians were again persecuted until today and are now the minority of their own country. If this tribalism and this nationalism did not occur, the Church would not be how it is or where it is right now, because it started as the nation but with the Grace of God it is now having other members like yourself join in. 
    As for the pacifict reaction we have to oppression is because our God is a God of peace as I have mentioned with the parents where their children died in front of their eyes either in the vans going to the monastery or in the bombings of the Churches, they gave thanks and prayed for the persecutors, this is what Christianity is all about and this is what Lord Christ has taught us, "Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you" and it is what makes Christianity different from other religions who constantly seek revenge. 
    I understand how maybe because of its nationalistic traditions you may seem left out or not understanding certain traditions but it is totally alright, maybe the reactions of my brothers and sisters were not as you expected and they did not know how to express it too well. At the end, the Church of God is about meeting with our Lord through the prayers, maybe it was a bit different for you and hard to grasp but it is truly in heaven if you give it the chance, just put the traditions and the people aside and focus on God. As @George27 has mentioned praying with a priest in the liturgy who was crying while breaking Christ's body is a very sincere faith and he truly saw God incarnate in this bread and believed it was His true body. Reading some of the monks stories, priests, bishops, popes that were Coptic and Ethiopian, especially those who lived in solitude with God alone in Wilderness of Scetis is truly a blessing and we can see how they used these traditions (even if they were not native like Ethiopian monks who came to the Egyptian desert and to its monasteries and for the Egyptian monks who went to Ethiopia) to reach God and did not let it hinder them from their journey to Him. 
    I am wondering what you mean about how you mentioned it is "utterly terrifying," God bless you! Sorry for the long post.  
  • @ msmekhael I have read what u wrote twice... A lot I know intellectually but not experientially. Suffering is a universal feature of life & some cultures get it in double dose - yours being one of them. I am well aware of what is happening in Egypt & also re Salafist Wahabi ideology & lots of other stuff underpinning what is going on... but I don't know everything hence reading thru twice what u wrote as u r sincere in sharing & spirit reads spirit... I need to read the book of Mark carefully... have read Bible for years & yes I believe in it The whole lot not sections of it.. the whole deal I am in for & have been for decades. 
    If anyone had told me I would be sitting in a Coptic church surrounded by icons, priests and so on I would have laughed But here I am so be it... Part of me wants to flee it all but something happened like a healing or such like in one of the services on me I cannot explain it nor do I grasp it but God has shown me stuff... also my rage & hate at religion has come full circle. It is all about the following but the clue was in the title I gave this post (ex RC survivor)

    RE TERRIFYING The following is an excerpt I wrote (I have removed identifying features) to the Coptic church. I sent it after a Copt priest told me I needed to put the past in the past, was wasting my time with current legal action against the Catholic church for abuse suffered as minor. He told me focus on the next life... I was dumbfounded absolutely dumbfounded He also mentioned "self pity" I nearly laughed because the suffering & courage it takes to speak out never mind stay alive he has no idea about. I am also pointing out their ignoring of Aboriginal Australia's suffering yet they live on their land here and thrive. Thx so much for your input.

    Sent to four Coptic priests by myself:


    The
    following is what I want to say as you all
    serve God:


    Please
    understand this: A survivor of Roman Catholic abuse cannot ‘put the
    past in the past’ as the past is always in the present impacting in
    multiple ways hence the healing is an ongoing life-time process.


    The
    abuse that occurred on indigenous Australian children and also
    Irish in Australia
    (& in Ireland) by the Roman
    Catholic church priests, nuns and brothers
    was physical, sexual,
    psychological and of course spiritual.


    The
    post trauma impact of the RC abuse destroys individuals
    ability to even want to live. As adults we daily struggle with
    depression, suicidal ideation and multiple other issues. The
    conflation of the abuse with anything Christian and particularly
    church is a real and prominent issue for us survivors. For those of
    us
    who continue to believe in Jesus Christ or experienced
    conviction of the truth in later life
    this also remains the
    case.


    The
    triggers for survivors are primarily religious settings hence a
    rudimentary grasp of what and why the triggers occurs and wisdom is
    required by yourselves if survivors
    of RC clergy abuse begin
    to attend your church.
    Please be patient with us survivors
    as we flounder and tread our path to healing – we are deeply
    suspicious, frightened and hyper-vigilant for our safety around
    anything religious.


    Aboriginal
    minister ………….
    (who I’ve known as a friend for over 20
    years & his family) would in my opinion be the best person to
    speak to in clarifying what I am saying here if you wish to better
    grasp all of this. You could invite them to your church and get
    Stolen Generation members to share their stories.


    Ireland
    and Australia have the highest statistics of suicide amongst
    indigenous youth
    and complex post trauma stress disorder. This
    is not imaginary suffering – it is real & devastating. There is
    also transgenerational trauma impact
    whereby the survivor impacts
    detrimentally on his family with inability to sustain healthy
    relationships and so forth. 


    This
    powerful little song was written by Irish survivor of Catholic abuse
    -  Don Baker who portrays the priest in it. Sinead sadly has now
    converted to Islam It is this song that explains it all so
    clearly and I
    strongly suggest you all watch it
    and hear our voices and also the voices of Aboriginal Australia in
    it. It was NOT our fault and we are strong and beautiful.


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_GIqBUi92A



  • msmekhael I spent ages writing reply to u but it disappeared never went through or else was censored?! . So I will just do a more succinct response but lst thanks so much I read what u wrote twice. I don't know everything - no one does... I am aware re what is happening in Egypt … and feel ashamed I am not more of a finer version of a Christian as am not under that oppression/terror threat 24/7. I will read Mark in the Bible carefully... To be perfectly frank which usually am I have no idea what is happening to me spiritually - hence it is terrifying. To be in a church is terrifying To be trying to heal is terrifying To have come full circle back in organised religion is terrifying. The clue was in the title I gave the post (survivor)  And this is why - this is our story Aboriginal Australia and Ireland and Aotearoa/NZ Yeah this is our story but we are strong and beautiful God help us is all I can end with... The most accurate take I have ever seen/heard as it is made by fellow survivors. Thx a lot for caring and responding. Sinead sadly converted to islam last year
     
  • @ msmekhael I have read what u wrote twice... A lot I know intellectually but not experientially. Suffering is a universal feature of life & some cultures get it in double dose - yours being one of them. I am well aware of what is happening in Egypt & also re Salafist Wahabi ideology & lots of other stuff underpinning what is going on... but I don't know everything hence reading thru twice what u wrote as u r sincere in sharing & spirit reads spirit... I need to read the book of Mark carefully... have read Bible for years & yes I believe in it The whole lot not sections of it.. the whole deal I am in for & have been for decades. 
    If anyone had told me I would be sitting in a Coptic church surrounded by icons, priests and so on I would have laughed But here I am so be it... Part of me wants to flee it all but something happened like a healing or such like in one of the services on me I cannot explain it nor do I grasp it but God has shown me stuff... also my rage & hate at religion has come full circle. It is all about the following but the clue was in the title I gave this post (ex RC survivor)

    RE TERRIFYING The following is an excerpt I wrote (I have removed identifying features) to the Coptic church. I sent it after a Copt priest told me I needed to put the past in the past, was wasting my time with current legal action against the Catholic church for abuse suffered as minor. He told me focus on the next life... I was dumbfounded absolutely dumbfounded He also mentioned "self pity" I nearly laughed because the suffering & courage it takes to speak out never mind stay alive he has no idea about. I am also pointing out their ignoring of Aboriginal Australia's suffering yet they live on their land here and thrive. Thx so much for your input.

    Sent to four Coptic priests by myself:


    The
    following is what I want to say as you all
    serve God:


    Please
    understand this: A survivor of Roman Catholic abuse cannot ‘put the
    past in the past’ as the past is always in the present impacting in
    multiple ways hence the healing is an ongoing life-time process.


    The
    abuse that occurred on indigenous Australian children and also
    Irish in Australia
    (& in Ireland) by the Roman
    Catholic church priests, nuns and brothers
    was physical, sexual,
    psychological and of course spiritual.


    The
    post trauma impact of the RC abuse destroys individuals
    ability to even want to live. As adults we daily struggle with
    depression, suicidal ideation and multiple other issues. The
    conflation of the abuse with anything Christian and particularly
    church is a real and prominent issue for us survivors. For those of
    us
    who continue to believe in Jesus Christ or experienced
    conviction of the truth in later life
    this also remains the
    case.


    The
    triggers for survivors are primarily religious settings hence a
    rudimentary grasp of what and why the triggers occurs and wisdom is
    required by yourselves if survivors
    of RC clergy abuse begin
    to attend your church.
    Please be patient with us survivors
    as we flounder and tread our path to healing – we are deeply
    suspicious, frightened and hyper-vigilant for our safety around
    anything religious.


    Aboriginal
    minister ………….
    (who I’ve known as a friend for over 20
    years & his family) would in my opinion be the best person to
    speak to in clarifying what I am saying here if you wish to better
    grasp all of this. You could invite them to your church and get
    Stolen Generation members to share their stories.


    Ireland
    and Australia have the highest statistics of suicide amongst
    indigenous youth
    and complex post trauma stress disorder. This
    is not imaginary suffering – it is real & devastating. There is
    also transgenerational trauma impact
    whereby the survivor impacts
    detrimentally on his family with inability to sustain healthy
    relationships and so forth. 


    This
    powerful little song was written by Irish survivor of Catholic abuse
    -  Don Baker who portrays the priest in it. Sinead sadly has now
    converted to Islam It is this song that explains it all so
    clearly and I
    strongly suggest you all watch it
    and hear our voices and also the voices of Aboriginal Australia in
    it. It was NOT our fault and we are strong and beautiful.


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_GIqBUi92A



  • msmekhael I spent ages writing reply to u but it disappeared never went through or else was censored?! . So I will just do a more succinct response but lst thanks so much I read what u wrote twice. I don't know everything - no one does... I am aware re what is happening in Egypt … and feel ashamed I am not more of a finer version of a Christian as am not under that oppression/terror threat 24/7. I will read Mark in the Bible carefully... To be perfectly frank which usually am I have no idea what is happening to me spiritually - hence it is terrifying. To be in a church is terrifying To be trying to heal is terrifying To have come full circle back in organised religion is terrifying. The clue was in the title I gave the post (survivor)  And this is why - this is our story Aboriginal Australia and Ireland and Aotearoa/NZ Yeah this is our story but we are strong and beautiful God help us is all I can end with... The most accurate take I have ever seen/heard as it is made by fellow survivors. Thx a lot for caring and responding. Sinead sadly converted to islam last year
     
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