This year, during Great Lent, I attended an Orthodox seminar on Ontario’s new sex education curriculum. The Christian speaker gave a factual presentation of the program, explained the controversy surrounding it (many parents pulled their kids out in protest), and then opened the floor to discussion.
I was shocked.
Our community was on varying ends of the spectrum – fiercely.
When the church doors open everyone runs in a different direction, or so it seems.
One woman shared the unfortunate tribulation of having had an incident of sexual assault in her family, so she was totally in favor of the new curriculum. She believed in teaching her children the proper names of body parts from a young age. She also wanted them to understand the concepts of gender expression and sexual orientation as her older son is openly gay. She believed that providing her kids with this information would help protect them.
She wanted to arm them with knowledge and teach them the proper vocabulary — if they ever found themselves in a terrible situation, God forbid, they would be able to speak up for themselves.
Another mom was fiercely opposed to the curriculum. She felt it was her role as a parent to teach sexual development in a sensitive, Orthodox way. This program was far too provocative — and to leave this responsibility to a teacher, someone who has a completely different value system than her family — seemed outrageous.
On the days the curriculum was to be taught, this mother explained, she would keep her kids at home and teach them herself. She believed this curriculum was far too advanced for the suggested age groups, and that frank conversations about sexuality are best had in private and personal settings.
As the workshop progressed, I began to see a change.
In spite of the conflicting views, a sense of understanding and respect for the opinions and experiences of others began to develop. The reflective head nods and “hm, good point” comments increased.
This is Orthodox Synergy.
We, as Orthodox Christians, all believe and want the same things, yet this workshop demonstrated that we have wildly different opinions on secular subjects from politics and the environment to education and parenting.
This platform somehow revealed the intersection of the total person: the knowledge, values, beliefs, and experiences that accumulate to us. We are messy and dynamic.
It extended the parameters of dialogue by creating a space for “real life” in our community. It allowed us to apply our Orthodox faith to the outside world. Having this conversation within our Orthodox community asked some important questions:
What lens are we looking at the world from?
How do we think as a community about everyday issues, such as, homeschooling, vaccines, and the election — just to name a few?
It also prompts me to think about the opportunities we can create. What if Orthodox lawyers, doctors, teachers, and businesspeople applied Orthodox philosophies to their work? And what if we did that together? What if we stretched beyond the realms and dialogues we know – the ones with neat answers – and began to bring Orthodoxy into everything we did, bought, and said?
Conversations with other Orthodox people help us identify the cues of the Church, the cues we should take. There is magic in having discussions with those that believe in the same things you do. Spirit works among us. It allows our minds to find the median our hearts always vibrate in: Christ, the common denominator.
And so I wonder, what can we create if we begin to think in sync?
There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why?
I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?
― Robert F. Kennedy