Sunday, November 9, 2008

What's my religion?

I started to write a short reply letter to an Armenian Reporter commentary about the spiritual outreach of the Armenian Church. The editor was lamenting about the lack of outreach and daily spirituality in the Armenian Apostolic church.

Generally, I don’t get stalled while writing about a passionate subject such as this, but this was tough. I kept going back and forth on the reasons that we don’t have more outreach. At first I decided it was our fault – “us” meaning the Armenian community. I often think that most of the people who attend the Apostolic Armenian Church are somewhat agnostic. If we were truly searching, we would have been asking for it from the clergy for centuries. Then I decided it was because we all use the church as a cultural center, not a religion. Then it became the fact that the Armenian religion is not protestant – the Apostolic tradition, as with Catholicism, holds the tenant that you don’t have a direct line to God, you go through the Priest. So, when you have a middle of the night meltdown, you’re supposed to call your Priest.

There is also the cultural disjointedness of the Armenian community in the United States, the politics, the pull toward assimilation and the fear of being ostracized by other Armenians if you are too . . . spiritual, liberal, “American.”

There are actually three Armenian religions in the US - the Armenian Apostolic Church, which is the church we are talking about and the largest one; the Armenian Catholic Church, which follows the Roman Catholics with the Pope as the top cheese; and the Armenian Presbyterian Church, of which there are only about 20something parishes in all of North America. The split within the Armenian diaspora is paralell to the split in the Roman Catholic church. It's the history of Christianity. Political power comes in. Bible interpretation comes in. Money comes in. But most of all, for those brought up in one church or another - family/cultural baggage plays a huge role.

The problem is that there are so few of us to begin with, splitting up like that make us a blip on the spiritual landscape of what is out there in the United States.

Being Armenian is so complicated.

I've been writing and rewriting this thing for days. I guess the bottom line is that I am confused about it all myself...maybe I need some spiritual guidance?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

RULES and the Chain of Fools

ok, I've already broken the number one rule of blogging - to write in your blog everyday. Then again, I am not exactly one to stick close to the rule book. Circumventing the rules has often been my largest priority. I have this idea that there is a real reason for rules that generally derives from those who go to extremes, like drinking in a public park. Drinking in a public park wouldn't be a big problem if nobody got blasted drunk in public. But they do, so I cannot enjoy a glass of wine at my picnic - unless it's in a koolaid container.

Rule # 2 broken in the past few days - choose the Armenian church over pop culture. But I think this one, even Der Hayr would forgive me. . . On the same night that St Mary's had it's big groundbreaking ceremony and party for the new hall to be built, I had tickets to see Aretha Franklin. That's right, the QUEEN OF SOUL. Orchestra seats. $100 bucks a pop. Considering that my priest is from Canada and not Yerevan, I think he gets it. Sorry, but the Chain of Fools trumps a plate of yalanchi. I can make a plate of yalanchi. I cannot sing "Respect" backed by a 12 piece soul band with grammys, rock'n'roll hall of fame inductions, and millions of albums sold under my chubby arm - however much I might like to.

I suppose, I will have to make up for it on Sunday, though.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

politics and Armenian Mind

I opened the Armenian Reporter today and saw a headline, " Elect Barak Obama and Joe Biden," it read.

"HUHH?" I said out loud.

I'm 45 years old and have been going to Armenian Churches and Events for, oh, about 45 years, and never do I recall hearing the established, well off Armenian-Americans - businessmen, all - in the group promote the democrats.

This is historic. This is amazing. This is great. . . This is making my father, God rest soul, turn in his grave.

Don't get me wrong. I have voted Democrat pretty much in every presidential election that I have voted in. And there are members of my family who are active in the Democratic party, even, but it's a fact that Armenians in the US have been historically conservative.

But as I read deeper into the article, I see that it's not because of economic policy, the drive to exit the Iraq war, or any of the other issues, it is strictly as it applies to the Armenian bill to recognize the 1915 massacres as genocide.

That is the one and only reason they stated to promote this vote.

So, go for it. knock yourself out. Vote for the one issue reason, and you'll finally get a good president!

Friday, October 3, 2008

testing testing

Hi. I'm Armenian.
Well, I'm American, as in I was born in New Jersey and grew up in Texas. My parents were born in the USA, too, in the early 1920's. But my grandparents were all Armenian from Armenia. If you are reading this, you probably know the history, so I'm not going over it here.

And besides, this blog is about now. About how to keep your heritage in a slowly shrinking diaspora while moving forward with your life.

As a kid, I lived in the suburbs of Houston, where everyone thought I was probably Mexican - because I was the only one in my class with dark hair and a real nose. "Armenia? what's that? a type of cheese?"

There were not even italians or greeks in my neighborhood, so it was a hard history lesson to sell.

Trying to get a proper pronunciation of my name was another challenge in a place where most girls were called Ann, Michelle, and Lori. Anything more than two syllables was some sort of travesty.

"Gar eeeeee neh" I would say. "roll the 'r'" Texans do not roll R's and forget the concept of an accent over the letter "e." That just added to the suspicion that I was a really a closet hispanic just making this whole exotic heritage thing up.