From Baptist To Orthodoxy
By Matthew Potter
From Baptist to Byzantium is a title of a book that Lee Kopulos asked me to read a few years ago. It is also a good description of my religious journey. In this book, James Early is a Baptist preacher, a missionary preacher. He took an assignment in Bosnia and is exposed to Orthodoxy. Eventually he comes to the decision that Orthodoxy is the religion for him.
I did grow up Baptist and towards the end of my senior year in high school considered seriously going away to a Bible college. I didn’t take that path and eventually graduated for the University of Illinois with a degree in Psychology. In over four years, my interest in the “soul” had changed to an interest in the “mind”. In four years I would say I was also became a lot less “religious”.
Nearly twenty-five years later and after experiences in various churches and religions along the way, I am a member of St. Luke’s Orthodox Church. I am married to Caroline, an Orthodox woman- who was raised in a Coptic Orthodox Church. I find myself in a world of ancient prayers and hymns that are kept alive, week in and week out. I am surrounded by icons and incense, priest and deacons in long ornate gowns. I am offered communion and also confession.
Like James Early, I practiced my Christianity as a Baptist and now practice my Christianity as an Orthodox. I am quite certain had I not married Caroline that I would not be Orthodox today. If Lee had not taken an interest in educating me in orthodoxy, I likely would not have converted as quickly as I have. Orthodoxy for me symbolizes the earliest form of Christianity. It stripped away the centuries of theologians “add-ons” to the base model of Christianity. In my readings I learned about the Greek word for sin, amartia, which means “to miss the mark”. From there I read that “As Christians the “mark” or “target” for which we “aim” is a Christ-like life. So when we fail to hit this target of Christ-like living, we “Sin”. This simple message makes sense to me.
In closing, I would like to take a moment and to give a special thanks to all the church members at St. Luke’s. I thank Father Andrew as well for marrying Caroline and myself and for facilitating me as a practicing member of the church. I thank Lee for his enthusiasm and love of God and Orthodoxy. I thank Caroline, Stephanie and Luke for showing me a Christian home. I know I have much work to do in order to grow as a Christian but I appreciate the forgiveness and grace we are offered by Jesus, as we aim to hit the mark of being Christ-like, especially in a world that increasingly devalues the idea of Christianity in the country and worldwide.