One need not look far on many internet forums to find heated discussions among members of various Christian communities. Few are as toxic though as the ones that would be considered the more “traditional” communities. Examples of this are the RadTrad™ Catholic Circles and the Hyperdox Orthodox Catechumens. Oftentimes you will find these groups (when they are not verbally assaulting one another) are dunking on Protestants who might as well be garbage to them or ranting about ugly liturgies or meme-ing about boomers. Members of these communities (if they can be described as that) tend to be prone to a golden age fallacy about the Church. Whether it is the height of medieval Europe or Byzantium they believe that the Church at that time was better and we need to work to return to that age of glory for the honor of our Lord and Christendom.
There’s a whole host of problems with what I just introduced that go far beyond the scope of this paper, but what I want to dwell on is frankly the uselessness of much of the conversation. So much of it is focused on high theology, aesthetics, pretty titles, etc. Before I go further, I wish to draw a comparison. The Mandalorian has taken the culture by storm. A lone warrior bound by a strict honor code must survive treacherous journeys through the galaxy to deliver “the Kid” safely to the Jedi. His Code, “the Way” dictates all of his behavior. For context, the Mandalorians in Star Wars History are badasses. The Spartans of the World. But now, they are a shell of their former selves. Their planet devastated, their clans divided, many do not practice the ancient ways, and most only revere them as good bounty hunters rather than the indomitable and feared “Jedi-Killers” they once were. Now read that over again and replace Mandalorian with Christian.
Europe and the Middle East have been lost. Our Cathedrals are museums and tourist destinations (or worse, Mosques). Christianity is splintered into denominationalism, many of which hardly deserve the moniker of Christian. And yet, what is so often argued about in traditional circles? That chasuble wasn’t pretty enough, that alb didn’t have enough lace. You know that Protestant that regularly reads the Scriptures, attends Church, and is raising a Godly family? Well he doesn’t pray to Mary so I hope he enjoys hell. So many of us have become so focused on the teachings Christianity we have lost the Way of Christianity.
One of the earliest titles of the early Christians was in fact “Followers of the Way.” Each Christian person of the modern day is a Mandalorian. In the show, he is left alone. He has no other brothers or sister of Mandalore to encourage him in keeping the Way. He simply does it. It is so integrated in the core of his being that he knows literally no other way. What must it take for us as Christians to do that? We are far past the time that it is socially beneficial to be Christian. While I am a firm believer in evangelization by way of beauty, it is insufficient if we as Christians do not follow the Way by which beauty enters the world. Can we say to ourselves that like the Mandalorian when faced with a choice or challenge that pushes us to abandon our faith could we confidently say “this is the Way” and charge forward valiantly no matter the cost?
This is not to say that aesthetics and theology are bad. I am not making a value judgement of them. In my short career as a therapist I have seen how much big ideas impact people on the small scale, but without Christians living out the Way all of that washes away. I don’t care if your understanding of the liturgy is air tight and could “pwn any Prottard noobs” if you still masterbate to porn on a daily basis. The Way brings forth theology, theology does not inherently produce the way. Demons know plenty more about the essence of God than we do and yet they still rebel. A popular adage from the East that gets thrown around is “a theologian is one who prays and one who prays is a theologian.” The late R.C. Sproul remarked that “everyone is a theologian,” which is true. We are all called to come to the knowledge and love of God. But how do you do that? Yes, reading systematic theology books is a great supplement but do they inspire and inform you to walk the way?
The Mandalorian knows very little of his people’s history, nothing of the Force, or really anything of the deeply historic Mandalorian Culture, but what he does know is the Way and he follows authentically. One does not need to have PhD. in Church History and an M.Div. to properly follow Jesus. He didn’t ship his disciples off to the Sorbonnes before they could follow him. He chose illiterate fisherman who would be as faithful as sheep to their shepherd. We will be forced for much of our life to follow the War of Jesus alone. Community is all important and many other authors have treated the importance of community in post-Christendom and I agree with them whole heartedly. Although we must also be prepared like the Mandalorian to leave the safety of our community for a long time practice the Way without the support of our fellow pilgrims.
What are we to do about this practically? Frankly, another lesson I have learned as a therapist is that most of the complex problems of our lives can be resolved be pretty simple answers. How do we become better followers of the way? Well, what Christians have that Mandalorians don’t is that our Way is both a form of life and a person. Many of my clients have remarked to me the desire that God speak to them more clearly. I cheekily think in my head, “well he has you’re just not reading it.” In order to be a pilgrim on the Way one must know the way and that can only come through the regular study of Scripture which is much easier said than done. I was raised Roman Catholic and one stereotype I do find to be very true (at least often) is we are not encouraged to spend much of our free time in the Scriptures. This is a travesty that must be reversed. God wrote down what we need to know about him in one convenient book for us. As Article VI from the 39 Articles declare, “Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation…” Study the Scriptures. Know the Gospels and know you will know the Way.
Next we must be people of regular prayer. A dear mentor of mine often says “the Devil loves long prayers, he hates real ones.” When we pray we must mean it. In this internet age, Christianity like all things has been touched by meme culture. It’s a good meme to be a trad Christian. To say fifty rosaries or akathists because that’s what you’re supposed to do as a traditional Christian. We must break out of this and return genuineness and authenticity to our individual prayer lives. Don’t set up a prayer rule that you’d like to do set up one that you’re actually going to do. You may want to say all of Morning Prayer but if all you can muster is one minute of prayer in the morning that is something.
Finally, we must be disciplined. It takes great amounts of willpower to push against the current. This can only be brought about through fasting and disciplining of the body. Deny yourself pleasures (within moderation) and take up working out. If we can say no to our fleshly demands we can grow in the ability to say no to sinful spiritual demands. Essentially, what I am saying is we much become Mandalorians for God. Now, not in the cringe Crusader for Christ mentality that runs rampant in trad-masculine circles, but in the biblical athletic analogy of being athletes for Christ. Each of us has a race to run, and while we run alongside our brothers and sisters, it is our race we must win, not our friend’s.
We live in a post-Christian society, and God alone knows what the future holds for His Church, but we must be prepared to live in actual reality and not the one we wish to be real. I want to reiterate, I am not saying we abandon theological pursuits and the desire for reverent worship of Almighty God, but if we are not already practitioners of the Way then those things will do us absolutely no good. We are essentially LARPers. Know Christ and he will show you the Way.