Vol. 2 No. 3 - Dormition 2007
Ever a Minority?
"I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing," - Genesis 12:2
Demographic statistics show Orthodox make up about 2% of the population of Canada and the United States, virtually the same as 100 years ago. Although the number of Orthodox has increased in line with population growth, the proportion remains the same because Orthodoxy in Canada and the U.S. is essentially an import industry: Orthodox here don't have enough babies to sustain numbers, much less to see the faith grow. There is definitely no "free trade" as far as faith goes: Canadian Orthodox are simply not in the business of exporting their faith.
For Orthodox families, this presents a serious question. We must reevaluate the "Canadian dream", the dream that drew (and draws) so many immigrants to Canada: the dream of financial freedom and security.
This is the dream that makes us slaves to financial upward mobility, and saves us from the plague of having more than two children in a household. It is the same dream that makes us a blip on the radar screen of Canadian life.
In and of itself, life as a minority is not a sin for Orthodox people. The reality behind the current conditions speaks volumes about the extent to which Canadian Orthodox carry the same goals, attitudes, and worldview as the rest of the largely secularized country. This is a spiritual problem.
Since Confederation, Canada has seen a consistent population pattern: Roman Catholics make up the largest group (40-50%), followed by a combined group of various Protestants in second spot (slightly fewer than the Roman Catholic numbers, when counted all together), with Orthodox Christians and Jewish Canadians tied for third at about two percent each.
The last Canadian census projected a radical change in this pattern: Islam is now the third largest religion in Canada, and the fastest growing, by virtue of both immigration and birthrate. It is rapidly overtaking several previously major Protestant groups (more youth under thirty describe themselves as Muslim than either United or Anglican), and within a decade, it will be the second largest group (i.e. larger than any single Protestant group) if current trends continue. Most of the Roman Catholic population will continue to be made up mostly of non-practicing francophones and a smaller number of anglophones if current trends continue.
This begs the question: Will Orthodox Christians in Canada forever be a minority?
We will if we do not conquer the quest for money that keeps family sizes way down.
We will if we do not conquer individualism, support each other's struggles, businesses, and spiritual efforts, including church projects, etc., with our time and money.
We will if we do not recapture the Orthodox Christian practice of tithing (real tithing, of 10% of our income), which other groups practice, if imperfectly.
We will if we do not reject secular feminism, which distorts the identity of the person, both male and female.
And we certainly will if we do not do everything it takes to keep Orthodox youth in the Orthodox faith, by teaching them, creating opportunities for them to make Orthodox friends, and to marry Orthodox Christians. Coptic Christians take this very seriously; most Orthodox across Canada do not (if one begs to differ on this, read the marriage roll at any local parish and compare the number of interfaith wedding to weddings of two Orthodox faithful).
Being a minority is no sin; the Orthodox faith has survived in much worse circumstances, through God's great grace and the faithful lives of pious people. The situation in most Canadian parishes does not bear these hallmarks, however - at least not yet. And here is the place we can find hope: that as Canadian Orthodox recapture authentic Orthodox spiritual life, we will become a spiritual blessing to this nation, even as a tiny minority... or perhaps even the source of hope for the majority of Canadians.
Father Geoffrey Korz, (Dormition, 2007)
© All Saints of North America Orthodox Church
Orthodox Church in America, 2007.