They are called “Old Calendarists” because they still use the ancient Julian (for Julius Caesar) calendar, and represent a small, though vocal, minority of Eastern Orthodox Christians. You see, some Eastern Orthodox churches simply refused to adopt the newer Gregorian calendar, which was a revision of the Julian made in the 16th century, because they saw the proposed adoption as a capitulation to the Roman papacy. So to this day, they continue using an outdated and inaccurate calendar in order to (ostensibly) maintain the purity of their faith. Weird, huh?
Well, more specifically, and admittedly more important, these churches have been adamantly opposed to revising the liturgical calendar of their churches, which was part and parcel of adopting the new Gregorian calendar, which was again modified in 1923 by the Serbian astronomer, Milutin Milanković. Now, you might justly wonder why in the world this should make any real difference. After all, wouldn’t you want to use a more accurate calendar? And, if you are an Orthodox Christian (as I am, by the way), couldn’t you continue celebrating all of the feasts and fasts of the year?
Why am I even mentioning this obscure subject, which doubtless interests hardly anyone, least of all my readers? It’s simply because it occurred to me, perhaps especially after reading a recent article by my friend J. D. Wills, that we have our own kind of “Old Calendarists” here in America. Call them “resisters” or “preservationists,” or what-have-you ~ although I resist applying the term “traditionalists” to this group ~ really they have much the same mentality as the Old Calendarists. Having grown up and lived most of my life in the deep South (i.e. the old Confederacy), I understand this.
There are some shared characteristics between the Old Calendarists of the East and resisting-preservationists in this country , including the deeply-rooted, felt-need to resist any and all changes that might be perceived as bowing to some opposing force, or group, even when that change is an overall good change or one that really has little affect on the truly important things of life. More than this, however, there is an unadulterated, hyper-conservative mentality that militates against change simply because it is change. This is the mentality that fueled “white flight” in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.
There are other shared characteristics, though, of which the following few come to mind:
The need to preserve a pure history.
History can often be confusing, especially when one is seeking truth, that is, trying to discover “what really happened,” or the “way it really was.” Now, I’m not so cynical as to think it’s not possible to arrive at some good, solid conclusions where history is concerned, but I do know that it’s oftentimes … well, messy. You know, it’s not the elementary schoolbook version, but resisting-preservationists need their history to be clean, smooth, easy to grasp and understand. Why? Because it underpins everything else they believe and, thus, how they live out their lives. For example, though the Judeo-Christian faith was an important theological-philosophical influence in the founding of this country, the Founding Fathers were, nevertheless, a mixed bag when it came to religion. Many were deists and many more were, to put it bluntly, little more than nominal Christians. The Declaration of Independence was, at best, a deistic document, and the Constitution not at all religious in any sense of the word. Period. This is not to say the newly birthed United States was irreligious, only that the pristine pure narrative of this country being founded as a Christian nation is, at the very least, complex. In other words, there’s more to say on the subject, and when one delves into the founding documents, writings, recorded speeches and whatnot of that era, one soon discovers the difficulty in simply, almost glibly saying, “We were founded as a Christian nation.” And this is only one example, but it leads to another point…
The good ole days were the best days.
Not only is history supposed to be pure and simple, it also needs to be good, truly good, for the resisting-preservationist. This is the anchor-hold for Old Calendarists, both East and West (including this country, of course.) After all, if the good ole days were really not so good, then why try to preserve them or bring them back? Now, don’t get me wrong. I certainly believe there is much ~ very much, in fact ~ to be deeply appreciated, and even in some cases revered, from the past. I abhor chronological arrogance; besides, as I said above, I’m an Eastern Orthodox Christian myself, so how in the world could I possibly despise the past??? That would be to despise my own salvation, as it were, and most especially my Lord Jesus, whom I love with a deep and abiding love and to whom I gladly cling in hope and joy. No, I’m not a despiser of the past, but neither am I a blind glorifier of some carefully selected past that I can use explicitly to justify my beliefs, perspectives and chosen lifestyle. For example, I’m proud to be an American, yet I feel no need whatsoever to “tidy up” the history of my great country. The resisting-preservationist, however, views the whole of his/her communal, or national, history as really and truly being the “good ole days,” when all things were as they should be and, consequently, s/he feels deeply compelled to return to those glory days … and even fight for that return.
If the good ole days were the best days, then these days are not.
In pining for the good ole days, it’s not difficult to understand how and why resisting-preservationists would look at the current scene rather gloomily. Looking back at the past nostalgically, they look at the present negatively. You’ve heard it, I’m sure: “Things just aren’t the way they used to be.” Right? Right. And so another narrative surfaces, one that casts a long, dark shadow over the whole world, and in this world the majority of the major players, if we might call them that, are held suspect. There is precious little talk about the very real freedoms we continue to enjoy in this country ~ including freedom of speech and religion ~ and very little mention of how modern technology has made our lives so much more convenient; hardly any thanksgiving for modern medicine and, comparatively speaking, good access to healthcare (which certainly needs to be improved, but…); very little talk about the relative safety we enjoy in this country, not to mention food and clothing and shelter. Only compare how billions of men, women, and children are forced to barely survive throughout the world and you would think there’s an awful lot for which to be grateful here in America … but for the resisting-preservationist, this contrasts too sharply, too vividly with his/her notion of the good ole days and the way things seem to be now. So, s/he must guard against too much light of reality penetrating into his/her preconceived notion of how the world, and nation, currently stand…
So build a wall or, better yet, a fortress.
We’ve all heard the term “fortress mentality,” and that’s what it is, really. It’s literally erecting a mental fortress around one’s whole belief system, or perspective on life and the world. Let nothing out ~ or, in other words, let nothing of one’s particular ideological view go ~ and let nothing in, i.e. let no one else’s perspective creep into the fortress. And it helps immensely to have friends in this fortress, of course. As the old saying goes, “Misery loves company.” Naturally, too, it’s much easier for these “Old Calendarists” of America ~ the resisting-preservationists ~ to perpetuate their pure and simple history as the good ole days (the best days), as well as their dim view of the contemporary scene with the consequent need to return to the nostalgic past when they do so together in the greatest numbers they can muster. Well, community is great, and we all love to be with folks who share our interests and hobbies and whatnot. I imagine we even like to have at least some friends who share our values and perspectives on life and the world around us … but here’s precisely the point: Most of us, I truly believe, also appreciate other viewpoints and perspectives, even other faith-religions, just as we surely appreciate art, literature and music from different cultures, even when it may not particularly be our “cup of tea,” so to speak. In an open and ideologically liberal society, we’ve learned to value other people and other cultures along with what they offer without feeling threatened or as if we’ve somehow compromised our own dearly, deeply held beliefs. Not so the resisting-preservationist. Any outward show of appreciation for something or someone different is perceived as a sign of weakness and/or compromise. What’s really terribly insidious about this (among other things) is that many of these folks actually, secretly love what they pretend to detest. But since they are in a fortress with others of like mind and heart, they cannot “out” themselves. There is safety and security in their enclave, and this safety and security is simply not worth sacrificing … for anything.
Well, so much for brief observations! Though much more could be added, I’ll quit now by simply reiterating (or confessing) that I know of what I speak. I’ve been there. I’ve been party to the “Old Calendarists” of this country, the resisting-preservationists. Consequently, nothing I’ve written is offered in a mean spirit at all, nor do I imagine it will effect any great change. I just thought that, perhaps, some of my readers might want to better understand what has become an extremely influential mentality (of an abnormally influential minority) in the U. S. I hope I’ve managed to provide this. If not, I apologize. I’ll try better next time! God bless!