BlogHer Mondays: A Chance to Live it Right

How much time are we willing to spend debating right thinking at the expense of right living?

The last couple of years I’ve been captivated by the idea of orthopraxy as opposed to orthodoxy. Orthodoxy is the concept of ‘right thinking,’ or ‘right belief.’ In a system which requires orthodoxy, belonging requires one to believe a certain set of assertions. If one cannot ascribe to those beliefs, then membership in that system is denied, and one can no longer belong.

Orthopraxy on the other hand is the idea of having ‘right practice.’ Rather than requiring alignment to doctrinal assertions, an orthopraxy places the emphasis on living according to a certain collection of practices.

Karen Armstrong, an interfaith specialist who writes and teaches about Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, writes in her autobiography about her own realization that one could be a person of faith without holding orthodox beliefs.

As a part of her research work, Armstrong was introduced to Jewish scholar Hyam Maccoby, who introduced her to the idea that one could have a faith based upon right living rather than right belief. In fact, he told her, the idea that faith is primarily about right belief is largely a Christian phenomenon.

“It is easy to see that you were brought up Christian….Theology is just not important in Judaism, or in any other religion really. . … We have orthopraxy instead of orthodoxy…right practice rather than right belief. That’s all. You Christians make such a fuss about theology, but it’s not important in the way you think….We Jews don’t bother much about what we believe. We just do it instead.” The Spiral Staircase P. 235,236

This is probably an oversimplification, and certainly striving after right practice can easily become a legalistic lecture about ticking things off your holy checklist. Still, after a life time of worrying about my orthodoxy, it feels good to focus on how I’m living for awhile.

I’ve been especially inspired this week by soulful folks who have found small and beautiful ways to, as Maccoby says, “just do it” in the world. Each one is an example of an orthopraxy that reflects the beauty and creativity which lies at their spiritual cores.

Tess at Anchors and Masts is spreading the word about World Water Day and inspiring people to take simple, practical steps towards getting communities access to safe drinking water.

Over at Dahl Bat small-sized projects in literacy and fair trade in Kolkata, India.

Young Laura over at Twenty Five Days to Make a Difference has taken her values viral and has inspired kids and adults alike to do something proactive every month to make the world a better place.

And finally, in an act that hits close to home, a small group of Small is Beautiful bloggers are working together to do an on-line auction for sister-blogger Jenni Ballantyne of The Comfy Place. Jen is living her last days with fierce honesty as she looks at the end of line in her fight against colon cancer. To find out how you can help raise funds for her final treatment and for her son’s future, go over to Jena’s place at Bullseye Baby and do some orthopraxis of your very own.

Here’s to orthopraxis in all the best sense of the word. Shalom!

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Elaine March 26, 2008 at 3:52 pm

Hi Rachelle.

So glad you published this post here. I keep forgetting to go to Blogher on Mondays. Lately I’ve been reading and listening to Karen Armstrong. I love her words about compassion.

I will send you some links to podcasts later. One is a Speaking of Faith interview; the other is a recent CBC Radio Tapestry interview.

Oh…a post like this one…is the reason I still have a “blog-crush on you.” Although I suppose at this stage its evolved to something more mature. Fondness, respect, and admiration.

Take care.

Angela March 28, 2008 at 1:21 pm

Aw……….thank you for posting to Laura…wait until she sees. Lovely links here, all.

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