As an Egyptian immigrant to America and a Coptic Orthodox Christian, whenever I stepped foot outside of my church I felt I was entering into a vastly different world, that the two were so disconnected. Recently I came across a great quote from the famed St. Augustine that summed up a truth that I had been living with, which seemed greatly at odds with most people I’ve encountered:
“Whoever claims that the Church is only a small portion of the world is in error. The Church is the whole world.”
I realize why I’ve felt so different all this time, why people look at me strangely when they find out I’m “religious.” I’ve always been confused by that: am I supposed to just turn off my religious beliefs or pretend they don’t exist when I’m not at church or engaging in religious activities? I see the Church as my whole world, and the world I live in is filtered within the framework of my religious-minded self. On the other hand, most people seem to view the Church and religiosity as something that is confined to certain occasions and places. An Orthodox Christian priest wrote a book on this very subject, entitled: “Everywhere present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe.” If you’re interested, you can find that book here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/everywhere-present/
As for me, I guess I’ll just keep getting those stares and glances and keep on experiencing those odd moments when being religious seems like something I was supposed to leave at the church doors before I left, because God is present everywhere whether we want Him to be or not.