American Religion, Eastern European Identity
Travel Blog • Pam Mandel • 07.29.14 | 11:04 AM ET
I love stories about complicated cultural identity issues. What’s at the intersection of religion and nationality? What happens when you add ethnicity to that question? How do people who find themselves in two not-quite-compatible subcultures reconcile the conflicting ideas, not just in their society, but within themselves? That’s why I liked this somewhat academic read about how some Armenians and Georgians are adopting American Evangelical religions—and struggling with the implications of what it means to leave traditional Orthodoxy behind.
But the biggest challenge for those seeking to convert others may be reconciling converts’ faith with their ethnic identity. Many of Pogosyan’s countrymen see those who leave the Apostolic Church as less Armenian. He takes pains to emphasize the long-standing relationship between Armenia and the LDS church, which first took hold in the Armenian diaspora in 19th-century Constantinople, as well as the increasing number of foreign missionaries of Armenian descent who have come to their ancestral homeland to serve. He is also careful to stress the cultural similarities between Armenia and the LDS church. “We’re very big on family values in Armenia,” he says, making the LDS church here a perfect fit. Ultimately, his faith has made him more Armenian, not less. It has strengthened his relationship with his family, his local community. “It has made me a better citizen.”
Read the entire story here.