Frederica Mathewes-Green, a native of Charleston, South Carolina, is a regular commentator for National Public Radio's Morning Edition and other media outlets, a columnist for Beliefnet, and a regular contributor to Christianity Today, which she formerly served as a columnist. She is also a contributor to the Christian Millennial History Project. Her books include Real Choices: Listening to Women, Looking for Alternatives to Abortion, Facing East: A Pilgrim's Journey into the Mysteries of Orthodoxy, At the Corner of East and Now: A Modern Life in Ancient Christian Orthodoxy, and The Illumined Heart: The Ancient Christian Path of Transformation. Her latest book is Gender: Men, Women, Sex and Feminism (excerpt), but we talked to her about her spiritual journey and the ideas in The Illumined Heart.
You've ended up in what is clearly a minority religious expression within Christianity in the United States. Which branch of Orthodoxy are you in?
I am Antiochian Orthodox, but I'm not so sure we're a minority. I recently heard that if all the Orthodox churches in America united we would be either the third or the fourth largest Christian body in America. But we have a low profile because it is an immigrant church.
Where did you start out?
My mother was an unbeliever — and still is. My father was a nominal Catholic. We would go in to church at the last minute before the gospel reading, take Communion, and walk right out again. We were taught, as so many Catholics were then, if you were to miss a Sunday and get hit by a truck you go straight to hell. It was an attitude towards religion that probably harked back to early days of Greece and Rome where you placated the gods.1