Religious practice among Finnish converts to Orthodox Christianity
Between ritual and sincerity
Keywords:rituals, ritualization, Orthodox Christianity, religion in Finland, prayer
In this study, I discuss the devotional lives of Finns who have joined the Orthodox Church of Finland as adults. The analysis is based on interviews conducted with 29 converts to Orthodoxy. My specific focus is the interplay of interiority and exteriority in my interlocutors’ religious practice. To conceptualise this dynamic, I turn to Adam Seligman’s theorisation of ritual and sincerity as two modes of organising social action. For Seligman, ritual action relies on the outer form, whereas sincere action prioritises the inner form – intention and mindset – instead.
My interlocutors’ religious trajectories challenge the standard conceptualisation of the modern subject as someone who is primarily concerned for the truthful expression of their internal states and therefore rejects any external restrictions placed on their actions. After all, they had voluntarily transferred to a religious group that emphasises compliance with an outer form. My analysis demonstrates that while the interviewees understood sincerity as the driving force of religious practice, they valued Orthodox ritual as a resource. Moreover, their engagement in ritual action helped them come to terms with the ambiguities of their daily lives, including their conflicting obligations and wavering commitment, and to experience their lives as imbued with religion nonetheless.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Helena Kupari
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