How and why does religiosity vary among Greek immigrant communities?

By: | Post date: 2016-05-09 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Culture, Modern Greek

Question comes from my contrasting the attitude to religiosity among Greek-Australians and Greek-Americans.

In the 1990s, Greeks were only coming up to second generation in Australia. The attitude to religion was akin to what it was in the home country: more about group identity and tradition than about a (how do Evangelicals put it?) personal relationship with Jesus. Bilingual services only started in the 1990s, and at least in my parish, not much of it was in English: Bible readings, Nicene Creed, Lord’s Prayer. As in Greece, Easter Midnight Mass emptied out at 12:30, because adhering to tradition (going home for tripe soup and dyed egg) took priority over the church. An elderly core of parishioners took communion weekly; the bulk took communion twice a year, as in Greece.

So the experience of religiosity in Australia was pretty close to that in Greece.

In the States, well, let me recycle my comment from https://www.quora.com/Atheists-w….

(Yes, I’m answering my own question based on something I commented elsewhere. Why do you ask?)


My naive guess would have been that European immigrant Christians’ churches would have been more about ethnic identity than about actual faith, and that they would have been immune to the fervour of the Great Awakening.

My limited exposure to Greek Orthodoxy in the US tells me I am wrong. They can be just as fervent, because they are Americans, and influenced by the Great Awakening by osmosis.

Every year in Easter Midnight Greek Orthodox Mass, in Greece and Australia, after Christ is proclaimed risen, the priest says around 12:30 AM, “Do stay! It’s a lovely mass!”

And it is a lovely mass. Starting with John Damascene’s boppy “It is the day of resurrection! Let us be bright, ye peoples!”

Chanted to a mostly empty church. Screw that; there’s tripe soup to be eaten at home, and dyed eggs to crack. The parishioners are in church because of tradition, and they’re going home now because of tradition.

I spent one Orthodox Easter Mass in Dayton, Ohio. Female choristers (including my great-aunt) and an organ, and a Polish priest, so I was clearly not in Kansas any more (or Melbourne). But that’s fine, I’m here to follow in the tradition of my ancestors.

12:30. Noone moved.

1:00. Noone moved.

The entire parish stayed put all the way til 3 AM. Like they were Ukrainians or something. (They weren’t.)

They were Greek American Orthodox. They were there for the mass.


tl;dr Australian Greeks are closer in timeframe to Greek Greeks, their religiosity is more about group identity. American Greeks have been influenced by their more religious environment, their religiosity is more personal and overt.

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