When Religion and Memes Intersect

So I haven’t posted anything in about a month. :/ This next month promises to be just as crazy, but I’m really going to make an effort to post more regularly.

We talked about memes yesterday, and I’d like to share a meme that goes around my Facebook a lot. I was baptized as an Orthodox Christian when I was five and I grew up in the faith, although now that I’m in college I no longer practice (but that’s another very long story). Many of my Facebook friends are from my church and they regularly share different iterations of the Eastern Orthodox Ryan Gosling (EORG) meme. I’m sure everyone’s familiar with the Ryan Gosling “Hey Girl” meme. This is the same thing, except all of the ‘seductive’ posts relate to Orthodoxy in some way. Some of them are hilariously relevant, and it’s cool to see how a very popular meme has been appropriated to fit a more niche audience.

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On the whole, I think this meme is pretty harmless and funny. However, every time I see an EORG, I feel a little bit… weird. The merger of Orthodoxy and Internet memes brings together two very disparate elements; it’s jarring to see centuries of unchanging and profound religious doctrine connected to lightning-fast, usual trivial snippets of Internet culture. This element of surprise makes EORG very effective. American Orthodox Christians are acutely aware of the old-vs-new clash because they must navigate their modern lives around a very traditional religion, and this theme comes up a lot in sermons and general church discussion. In the end, I sometimes feel like EORG trivializes elements of Orthodox worship or spirituality. I know this might be reading into it too much, but I think this is why I feel uncomfortable: EORG recognizes a woman’s relationship with God and uses it for his own romantic benefit. (And this is where we could recognize some interesting gender dynamics.) Bringing romance into the process of worship seems very selfish and worldly, which is exactly what religion seeks to avoid.

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I think this one is a pretty good example. Lifting up your arms during the Anaphora is just a gesture of worship/reverence during a certain prayer. To do this or not is a very personal choice, and it does not determine how serious you are about worship. In the end, it’s just a movement, and if it helps with prayer that’s great, but it doesn’t really matter. To turn a religious experience into a foray into romance (however discreet or implied) cheapens the prayer. If EORG is more concerned about the placement of his arms than the content of his prayer, he’s doing something wrong. However, this distraction is framed as romantic/cute.

I don’t know. I think I’m being too serious. It’s just an issue that’s always bugged me, and our meme discussion made it relevant.

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(all images from eoryangosling.tumblr.com)

 

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2 comments
  1. I like your last reflection on the romanticism of the Anaphora. I think this just goes to show something we’ve noticed earlier in this class: the increasing sexualization of media. Perhaps 100 years ago, a man might have jokingly mentioned this to a good friend, but when it is placed in meme form, it is more spreadable and the littlest innuendos become hypersexualization. It may not be that Eastern Orthodox Christians are making more sexualized comments; it may just be that it’s easier to see them.

    But I’m with you. This merging of religion and sexuality seems strange.

  2. achang4 said:

    Thanks for sharing the memes and your thoughts on them. It was really interesting to hear your perspective on the relationship of the Ryan Gosling meme combined with religion, and adding in the romance aspect to the mix. I don’t follow any specific religion, but have definitely heard some of my friends discuss the touchy subject sometimes of the combination of religion/romance and brought out something important to consider when creating memes.

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