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When speaking about orthodoxy, one defense I commonly hear from many conservative or fundamentalist Christians is that “right belief yields right practice.” It’s often used as a pitch for compromise and unity between conservative and liberal understandings of spirituality. The liberals are praised for their “good works,” but asked to adopt “good beliefs.” It’s an appeal to meet in the middle. It’s a very convincing argument that seems logically sound.

Where this argument falls flat for me is in my own personal experience. I grew up believing orthodoxy. I knew the truths and was taught not to question them. I had “right beliefs.” Later in my spiritual development, I began to explore the “right action” with more vigor. However, the more I encountered others and interacted with new ideas, the more difficult it became for the two to coexist happily. As I began befriending LGBTs and atheists for example, it became harder and harder for me to love them unconditionally while holding my right beliefs. I realized that my beliefs were actually putting barriers between me and them. Despite my most sincerely devoted efforts, I could not reconcile to two.

I wouldn’t presume to generalize my experience to everyone else.  That said, I see similar levels of compassion and morality across many systems of belief. If orthopraxis follows from orthodoxy, then why is orthopraxis missing so many who adhere to orthodoxy? Why is orthopraxis just as common in many who don’t follow orthodoxy? Where is orthodoxy’s potency?

Perhaps orthodoxy is valid. However, the argument that orthodoxy yeilds orthopraxy doesn’t seem to hold up.