Voices from Russia

Thursday, 3 October 2013

The Orthodox Ghetto

a fork in the road

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Editor’s Note:

I don’t totally agree with this, but it’s ORTHODOX. Orthodoxy is the Big Tent. Don’t listen to ignorant children such as Rod Dreher. He hasn’t the slightest clue of the BREADTH of the Church.

BMD

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Pope Francisco loves the atheists; he doesn’t believe in a merely Catholic God. He even revels in the fact that Christians are a minority globally. A lifelong Jesuit, he doesn’t hide his anticlerical stance. In his youth, he appreciated the idealists of “materialism”, dissociating himself from the anti-Semitism of his beloved mentor, St Augustine. Now, he wants to take Catholicism out of its cultural ghetto by having a dialogue with today’s “illuminati” promoting secularism. This resulted from an exchange of letters and an interview granted to the founder of the most important left-wing daily of present-day Italy, La Repubblica. Eugenio Scalfari defines himself as an atheist fascinated with Jesus. In response to this, Pope Francisco pointed up that, without the Church, he wouldn’t have really met Jesus. This is why he conceives his pontificate as a reformist one.

All doctrine, legislation, and administration aside, the Church is a way of life. In other words, it’s a culture. Moreover, this culture is in crisis. This crisis isn’t hypothetical, like the one vaguely named “the values crisis”. Pope Francisco puts things in perspective… this isn’t about “Christian” culture, some kind of answer to humanism higher than religion. This is about cohabitation, beyond tolerance and politeness, without the haughty attitude of someone convinced about his “truth”. Of course, we can wonder how much rhetoric there is in this papal campaign in favour of dialogue with atheists and non-Catholics. We don’t believe that it’s dishonest. However, dialogue isn’t only a matter of goodwill, although without it, it can’t even start.

This clash with modernity was painful for Catholics. For a long time, it was largely contradictory. The post-war era led to a more decisive attempt to end this “culture war”. However, as even the Pope said, too little was done in this regard. Nevertheless, what happened with “the other lung of Europe”… the expression of John Paul II… with Orthodoxy? The formal rhetoric uses the apologetic argument of the grand Orthodox opening towards culture, referring either to Byzantium (sic), or to the golden age of national culture. Artists temporarily retire to monasteries in order to complete their works and “enlightened” bishops are major cultural personalities, whilst the presence of clerics in cultural events, book launches, or shows is something usual. The Orthodox press has pages dedicated to “Church and Culture”, and, often, some intellectuals gather large audiences when they hold conferences on religious topics. However, what lies behind this beautiful curtain?

Orthodox mentalities are rather “reactionary”… if we use the standard of papal rhetoric. Firstly, there’s the essence of “Orthodox culture”, that is, of creativity exerted within the “walls of the Church” or, at least, containing Orthodox “values”. In other words, dialogue with atheists and non-Orthodox believers is useful only if it is apologetical, targeting the conversion of the interlocutor to Orthodox truth. This isn’t specific only to Orthodoxy, as one can easily find it within Catholicism, whilst the Jesuit-styled stance of the present Pope is in the minority, actually. What do contemporary Jesuits believe in this regard? I think that they believe that God speaks through the qualities of art created by anyone, atheists included. An Orthodox full of pride in his identity can’t believe this.

Reality gives us the measure of the “reactionary” credo. Who would imagine that, in a town that hosts an important university, where the metropolitan bishop goes to the Opera and the Museum, the Orthodox parochial school that the bishop founded has pupils whose parents totally forbid them watching TV? Teachers have problems choosing what stories to tell children, as they must avoid Walt Disney cartoon characters… as Disney’s “guilty” of having been a freemason. Artists with academic ranks regard Western art after Byzantium as degenerate. Confessors of students discourage them from dabbling in “modernist” culture. “Folklore” is a safe topic in relation to “disputable imports”. A star of the young generation of theological authors prints at his (otherwise prestigious) publishing house texts with ridiculous anti-Semitic quotes from St Cosmas the Aetolian.

The “foremost Romanian theological personality” considers that “our kin” isn’t the Jewish neighbour living in the same building, but the relative living in the “Romanian” village where we originated. People who dreamt of a totalitarian, repressive, and bellicose Orthodoxy are regarded as saints. Still, often, nationalism becomes a surrogate for culture. Even the patriarch had to back off with regard to ecumenical dialogue. What culture can result from such an understanding of Orthodoxy? Let’s get serious; Orthodoxy’s cultural crisis is severe. We can easily see its effects. Perhaps, as Pope Francisco suggested, a Church needs to become a minority in a country in order to return to its role as fruitful yeast. Too much arrogance due to strong influence can be fatal for it.

3 October 2013

Bogdan Catalin

Nine O’ Clock

http://www.nineoclock.ro/the-orthodox-ghetto/

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