Voices from Russia

Friday, 3 April 2015

The Fall of Rome and All That

01 kathryn_archdiocese_of_brisbane in rome

Salus Populi Romani (Protectress of the Roman People)… this is what Professor Boin wants us to attend to… that’s there a spiritual aspect to things that interacts with all “practical” affairs…

______________________________

Editor:

Lots of good stuff here, I’d call it a “read n’ heed”, even though it has flaws due to its “West-o-centric” orientation. However, it’s not crank, and I read this twice. It’s a good read, with nary an idle word in it.

BMD

******

Last November, Ted Cruz of Texas stood on the Senate floor and claimed that America, like ancient Rome, faced a moment of grave, existential danger. He’s not the only one telling scary stories about ghosts in togas. Over the past six months alone, media outlets (including this one) averaged about one gloom-and-doom essay a month, citing everything from America’s cultural relativism to the increasing use of drones in military conflict to the spread of gay marriage as proof that Rome’s history is repeating itself. As a historian of the Roman Empire, I’d like to suggest there’s really no need for alarm.

One of the most well-known moments in history, the “Fall of Rome” isn’t a historical event. It isn’t even a series of unfortunate mistakes. It’s more akin to a theological idea, and the time has come to stop screwing up the way we talk about it. Understanding the place of religion in history is an urgent one, too. In the wake of the terrorist attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the rise of the so-called Islamic State, many commentators, even President Obama, began to wonder whether it was fair to call Islamic extremism “religious”. Everyone was and is eager to find ways to talk about a world faith without condemning it as inherently intolerant. Unfortunately, our track record in this area isn’t good.

Edward Gibbon was one of the first of the modern era to wrestle with this dilemma… he failed miserably at it. Gibbon, one of the brightest stars of the Enlightenment, a learned man whose name became synonymous with the disease he studied, “Decline and Fall”, was adamant that “the intolerant zeal of the Christians” led to the “fall of Rome”. Gibbon’s broad, anti-religion thesis was popular for the 18th century, when science and secularism were the hottest buzzwords. It also set off an explosion of interest in the late Roman Empire. By the 1980s, there were 210 explanations for what had caused Rome’s “fall”… from a lack of moral character to a pervasive “tiredness of life”. Archaeologists soon started to claim that they could see the “end of civilisation” in their pots and houses. Nevertheless, no one ever stopped to point out the flaw at the root of all these experiments.

Romans predicted the downfall of their own empire for decades, even centuries, before anything remotely “disastrous” ever happened to it. Blinded by an ideological contempt for people’s beliefs, intent on talking about religious identity in monolithic ways (“the Christians”), Gibbon overlooked some key data. In the late Republic, conspiring citizens put their trust in the gods that a military man would come to save them during a time of crisis. It never happened. The state rounded up and executed the group. Later, one of Jesus’ followers did something similar… summoning the spectre of Rome’s fall to rally his base. Christians were attending festivals, showing their neighbours they could be good citizens. To the writer of Revelation, their ability to do two things at once was an abomination. Christians were supposed to be fighting a spiritual war, he argued, not building bridges with people in town.

Of course, Rome’s empire never came to a fiery end in a war fought between “angels and demons”. Within two decades, the entire Mediterranean would be living through the greatest economic prosperity it’d ever know, and Christians raised their social profile everywhere. Crackpot Romans and zealous Christians weren’t the only ones obsessed with the end times, either. One Jewish writer in Egypt drew upon the same ideas to encourage his followers to take up arms against the state. He predicted Rome would finally suffer defeat for annihilating Jerusalem. His rebels foolishly fought the Roman army. They lost. Within two decades, Rome forced the Jewish community to live as exiles from their homeland.

Gibbon’s eagerness to see history through the “secular” lens of the Enlightenment blinded him to the most important “religious” story of the empire… it left us woefully unprepared to talk about the complexities of religious identity today. Anxious notions about the last days, notions of spiritual warfare, and a righteous belief that a divine hand endorses a specific law or policy were ideas in Rome that crossed the theological aisle. However, that doesn’t make them any less “religious”.

In Rome, these were the ways many people grappled with uncertain times… from the late Republic to 476 AD… when a Christian king replaced the Christian emperor of Rome. Traditionally, we associate that latter year with the “Fall of Rome”, but it’s time to drop the historical charade. Just because the government changed, it wasn’t the end of the world… despite the people who saw it that way. That’s why today’s ghost stories are ultimately so revealing. We keep pretending we’re doing Roman history when what we’re really masking is our own severe anxiety about the fast-changing changing world… using the same ideas that our ancestors did, two thousand years ago. It’s time we put these beliefs back into our history books instead of doing as Gibbon did… ignoring them or, worse, pretending they were never there. What people believe… and what people are taught to believe… can’t be left out of history.

29 March 2015

Douglas Boin

Assistant Professor of History at Saint Louis University (St Louis MO USA)

History News Network

http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/158768

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

17 September 2013. OCA Makes Big Deal Over “Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America”… IMPORTANT Issues Left Silent… I Wonder Why

01 smoke and mirrors

______________________________

On oca.org, they made a big deal over a so-called “Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America”. This is nothing but an EP-sponsored talk-shop. It generates tons of wind, issues pretty position papers, and does nothing of practical import, save for publishing a pretty group photo. It does serve one purpose… it’s a venue where the contestants in the EP/MP Great Game can meet and palaver… it’s much like a Cold War Summit in that regard. In short, it’s not important at all… but do note that oca.org made it sound like it was such… in a pathetic attempt to pump up the shaky position of the OCA.

Note how oca.org pumped up an EP-financed-and-run centre at ChambésyGenève and a so-called “Fourth Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference” (mistranslated into English, since we’re of Russian background, it should be “Fourth Pre-Conciliar all-Orthodox Conference”; we shouldn’t be pandering by using constructions derived from Greek). Firstly, the EP centre at Chambésy is inactive, shuttered for four years, as the Greek government defunded it. That was its major source of funds, so, the centre closed down for all practical purposes (it’s formally-open, but there’s been no conferences since 2010). You can see where oca.org is sucking up to the EP… if they were loyal to the MP, they’d point up the fact that centre was a dead duck and a sham.

Secondly, the so-called Fourth Pre-Conciliar all-Orthodox Conference was phoney baloney. These conferences have been going on since the ‘60s with no practical result whatsoever. There’s going to be NO Eighth Council any time soon… there’s no one to call it! The Roman Emperor called all of the Seven Councils; today, there’s no Christian Emperor to call the council, ergo, there can be no Council. The Ecumenical Patriarch has NEVER had the ability to call Ecumenical Councils; he’s NOT the “Orthodox Pope”. In short, there’s not going to be an Eighth Council any time soon (or any time later), so, one can see that’s nothing but SVS wind and bullshit, 100 percent pure, straight from the Ivory Tower.

Thirdly, there’s going to be NO resolution of the canonical situation in the diaspora. Besides the EP, Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Cyprus, Greece, Albania, and Romania all share a common position… they don’t accept the legitimacy of the OCA as an autocephalous Local Church, they see the OCA as the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of North America… they don’t accept it as being the Territorial Church at all (neither does the MP, as it’s never given up its claim to North America as its canonical territory). The OCA is the odd man out, everyone knows it, and do note that the service for this so-called “Assembly” was at the ROCOR cathedral.

Lil’ Mizz Ginny isn’t a good spin doctor. She attempted to spin it… but you can see her laziness. The post sounds like an EP press release; she didn’t even rewrite it to make it look like it came from Syosset. The OCA should fire her… but they won’t, they’re sucking up to the konvertsy for some odd reason (probably, they’re the only group that attends to the noxious treacle that issues from SVS).

Crazy world, ain’t it? It hasn’t gotten any saner in the last 24 (nor is it going to in the next 24). Do note that there wasn’t any mention of the Syrian Golgotha in the post (nor in any other on oca.org). Our brethren are dying, killed by American government-supported militant fighters, but our Church here is silent. That’s EVIL… none dare call it treason and blasphemy (although it’s both, in spades).

Remember Ma’loula… the OCA doesn’t, take heed of that fact (and DO follow the money)…

BMD barbara-drezhloBarbara-Marie Drezhlo

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Albany NY

Blog at WordPress.com.