This morning I came across six theses by Pantelis Kalaitzidis on the role the church should play in public life. They are in his book, Orthodoxy and Political Theology, which was recommended by my friend Brandon Gallaher. When the book arrived, I flipped it over and read the following question on the back cover, “Why has Eastern Orthodoxy not developed a full-throated political theological voice?” This is the same question that drove my dissertation and drives my book. (Once again, Brandon hits the nail on the head!) Continue reading
This morning I read a quotation from my well worn copy of The Orthodox Church by Fr. Sergius Bulgakov, and I wanted to share it with you. Writing “by the rivers of Babylon,” so to speak, exiled from Soviet Russia and tending to the Orthodox Christians in Paris, Bulgakov writes about the way church and state have related in the past and they way they should relate in the future.
The Church’s methods of influence change; the work is no longer done outside, from above, but from within, from below, from the people and by the people. The representation of the people by the Christian sovereign, in force at the time of the Orthodox Empire, no longer exists; the laity participate in the life of the Church, without any intermediary, so that the Church influences the state in a democratic way. But it is a democracy of souls. New dangers, new difficulties arise in this way, analogous to those which existed at the time of the alliance between Church and state. The Church m ay be led to interfere in party politics; the latter, in its turn, may divert the Church from its true path. But an essential advantage remains; the Church exercises its influence on souls by the way of liberty, which alone corresponds to Christian dignity, not by that of constraint. Constraint leads more quickly to certain results, but it carries with it its own punishment. Contemporary history in both East and West proves this. Continue reading
I have finished the “proposal” part of my book proposal and am currently revising/writing my sample chapters. The following brief passage comes from Chapter 1.
Historically speaking, the Orthodox Church likes empire. It just feels like home to us! Of course this is true to a certain extent of all Christians. But it takes a uniquely triumphalist form in the world of Orthodoxy.
Roman Catholicism has been forever shaped by its hard scrabble childhood. Its early years were spent wandering through the rubble of the once “Eternal City.” The church in Rome learned to be self-reliant. Nobody but the pope would protect the Christians of the city from the Huns, Vandals, and Lombards. The pope offered some protection from the violent political seas of western europe – the constant battering of barbaric would-be caesars against each other. The see of Peter became a rock to cling to in more than one sense. He was both a relatively stable symbol of eternal power as well as a memory of lost glory (and perhaps a hope for its return).
The childhood of the Orthodox Church was more privileged. Rome had not died, just moved to Greece. Caesar still reigned in Constantinople. Its glory was diminished, but never lost. As western Christians saw in Peter a sign of transcendent security, eastern Christians saw transcendence-made-immanent in the person of the emperor. Even as the empire began to collapse all around them, even as lands were lost to the Slavs, Arabs, and Turks, many looked to the emperor, half-praying/half trying to convince themselves that, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people.”
 Rev. 21:3