I get the distinct impression that many Orthodox Christians think they are supposed to have an emperor. This is only a feeling. It is hard to quantify. I get it when Facebook friends seem to do everything they can to put a halo on Putin, I overhear it in conversations at coffee hour, and sometimes I see it in a blog’s subtext, like this post Fr. Stephen Freeman wrote back in December. Continue reading Orthodoxy and Democracy: A Response to Fr. Stephen Freeman
I’ve noticed something disturbing on certain blogs and Facebook profiles lately. Some of my sisters and brothers in the Orthodox Church seem wedded to Christendom. They describe themselves variously as monarchists, supporters of the imperium, and advocates for “symphonia.” Symphonia means “harmony.” Typically it is taken to mean that Orthodox politics promotes a harmony between church and state. This ethos is best captured in the image of the two headed eagle, wielding a cross in one talon and a sword in the other (the symbols vary). For Orthodox Christians like Stanley Harakas, symphonia should guide our involvement in a democratic society, but I get the impression that some would prefer we get our empire back.
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 The Public Role of Church and Theology
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 Post-Imperial Orthodoxy