"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
mattress,/
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).


Monday, October 22, 2018

On the Greek Genocide of 1915

In 2015 I gave several lectures on the centenary of the genocidal massacres of Eastern Christians at Ottoman hands. The best-known of these is of course the Armenian Genocide, about which a considerable number of books has emerged over the last quarter-century. But during my lecture I noted that two other captive Eastern Christian populations--Greeks and Assyrians--were also slaughtered in huge numbers. The Assyrian massacres have started very recently to receive some attention, as I noted here. But details about the Greek slaughter have largely been confined to a tiny handful of scholarly articles or passing reference in the occasional book--until now.

Set for November release is The Making of the Greek Genocide: Contested Memories of the Ottoman Greek Catastrophe by Erik Sjöberg (Berghahn Books, 2018), 266pp.

About this book we are told this by the publisher:

During and after World War I, over one million Ottoman Greeks were expelled from Turkey, a watershed moment in Greek history that resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths. And while few dispute the expulsion's tragic scope, it remains the subject of fierce controversy, as activists have fought for international recognition of an atrocity they consider comparable to the Armenian genocide. This book provides a much-needed analysis of the Greek genocide as cultural trauma. Neither taking the genocide narrative for granted nor dismissing it outright, Erik Sjöberg instead recounts how it emerged as a meaningful but contested collective memory with both nationalist and cosmopolitan dimensions.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Georgian and Armenian Memories of the Caucasian Schism

Stuck as they are by a behemoth to the north, and by the turmoil of the Middle East to the south of them, the Orthodox Christians of Georgia and Armenia are sometimes overlooked, and their history not well known by outsiders. For those who do know something, they might be able to tell you that the Georgian Church is Eastern Orthodox while the Armenian Church is part of the so-called Non-Chalcedonian family.

But what of their earlier history and unity--and later still schism? A new scholarly study sheds light on these events: Nikoloz Aleksidze, The Narrative of the Caucasian Schism: Memory and Forgetting in Medieval Caucasia (Peeters, 2018), 228pp.


About this book the publisher tells us this:
In the early seventh century, the Georgian and the Armenian Churches separated. Since then, the two nations formed their distinct Christian cultures and national Churches. This also resulted in mutual antagonism, the repercussions of which are still observable in modern Caucasia - This is the prevalent narrative that one encounters in modern histories of medieval Caucasia. In the centre of this narrative lies the Schism - a watershed that divides the history of Caucasia into two chronological constituents, the era before and after. Indeed, the Schism is allegedly one of the most well documented events in Caucasian history, infinitely evoked and referred to in medieval Armenian historical accounts. The present study is an attempt to deconstruct this grand narrative by focusing on the formation of the narrative of the Schism, its central element. It argues that the narrative of the Schism was perpetually reconstructed and reinvented by medieval historians for the purpose of sustaining teleological continuity in their perception of the region's history. In the historical imaginaries of different medieval writers in different times and places, the Schism served as an interpretive tool in attempts to create a sound connection between the present and the forgotten past. The Schism was once again reinvented in contemporary Armenian and Georgia national discourses, and thence has made its way into scholarly studies.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Ukraine and Europe

Perhaps--given the semi-regular appearance of "Ukraine" in Western headlines over the last few years, given the Russian annexation of Crimea and then its war in the Donbas, and given the present struggle for a united and autocephalous Orthodox Church in Ukraine (about which see my interview with Nick Denysenko and his must-read book on the subject)--we might finally expect that Western readers will lose some of their ignorance about the country and acquire some deeper understandings of its history, culture, and future.

One resource to aid that process was recently published. A wide-ranging collection by some important scholars, including one of its editors Serhii Plokhy, is now out in hardback: Ukraine and Europe: Cultural Encounters and Negotiations, eds. G.B. Bercoff, M. Pavllyshyn, and S. Plokhy (University of Toronto Press, 2017)

About this collection we are told:
Ukraine and Europe challenges the popular perception of Ukraine as a country torn between Europe and the east. Twenty-two scholars from Europe, North America, and Australia explore the complexities of Ukraine’s relationship with Europe and its role the continent’s historical and cultural development.
Encompassing literary studies, history, linguistics, and art history, the essays in this volume illuminate the interethnic, interlingual, intercultural, and international relationships that Ukraine has participated in. The volume is divided chronologically into three parts: the early modern era, the 19th and 20th century, and the Soviet/post-Soviet period. Ukraine in Europe offers new and innovative interpretations of historical and cultural moments while establishing a historical perspective for the pro-European sentiments that have arisen in Ukraine following the Euromaidan protests.

Monday, October 15, 2018

War, Memory, and Myth-Making in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus

For many years now the questions of memory and the healing of its traumas have preoccupied me, especially in Catholic-Orthodox relations, but also more generally across cultures. In our forthcoming book on remembering the Ps-Sobor of Lviv of 1946, I briefly discuss some of the challenges posed by competing memories and competing historiographies of the post-World War II world in Ukraine and Russia. A recent and substantial collection carries this discussion further and broadens it out to include a third country: War and Memory in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, eds. Julie Fedor et al (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), ‎506pp.

About this book the publisher tells us this:
This edited collection contributes to the current vivid multidisciplinary debate on East European memory politics and the post-communist instrumentalization and re-mythologization of World War II memories. The book focuses on the three Slavic countries of post-Soviet Eastern Europe – Russia, Ukraine and Belarus – the epicentre of Soviet war suffering, and the heartland of the Soviet war myth. The collection gives insight into the persistence of the Soviet commemorative culture and the myth of the Great Patriotic War in the post-Soviet space. It also demonstrates that for geopolitical, cultural, and historical reasons the political uses of World War II differ significantly across Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, with important ramifications for future developments in the region and beyond.


Friday, October 12, 2018

Coptic Archaelogy

I find there are many things to admire about the Copts, beginning with their steadfastness over many centuries in the face of changing political fortunes in Egypt under various imperial powers. They are also admirably concerned with the safeguarding of their patrimony, as well as its study and ongoing renewal. Too many Eastern Christians are often not good at telling their history in all its forms. Not so the Copts, as we see in another recent book focusing on Marcus Simaika Pasha: Father of Coptic Archaeology by Samir Simaika (American University of Cairo Press, 2017), 240pp.

About this book we are told:
Marcus Pasha Simaika (1864-1944) was born to a prominent Coptic family on the eve of the inauguration of the Suez Canal and the British occupation of Egypt. From a young age, he developed a passion for Coptic heritage and devoted his life to shedding light on centuries of Christian Egyptian history that had been neglected by ignorance or otherwise belittled and despised.
He was not a professional archaeologist, an excavator, or a specialist scholar of Coptic language and literature. Rather, his achievement lies in his role as a visionary administrator who used his status to pursue relentlessly his dream of founding a Coptic Museum and preserving endangered monuments. During his lengthy career, first as a civil servant, then as a legislator and member of the Coptic community council, he maneuvered endlessly between the patriarch and the church hierarchy, the Coptic community council, the British authorities, and the government to bring them together in his fight to save Coptic heritage.
This fascinating biography draws upon Simaika's unpublished memoirs as well as on other documents and photographs from the Simaika family archive to deepen our understanding of several important themes of modern Egyptian history: the development of Coptic archaeology and heritage studies, Egyptian-British interactions during the colonial and semi-colonial eras, shifting balances in the interaction of clergymen and the lay Coptic community, and the ever-sensitive evolution of relations between Copts and their Muslim countrymen.

Canonical Considerations of the Russian Church-State Relationship

The unwieldy title of this new book is perhaps fitting in some ways insofar as the relationship it treats is, to put it mildly, unwieldy also: Alexander Ponomariov, The Visible Religion: The Russian Orthodox Church and her Relations with State and Society in Post-Soviet Canon Law (1992–2015) (Peter Lang, 2017), 362pp.

The publisher tells us the following about this new book:
«The Visible Religion» is an antithesis to Thomas Luckmann’s concept. The Russian Orthodox Church in post-Soviet canon law suggests a comprehensive cultural program of modernity. Researched through the paradigms of multiple modernities and post-secularity, the ROC appears to be quite modern: she reflects on herself and the secular environment, employs secular language, appeals to public reason, the human rights discourse, and achievements of modern science. The fact that the ROC rejects some liberal Western developments should not be understood in the way that the ROC rejects modernity in general. As a legitimate player in the public sphere, the ROC puts forward her own – Russian Orthodox – model of modernity, which combines transcendence and immanence, theological and social reasoning, an afterlife strategy and cooperation with secular actors, whereby eschatology and the human rights discourse become two sides of the same coin.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Alan Jacobs on Christian Humanism

This interview with Alan Jacobs is worth your time. In it he discusses his newest book, The Year of Our Lord 1943: Christian Humanism in an Age of Crisis (Oxford UP, 2018), 280pp., which sounds fascinating, focusing as it does on several prominent Christian intellectuals of the 1940s--Lewis, Weil, Auden, Eliot, and Maritain.

Oxford tells us this about the book:
By early 1943, it had become increasingly clear that the Allies would win the Second World War. Around the same time, it also became increasingly clear to many Christian intellectuals on both sides of the Atlantic that the soon-to-be-victorious nations were not culturally or morally prepared for their success. A war won by technological superiority merely laid the groundwork for a post-war society governed by technocrats. These Christian intellectuals-Jacques Maritain, T. S. Eliot, C. S. Lewis, W. H. Auden, and Simone Weil, among others-sought both to articulate a sober and reflective critique of their own culture and to outline a plan for the moral and spiritual regeneration of their countries in the post-war world. 
In this book, Alan Jacobs explores the poems, novels, essays, reviews, and lectures of these five central figures, in which they presented, with great imaginative energy and force, pictures of the very different paths now set before the Western democracies. Working mostly separately and in ignorance of one another's ideas, the five developed a strikingly consistent argument that the only means by which democratic societies could be prepared for their world-wide economic and political dominance was through a renewal of education that was grounded in a Christian understanding of the power and limitations of human beings. The Year of Our Lord 1943 is the first book to weave together the ideas of these five intellectuals and shows why, in a time of unprecedented total war, they all thought it vital to restore Christianity to a leading role in the renewal of the Western democracies.

At different points in the 90s, reflecting changing ecclesial sensibilities as well as ecumenical friendships (that is to say, who my room-mates were), I found myself reading some of the works of all the figures Jacobs features, with early interest in Lewis and Simone Weil, and later in the others, including Maritain (after I had a Catholic room-mate who would sponsor my entry into the Church in 1997).

It was also in this period that I discovered George Grant, a rough contemporary of all the above five though perhaps less explicitly theological and more particularly concerned about Canadian realities. William Christian's biography of Grant was very good--or so I thought at the time, remembering almost none of it now more than two decades later. Grant's essay Technology and Empire was prescient, I thought at the time also.

I read Lewis when I had a hardcore evangelical for a roommate who thought Lewis was just about the only theologian who ever counted. I demurred from that judgment after reading, e.g., the Screwtape Letters and even Mere Christianity. Both are decent, even sometimes droll, works, but I think the Cappadocians and scholastics (inter alia) need not worry about being thrown out of the theological guild by this moderately interesting Ulsterman. I could never get into the Narnia books because I dislike all such books in that genre.

More recently, the Orthodox biblical scholar Edith Humphrey has returned to Lewis in her Further Up and Further In: Orthodox Conversations with C. S. Lewis on Scripture and Theology.

After my evangelical room-mate moved to Japan (where he later became Catholic), and perhaps to re-balance my Anglican sensibilities, I moved over to the Anglo-Catholic Eliot. I'm now slightly embarrassed to recall how many times I have quoted from his essay "Thoughts After Lambeth."

In addition, of course, I read The Wasteland and the Four Quartets in an undergraduate poetry class. I return to both works on a semi-regular basis. His Letters are also fascinating, as this one brief excerpt shows.

All the others on Jacobs' list are men, of course, but Weil is not only the sole woman, but the most unconventional. For me--and for others, I suspect--she is also the most haunting of figures. She raises in an acute way the question of where, and whether, there is any such thing as a limit to God's kenosis--and ours. If Christ descends even unto hell to harrow it, what does it mean to claim that extra ecclesiam there is nulla salus? How far does divine self-denial go, and how far must ours go? And what does it mean to embrace God and salvation? Weil, of course, famously remained outside the Church, but to write her off as some lost cause is a grave mistake it seems to me.

Since I read David McClellan's 1990 biography of her there has been an explosion of interest in Weil, and now biographies proliferate, including one (no surprise) by the ubiquitous Robert Coles (who has also written workman-like biographies of, inter alia, Dorothy Day and Anna Freud.) 

Auden is the one figure I've perhaps read the least of. But just last month, in giving a lecture on why reading Freud is still hugely important, I had occasion to read Auden's poem "In Memory of Sigmund Freud," written only a few months after the great man died in September 1939 in London. How very observant Auden was to say then that

if often he was wrong and, at times, absurd,
to us he is no more a person
now but a whole climate of opinion
under whom we conduct our different lives.

How different our lives have been in this climate of opinion that has not let up in nearly 80 years (as much as it kills Freddie Crewes to admit it)!

Maritain is the only fully paid-up Catholic on the list. I've read bits and pieces of him over the years, including Art and Scholasticism and especially Liturgy and Contemplation. I tried to read the quasi-joint memoirs of his wife, We Have Been Friend Together but never finished it. Among Catholic philosopher friends, I find that reactions range wildly, from some seeing him as a reactionary crank to others thinking him one of the greatest French Catholic intellectuals of the last century and more.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Vigen Guroian on Orthodox Reality

I have been a fan of Vigen Guroian for some time since he most unexpectedly won me over with his two books on gardening, an activity I thought I liked only in theory, never in practice.

I also found his book Life's Living Toward Dying useful in a graduate class I did some years ago now along with some of his other books in ethics.

So, when apprised by the newest Baker Academic catalogue that Guroian has a new book coming out in November, naturally I made a note of it and look forward to reading it.

About this forthcoming work the publisher tells us this:
This is a book about the struggle of Orthodox Christianity to establish a clear identity and mission within modernity--Western modernity in particular. As such, it offers penetrating insight into the heart and soul of Orthodoxy. Yet it also lends unusual, unexpected insight into the struggle of all the churches to engage modernity with conviction and integrity. Written by one of the leading voices of contemporary Orthodox theology, The Orthodox Reality is a treasury of the Orthodox response to the challenges of Western culture in order to answer secularism, act ecumenically, and articulate an ethics of the family that is both faithful to tradition and relevant to our day. The author honestly addresses Orthodoxy's strengths and shortcomings as he introduces readers to Orthodoxy as a living presence in the modern world.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Russian Orthodoxy and Russian Nationalism

Much has been made of resurgent Russian nationalism over the last two decades, outbreaks of which are in part behind the invasion of Ukraine in 2014, and certainly the fight over Ukrainian Orthodoxy still ongoing and so well covered by my friend Nick Denysenko's superb book, noted here in my interview with him. I confess to finding all nationalisms absurd on their face but some of the claims advanced by Russia in this regard are especially so, not least in trying, with a straight face, to claim that Moscow is somehow the mother-church of Kyiv, when it was of course the latter Christianized in 988.

For those desirous of deeper insights into these nationalist forces, a recently published book will help: The New Russian Nationalism: Imperialism, Ethnicity and Authoritarianism 2000-2015, eds. Pål Kolstø and Helge Blakkisrud (Edinburgh University Press, 2017), 436pp.

About this book the publisher tells us the following:
Russian nationalism, previously dominated by ‘imperial’ tendencies – pride in a large, strong and multi-ethnic state able to project its influence abroad – is increasingly focused on ethnic issues. This new ethno-nationalism has come in various guises, like racism and xenophobia, but also in a new intellectual movement of ‘national democracy’ deliberately seeking to emulate conservative West European nationalism.
Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the subsequent violent conflict in Eastern Ukraine utterly transformed the nationalist discourse in Russia. This book provides an up-to-date survey of Russian nationalism as a political, social and intellectual phenomenon by leading Western and Russian experts in the field of nationalism studies. It includes case studies on migrantophobia; the relationship between nationalism and religion; nationalism in the media; nationalism and national identity in economic policy; nationalism in the strategy of the Putin regime as well as a survey-based study of nationalism in public opinion.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Capitalism and its Deceitful Pseudo-Eschatology

I previously discussed in detail an earlier book by Todd McGowan, Enjoying What We Don't Have, which is an extremely insightful and helpful book and has much of the same apophatic-ascetic wisdom of Adam Phillips, as I have been suggesting for some time. Both Phillips and McGowan have a great deal to offer Eastern and other Christians.

Now I have finally had a chance to read his more recent book, Capitalism and Desire: the Psychic Costs of Free Markets (Columbia University Press, 2016), 304pp.

I have been investing (!) this time in figures such as Phillips, Fong, and McGowan because of an inchoate but increasing sense that too much of Christianity, especially in North America, has been infiltrated and corrupted by market ideas and practices in ways most Christians are not consciously aware of. In some cases, of course, this is obvious--indeed, it is the most obvious feature of such blatant shysters as, say, Joel Osteen or Creflo Dollar.

But the real danger lies elsewhere. The real danger comes when capitalist influences on Christian belief and practice are unrecognized; worse still, when their recognition is resisted because it would upset too many apple carts, that is, profit margins and comfortable, quiet middle-class lives. The real danger is assuming that Christian desires are uninfluenced by capitalism, a point I learned from Alasdair MacIntyre, as I showed here.

Like MacIntyre, I do not have answers as to what we do with all this. If a man of his vast erudition and learning, with his reading in Marx and a thousand other sources ancient and modern, says we still have to figure out ways beyond advanced capitalism, then I can but nod my head in agreement and hope that he and others smarter than I will continue to push forward in search of a new pathway--which includes, just to be clear, in no way attempting to re-create the genocidal atrocities and daily brutalities of "Kruschev Enterprises Inc."

But in the meantime, my little piece of the puzzle came several years ago in teaching my class on Catholic social teaching and realizing that there was an increasing tendency to elide any differences between CST and advanced capitalism in this country, making it appear that the former could become a useful form of the latter. In this approach, something like, say, recycling or paying your employees a just wage was simply "good business sense." Do the right thing and rake in handsome profits! What's not to love about that?

And, indeed, if Christian virtue operated thus, we'd all be billionaires. But Christian and especially Catholic social teaching is much more radical than this, and many of its most outstanding models are incomprehensible in the categories of capitalism. There's no money to be made in tending dying lepers on obscure islands; no amount of "branding" can "monetize" ministry with gay male prostitutes on the streets of Chicago; nobody can read Dorothy Day (or her Canadian counterpart and contemporary Catherine Doherty) and think she was in favor of the militarism and capitalism of her day and ours--and what a pity that her Catholic Worker houses didn't enter into a partnership with Starbucks to help each other out since bad coffee was so often a lament in her diaries.

In this regard, we are witnessing the transformation of CST into Costco. Sure they have a reputation for good hours and wages, and lots of "hipsters" appear to work there, but they are still a capitalist corporation catering to an elite. There is more than a whiff of upper-class elitism among those Catholics who think there can be some kind of "seamless garment" between CST and American capitalism. It is precisely their failure (or unwillingness, whether conscious or not) to see the corruption of desires already within the Christian mind that alarms me. Hence I find McGowan--who is otherwise both uninformed about and unduly critical of much of what he takes to be Christianity--actually very helpful, not least when he delivers himself of reflections such as this: "under capitalism Christianity becomes a romance comedy that ends with the discovery of one's soul mate in Christ," the right spouse being, of course, just one more commodity to find and acquire via that legal contract we call marriage.

That line comes near the very end of McGowan's newest book. McGowan, who teaches at the University of Vermont, starts out by facing a question I have long considered: can a method pioneered in an individual-clinical setting be applied to a social-economic one? In Civilizations and its Discontents and other works of his last period (1921-39) Freud recognized the dangers of this, if not its impossibility. But still he pressed on and with good reason. And McGowan says that if we cannot psychoanalyze the underlying dynamics of capitalism, then we allow it to continue unchecked in its dubious claim that capitalism is merely an outgrowth of "human nature" and we thus have no space from and in which to analyze it.

He also commendably begins by facing the criticism, not unjustified, that in some hands psychoanalysis has functioned as a handmaid of capitalism--a point David Pavon-Cuellar also makes in his new book, which I began discussing here (and will soon return to), Marxism and Psychoanalysis: In or Against Psychology.

That, certainly, was one of the fears Freud had about psychoanalysis moving across the Atlantic to take up post-war primacy in America. And there is evidence that it did function this way once the American medical establishment took it up in a Cold War context in which it required everyone to be trained in medicine first--something Freud also strongly resisted in his last period with the curiously overlooked essay The Question of Lay Analysis.

So we must admit, as McGowan does, that the record of analytic thought cooperating with (and being co-opted by) capitalism is bound up with a record of it being a critic of capitalism also--a mixed legacy in other words. That is both true, and a quintessentially Freudian recognition for who among us can cast the stones of pure and unmixed motives?

Instead of focusing only on the social effects of capitalism, or its economic structures, we need to understand how it operates dynamically on the human mind. Though he appears not to have read MacIntyre, this is exactly the latter's point, as I showed last year, when he claims that capitalism “is not only a set of economic relationships. It is also a mode of presentation of those relationships that disguises and deceives.” McGowan quite agrees, as do I. It is especially the disguises that Catholic social teaching has not sufficiently recognized or begun to remove.

McGowan further agrees with MacIntyre that the question of surplus value is the key question we must face. And in facing it, he draws on Adorno, Foucault, and others, including early analytic "radicals" such as Wilhelm Reich and Otto Gross.

Picking up on themes from his earlier book, McGowan notes that capitalism "has the effect of sustaining subjects in a constant state of desire. As subjects of capitalism, we are constantly on the edge of having our desire realized, but never reach the point of realization. This has the effect of producing a satisfaction that we don't recognize as such" (11). It is this lack of recognition of how capitalism operates on us that must be brought to light.

It operates, in part, on faith, on trust, and on promises: I invest on faith and while trusting that the promise of this stock increasing in value will in fact come true. And the biggest promise capitalism advances is what I would call (and McGowan does not) eschatological: of a better, more "prosperous" future where all shall be well: "to take solace in the promise of tomorrow is to accept the sense of dissatisfaction that capitalism sells more vehemently than it sells any commodity" (13).

McGowan says his book cannot entirely escape the idea of a better future--else why bother analyzing, let alone criticizing, capitalism? But the future as he sees it is not one so radically better than the present as to constitute some kind of break from it or some kind of entry into an entirely new world. Rather, the future is but a continuation of the present but without the false promise of finally fulfilling hitherto thwarted desire.

McGowan notes once again the crucial role of Freud's death drive in all this. For capitalism presupposes that individuals operate much as Freud theorized in what was and remains perhaps his most controversial book that revised so much of the analytic edifice up to that point. (Most analysts ignored or scorned it. Even the authorized biographer Ernest Jones--who can scarcely let Freud sneeze without spending twenty intimate pages on all the implications, meanings, and reactions to it--is clearly holding his nose when discussing Beyond the Pleasure Principle.) McGowan goes on to claim without hesitation that this book of Freud's, especially in its claim that "the pleasure principle seems actually to serve the death instinct"--offers "the most thoroughgoing critique of capitalism that anyone has ever written" (50).

And that is perhaps why so many have been so opposed to this book, starting with that second generation of analysts in America who so desperately wanted acceptance and recognition by the medical and other establishments. The price of such things was to ignore and disdain Freud's death drive as being very bad for business.

And yet it must be said that the idea that some unconscious force motivates people to undermine themselves, destroying themselves and their loved one--whether via opioids, adultery, or a thousand other actions--seems patently obvious in nearly every human life. To alter Chesterton's famous aphorism, the presence of the death drive is the one demonstrably verifiable Freudian dogma. The death drive is an attempt to answer the same question as that answered by the Christian doctrine of original sin: why do we not only harm others, but most often ourselves? Why do we repeat self-destructive patterns that "kill" so much of what we love?

Far from writing off such behavior as absurd, the analytic tradition says, as McGowan certainly did in his earlier book, that the repetition of seemingly self-destructive behaviors exists, has meaning, contains an internal logic: the death drive both has aim, and aims at something rather than nothing; its nihilism is merely one more disguise we have to ignore, one more trap laid for the analyst to get lost in a useless detour of apparent meaninglessness. The repetitions of the death drive very much have meaning, and our refusal to see what they are condemns us to never be free of them. As Freud, in discussing why patients actively undermine a therapeutic analysis and refuse to get better, noted, a "negative therapeutic reaction" exists for a reason, or several reasons, not the least of which is that patients find satisfaction in their suffering. (For those inclined to dismiss this as crazy-talk from a now long-dead and discredited "Godless Jew," I ask them to explain, inter alia, the half-billion dollar Fifty Shades of Grey industry.)

Capitalism is no different. It operates by undermining desires and their satisfaction, promising, perpetually promising, that soon and very soon they will be satisfied. This repetition of promised satisfaction which is never totally fulfilled is a very big part, perhaps the biggest part, of its success. As McGowan puts it at the end of his introduction, "capitalist subjects cling tightly to their dissatisfaction, and this dissatisfaction is the main thing holding them to capitalism" (18).

What is to be done? McGowan telegraphs that the book will proceed along similar lines to his earlier work, arguing that we need to learn (as Phillips argues, and the Christian tradition going back to at least Evagrius before them did and does) how to bear our dissatisfactions without seeking their resolution, and to learn to experience the sublime here, now, today, without promise of a better but illusory future. Thus the task remains--as he puts it later in the book--to turn the French slogan of 1968 on its head: rather than jouir sans entraves (enjoyment without obstacles or hindrances) it should be jouir les entraves (enjoy the hindrances). Only in this way do we break the power of the endless repetition of promised but unfulfilled desire.

In his first chapter, McGowan notes that one must distinguish between culture and capitalism, the latter promising but never giving the same sense of identity and belonging that the former sometimes proffers and secures. Indeed, capitalism exists in part to undermine any sense of belonging--until and unless one has attained some commodity which will then induct one into a club of, e.g., car-owners, sports fans, married people, etc. One is promised belonging but the price is accumulation, which never ends. Thus one never fully or finally attains the promised belonging. Here again I would argue--though McGowan does not--just how much capitalism is first and foremost a disguised eschatology, a point (to my surprise) that seems to have been little developed in modern theology. Perhaps I shall have to write something along these lines. (Matthew Shaidle's new book, which I have just learned of, seems to discuss these themes a little bit.)

In capitalist systems, much of their power comes from this satisfaction-dissatisfaction dynamic propelling one forward. The commodity never satisfies, but I rarely realize that. Rarer still do I get to see that the object or commodity is not what I want anyway at an unconscious level. I want unconsciously--the level on which capitalism is most insidious and most effective--the sense of dissatisfaction, of the quest, of the ongoing search. That is what gives me satisfaction of a sort; that is what propels me forward; that is what capitalism cultivates for its own survival.

By contrast, bad consumers are those who resist this search for that new thing, or that upgraded model, that will promise me satisfaction. Quiet subverters of capitalism, McGowan says, are those who are happy with the outdated VCR, or the flip phone that does not text, or the car with the big dent in the hood. Resisting the allures of new commodities and perpetual accumulation are not just acts of Christian asceticism, but blows against the system.

Chapter II looks at the creation of privacy as capitalism advances, arguing that the latter depends on the former. The effects of this are twofold: as we move away from the public commons into our private spheres, we must of course each have our own lawnmower, car, tractor, etc. But we also thereby retreat from politics as well. As he puts it, capitalism has an "allergy to the public world [which] inspires a thoroughgoing retreat from this world" (57). Here McGowan draws on Rousseau's distinction between un homme (private) and un citoyen (public). Rousseau saw this as a problem, but McGowan says he could not see how much it would be a problem in the late 20th century--the person to see that more clearly would be Hannah Arendt in her The Human Condition.


Such retreats from the commonwealth are manifested in the rise of private prisons and gated communities, and the calls for "austerity" in public finances. In this discussion McGowan also draws on Habermas, especially his The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere.

Such retreats are not, contrary to some images, what psychoanalysis aids and abets. McGowan notes that psychoanalysis requires that one enter into the "public" in order to have a conversation with one's analyst, thereby "publicizing" what one would usually prefer to keep private. Though he claims to have attempted it with himself, Freud does not recommend self-analysis (Lacan would later call that Freud's "original sin") and thus psychoanalysis cannot be seen as purely private.

The chief result of psychoanalysis that it offers patients in a capitalist society is that "the satisfaction of desiring derives from the obstacle rather than overcoming it" (63). In other words, each time we obtain what we think is the desired object, we quickly find it dissatisfying; it has not lived up to not just its hype, but also our own unconscious sense of desire. Capitalism depends on this to be so. As he nicely puts it later in the book, "though capitalism demands that subjects act out of their self-interest, it sustains itself through their self-sabotage" (73).

The problem here is thus with our own inability to realize that we do not desire what we think we desire, and do not find satisfaction because we have not realized that the ostensible obstacles to our desire are the very thing that would satisfy us if we could but recognize this. What I take McGowan to be saying here is that psychoanalysis breaks the cycle of repetition of false promises of satisfaction, which satisfaction is always said to be enjoyed in private. Rather, McGowan argues, we need to learn that satisfaction takes place in public and together right now, rather than in some ever-receding future promise. As Alexander Schmemann might have put it, private joy is impossible. And as Schmemann might also have said--and the Christian ascetical tradition before him certainly has said--the refusal to lust after objects is a refusal ultimately of illusion and idolatry.

McGowan's third chapter has yet more strong echos of MacIntyre in arguing that capitalism succeeds in part by its disguises, by its charade of seeming to come from nowhere and to have no history but simply to constitute the only available-believable of our world without every drawing attention to itself in those terms. Capitalism thus disguises from us that its purported offer to us of "choices" (where and how to work, what to eat, how big a house to buy) are not naturally occurring. Rather all such choices take place within a very narrowly defined set of possibilities. To put it in a MacIntyrean vein, there are three such choices on offer in today's politics: conservative capitalists, liberal capitalists, and radical capitalists. There is no possibility of putting capitalism itself to the question in any serious way.

Sacrifice and its persistence are the themes of the fourth chapter, which puts me in mind of Terry Eagleton's recent book on that theme, discussed here. McGowan notes that in some ways capitalism lives without ritual sacrifices, at least of, say, vestal virgins. But it does demand periodic sacrifices, as seen, e.g., under the guise of "creative destruction." Or consider the titans of industry subject to regular fawning profiles in which they are portrayed as sacrificing their time (and families) to work 90+ hours a week while inventing some new widget or putting their company in the top ten most profitable corporations in the world.

McGowan rightly says that capitalism secularizes sacrifice--no longer is it a turtledove or a fatted calf--and privatizes it, denying to it ritual's socially cohesive power. Now it is the individual CEO, or worse, the worker who gets up at 3am, hidden in the dark, to start his shift at the factory, sacrificing sleep, breakfast with his family, and much else. In this light, sacrifice is actually demanded by capitalism's logic because no satisfaction is possible without loss--the loss that motivates us unconsciously to search perpetually for some new object to supposedly satisfy us. Loss is thus a phantom that haunts our unconscious minds, and capitalism pretends to offer rest and relief to this perpetually restless and searching spook.

McGowan uses an arresting example when he notes that most capitalists would prefer to sell, and most consumers to purchase, Cheetos over bananas for the former involves much more sacrifice--worthless sacrifice--and complicated processes (which involve more people making profits) than the latter. Growing bananas would be rather simple and straightforward, but this, we think, is unsatisfactory. Better to spend millions researching how to keep taste buds in perpetual unslaked longing for the salt and fat of a Cheeto (which, admittedly, I love but refuse to buy because I will eat an entire bag in one sitting).

Chapter V is McGowan at his most theological: "A God We Can Believe In." While stipulating at the outset the tiresome old canard that the rejection of God has created a world of freedom, McGowan does not proceed to do what most others who claim this do: celebrate the absence of God. For he knows that the human psyche cannot abide a void like that--as Freud did too, which is why he has no false hopes that if everyone followed his counsel in Future of an Illusion and rejected God as neurotic paternal projection and illusion then the world would be free. On the contrary: such a rejection creates an opening which others rush in to fill. And here McGowan is right: "capitalism...erects a new form of divinity, one even more tyrannical than the old form" (114).

But the old God was superior insofar as one never had to guess where one stood: he declared he was a jealous God. The market makes no such open declarations, leaving one perpetually uncertain of where one stands. And in fact, of course, the market is jealous--and capricious, and mendacious: its promise of being a free market is always insistently stated thus because it is as Freud might say, an obvious overcompensation (to put it mildly) to hide and distort the truth. This new god of the market turns out to be intolerable and intolerant, leaving McGowan to end his chapter with this rather bald-faced claim: "the fundamental catastrophe of modernity is the disappearance of God as a substantial Other" (135).

This is a catastrophe because--as he will go on to show in chapters six through nine--the disappearance of God opens up an endlessly infinite and pseudo-transcendent space ("the sublime") for capitalism perpetually to expand and try to fill with stuff, giving us what--quoting Agamben--McGowan refers to as means without end, "end" understood here not just as "endless" but also in the sense of purpose or goal; or what MacIntyre recognized as the abandonment of teleology (first principles) in modern philosophy.

Quo vadis? What next? Like any good psychoanalyst, McGowan's conclusion is its shortest and does not get into highly detailed prescriptions. Instead he begins from the striking premise that "the critique of capitalism must begin out of our satisfaction with capitalism and not our dissatisfaction with it" (239). This is precisely an anti-capitalist move for, as we saw earlier, capitalism does not want, and cannot long survive, our being satisfied with anything. Constant modes of production, and product improvement, must fuel constant economic "growth," all of it driven, of course, by a never-ending sense of dissatisfaction. For one can never have enough.

But this endless quest for more than enough hides not only the accumulative impulse of capitalism, but also its unwillingness to acknowledge what McGowan calls "traumatic loss" and to mourn it. That which is lost to us, what is the lost object of our unanalyzed desires, motivates us to accumulate more, all the while ignoring the fact that the lost object will never satisfy.  Thus we must realize that "only the turn from the logic of accumulation to the logic of satisfaction--with an acceptance of the lost status of the object--can move us beyond the crisis of capitalism" (242). To go beyond capitalism, McGowan recognizes, is of course a political act; but before we can act politically towards such change, we must first think differently, and here, once more, is where Freud is invaluable, showing us that "until we accept that the satisfaction of loss is our driving motive, we will remain the hostages of an economy of enrichment" (244).

Monday, October 1, 2018

Political Orthodoxies

When I interviewed Nicholas Denysenko recently, part of our discussion centred on the role of political theologies in shaping, and often deforming, contemporary Orthodoxy in Eastern Europe. One of the perennial questions, especially in Russia, is the extent to which the Church and state should be intermingled. That question and others will be addressed in a new book by the Orthodox scholar Cyril Hovorun, whom I have interviewed in the past, and hope to do so again for this new book whose timeliness could not be better in this season of Russian war (not only militarily but also theologically) against Ukraine, and virtual war between Moscow and Constantinople over Ukraine: Political Orthodoxies: the Unorthodoxies of the Church Coerced (Fortress Press, 2018), 224pp.

About this book the publisher tells us the following:

As an insider to church politics and a scholar of contemporary Orthodoxy, Cyril Hovorun outlines forms of political orthodoxy in Orthodox churches, past and present.

Hovorun draws a big picture of religion being politicized and even weaponized. While Political Orthodoxies assesses phenomena such as nationalism and anti-Semitism, both widely associated with Eastern Christianity, Hovorun focuses on the theological underpinnings of the culture wars waged in eastern and southern Europe. The issues in these wars include monarchy and democracy, Orientalism and Occidentalism, canonical territory, and autocephaly. Wrought with peril, Orthodox culture wars have proven to turn toward bloody conflict, such as in Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014.
Accordingly, this book explains the aggressive behavior of Russia toward its neighbors and the West from a religious standpoint. The spiritual revival of Orthodoxy after the collapse of Communism made the Orthodox church in Russia, among other things, an influential political protagonist, which in some cases goes ahead of the Kremlin. Following his identification and analysis, Hovorun suggests ways to bring political Orthodoxy back to the apostolic and patristic track.

Friday, September 28, 2018

East-African Christianity

Fortress Press sends me their catalogue of new and forthcoming publications, and I spy in there the next installment in a series, this time devoted to looking at the theological diversity of Eastern Africa, including its many millions of Orthodox Christians: Paul Kollman and Cynthia Toms Smedley, Understanding World Christianity: Eastern Africa (Fortress, 2018), 342pp.

About this book the publisher tells us the following:
Each volume of the Understanding World Christianity series analyzes the state of Christianity from six different angles. The focus is always Christianity, but it is approached in an interdisciplinary manner--chronological, denominational, sociopolitical, geographical, biographical, and theological. Short, engaging chapters help readers understand the complexity of Christianity in the region and broaden their understanding of the region itself. Readers will understand the interplay of Christianity and culture and will see how geography, borders, economics, and other factors influence Christian faith.
In this exciting volume, Paul Kollman and Cynthia Toms Smedley offer an introduction to Eastern African Christianity that has been desperately needed by scholars, students, and interested readers alike. Rich in experience and knowledge, Kollman and Toms Smedley introduce readers to the vibrancy of Eastern African Christianity like no other authors have done before.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Orthodox Christian Renewal Movements

I well remember in the late 1990s there was a big gathering in Rome of what were then being called "new ecclesial movements" in the Latin Church that had grown up in the latter half of the twentieth century and were, in some cases, doing some unique things in new or different ways outside of the traditional episcopal-monastic models and lines of control. Some of these went on to flame out in spectacular ways, some still court controversy (e.g., Opus Dei, with which I have some limited experience in Canada in the 90s), and some seem to be continuing in their good work.

Renewal movements within Orthodoxy crop up periodically throughout its history, too, often in response to some revolutionary change. One thinks, e.g., of the brotherhood movements in what is today Ukraine after the Counter-Reformation and Union of Brest, or those that grew up around the Russian Revolution. More recently a series of movements and initiatives have arisen in post-Soviet Russia, Ukraine, Greece and elsewhere--again not all of them successful, and some, from what I have heard informally, downright pathological.

Along comes a new scholarly collection to give us an overview of some of these groups: Orthodox Christian Renewal Movements in Eastern Europe, eds., A.D. Milovanović and Radmila Radić, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), 339pp.

About this collection (whose table of contents you can view here) the publisher tells us the following:
This book explores the changes underwent by the Orthodox Churches of Eastern and Southeastern Europe as they came into contact with modernity. The movements of religious renewal among Orthodox believers appeared almost simultaneously in different areas of Eastern Europe at the end of the nineteenth and during the first decades of the twentieth century. This volume examines what could be defined as renewal movement in Eastern Orthodox traditions. Some case studies include the God Worshippers in Serbia, religious fraternities in Bulgaria, the Zoe movement in Greece, the evangelical movement among Romanian Orthodox believers known as Oastea Domnului (The Lord’s Army), the Doukhobors in Russia, and the Maliovantsy in Ukraine. This volume provides a new understanding of processes of change in the spiritual landscape of Orthodox Christianity and various influences such as other non-Orthodox traditions, charismatic leaders, new religious practices and rituals.

T of C: https://www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9783319633534

Monday, September 24, 2018

Death and Dying

Earlier this year I published an article based on a lecture I gave at Baylor University in 2015. In it I examined contemporary Western Christian funeral rites, starting with the Latin tradition after Vatican II. The scholarship by other Western Christians was quite critical of those reforms, as I went on to be in my lecture, all of us arguing that those obsequies work at cross-purposes from the necessary eschatological proclamation that funerals are uniquely situated to convey. In other words, funerals fail not only to adequately convey an understanding of death, judgment, heaven, and hell; but they fail to do other things, too. I went on tentatively (and non-triumphalistically) to suggest that one place to look to begin to repair this damage would be to the Byzantine funeral rites.

Before that lecture and since, I have, then, maintained an ongoing interest in the practices (or, increasingly, the disturbing lack thereof) surrounding death and dying in our culture, and changing practices around funerals. I have noted on here in the past fascinating and disturbing studies--such as that of Candi Cann--which I again commend to your interest.

All this is prologue to saying that a new book just published this summer looks to deserve a place in this burgeoning syllabus on Christian obsequies: Christian Dying: Witnesses from the Traditioneds. George Kalantzis and Matthew Levering (Cascade Books, 2018), 284pp.

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Donatist Crisis

Liverpool University Press continues an invaluable service with their series Translated Texts for Historians. Past publications, as I've noted on here, have offered critical translations of the acts of such highly controversial councils as Chalcedon and Nicaea II, inter alia. Now they have newly published in paperback just last week The Donatist Schism: Controversy and Contexts, ed. Richard Miles (Liverpool University Press

About this book the publisher tells us the following:
This is the first book for over twenty years to undertake a holistic examination of the Donatist Controversy, a bilious and sometimes violent schism that broke out in the North African Christian Church in the early years of the century AD and which continued up until the sixth century AD. What made this religious dispute so important was that its protagonists brought to the fore a number of issues and practices that had empire-wide ramifications for how the Christian church and the Roman imperial government dealt with the growing number of dissidents in their ranks. Very significantly it was during the Donatist Controversy that Augustine of Hippo, who was heavily involved in the dispute, developed the idea of 'tough love' in dealing with those at odds with the tenets of the main church, which in turn acted as the justification for the later brutal excesses of the Inquisition.
In order to reappraise the Donatist Controversy for the first time in many years, 14 specialists in the religious, cultural, social, legal and political history as well as the archaeology of Late Antique North Africa have examined what was one of the most significant religious controversies in the Late Roman World through a set of key contexts that explain its significance the Donatist Schism not just in North Africa but across the whole Roman Empire, and beyond.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A Century of Ukrainian Struggles for Unity: Nicholas Denysenko on His Superb New Book

I am always delighted when good scholarship emerges just in time to help people understand the headlines. And that is certainly the case with Nicholas Denysenko's forthcoming book, The Orthodox Church in Ukraine: A Century of Separation, set for release in a few short weeks from Northern Illinois University Press--the one academic press that arguably pays more attention to East-Slavic Orthodox realities than any other. For the debates and conflicts between Moscow and Constantinople over Ukraine have been getting mainstream press attention these past few weeks, and as always the attention is matched with a good deal of heated rhetoric and often deliberately politically motivated misunderstanding and misrepresentation. Those doing the misrepresentation often assume--correctly--that the media and its readers will not know enough history to detect the distortions, or may not in fact care.

Into such an overheated atmosphere steps the scholar doing what makes scholarship so crucial: giving a cool, serene, and comprehensive overview that surveys the scene in all of its complexity without regard for whose ox gets gored or whose agenda advanced--and without parachuting in from the outside to prescribe simplistic solutions, either. Nick Denysenko has done all that and more in this superb new book of his, which really must be read by everyone before presuming to comment further on the Moscow-Kyiv-Constantinople triangulation.

I have interviewed him several times in the past about his numerous books, and once again sent him some questions to talk about this forthcoming work of his. Here are this thoughts.

AD: When we spoke last, in August 2017, you were about to take a fellowship in Collegeville. Tell us about your work there, and then about the new position you moved into after that.

Nicholas Denysenko: I was a resident scholar at the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library (HMML) during Fall 2017, and I also participated fully in the resident scholar program at the Collegeville Institute. HMML contains the digital files to hundreds of Slavonic manuscripts from Ukraine. I examined select manuscripts to learn more about the blessing of waters on Theophany. During my manuscript research, I found two late-19th/early-20th century hymnals from West Ukraine containing the texts for several feasts in the liturgical year. These are paraliturgical texts that belong, in general, to the type of hymnal Ukrainians adopted from Central Europe. The earliest hymnals lack musical notation and are handwritten in Slavonic texts, whereas the later hymnals have music. The paraliturgical hymnal was popular in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and was also adopted by Russians. I was interested in the hymnals because of the texts: they express a deep theology and piety of the faithful, one worthy of comparison with the appointed hymnography for the liturgical year. I also wrote draft chapters for my book, The People’s Faith, during my time there.  It was a lifegiving experience, to be in the place where liturgical renewal for the life of the world was such a priority.

AD: Your recent publications show an impressive range--architecture, Chrismation, Orthodox liturgical reform. And now a book on Ukraine. What led to this book in particular? 

ND: This book is a product of years of responding to requests for information on the background of the divisions among the Churches in Ukraine. After I learned about Patriarch Kirill’s Russkii Mir initiative and Ukrainian resistance to it – especially dismissal of the ideology within the UOC-MP – I began to follow events there more closely.

The Maidan and annexation of Crimea led to new opportunities to write, and I noticed a pattern in media coverage on the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. Most journalists and experts referred to 1992 as the origin of the schism and to Patriarch Filaret (of the KP) as the author of autocephaly. I knew this was not the case since Filaret joined an existing Church, and the journey to autocephaly began in 1917, with the first schism taking place in 1921. Ignoring significant historical events for convenience is like an incomplete puzzle – you don’t see the whole picture. The only way to understand what’s happening in Ukraine is to come to terms with her history. I took an inventory of English-language literature and found several strong sources, but there was nothing available the demonstrated how the first schism of 1921 evolved into the current separation of Churches. I viewed this lacuna as an opportunity to tell the story, and it’s important for a number of reasons.

First, there are very few Eastern Christian readers who know anything about the schism, so there is a gap in literacy. Second, it’s important to encourage capable scholars to write from within their traditions. In other words, why should Ukrainians rely solely on non-Ukrainian scholars to write their Church history? This is not a matter of patriotism or nostalgia for me – it’s the priority of contributing to the reconfiguration of a narrative for the sake of the truth. I knew I was entering a new field: I’m really a trained liturgist, so this was a chance to widen my own lens while contributing literature with the capacity to truly inform the reader.

AD: Your dedication and acknowledgments in The Orthodox Church in Ukraine: A Century of Separation tell the story of your grandparents and their influence on you growing up in a Ukrainian-American household. Tell us a bit about the role they played in giving you a "crash course" in the complexities of Ukrainian history and ecclesiology.

ND: They arrived in the early 1950’s having survived the Holodomor and the terror of World War II, my grandfather a priest of the UOC-USA. My brother and I spent most weekends of our childhood with them, and I recall my sense of curiosity in my grandfather’s rectory office in St. Paul. I can still smell the oak wood floor, and I would page through his books, glance at his stack of carefully handwritten sermons, and open and read the pages of a variety of Church newspapers. He also had unique photos, including one of the synod of bishops of the UAOC, on his desk.

I learned from his books and papers, but tradition is what is passed on to us, and I vividly recall community parish life. The parish passed on its core values to us, and these included learning the Ukrainian language and history, the fundamental liturgical songs, daily prayers. Immigrants strive to demonstrate that they have arrived and will remain stable communities, and this parish was among the many that never questioned their legitimacy – not that they had reason to. My grandfather’s ministry was that of a pastor – preaching, presiding, consoling, and being a companion to the community.

For him, legitimacy would be confirmed by his peers, and while that was not generally a problem within the Ukrainian community, he endured unpleasant encounters with other Orthodox. His parish choir was asked to sing the responses for a Lenten Vespers when a local priest quietly pleaded with the host parish to disinvite them because they were ‘uncanonical.’ I cannot describe the degree to which my grandfather was hurt by this, and his response was a determination to show his peers that his Church was indeed canonical because of its roots in the autocephalous Church of Poland.

Please believe me when I say that I understand why people invoke ‘uncanonical,’ but it got me to thinking: is preaching the kingdom of God, presiding, receiving with thanks, consoling, and healing ‘uncanonical’? Why is it so important to have a certificate signed by a bishop from a particular city that confirms your legitimacy? While I ask these questions of myself, he responded with vigor to show his peers that his church was both canonical and full of divine grace. At the time, with this particular priest, he did not succeed, but he persevered. This is how communities assume control of their own narrative. The burden of proof was not on his community: it was on the priest who accused them of being ‘uncanonical.’

Thus was an ugly truth exposed: we lacked the mechanism for an accused Orthodox community to plead its case, make an appeal, offer testimony on behalf of themselves. Watching his efforts and similar works of others inspired me to do what I can: to work within the academy to contribute to a narrative on Ukrainian Orthodoxy that is largely unknown. My grandparents inspired me in many other ways: their deep fidelity to God despite much suffering, their acceptance of poverty – it was worth it, for the freedom America offered – but their determination to share one’s story continues to shape me today.

AD: You tell us at the outset about the need to understand how both autocephaly and church reform "caused the Orthodox Church in Ukraine to splinter over the span of a hundred years." For those not sure what autocephaly means, tell us how you understand it. And what do you mean by church reform--what types of reform, and in which areas?

ND: Technically, autocephaly means “self-governing.” There are plenty of solid scholarly definitions of autocephaly – one of the most recent treatments is by Cyril Hovorun [interviewed here] in his book, Scaffolds of the Church. I would describe autocephaly as both the local Church and a Church that has consistently borne the fullness of the Holy Spirit and therefore does not need to depend on another Church for its existence. An autocephalous Church could be a cluster of churches around an ancient and venerable See (e.g., Alexandria, Antioch), a regional structure (Czech Republic and Slovakia), and for the most part, a local Church whose boundaries are in alignment with a nation-state (Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, etc.). The Moscow and Ecumenical Patriarchates are unique as multinational structures.

We have to learn to see the Ukrainian situation as stuck between empire and nation-state, especially given the specific circumstances surrounding the Kyivan Metropolia. An awakening of national consciousness stirred in Ukraine in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries before the revolution, and discussion about the possibility of an autocephalous Church began to emerge at that time. When the tsarist regime ended, Ukraine experienced brief episodes of national sovereignty until the Soviets assumed control at the end of 1919. This was not a matter of establishing a national church; Ukrainians had complained about the eradication of native traditions of the Kyivan Metropolia, and originally, the impetus for autocephaly was to restore the Kyivan Metropolia, not to build a national Church. Of course there were nationalist figures within the larger movement, but the refrain of liberation from the tsarist regime was as much a desire to have a Church that truly represented the people, and not ruled by bishops who had sworn allegiance to the tsar.

This delicate period witnessed to public events that demonstrated a Ukrainian protest of tsarist repression, especially in a public panakhyda for Hetman Ivan Mazepa (18th c.) who had been anathematized by the Russian Church because he sided with Sweden in the war against Tsar Peter I. The autocephalists viewed the bishops as representatives who served the tsar first, and it was tsarist policies that symbolized oppression against the Ukrainian people. Their public proclamation of desire for autocephaly brought the entire picture into view: restoring the Kyivan Metropolia and its customs necessitated a permanent break from bishops loyal to the tsar. Russian clergy and leaders in Ukraine understood that this was a rejection of the idea and experience of Kyiv as the central religious cell of the Russian Empire. From the very beginning, then, autocephaly was a rejection of the Kyiv’s ecclesial union with Moscow in 1686 and it was a rejection of Russian imperialism, two of the core values of many of the Russian bishops and clergy in Ukraine, and of the narrative defining Russian Orthodox and imperial sovereignty.

As for reform, the emergence of an autocephalous Ukrainian Church took place during a time and context of modernization and renewal. While the Moscow Council of 1917-18 heard and endorsed proposals that updated the Church, especially with regards to conciliarity, other proposed reforms were either deferred or denied. We know that renovationism posed a direct threat to the survival of the Moscow Patriarchate in the early Soviet period, and the Ukrainian council of 1921 implemented many of the modernizations that have yet to permeate Orthodoxy: a married episcopate, strict limits on episcopal power, and the deliberate inclusion of the laity in Church life, not to mention liturgical Ukrainization and the audacity to establish an episcopate without bishop participating in the ordinations.

Traditional Orthodox dismissed these features as radical and innovationist, while the Ukrainians believed they were becoming a new local Church in the spirit of reforms that had been proposed in this time frame. The key point here is that Ukrainians themselves disagreed on these reforms: the 1942 UAOC arose from the Orthodox Church in Poland, a development made possible by the large number of Ukrainians who lived in Polish territory (especially Volyn’). They rejected most of the reforms adopted by the 1921 Church with the exception of liturgical Ukrainization, and their autocephalous movement fell squarely within mainstream Orthodoxy. But the 1921 UAOC created a stigma of illegitimacy that permeated each autocephlous cohort until the present day. So, the Church reforms adopted by the 1921 church challenged Ukrainian tradition, and in the final analysis, a more conservative approach prevailed among Ukrainian autocephalists.

AD: That term autocephaly, in regards to Ukraine, has often been in the news lately with developments coming out of Constantinople and then fierce reactions from Moscow. You quote (pp.127-28) a letter from Moscow to Constantinople in 1995 protesting the merger of the UOC in the USA with the Ecumenical Patriarch, noting that the Russian patriarch then fulminated and threatened a split--a frequent pattern whenever the EP seems to get involved in Ukrainian Orthodox affairs. You also note how, from 1995 to 1997, certain UOC bishops asked Patriarch Bartholomew to provide for the autocephaly of Ukraine, which he did not do then. What has changed over the last 23 years to prompt him to act now? In light of the research that went into your book, what do you expect to see happen in the coming months?

ND: I hope that at least some of the people who are jumping to crazy conclusions might look at the book. The conspiracy theories circulating online are fatuous because the theorists aren’t consulting history. Ukrainian autocephalists have reached out to Constantinople from the very beginning – this was the special mission of Oleksander Lotocky from 1919 to 1920, and Constantinople has occasionally acted, increasingly so in recent decades. For example, Constantinople established a Ukrainian diocese in the United States in 1932. This diocese eventually merged with the UOC-USA when Constantinople received them in 1995. Metropolitan Mstyslav led the UOC-USA for decades, and he was in constant communication with Constantinople, publicly declaring his support for the Phanar and calling upon the EP to convoke the Holy and Great Council. Constantinople exhibited warmth to the UOC-USA by responding to correspondence, and sent episcopal representatives who prayed (but did not concelebrate) with the Ukrainian community in South Bound Brook for the Millennium of the Baptism of Rus’-Ukraine in 1988 – hardly the action of a Church that regarded the Ukrainians as schismatics.

So Constantinople did not just enter the scene now; they have always been on the periphery, and their reception of the Canadian and American churches set the stage for them to act with more deliberation later. With all of our political analysis, we also must consider the ministry of healing and reconciliation. The EP’s reception of these Churches released them from isolation and brought them into communion with the rest of the Orthodox Church. (There are still tensions between the Ukrainian diaspora churches and the ones in Ukraine, which is another topic to be pursued.) But when the Ecumenical Patriarch says that his ministry is to heal schisms and reconcile those separated from the Church to the Church, he has done so with the Ukrainians. Furthermore, there is the issue of how an appeal is heard. In this case, the ecumenical patriarch met with the Ukrainians and got to know them. We tend to speak about these Churches and their leaders as if they were inhuman, but these communities consist of flesh-and-blood people. By meeting with them, hearing their appeal, and restoring them to the Church, the EP honored their human dignity and restored a portion of the Church that had been broken. 

Here is why Constantinople is acting now to issue a Tomos of autocephaly to the Church in Ukraine: the movement for autocephaly never went away, and it is growing steadily. While bishops and clergy have not migrated from the UOC-MP to the KP or UAOC, the KP in particular has had a steady uptick in the number of adherents. The autocephalist movement has survived Soviet liquidation, Nazi oppression, the Cold War, Crimea, and Russian aggression in Donbas. It is not going to just disappear.

Look at it this way: after the pseudo-sobor of L’viv in 1946, the Moscow Patriarchate issued numerous public statements honoring the end of the Unia and the return of Greek Catholics to Orthodoxy. If this return was real, and not coerced, there would only be a UGCC outside of Ukraine today. The autocephalist renaissance mirrors that of the UGCC – as soon as the UAOC became legal again (in 1989), the movement reappeared and grew rapidly. The autocephalists have appealed to Constantinople to recognize them – not to establish them or create them, or bless them to consider starting an autocephalous church – but to recognize already existing churches. Constantinople is addressing the reality on the ground, one that takes into account geopolitical concerns (Russian aggression) and ecclesial ones (Russia’s withdrawal from the Holy and Great Council of Crete in 2016). There is a direct link between Constantinople’s patronage of the Canadian and American Ukrainian Churches and the promise of a Tomos today – it set the stage for concrete action in Ukraine. But Constantinople was only going to act if it became clear that the autocephalist movement was a permanent fixture in Ukraine: there is no longer any question that it is.

Now that the MP has immediately ceased commemorating the EP, and Metropolitan Hilarion continues to claim that the 1686 transfer of Kyiv to Moscow was a reunion, some people will wonder if this might stop the Tomos. We have to see how this will play out since the EP has presented its case for being the only mother Church of the Kyivan Metropolia. The intrigue does not really lie in the EP’s fear to move forward – refusing to grant the Tomos at this point would undo all the claims they have recently made, and these assertions seem to be well-documented in the history of the Kyivan Metropolia. What remains a mystery is the UOC-MP.

Ukrainian religious experts have exposed the degree to which the Russian oligarch and member of Ukrainian Parliament Vadym Novinsky controls the operations of the UOC-MP. The interference of oligarchs in the UOC-MP is a problem they have yet to address, and Novinsky has not concealed his involvement as the lay patron of opposition to autocephaly: all one needs is to watch the many interviews he has granted to Ukrainian media outlets to hear his staunch and aggressive stance. Will a critical mass of clergy and laity of the MP trust in the amnesty promised by a Tomos? We will know in the coming months. Here is what we know for certain: the official stance of the EP on the canonical question, which seems to unfold little-by-little on a daily basis, is a direct threat to the Russian narrative of Kyiv as the mother of Russia. Certainly the MP is fighting to retain its prominence by keeping the UOC-MP intact and sealing the door to canonical space so the KP and UAOC cannot enter. But the loss of Kyiv is also a direct threat to the ideology of the Russkii mir, a factor that fuels the ferocity of the MP’s resistance to Constantinople’s action.

As for what to expect, there is more conjecture and rumor circulating than there are facts. We should expect Constantinople to set the stage for a unification council in Kyiv that will elect a new primate – I think that will happen this Fall. A Tomos of autocephaly would be issued to that Church, which would exist alongside churches wishing to remain in the MP. The angry reaction of the MP to this situation raises questions about what happens next, though. The period that follows the Tomos will be one of adjustment, for sure – the question concerns conflict between the MP and the new church in Ukraine. I think it all depends on how many of the clergy and faithful of the MP in Ukraine migrate to the new church. We know that approximately ten bishops signed the request for autocephaly – could more follow? Some experts predict a small percentage to migrate (10%), others a large percentage (90%). I think about 50% is a reasonable expectation, with gradual migration continuing in the period following. The more serious issue concerns the split between Constantinople and the MP. There will be a period of separation of the two patriarchates and the Chfurches in their respective orbits. It is clear that Constantinople is determined to take concrete action in Ukraine. Given the public statements they have issued, and Moscow’s swift and angry rebuttal, there is no going back now.

AD: You squarely face the nexus of problems at the outset: the relationship between church, state, and nation, stating bluntly that "the national element of the Ukrainian Church movement has perhaps been the greatest obstacle to achieving recognition of ecclesial autocephaly." Tell us why that national element has been so problematic. 

ND: The autocephalous movement coincided with the initial attempt to establish a nation-state. In these situations, priorities and strategies align, and the original initiators of autocephaly exploited the recently established model of the post-imperial nation-state as defining the local Church. Intellectuals who contributed to the state-building project were also involved in the Church, and this was true for one of the primary ideologues of the 1921 UAOC, Volodymyr Chekhivsky. The fledgling Ukrainian Directory of 1919 established a law for an autocephalous Church, and the minister of cults (Lotocky) was sent to Constantinople to see the project through. In this case, governmental leadership in Ukraine changed hands no less than four times from 1917 to 1920, and always with terrifying violence. That said, the pattern of aligned priorities on the part of intellectuals for state and church repeated itself through the course of Ukrainian history. Certain political figures attained prominent positions in the Church, especially Stepan Skrypnyk (later metropolitan Mstyslav and patriarch), who did not conceal his patriotism during his civil service in Poland, and was often a thorn in the side of Russophile churchmen in the Church of Poland.

Assessing the influence of nationalism on the Church is especially problematic during the WWII era. Many Ukrainians openly welcomed their Nazi captors, initially believing that Hitler was a modern Cyrus who came to set them free from Soviet (Babylonian) captivity only to learn that the new tyrant was just as vicious as the old one. Church leaders met with Nazi officials in Ukraine, and this suggests collaboration, but it is possible that Church officials had to deal with their occupiers to attempt to rebuild church life. It is well-known that the OUN leaders attempting to liberate Ukraine were nationalistic, sometimes extremely so. Some scholars conclude that the autocephalists contributed to the murder of the autonomist Metropolitan Oleksii Hromadskii by cooperating with the OUN. I concluded that there was not enough evidence to support it, but it was widely believed among people who belonged to the autonomist Church, which only served to deepen their separation from the 1942 UAOC, and enhance their perception of the UAOC as nationalist.

After the war, Orthodox bishops in the MP’s Ukrainian Exarchate implicated the bishops of the UGCC as collaborators with the OUN. The Cold War narrative used the Great Patriotic War as an opportunity to pit autocephalists and “uniates” as a united camp, fascist and nationalist, who betrayed their fellow citizens who fought on the right side with the motherland. I think it is easy to see how the present narrative of the Moscow Patriarchate simply recycles the Cold War polemics, blaming the UGCC and the Orthodox ‘schismatics' (KP and UAOC) for Crimea and the war in Donbas.

In other words, people who have no previous knowledge of the situation connect Ukraine with ethnophyletism on the basis of a narrative that began to take shape before World War II even ended. I’m not saying that ethnophyletism is not a problem – it can be, and a good example of the Church addressing came from the earlier dialogue between Metropolitan Volodymyr Sabodan and the UAOC, when the latter explicitly disavowed ethnophyletism through the process of negotiation. But two crucial points are lost in the noise of Soviet-era propaganda: the Orthodox Churches seeking autocephaly consistently stated their desire to restore the Kyivan Metropolia as the basis for autocephaly, and Ukraine has been ravaged by wars started by outsiders in all of the historical periods we mention here, so discussion of autocephaly always coincides with elevated patriotism because of war. We need to cleanse our lenses to take account of the whole picture before arriving at hasty conclusions on nationalism and the Church.
       
AD: Following my friend Justin Tse's writings on ecclesial colonization, I'm wondering--and could be very wide of the mark, so please correct me--whether nationalism in Ukraine is evaluated according to a different standard than in other Orthodox countries. Ukraine, it seems to me, is somehow more heavily criticized by a lot of people--not just Russians but other outsiders, including those in the American government and the Vatican--for wanting things that others take for granted, including national and ecclesial independence. Is that a fair observation? 

ND: Yes. When Ukraine’s parliament petitioned the Holy and Great Council in Crete in 2016 to grant autocephaly to the Church, they employed this exact language: the MP in Ukraine is Russian colonization of Ukraine through the Church. You can hear echoes of this language in Poroshenko’s comments as well.

Two additional observations. First, we have to distinguish the nationalistic tendencies we encounter in émigré communities from those in the native country. Post-World War II Ukrainian immigrants bore with them the painful memory of the Holodomor and the terror of the Nazis. My grandfather told us the story of the arrest and permanent disappearance of his father – arrested because he was considered an intellectual, as a school teacher!

Arriving in democratic countries after such an upheaval is an experience of deliverance and liberation, a taste of freedom. Émigré communities work hard to sustain their traditions and pass them on to the next generation. And their politics migrate with them. I think encounters with émigré communities can be jarring when one is introduced to their politics, so this raises the specter of nationalism as a threat. But we need to be honest about our assessments. Here’s the truth, and I am an eyewitness: were there instances of politics influencing the Church and occasionally becoming ugly in the émigré Ukrainian church? Yes.

But let’s also take ROCOR as an example. Their immigrants also brought their historical memories with them. Can you disentangle the politics of striving for the restoration of the monarchy from the liturgical commemoration of the tsar and royal family as royal martyrs? No. We need to be sympathetic when communities express their identities with reference to their contexts, especially when these environments were experiences of persecution, terror, and colonialism. As long as autocephalous churches are aligned with the borders of nation-states, we’re going to encounter this phenomenon of nationalism – and I have seen it among Greeks and Serbs as well as Ukrainians.

I do think Ukrainians are held to a different standard, for one reason: the hegemony of Soviet propaganda depicting Ukrainians who fought for independence as fascists. On the one hand, Ukrainians have to come to terms with their own history, which means accepting the fact that nationalism has reared its ugly head in Ukrainian history, sometimes with violence.

On the other hand, those who accuse all Ukrainians – especially the Orthodox seeking autocephaly – have to substantiate their arguments. This is a time for Orthodox soul-searching. Those who condemn the autocephaly movement in Ukraine – they’re awfully noisy on social media – can they substantiate their claims beyond articles published on polemical web sites or recycling Soviet propaganda (see chapter 4 of my book for more on this issue)? The only way to truly deal with this issue is to dialogue with Ukrainian autocephalists, to meet them in community.

But as we know well, the preferential option for division drives a growing number of Orthodox from dialogue with their brothers and sisters. Withdrawal from dialogue perpetuates isolation, and isolation breeds fear. It is fundamentally and morally wrong to refuse dialogue with Ukrainian autocephalist communities because they have been labelled as ‘schismatics’. Those who adopt this strategy attempt to isolate the community with the hope that they will dissolve, or break, and then agree to the conditions demanded by the established Church. Obviously, this is a strategy employed everywhere to gain leverage and apply pressure, but in the Church, it is a matter of employing the vocabulary of sacramental theology to imprint an identity of delegitimization on the autocephalists to justify the refusal to dialogue.

This strategy violates the history of the schism: in the earliest stages, an agreement between the opposing parties almost occurred, first in 1922 when the patriarchal exarchate in Ukraine not only declared autocephaly and adopted sobornopravist’, but also called for immediate dialogue with the 1921 UAOC, and then again in October 1942 when representatives of the autonomous and autocephalous churches reached an agreement at the Pochaiv monastery. Both attempts to unify failed because Ukraine was occupied by Soviet and Nazi regimes hostile to both churches. But these events demonstrate a willingness to dialogue, to not only hear the concerns of the other party, but to actually come to know them. This is why the Orthodox who dismiss the autocephalous cohorts without trying to know them or hear them out today need to perform some soul-searching. Does this strategy fulfill the canon of the Gospel? Will this strategy contribute to the healing of the schism? History is our teacher: refusal to dialogue breeds isolation, fear, and hate.

AD: The two councils of 1918 and 1921 play important roles here, and proposed some very interesting reforms--e.g., the restoration of a married episcopate. Tell us a bit about those councils. 

The autocephalists requested the 1918 council against the wishes of Metropolitan Volodymyr (Bohoiavlenskii), but Patriarch Tikhon blessed the council. This council prohibited using vernacular Ukrainian for the liturgy, a pastoral initiative that had been long prepared and taken up (along with vernacular Russian) at the 1917-18 Moscow Council. Two additional controversies inflamed divisions: the unilateral removal of dozens of delegates from the council to shift the balance from pro-autocephaly to pro-autonomy, a move admitted by Russian historians, and the election of Metropolitan Antonii Khrapovitskii in May 1918, a gathering that limited the number of participating delegates. The council was contentious: a battle between the pro-autocephaly and pro-autonomy parties.

In his memoirs, Metropolitan Evlogy remarked that the movement for autocephaly was relentless and the autocephalists had a clear majority until the constituency of the delegates changed. The autocephalists were enraged, as they believed that the conciliar rules were violated by exchanging one set of delegates (pro-autocephaly) for another (pro-autonomy). From their perspective, this act made the 1918 council a robber council. The deciding vote for autonomy was a surprise, but not as much as the vote to retain Church Slavonic. The conciliar decision to reject liturgical Ukrainization was the blow that began the separation of the autocephalist cohorts from the patriarchal Church in Ukraine. For them, these decisions cemented a narrative about the patriarchal bishops on the synod in Ukraine: their loyalty was to the tsar (even though the tsarist regime had passed), and could not be trusted. They rejected the 1918 council as a robber council.

The 1918 council became important again in 1941, when the portion of Western Ukraine Hitler had ceded to the USSR in 1939 came under Nazi control. In a short period of time, the Soviets managed to disrupt Church life with violence, in a region where Orthodox had reasonable freedoms in Poland. The bishops who gathered in Pochaiv declared that they recognize the 1918 council as canonical and authoritative and therefore rejoined the Moscow Patriarchate, while acknowledging that autocephaly was possible with the convocation of a new All-Ukrainian council.

But not all of the bishops participated. Metropolitan Dionisii of Warsaw had cultivated Ukrainian bishops as pastors of the Ukrainian majority in the Orthodox Church of Poland, and he declared that the reversion to the 1918 Kyiv council was a violation of the Tomos of autocephaly Constantinople bestowed on the Church in Poland in 1924. That Tomos specifically identifies the Orthodox Church in Poland as the successor of the ancient Kyivan Metropolia. The Ukrainians themselves were never able to resolve their disagreement over the canonical supremacy of the 1918 council or the 1924 Tomos.

The autocephalist cohorts received permission from Soviet authorities to use temples for vernacular liturgies (soon after the Soviets assumed control in Ukraine), and the synodal bishops tolerated this until 1920, when they suspended and then deposed all of the clergy who served in Ukrainian from holy orders. The October 1921 council failed to obtain a bishop who could inaugurate a hierarchy, so they established their own hierarchy which has never been recognized in Orthodoxy. Chapter 2 of my book goes into great detail about the 1921 council, because the patriarchal exarch, Metropolitan Michael, actually appeared at the council in a last-ditch effort to mend fences with the autocephalists – a historical example of an attempt to dialogue. The encounter was tense and emotional – the secretary notes that delegates were weeping, including the metropolitan.

I can highlight two features of the 1921 council. First, the council elucidates internal disagreement among the Ukrainians attending on the path to be adopted, especially concerning the establishment of a hierarchy to restore the Kyivan Metropolia. Some delegates who fully supported autocephaly abandoned the council when it adopted Volodymyr Chekhivsky’s rationale for ordaining bishops through the innovative conciliar rite of ordination that did not include bishops. As you mentioned, this council issued numerous new canons, precious material on the rejection of the 1918 council and married bishops. Metropolitan Vasyl Lypkivsky’s homilies are published in Ukrainian and English – and he consistently identifies the 1921 UAOC as a new Church, a modernized Orthodox body that honors the laity and discards the ‘old’ episcopo-centric Church. The 1921 council attempted to inaugurate a new era of Orthodoxy in Ukraine, but history shows that the autocephalists returned to the foundations of traditional Orthodoxy very quickly. They are and were conservative.

AD: You note that one of the recurring issues coming out of the council of 1918 is ongoing controversy over the use of Church Slavonic vs. a vernacular Ukrainian. Here again I'm wondering whether there is an unacknowledged double standard at work here--a kind of linguistic snobbery redolent again of colonialism or imperialism? I well recall my Doktorvater  and dear mentor Fr. Andriy Chirovsky once saying that "Both Poles and Russians considered Ukrainian unfit to be called a language." Had that Polish-Russian snobbery infected these debates, leading to many refusing the use of a vernacular? 

ND: This issue is much more complicated than it seems because the preparations for the Moscow Council included proposals for translating liturgical and biblical texts into vernacular Russian and Ukrainian. Those proposals were defeated, both at the Moscow Council and at the 1918 Ukrainian council. Then-Metropolitan Tikhon resisted the introduction of the vernacular into the liturgy because he hoped to restore Communion with the Old Believers. There is a certain resistance to introducing the vernacular among all of the Churches that use Slavonic, and there were and are Ukrainians sympathetic to autocephaly who would prefer to retain Slavonic. The introduction of liturgical Ukrainization in Poland caused problems in multiple eparchies, a fact that demonstrates that the Ukrainianizers could be chauvinistic in imposing their agenda on the Church. This was not always a matter of Russians mocking Ukrainians for their language: one of the compromises agreed to but not realized at the Pochaiv meeting in October 1942 was to take the time to discuss a pastoral introduction of Ukrainization without forcing it on people who appreciated Slavonic.

On the other hand, the repression of Ukrainian long before the revolution elucidates a pattern of Russification that contributed to the autocephalist agenda. In the post-Soviet period, Metrpolitan Volodymyr Sabodan blessed mild Ukrainization within the UOC-MP. The issue has become controversial again under the leadership of Metropolitan Onufry, because he bitterly dismissed vernacular Ukrainian in remarks he made at the Kyivan eparchial assembly in December 2015, which seemed to inspire Metropolitan Oleksander Drabinko to write a series of essays demonstrating the evolution of liturgical language as a justification for using Ukrainian. It remains a hot-button issue within the UOC-MP, but the KP and UAOC are firmly rooted in Ukrainization. You essentially have multiple generations of faithful who have memorized prayers and liturgical texts in Ukrainian. I don’t think Ukrainians should abandon their Slavonic heritage, but there is no going back from Ukrainization. Aside from the mistakes of the past, which we cannot ignore, you could say that the Ukrainians are leading the rest of the Slavic Orthodox world when it comes to using the vernacular for liturgy.

AD: Your third chapter focuses on Ukrainian Orthodox in Canada and the US, and how churches in both became the bearers of a longing for national sovereignty and ecclesial independence. How did the North American context shape those longings? 

ND: The autocephaly initiative migrated to North America, and the core values of democracy and liberty provided fertile soil to keep the autocephaly initiative alive and well. The Ukrainian émigré communities took a leading role in fighting for the religious rights of Ukrainian citizens during the Cold War, and they contended against the injustice of the UGCC and UAOC in Soviet Ukraine as having no legal status. St. Andrew’s Center in South Bound Brook, New Jersey, became the primary center of Ukrainian autocephaly until the UAOC attained legal status in the USSR in 1989. The émigré community succeeded in preventing the initiative from dissolving, and they took full advantage of American anti-Soviet rhetoric throughout the Cold War period.

AD: I found utterly fascinating and in fact very exciting your discussions of the various manifestations of sobornopravnist’ in terms of church councils, revised rites of ordination, and much else. Tell us a bit about what that term means and some of the visions it gave rise to. 

ND: It means governance by council, and the idea is that the entire community participates in governing the Church. For Orthodox Ukrainians, this governance draws from the creative influence and patronage of lay brotherhoods in the early seventeenth century when the Orthodox Metropolia of Kyiv lacked bishops.

Sobornopravnist’ essentially rejects a mono-episcopal model of Church. In other words, bishops do not and cannot have absolute power. In a model of sobornopravnist’, you could have a synod, but it would not rule unilaterally – decisions would include substantial lay participation, not only in deliberation, but in the actual process of voting.

In the speeches delivered at the 1921 October council, eucharistic ecclesiology enters the scene: Chekhivsky asserted that the Eucharist is an offering of the entire people, and not just the bishops, and that history testifies to episodes where lay leaders correct bishops who had strayed from the truth. The conciliar ordination of Vasyl Lypkivsky entailed a chain of hands – all of the delegates of the council laid their hands on the ordinand, in order (presbyters, deacons, then laity). The problem, of course, was the absence of bishops. But I find something valuable in the core value of sobornopravnist’ – it is a reminder that the community is the Church, not just the clergy, and the Church should consider threading that core value through Church governance and liturgy.

AD: Equally fascinating were the various forms of "political theology" that emerge and change over the past century. Tell us a bit about the prominent features of some of those political theologies and how they change. 

ND: The two most prominent political theologies are the liberation theology underpinning the original autocephalist movement and the Russkii mir political theology that identifies Kyiv as a cell in a Russian Orthodox multinational civilization. I’ll say a bit more about the liberation theology: for the 1921 UAOC, Christ’s Gospel, his resurrection enables Christians to be liberated form the political powers of the world. Ukrainians would experience this liberation from the Russian bishops in Ukraine who imposed Tsarist policies on the people. Liberation from those bishops permitted the Church to embark on modernization. Chekhivsky wrote two liturgical dramas used at St. Sophia in Kyiv that exemplify this liberation theology. I translated most of that service in my article on liturgical innovations of the UAOC published in Studia Liturgica.

This liberation theology weaved its way through up until today. For the 1942 UAOC, “Red Moscow” was the tyrant from whom liberation was desired (and this was also the case for the autonomous Church). For the émigré Church, Red Moscow remained that tyrant, with the Moscow Patriarchate itself as the Soviet government’s assistant. And for today’s proponents of autocephaly, they seek liberation from Putin’s attempt to colonize Ukraine through the Moscow Patriarchate. In other words, political theologies migrate and develop over time – they also remain resilient.

AD: Your book tells an incredibly complex tale in great depth and detail while commendably eschewing, especially in your conclusion, any heavy-handed prescribing of solutions. Sum up what your hopes were for this book, and who should read it.

ND: In a nutshell, my goal was to inform readers for the purpose of attaining a better understanding of the Ukrainian Church situation. I also hope that my book might contribute to the demythologizing of prevailing stereotypes of the Ukrainian Church. Besides students and specialists, I hope that clergy and laity will read this book. I dream that in some small way, it could contribute to the healing of the schism.

I’ve been told that I should avoid advising patriarchs on how they should act, so heavy-handed prescribing is not included. I want to conclude with this:

Please consider the optics of current events in Ukraine. People who have lived their faith for 1,030 years – 1,030! – are instructed to defer to one or another patriarchate. Over the course of 97 years, all of them have appealed, at one time or another, to either Moscow or Constantinople for a resolution. When the response from patriarchates is silence, a people who practiced their faith for a millennium will decide their own fate. Readers will be tempted to respond by claiming that the “canonical territory” of Ukraine belongs to one patriarchate or another. Some will conclude that the canons require us to draw ecclesial boundaries in this exact way, and that they cannot be changed. Interpreting the canons to impose the will of one church on another is not only ecclesial colonization – it is morally dubious.

AD: Having finished this book, what are you at work on now?

ND: I have several article projects on my desk. I’ll be writing about Schmemann’s liturgical legacy, architecture in North America, and eucharistic theology and iconography. After a short break from book projects, I hope to return, with energy, to developing a manuscript on liturgical identity with an ecumenical landscape. And I hope to follow up on this book with a project that will feature Orthodox identity in Ukraine through parish history, which would entail spending some time in Ukraine, interviewing clergy and people, and reading their texts and contexts for clues on how they identify themselves and those around them. This could be a good opportunity to take an inventory of Church life in Ukraine after the Tomos.

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