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

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Russian Orthodoxy 2.0

There seemed, as I recall, to come a moment in the late 90s when suddenly many churchmen woke up, realized the Web was here to stay, and rushed to get websites up and running. Later, of course, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media would come along and many Christians would race to be present there and on similar social media. But as we learned many years ago now from the Catholic Marshall McLuhan, the media is not innocent or neutral, but is itself a message, and itself shapes and transforms those using it. This is no less true in the Orthodox world, including the largest Orthodox Church in the world, as a new book, edited by Mikhail Suslov, tells us: Digital Orthodoxy in the Post-Soviet WorldThe Russian Orthodox Church and Web 2.0 (Ibidem Press, 2016), 350pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
This volume explores the relationship between new media and religion, focusing on the digital era's impact on the Russian Orthodox Church. A believer may now enter a virtual chapel, light a candle through drag-and-drop, send an online prayer request, or worship virtual icons and relics. In recent years, however, Church leaders and public figures have become increasingly skeptical about new media. The internet, some of them argue, breaches Russia's "spiritual sovereignty" and implants values and ideas alien to Russian culture. This collection examines how Orthodox ecclesiology has been influenced by its new digital environment, such as the intersection of virtual religious life with religious experience in the "real" church, the role of clerics on the Russian Web, and the transformation of the Orthodox notion of sobornost' (catholicity), asking whether and how Orthodox activity on the internet can be counted as authentic religious practice.

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