"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).

Monday, October 14, 2019

Orthodox Secularisms and Entanglements

Are there more tedious phrases on the lips of Christians today than "secularism" or "secular humanism"? The whingeing about these developments, which are rarely treated with any attendance upon questions of economics or the role Christianity itself has played in bringing us to the perceived present position, is not only off-putting but also misplaced. We would do well to meditate for a while upon Benjamin Fong's recent observation (discussed in some detail here) that
there is perhaps no more confused assertion, for a critical theorist, than that capitalist society is becoming increasingly 'secular'.
The situation, then, is not at all straightforward even in the Western world, where complaints about "secularism" usually mean nothing more than "declining church attendance" and increasing criticism of Christian beliefs and practices by people (e.g., Beto O'Rourke) who are NQOUCD ("not quite our class, dear").

How much more different and no less complex are the situations faced by several Orthodox countries in Europe treated in a recent book: Tobias Koellner, ed., Orthodox Religion and Politics in Contemporary Eastern Europe: On Multiple Secularisms and Entanglements (Routledge, 2018), 274pp.

About this book the publisher tells us the following:
This book explores the relationship between Orthodox religion and politics in Eastern Europe, Russia and Georgia. It demonstrates how as these societies undergo substantial transformation Orthodox religion can be both a limiting and an enabling factor, how the relationship between religion and politics is complex, and how the spheres of religion and politics complement, reinforce, influence, and sometimes contradict each other. Considering a range of thematic issues, with examples from a wide range of countries with significant Orthodox religious groups, and setting the present situation in its full historical context the book provides a rich picture of a subject which has been too often oversimplified.

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