Thursday, February 21, 2008

"Does the West Have an Orthodox Problem?"

This provocative question - along with the equally provocative and stunning photo - is posed on the blog of the journal Foreign Policy. The scene is Kosovo; the protesters are Serbian Orthodox Christians reacting to the United Nations' recent decision to support an emerging Islamic nation at the expense of an historically Christian one.

Quoting a recent cover story, the writer notes:

"The culture of the Orthodox Church differs sharply from the Western post-Enlightenment ethos, which emphasizes secularism, capitalism, and the primacy of the individual. It still maintains residual fears about the West that parallel in many ways current Muslim insecurities: fears of Western missionary proselytism, a tendency to perceive religion as a key vehicle for the protection and preservation of their own communities and culture, and a suspicion of the 'corrupted' and imperial character of the West. Indeed, in an Orthodox Christian Middle East, Moscow would enjoy special influence, even today, as the last major center of Eastern Orthodoxy. The Orthodox world would have remained a key geopolitical arena of East-West rivalry in the Cold War. Samuel Huntington, after all, included the Orthodox Christian world among several civilizations embroiled in a cultural clash with the West."

An increasingly-religious Russia is backing their Serbian Orthodox brethren, while an increasingly-secular Western Europe, along with the religiously-quixotic United States, is backing the Albanian Muslims.

Somehow, I can't imagine relations between the US and Orthodox Christianity improving in the near future, given that the next president is either going to be a Democrat Liberal Protestant without meaningful foreign policy experience or a Republican former-Episcopalian who has repeatedly taken a hawkish line towards Russia.

Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Orthodoxy, Western Europe, and Sharia Law

The uproar over recent comments made by Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams regarding Islamic Sharia Law in Great Britain has subsided - but only somewhat.

For those interested in what was said, one of many news accounts is available here and the text of his lecture is here.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion of Vienna, who represents the Moscow Patriarchate in Western Europe, reflected on these events in a recent address covered by the news agency Interfax:

Geneva, February 14, Interfax - The values of other religions, just as secular ones, should not be advocated by the heads of Christian Churches, said Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria, who represents the Russian Orthodox Church at European international organizations.

"Our role is not to protect Sharia law, to glorify an alternative style of behavior or to preach secular values. Our sacred mission is to announce what Christ announced, to teach what his disciples taught," Bishop Hilarion said at the opening of a session of the World Council of Churches (WCC)'s Central Committee in Geneva.

He was commenting on a recent statement by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams that it was inevitable that several aspects of Sharia law will have to be included in British law. His speech caused a public uproar in the UK.

"Many Christians around the world are looking up to Christian leaders with hope that they will defend Christianity against all the challenges it faces," Bishop Hilarion said.

He also criticized ‘liberal’ and ‘politically correct’ Christianity which Protestant and Anglican communities started promoting several dozens years ago. The Russian Church’s representative said that the gap between ‘traditional’ and ‘liberal’ Christianity grows so dramatically that today it's impossible to speak about one moral system preached by all Christians.

‘Politically correct Christianity will die. We have already been watching the process of liberal Christianity’s gradual decline as newly introduced moral norms lead to splits, discrepancies and confusion in several Christian communities,’ the bishop said.