Orthodoxy and Political Affairs

edited December 2014 in Faith Issues
"On the eve of the Christmas fast, we are trying to preach to the students why the coming of God into the world in the form of a small child is not only a kenosis—a self-emptying of divinity—but the most adequate revelation of God. In that Child, there is no need for strength, glory, “rights,” self-affirmation, authority or power."
Fr Alexander Schmemann, The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann, 55-56

"An Islamic Republic has been proclaimed in Iran: 99 percent of the voters voted for it! The vote was open for everybody to see, in an enthusiastic atmosphere. How absolutely familiar and repulsive. How foolish—always and everywhere—are the masses. Nobody knows, nobody told anybody what this Islamic Republic will be. Everything is taken on trust. Maybe this is what is essential to understand in our times: a radical turn from politics in the usual sense to a massive thirst for a charismatic leader. People do not believe what the leader is saying, but believe in him. He says: “Islamic Republic,” and nobody except “rotten and Westernizing” people ask, “What is it?” Really, people only want and look for someone to whom they can surrender their hated and unbearable freedom.
But is not Christ also a charismatic leader? Does not trust in Him, belief in Him, come before the acceptance of His commandments? Where is the fundamental difference that contemporary people feel and sense less and less? Does the difference, before anything else, consist in the fact that Christ does not want, nor does He seek, any power over people; that He declines every time the temptation of changing individual people into a crowd, a collective, a blind obedience? Is not the difference in the refusal to identify His “concern” for the world with any earthly “project,” in a constant affirmation of the transcendence of that “concern”—an appeal to the heavenly, to the Kingdom which is not of this world? Only two poles: a concrete love for one’s neighbor here and now (cure, feed, etc.), and search for the Kingdom of God and eternal life. Total indifference to daily cares, a sort of contempt for them—give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's. Your service to the world, says Christ, is in complete freedom from the world, and in this freedom—your victory over the world."

"Ninth day of the Teheran tragedy and the same dead end. Again, a fanatical speech by Khomeini condemning the Pope along with Carter. As I listen and read, I think more and more that this tragedy will not end well; that Americans and the West in general do not understand that they are dealing with a totally different logic. This is when one feels and realizes that Christianity, though just a glimmer, is still alive: a certain common language which must be used even by those who do not, in fact, acknowledge, not only Christianity, but the values coming from it. Whereas here—a wall, an absolute conviction in one’s right. Even the Communists must maintain some kind of facade. In Iran, under Khomeini, no facade; a full, icy sincerity. A frightening thirst for revenge, a special kind of suffering from unrequited vengeance.
They need to hang the dying Shah. Fast, prayer, murder belong to the same reality. And in the West, so many people sincerely believe that all religions are the same.
Although Christianity has become distorted, it will never cease to denounce the lies, the anti-humanity of crowds, of masses; that is of religious fanaticism, totalitarianism, fascism; of a nation as a “conciliar personality,” as a carrier of virtues higher than those of an individual person, of religion as “opium for the people,” as creating idols, etc..."

"The truth of conservatism is sad and pessimistic. It is the knowledge of evil, its destructiveness, its power; the knowledge of the chaos behind each “barrier.” But even sadder and more tragic is the joy produced by the “crisis” (between law and liberation), for it is a false joy that mistakes pseudo-grace and pseudo-freedom for grace and freedom. Conservatism is sad and heavy; revolution is scary and frightening: It is the Pentecost of the devil. There is only one crisis which is blessed and saving: Christ—because from Him flow grace and freedom. In Him the law is fulfilled, as well as revolution. It is quite frightening when Christianity itself turns into heavy law or becomes revolutionary. The whole meaning of Christianity is to soar upwards out of this rhythm, this course, these dynamics of the world. Christianity makes it possible to live by the truth of revolution inside the law and by the truth of the law inside the revolution. Christianity is the “coincidentia oppositorum,” the synthesis of law and revolution, their fulfillment in each other—it is the Kingdom of God, truth itself, beauty itself for it is Life and Spirit.
I see here the key to the Christian perception of culture, of politics, and, of course, of “religion” itself—a “holding it all together.” Christianity is freedom from conservatism and from revolution. Hence, a “rightist” Christian is as frightening as a “leftist” one, and I know why I sway to the left when dealing with the rightists and to the right when I am with leftists.
More about the same. In the area of art, one can always find a law in the beauty of any genuine work of art. But the beauty is not born out of the law but is in its fulfillment. The beauty is born out of grace. Fulfilling the law, beauty overcomes it. When art remains under the law and is born in the law(cf. contemporary iconographers, who are often copyists) it becomes stylization and dies, so that the law becomes the death of art.""

"Reading Philippe Aries, L’Homme devant la mort (Man Before Death). While reading such a book, and the newspapers following events in Iran, passionately hoping for Ayatollah Khomeini's failure, I feel a growing need for a synthesis—a clear Christian answer to everything, to our entire crisis. Christianity remains hopelessly “Constantinian”; hence its shameful weakness. Its only chance is eschatology. I continually think about this, that precisely this “eschatology” of Christianity contains in itself the explanation of everything: of life and of death; of the horror in Guyana; of the decay of the developed world; of the scary revival of Islam; of the mystery of Russia; of ecology; of psychology; of everything. This eschatological synthesis could be revealed by Orthodoxy, but the Orthodox themselves neither see it nor want it, from theologians and “spirit-carriers” to pious little old ladies...!"

"The “death of Christianity”! It sounds horrible. But is it so? It constantly seems to me (and gives me inner light and joy) that the death of Christianity is needed, so that Christ would be resurrected. The deadly weakness of Christianity lies in only one thing—forgetting and neglecting Christ. In the Gospel, Christ always says “I”—He says about Himself that He will come back in glory, as a King. One must love Him, expect Him, rejoice in Him and about Him. When nothing of Christianity will remain, only Christ will be visible; and neither revolution, nor Islam, nor hedonism will have any power left. Now is the time for the prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus...!”"

"My perpetual conclusion: if theology, spirituality, etc. do not return to a genuine Christian eschatology (and I don't see any signs of one) then we are fated not only to remain a ghetto, but to transform ourselves, the Church and all that is within it, into a spiritual ghetto. The return—and this is my other perpetual conclusion—starts from a genuine understanding of the Eucharist, the mystery of the Church, the mystery of the New Creature, the mystery of the Kingdom of God. These are the Alpha and Omega of Christianity. "


  • I keep on musing how relevant Fr Alexander's words are even today...
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