Tag Archives: Public Orthodoxy

Radical Christian Commitment

At Public Orthodoxy, American University of Rome’s Davor Džalto reflects on what he calls the positive and negative modes of fundamentalism. There’s a lot to like in the essay. I was especially pleased to see the author argue that fundamentalism is not simply a phenomenon of the cultural/political/theological Right. Instead, he offers a broader definition that can is descriptive of some on the Left as well.

For Džalto, the key characteristic of what he calls a negative fundamentalism “the hypertrophy of individuality—alienation from others, perception of the other as an existential threat, conviction that only ‘we’ or ‘I’ are on the right track to salvation, etc.” He goes on to say that this, negative form of fundamentalism is rooted in “the fearful rejection of the other.” It represents an “isolationalist extremism and a Manichean division between ‘us’ (who are the saved ones, the good ones, and the righteous ones) and evil, wicked, poisonous ‘them.'”

What is most helpful, however, is his affirmation of a positive fundamentalism which can be “tradition-oriented” and “radical” in the sense that it insists upon the necessity of a life of “self-discipline” and “ascetic practices.” Fundamentalism in this second sense is the radically of Jesus.

I would suggest that many–even most–Orthodox parishes in America are suffering from a palpable absence of a wholesome, well-balanced but radical commitment to Christ. This commitment is lacking both among the laity and the clergy. And it is this absence that makes the negative modes of fundamentalism so attractive.

Džalto concludes by arguing that

…Christians should indeed be radicals and even fanatics. But they should be fanatic lovers of love and freedom. Not as impersonal ideas but as existential realities. And this is unthinkable without other persons. This is, in my view, the foundation of the “right kind” of fundamentalism or radicalism. A true Christian radical knows that the enemy is primarily (in) him/herself. The major obstacle we are facing in this world is the very mode of our existence, not someone out there who threatens us.


Fundamentalism: Theology in the Service of Psychosis – Public Orthodoxy

Rev. Dr. Vaseilios Thermos, a psychiatrist, professor, and priest of the Church of Greece, has a provocative post at Public Orthodoxy (Fundamentalism: Theology in the Service of Psychosis – Public Orthodox). Here’s a preview:

Paradoxically, although religious fundamentalism is a fanatical opponent of the discipline of psychology, it actually is a form of psychologism. It assesses through habit, not through truth. For fundamentalism, it is “familiar identity” that is at risk. Fearful of the complexity of the modern world (which has already evolved to the chaos of the postmodern one), it resorts to oversimplified solutions, because it cannot tolerate doubt, perplexity, or coexistence. In other words, fundamentalism “freezes” certain created and external elements of the tradition, which it believes to contain the truth of God. In doing so, fundamentalism immobilizes history, unaware that by doing so it enacts the very sin it claims to fight.

Agree with it or not, but the whole essay is worth reading.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Property Rights & Religious Freedom

The Hon. B. Theodore Bozonelis, a retired State Chief Judge, and Secretary of the Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, has an essay on Public Orthodoxy that illustrates the connection between religious freedom and property rights. He writes that

Despite the world-wide recognition of the status of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew as the spiritual leader of all Orthodox Christians, the government of Turkey will give no legal standing and status to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the historical Holy Center of Orthodox Christianity at the Phanar, in Istanbul. The lack of legal standing and status in essence nullifies property and other fundamental civil rights in Turkey for the Ecumenical Patriarchate which precludes its full exercise of religious freedom. The Ecumenical Patriarchate cannot own in its name the churches to serve the faithful or the cemeteries to provide for their repose. Since it lacks a legal standing, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is powerless to pursue legal remedies to assert property rights or even seek to repair deteriorating property without government approval. (Read the rest here).

As events in Turkey illustrate, the absence of legally enforceable property rights is detrimental to religious freedom.  Important as they are, property rights alone are not sufficient.

Economic rights more broadly,  such as, the ability to engage in free economic exchange and to make a profit,  are also in the service of religious freedom as well as the individual’s freedom of conscience as well as a community’s freedom to assemble and act as a community.

Sometimes in our zeal to defend the poor and oppressed and to include those on the margins of society, we overlook the importance of property right and economic liberty. We don’t help the poor by curtailing the rights of the middle class or wealthy.

Instead, and let’s return to the situation of the Ecumenical Throne in Turkey, the first step in helping the poor and marginalized is to defend their economic liberty. What we should be aiming at is, as Hernando de Soto argues in The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else is to make the legal–and as importantly, cultural, changes need to secure the economic liberty and property rights of all but especially the poor.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory