The Russian Orthodox church is calling on the Russian government to denounce communism. OK, it’s a little late, but good on them.
In studying the different theological positions relating Christianity and culture, I find the Orthodox church to be something of a puzzle. It doesn’t seem to fit any of the major categories (culture above the church; church above culture; church separated from the culture; culture and church as distinct kingdoms under God). I asked an orthodox acquaintance who told me that the position of his church is to have monks who withdraw from the culture in order to pray for the culture. That’s a good answer, but it re-enforced my impression that the Christianity of the East is rather passive before the world, submitting to whatever regime it finds itself in but keeping alive an entirely separate spiritual existence. That means Christianity has not been as influential in the cultures of the East (though how could it have been given its domination by Islam and absolutist Czars). At its worse, though, the church sometimes collaborates with those regimes, giving spiritual sanction to the excesses of the Czars and even allowing itself to be infiltrated and used by the Soviets. I do salute the Orthodox Christians who have undergone persecution and martyrdom of their faith, including, arguably, members of the Russian royal family whose remains were discovered recently and confirmed last week.
The Western church, in contrast, both in its Catholic and its Protestant varieties, has always been activist and culture-shaping Even the separatist groups have defined themselves over and against the prevailing culture. This too has sometimes been to a fault.
I know some of you readers are Orthodox or Orthophiles (is that a word? if not, we need to coin it). I’d be glad to learn if this is a correct understanding or if I am missing something.
(I recall that I asked this before on this blog, but I still have questions.)