Why my heart is torn between Russian Orthodoxy and Pussy Riot

A few months ago, First Things ran a post critiquing emergenty evangelicals like me for dabbling in the theology and sacred ambiance of high church traditions like Orthodoxy and Catholicism without being willing to submit to the hierarchy. Whether it’s inconsistent and incoherent and irrational, there’s something that causes Christians like me to have one foot in the Occupy camp with the irreverent hooligans and one foot in the cathedrals that enchant us. Two images have grabbed my heart over the past few weeks: when the Russian Orthodox monks stood praying and risking martyrdom between the cops and the protesters in Kiev, Ukraine, and when the anarchist girl punk band Pussy Riot got whipped by Cossacks for recording a punk video in Sochi this week. Half of my heart belongs to Russian Orthodoxy and half belongs to Pussy Riot; it’s just the kind of Christian that I am.

I have been enchanted by Russian Orthodox theology ever since I was exposed to it. There are few books that have influenced me more than Alexander Schmemann’s For the Life of the World. Schmemann explains that Christianity is not about despising physical existence, but about enjoying it the most perfectly by recognizing the sacramental beauty of the objects in the world:

We were created as celebrants of the sacrament of life, of its transformation into life in God, communion with God. We know that real life is ‘eucharist,’ a movement of love and adoration toward God, the movement in which alone the meaning and the value of all that exists can be revealed and fulfilled. [34]

Eucharist is not just a ritual we go through in church on the first Sundays of the month. It is what we were created to do. Eucharisto means thanksgiving. When we live eucharistically, it means that we savor every physical object in our universe as the loving gift of our creator. A life of thanksgiving is a life that we enjoy perfectly because we feel smothered by the love of God as we eat and drink his gifts. Eating and drinking from Christ’s holy table is supposed to make us savor existence. When we live in that state of pure worship, it organically translates into love for our neighbors; every injustice in our world has some form of idolatry at its core.

In a life of idolatry, we don’t really enjoy ourselves upon consuming the fetishized objects that imprison us; often our consumption itself is part of a script that we’ve been tricked into obeying. Schmemann writes: “When we see the world as an end in itself, everything becomes itself a value and consequently loses all value because only in God is found the meaning (value) of everything, and the world is meaningful only when it is the ‘sacrament’ of God’s presence” (17). The capitalist market assigns value to life in a manner diametrically opposite to Christ’s table. It causes us to value objects extrinsically as commodities instead of intrinsically as sacraments. Schmemann was the one who brought what is perhaps the  most important contrast of the 21st century into focus for me.

So how did the same religion that produced Schmemann also produce Putin or for that matter Stalin? You might say it’s unfair to throw Stalin’s name in there, but the Soviet expression of Marxism is shaped by the same “Father knows best” paternalism that has defined the country of czars for centuries. Perhaps the most socially defining characteristic of Russian Orthodoxy is the concept of the spiritual father. My parents bought me a fantastic book for Christmas called Everyday Saints written by the Orthodox monk Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov. Voted most popular book in Russia in 2012, it relates everyday stories in the life of Russian Orthodox culture (and let me tell you, Orthodoxy is every bit as wild and filled with charismatic strangeness as a Pentecostal camp meeting!). What I read over and over again was the way that devout Russian Orthodox ask their priests for advice about everything.

One of the featured protagonists of the book was a famous mystic monk named Father John Krestiankin, who actually has his own popular book of letters of advice that he wrote to thousands of Russians including Putin himself who had asked him for God’s will about specific concrete decisions they had to make. He was considered to have a unique charismatic gift of discernment, grounded in his radically prayerful ascetic lifestyle. The Everyday Saints book documents how people who didn’t follow Father John’s divinely inspired insight fell into disaster, including one woman who died on the operating table during a routine surgery that Father John had begged her not to follow through with.

Two years ago, I discovered this culture of spiritual fatherhood when I tried to get an Eastern Orthodox spiritual director (an admittedly bourgeois “liberal” mainline Protestant concept often indulged in by people who seek similar “direction” from their yoga instructor). The two priests whom I contacted were very puzzled by my request. They basically said that they were happy to help me “explore” Orthodoxy and connect with the formerly Protestant “converts” in their congregation, but it was clear that they saw the purpose of spiritual direction as helping me decide to abandon my own journey of ordained ministry as a United Methodist and become one of their spiritual children.

Nothing is more repugnant in Eastern Orthodox circles than the concept of ecumenism; it’s almost worse to be ecumenical than it is to be liberal. Granted, a lot of what they hate about Protestantism is very legitimate. We turned the centerpiece of their beautiful eucharistic liturgy into a casual, clattering mass distribution of grape juice shots and crackers which some companies even sell in the same single serving package for convenience. Instead of savoring the inarticulable beautiful mysteries of God by ordering our days with liturgy, we devour exhaustive systematic theology books in order to gain intellectual sovereignty over every square inch of God’s “sovereign” nature so that we can spend most of our waking moments winning at theological swordplay on the Internet. We turned prayer, the means of becoming God’s breath, into a means of testing and proving how hard we can make ourselves believe (in the power of our own words) by trying to snag some miracles from God.

And yet, I’m a Protestant. As much as I hate its individualism, I’m still on an individual journey. I worship every week at a Catholic mass even though I lead worship every week at a Methodist contemporary worship service. I pray in ancient words, but I have the audacity to think that I don’t need John Chrysostom and Basil the Great’s words, because God has led me to build my own prayers in Hebrew and Greek from verses that God has spoken into my journey. Furthermore, I would consider it a betrayal of the journey which God has given me and what he has taught me through the people he put into my life to simply submit to whatever my denomination votes into doctrine about issues like homosexuality instead of living out the vocation to wrestle my way to the truth inside the underlying issues of Biblical teaching.

One of the most important foundations of my Christianity was my experience being bullied in late elementary and middle school. I have always self-identified as an outsider (whether or not identity politics allow me to be as a middle-upper class straight white guy). I am attracted to the outsiders, and I have the audacity to say that Christianity is supposed to be religion of outsiders, even though Christianity has spent most of its two millennia developing a triumphalist Constantinian tradition in which it has catered to czars and emperors and had its theology shaped almost exclusively by social insiders, whose infallibility is acclaimed and celebrated by the insiders of today. When I see Jesus say “Take up your cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34) to a group of people for whom it was not yet a religious symbol and who could only understand it thus as the most brutal, dehumanizing object in the Roman Empire, he’s not talking about spiritual discipline; he’s talking about utterly your renouncing social status by becoming a “despised one” (c.f. 1 Corinthians 1:28), a homo sacer, a proletarian.

So when the women of Pussy Riot stand up for the people who don’t fit into their “Father Putin knows best” paternalistic society, they’re expressing a side of Jesus that has been lost to the Russian church. As much as I grimace at the thought of disrespecting the beautiful sanctified space of a cathedral (in a protest song which sent two of them to prison for two years), it was right for them to call out Russian Orthodox officials for their fawning praise of Putin’s slide toward dictatorship. They are not silly hooligans without a cause. They have a very precise understanding of what they are doing, as expressed in Pussy Riot member Nadia Tolokonnikova’s letters from prison to radical theorist Slavoj Zizek:

We are a part of this force that has no final answers or absolute truths, for our mission is to question. There are architects of apollonian statics and there are (punk) singers of dynamics and transformation. One is not better than the other. But it is only together that we can ensure the world functions in the way Heraclitus defined it: “This world has been and will eternally be living on the rhythm of fire, inflaming according to the measure, and dying away according to the measure. This is the functioning of the eternal world breath.”

Heraclitus? WHAT?!! (She’s not typing this on her wifi laptop in an academic library, but hand-writing quotes of ancient philosophers from memory in a cold Siberian prison). And is this not the other side of the same vision that Schmemann has? I hear Jesus talking about the same “rhythm of fire” (tongues of fire?) in the “eternal world breath” when he says, “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). How does this liberated wind of which Jesus speaks look anything like a church that considers change itself to be a sin? A church that hates people whose crime is their complication of anthropological categories?

Most people in Russia despise Nadia and Pussy Riot. They are extremely unpopular in opinion polls. They represent the infiltration of our disgusting Western culture that I hate no less than Russians do. (Some actually accuse them of being CIA agents!) I honestly think that what most Russians hate about feminism, homosexuality, and even basic concepts of democracy like freedom of speech is that it all looks like Miley Cyrus’s wrecking ball to them. But Nadia is no trashy Western hedonist. This is what she tells Zizek about her prison experience which wasn’t quite like the old GULAG, but was still physically brutal:

You should not worry that you are exposing theoretical fabrications while I am supposed to suffer the “real hardship.” I value the strict limits, and the challenge. I am genuinely curious: how will I cope with this? And how can I turn this into a productive experience for me and my comrades? I find sources of inspiration; it contributes to my own development.

In other words, she interprets the hardships of prison ascetically, like a Russian Orthodox monk would. It may be outrageous of me to say this, but I think Nadia Tolokonnikova and Pussy Riot are one of God’s most important gifts to the Russian Orthodox Church right now. Even if the curmudgeons will sneer at me for my inconsistency, I will persist in my unsubmissive Protestant priesthood of the believer, holding in one side of my heart the liberated eternal world breath of the balaclavaed anarchists from Pussy Riot, while in the other side, I feast on the beautiful eucharistic vision of Alexander Schmemann and Russian Orthodoxy.

And if you ask me how I can do this, my answer will probably be incomprehensible to you: it’s because I fear the God whose ancient truths are also always new since the church has never conquered them. Jesus said, “Do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven” (Matthew 23:9). As much I love Eastern Orthodoxy, I dare not submit to any Father less than my Heavenly Abba.

Print Friendly

About Morgan Guyton

I’m the director of the NOLA Wesley Foundation, which is the United Methodist campus ministry at Tulane and Loyola University in New Orleans, LA.

  • Valerie Van Kooten

    It’s good to hear there are those out there who are Protestants by birth or choice or tradition who yearn for what was lost in the Protestant Reformation. It’s why more and more of us spend retreats at monasteries or attend RC/Orthodox services….so we can breathe in the mystery of God that has been lost in our own background. So much of the baby was thrown out with the bathwater 500 years ago.

    • MorganGuyton

      Oh yeah, if I could worship every day in a Russian Orthodox church but still be a Methodist pastor, I would do it. I can’t convert because I believe that my wife is called to ordained sacramental ministry.

      • JoFlemings

        You need to just bring them all in with you. If you are called to be Orthodox there is an American Church. But if to Rome, you know this can be done too. I am sure there is a provisional work for your wife’s calling. What kind of ordained sacramental ministry do you have?.My husband was a seminarian with 36 hrs short of his MDIV when we left seminary because we knew we were either Orthodox or Catholic, but definitely not Conservative Baptist. It was very challenging, but completely worth it.

    • JoFlemings

      Can I loan y’all some swim gear?- the Tiber is fine this time of year!!!! ;O)

  • Michael

    I liked your thoughts, and had a similar journey of not being able to enter Orthodoxy because of my wife’s calling and anointing. But I do have a quibble! I *think* the praying monks in Kiev are Ukranian Orthodox — each nation has its own Church, but they are all Eastern Orthodox or just Orthodox Christians.

    • MorganGuyton

      No, they were Russian actually, which is actually a quibble in itself. The Russians consider the Ukrainians to be schismatic apostates, so it was very important to the Russian Orthodox who shared the picture to point out that these were from mother Russia and not the schismatics.

      • Michael

        Fascinating! Thank you for the correction!

      • JoFlemings

        My understanding of the Russian Orthodox church is that it is VERY nationalistic. I find that problematic. I find that problematic about all orthodox churches.

      • Mike D.

        Hello. To make it more correct, there is a separate so-called Kiev Patriarchate, and Ukranian Ortodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate. The ratio of amount of parishes is around 1:2 or 1:3 . The first one in noncanonical and is not recognized by the rest of Orthodox world (i.e. by any of 15 local Orthodox Churches), being lead by a former metropolitan who was expelled from priesthood and monasticism for breaking a promise that he made publicly at the Church Counsil in 1992, for making a schism and violating several other canons. The second Church is autonomous but formally subjected to Patriarch of Moscow. Its head is the permanent member of Holy Synod of Russian Church.

        • MorganGuyton

          Thanks for this explanation!

  • Paul Clutterbuck

    Wow. Just…wow. I can hear in your writing this that your understanding and experience of Russian Orthodoxy is very similar to my own. The Orthodox way of living eucharistically is something I have tried to do ever since I received my first kidney transplant in 1990, and became aware of the ikonic, sacramental character of my transplant experience shortly afterwards. The veneration of the spiritual father-figure or elder was readily apparent in Alyosha’s view of Zossima, and it deeply influenced my relationship with my godfather as well as my sponsored children.

    I was also quite ambivalent about the tension between Orthodoxy and Pussy Riot in 2012, and although I was involved with an Amnesty chapter at the time, I really didn’t know what to say or which side I wanted to take. This post, which also points to the tension within Christian Anarchism, explains my ambivalence far better than I could have put into words myself.

    • MorganGuyton

      I love that book!

  • Dan Guy

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5TwrG8B3ME

    This is long, but I think that it will light a fire in your heart.

    • MorganGuyton

      I saw this video circulating around. I will have to make some time to watch it.

  • summers-lad

    “God whose ancient truths are also always new since the church has never conquered them” – I love that!

    And to quote from Rev Eli Jenkins’ prayer in “Under Milk Wood”:

    We are not wholly bad or good
    Who live our lives under Milk Wood,
    And Thou, I know, wilt be the first
    To see our best side, not our worst.

    I think that hints at why you can see the value – and goodness – in contrasting organisations or groups of people, without endorsing everything about them. The world needs more of that attitude.

    • MorganGuyton

      I like that prayer. Good stuff.

  • http://nicholasmyra.blogspot.com Nicholas

    The vast, vast, vast majority of Orthodox Christians throughout history haven’t had a “spiritual father”/geron/starez of any sort. Many have had father-confessors, and many have sought advice from old men and women from time to time (as in every society), but comparatively very, very, very few laypeople have had “spiritual fathers”. The word’s appropriation for use to describe the father-confessor/parishioner relationship is a misnomer peculiar to the United States and Western Europe in recent years.

    Morgan, when you approached Eastern Orthodox priests in the hopes of gaining a spiritual director, what sort of relationship were you looking for? Let’s say I’m a priest: If someone came to me from any denomination asking for *advice*, I would consider lending it. If they asked for *help* with some cause, I would inquire further and seek to help if it was within reason and conscience. If someone came to me seeking “spiritual direction”, or “spiritual fatherhood”, what on earth would I be expected to *do*?

    • MorganGuyton

      I’m realizing more and more that spiritual direction is a very specific thing within the mainline Protestant/ecunemical Catholic community who follow spiritual writers like Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton. Within this community that I’ve been a part of without really thinking about it for more than a decade, everybody knows what we’re talking about when we say “spiritual direction.” Meeting once a month, sharing your struggles, receiving spiritual practices to explore or readings to peruse for “homework,” etc.

      You’re right. The priest I went to just didn’t know what to do with it. And there was nothing underhanded or manipulative about how he responded. He was one of the holiest, gentlest people I have ever met. He had a light in his face that was almost physical and he actually told me about the uncreated light which is something I’ve been searching for ever since. So perhaps part of the unstated tension in what I’ve written here is that I went through several months of really wanting to abandon United Methodism for Orthodoxy. That yearning is still there to some degree, but it’s held in check by a greater yearning for my fellow Methodists to discover the East.

      • JoFlemings

        I think what you are talking about here is more understood by Catholics anyway as spiritual friendship and mentoring. Spiritual direction is different. There are more indepth blog posts and articles about it here: rcspiritualdirection.com.
        I study with the Avila Institute, an online Spiritual Theology course/school, and the goal of the program is to better equip all aspects of spiritual friendship and mentorship but most of all to train and equip spiritual directors. A Spiritual director is a person to whom you would be able to describe your life of prayer and this person, usually a priest, because the value of a confessor is huge in this arrangement-the director will know about the life of prayer, about the traditional development of the soul in the transforming process accomplished through grace, and usually be adept in discerning the overlap between personality type, progression and growth in the soul in the life of prayer, development in virtue; and overcoming obstacles as well as being strengthened in weaknesses. An SD will be able to help the directee with focus and applied effort to hone in on those aspects of the spiritual life most conducive to growth for the directee- that growth in Christ should increase the directee’s experience of the knowledge and love of God.

  • http://www.fcb4.tumblr.com Eric Blauer

    Morgan, you mentioned homosexuality in your post, does the issue that the members of Pussy Riot you mention are lesbians? I don’t ask that in confrontational way, simply curious. I saw an interview on Colbert with them and they talked about that side of their lives. Maybe the idea of prostitutes and tax gatherers getting into heaven these days before the Pharisees among us and within us might be more true than some might want to think?

    • MorganGuyton

      Oh I didn’t know that that was an element of things. I had thought that Masha and Nadia were married to men and had kids. Maybe some of the other members are that way or maybe they’re a little bit more “experimental” with their intimacies with each other. I often think of that prostitutes and tax collectors passage.

  • JoFlemings

    Morgan- yellow card! You have hit way too many targets here for blog post and comm box- I am now simultaneously infatuated and miserably frustrated because there is no way I can begin to plumb the depths of the many layered discussions synthesized in this one post.
    I will start with offering my next chaplet of the Seven Sorrows for your intentions. (I wish you knew what that means! Oh Lord, and St. Augustine- help me find some words!) I totally get what you are saying here- all the juxtapositions you refer to- all the contrasts, and contraindications- the value, the depth, the complicating human weakness, and the fatal flaws of pride and vanity. Observe, review, consider, judge?, assess… discern. I have to tell you, I am a Roman Catholic convert- I have bounced back and forth between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Church of Rome. I understand that; and I was a very fervent Evangelical before the Lord compelled me to swim the Tiber. I can appreciate much of what you print here because of my life experience, and I find your ability to express yourself captivating- (I am envious, actually!)
    You do remind me so much of St. Augustine in your passion for truth, in your clarity in seeing the undergirding presence of God and His substance in everything that has bedrock value and virtue- in not parsing it all out according to superficial understanding or party lines.
    But, I know you must be familiar with the Confessions- so you will understand when I call you out on regarding what is degraded because it is utilitarian. Even, in the case of Pussy Riot, the ends do not justify the means. To take up the cause of antiestablishment for the sake of perpetuating the cause of antiestablishment is one more form of an intractable system prostituting itself. (They are just like Lady Gaga, only with a politically relevant backdrop.) You want to contrast the RO with PR; but in spite of your brilliant prose, they become two sides of the same coin in your argument- which you abandon for your own pet position- to which you are not even completely authentic. If you are dallying with the Mass every weekend you are so running around with a ‘mistress’ while your ‘Stepford faith wife,’ (your Protestant collection of ideas/smattering systems of worship) patiently waits for you to figure out how to get fully integrated, if you are going to ever get fully integrated. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too- and for the record, you certainly cannot have Christ in the cracker/juice farce, and actually truly really consume Him body, blood, soul, and divinity. There is a distinct dividing line between Orthodoxy and Catholicism, and Protestantism- and the first two are much closer together than the latter. It is nice that you can appreciate the expressions of the ancient faith, and see the profound and desperate need for the bridge between ‘ beauty, ever ancient and ever new’ and souls drowning in need of the Savior- but if you don’t find the courage to choose truth and get off this buffet line mentality- then this is all just carbon credits.
    Without heroic choices for what is true, right, and orthodox on God’s terms; what those women raging against the machine are screaming for will never find them- that Eucharist we are made to become in the heart of the Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One- the Most Holy Trinity will always elude them. And that asceticism intended to form the soul and fit it for heaven, if not breathed in through the life of God in prayer- will leave them drowning in the degradation of confusion and pointlessness. At the same time, the sterile whited sepulcher of tradition in their midst is unworthy of their zeal. New wine, new wineskin….but how new? Ever Ancient and ever new– Augustine is Roman Catholic for a reason. I would love to say for the sake of argument its not an issue, but it is THE pivotal issue.

    • MorganGuyton

      There is no zeal like that of a convert. I’m not sure that antiestablishment for the sake of being antiestablishment completely hits the mark as a critique of Pussy Riot. There are times when I’ve felt that way about them. But I think there’s more going on with them than that. As far as my own calling, I truly believe it’s to ecumenism as repugnant as that word is to some. I need to be in a place where the way my mind works is an asset and not a liability. For better or worse, I wouldn’t be very useful to God in an ecclesial structure where I’m expected to absolutely toe the party line about everything. I’m always open to what God is saying to me. But at this point, I lead worship as a Methodist on Sundays and worship with the Roman church on Mondays. My ability to do the former is sustained by the latter. Just because it doesn’t make sense to other people doesn’t thus invalidate it. Who was it who said that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds? Right now, my journey of integration is a piecemeal operation. I am building my own rule of prayer. Maybe that sounds arrogant. I don’t mean for it to be. It’s simply what’s being put in front of me. I don’t know where the path will lead, but even if it does lead to joining one of the original churches, I’m in a labyrinth and I can’t just make a beeline for Jerusalem without the Spirit’s clarification.

      • JoFlemings

        Morgan, I’ve been a Catholic for almost 20 years now, longer than I was a committed Christian Protestant. If I have a shred of zeal, it is for Jesus Christ and the fullness of the faith- one Lord, one faith, one baptism- I am sure you know the apologetic. I don’t mean to ‘beat you up’ over it on your own blog, I don’t mean to beat you up over it at all- but in fairness to myself I have to call a spade a spade if it looks that way to me.
        And believe me, I don’ t mean it without charity- and when I say that I am pulling up the chain mail on my soul to reveal the many, many scars I have from wounds inflicted by other Catholics and Christians on my heart, mind, and psyche because of a host of the things I see you confront on this site.I really don’t want to see the world pressed into my mold- but I do know there is an objective Truth, and we can know the way in which we must walk for salvation- it is not arbitrary or spectral. I really believe the Nicene Creed, I have staked every single aspect of my being on it, so I am compelled to stand up for it, especially where there is a pertinent dialogue entertaining the Truth. And you so clearly are truly engaging in a whole person manner in this blog with Truth. This is a rare and priceless gem here, or rather, at least an honest search for one.
        I very well may be small minded, and even smaller hearted- but constancy, the great grandmother of consistency- is a virtue, much to be desired and much regarded by Our Lord. (You remember HIs anguished exclamation- When the Son of Man comes will He find faith on the earth?) Ecumenism…, what I will say about that is that Pope Francis definitely gets it. And he has those invaluable keys of the Kingdom, for real.
        Morgan, only you can know your own heart and fidelity to God’s work and will in your life, and I sincerely respect and regard it and you. But more than the average man on the street, I might have some greater understanding of where you are coming from, because your path is so familiar to my own from so many years ago. My husband was a seminarian and a worship pastor in an Evangelical church when we decided to hammer out which ‘denomination’ we would be because we were called to missions. We had to know what to teach people in the field about the non-negotiables, and the only way to figure that out, or so we thought, was by authoritative Biblical exegesis. That is a long story I won’t belabor here- but, if you are not a communicant in right relationship with the Holy Spirit through the Church, you are missing Someone.
        No matter how far your rule of prayer takes you, it cannot completely bridge the gap into sanctifying grace without the Sacraments themselves, specifically Reconciliation and Eucharist. It is not so because I accept it- and with misery I lower my head and strike my breast at how little I do with the abundance of graces provided through the treasure store of the Church!- but, I go where the Living Water is because it IS there, the same place from which it has flown freely since the birth of the Church through the rent heart of Jesus on the Cross at Calvary.

      • http://www.fcb4.tumblr.com Eric Blauer

        Not my comment thread but couldn’t help but see the similarities in this line of discussion and the conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well in John 4:19-21’23-24

        The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father…But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

        • MorganGuyton

          That’s one of my favorite passages.

  • Guest

    Just one view of the Russian Orthodox Church,Byt another?Don;t forget that tsarist Russaic Orthodox Church was a simple tool of Russian imperailsim-destruction other nations.And the contemporary ROC is shaped by Communists as theit tpl to Sovoetizatiob,where every bishop was a KGB-agent.This so-called church is seen not as a spiritual community,but as a just another ministry to crush freedom,democracy and human rights.More reality of the situation is needed,no so flying high in the sky neglecting the ugly sides of the Tsaraist-Soviet tool for spiritual minded folks-called ROC.

    • MorganGuyton

      Hmm… thanks for pointing to this side of things.

  • Thoughts_and_Musings

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this post. As a person with an on-going and somewhat troubled involvement with the Orthodox Church (much like your involvement with Orthodoxy and Catholicism, it sounds), I have to say that on this matter my heart is fully with Pussy Riot on this matter.
    The central question that your article raises (to my reading) is whether we can have a tradition which has a high degree of sanctity and spiritual depth without being bundled with authoritarianism and oppression. My answer is: absolutely, at least to the extent that we can have any institutions free of authoritarianism. It just happens that right now we don’t.
    The basic orientation in the ROC to endorse whatever reigning temporal authority in exchange for state sanction is just the on-going legacy of the poison that was poured into the Church following Constantine (as in Pope Sylvester’s apocryphal dream). It comes with the advantage of allowing the needed stability and peace to pursue hesychia and other deeply internal forms of spiritual work. But in the end the Church ends up selling itself short on its total mission and role in the world, which is to announce the Truth in all forms and places.
    Christ tells his disciples to expect persecution, and in the first years of the Church this was indeed the experience of the Church. Christians today still feel justified when they hear of other Christians being persecuted in obscure parts of the world, but this is usually just a matter of Christianity serving as a token in an ethnic strife. The real persecution to which the Church is obligated to open itself is the persecution that comes from speaking Truth to power. The Orthodox Church has largely abandoned this aspect of its calling.

    During the Great Compline, which we are praying every day this week, we pray that we be able to discern our own faults. And as individuals, the Orthodox faithful that I know are some of the most humble and generous people that I know, but it seems that the Church as a body prefers to use its many virtues to shield its eyes from its areas of complete failure and downfall. This is one thing I prefer about the Church of Rome: that the corruption there is so apparent and the stench so great that, although it is not reflected in official teaching, there is a general awareness that the Church itself must be humble are really depends on Christ for its holiness. (Plus the Catholics have the whole current running from St. Francis to Dorothy Day.)

    Thus, while I am not generally a fan of sacriledge, I think that Pussy Riot was doing the Church a favor, that Christ the Savior Cathedral is actually a more sacred place because of their stunt, and that it would be far more sacred yet if the Church could actually listen and learn.
    Thank you so much for your article. It feels good to hear from and speak to someone else who is caught in a similar bind: a hunger to join in the depth offered by these traditions and institutions, but a conscience which also cannot join itself to their limitations.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X