Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Harsh Indictment

"Few noticed the significance of what the Professor was saying in speaking of the end of Orthodox civilization. He signified the disappearance of the only Christian civilization on earth, for, from an Orthodox viewpoint, Western humanist civilization is a sub-variety and deformation of Christianity. With its invention of murderous ideologies, industrial warfare with its killing machines, concentration camps and the Atom Bomb, Western civilization is not Christian. As the American General Omar Bradley said some sixty years ago: ‘We have grasped the mystery of the atom, but rejected the sermon on the mount’. However, the situations of both Western civilization and Orthodox civilization are somewhat different today from those described by Samuel Huntingdon fourteen years ago.

On the one hand, even those who were still then deluded can now see that Western civilization does indeed only retain Christianity as a vestige from the past. That civilization is not only Non-Christian, but through the dechristianizing ideology of humanist political correctness, it is more and more openly anti-Christian. Its residual Christian sentiment has little influence on the rest of the world. Indeed, African nations are now sending missionaries to try and wake up Darkest Europe from its profound spiritual sleep and faithless indifference."

-From an essay by Fr. Andrew Phillips.

Note: I do not agree with everything Fr. Andrew writes in his essay. His writings have over time become almost radically slavophile. That said he makes some rather compelling if strongly worded points.


Fr. J. said...

These sweeping generalizations are at best a cheap pseudo-intellectualism. If Western Christianity is held guilty of Hitler's crimes, then Eastern Christianity is equally guilty of Stalin's crimes which were far greater. The fact is that Christianity or any other religion is at best a cultural influence within a civilization competing with other perpetual drives of human nature such as the will to power, resort to violence, greed, etc.

If we are to make comparisons between Eastern and Western Christianity we have to look directly at their specific religious institutions respectively.

Fr. J. said...

I would also suggest that the Orthodox are not immune from the influences of secular humanist society. Religious adherence in Greece is not statistically distinct from that of Western European countries.

Considering that the dominant religious influence of the most practicing Christian societies are Catholic, it is not accurate to exclusively favor Orthodoxy for it fervor. The religious zeal of the Filipinos is surely greater than that of any Orthodox nation, for instance.

Ad Orientem said...

Fr. J
I think that the phenomenon of both Stalin and the contemporary secularized state of Greek society can be fairly described as byproducts of Western Europe and its downward spiral since since the French Revolution. Having said that I will reiterate that I do disagree with some of Fr. Andrew's observations which are obviously polemical and based on a near fanatical slavophile attitude.

But to argue that Communism is a product of an Orthodox society is to put it mildly, straining the limits of credulity.

Yours in ICXC

Ad Orientem said...

Fr J
One additional quick point... I want to note that Western Europe is not Catholic now and has not been for a very long time. This is to some degree evidenced by your own example of the Philippine's, which are culturally Catholic. Note the sharp contrast from Italy.

In many respects it is the countries of Eastern Europe who suffered the most cruelty from the Communist persecutions that are seeing the most significant revival in Orthodox faith and culture. There was an article published early last year in which it was observed that mothers in Romania were keeping a close eye on their sons because of the breathtaking revival in monasticism in a country where the Church was severely persecuted for decades. The mothers were becoming alarmed that too many of their sons were running off to join monasteries. The article also noted that almost 60 monastic communities were opened or reopened (an average of more than one a week)in the year 2006.

In sharp contrast stands your example of Greece where the only major issue involving the faith since independence from the Turks has been the calendar controversy. Regular church attendance is not much higher than Italy's, the divorce rate is on par with most western European countries and the abortion rate is the highest of any Orthodox country and is actually on the high end of average even by the horrific standards of the European Union!

Russia it must also be said suffers from a frighteningly high abortion rate but there is serious discussion underway about passing legislation to curb that.


Fr. J. said...

If Soviet Communism is not an intellectual product of Orthodoxy, it can hardly be called a product of Catholicism. And while the Orthodox suffered very greatly under Soviet domination, it was overwhelmingly Orthodox nations which were most susceptible to the Soviets. In fact, only one nation overwhelmingly Catholic was under the Soviet system, Poland, the same nation which was most responsible for its overthrow.

As for the resurgence of Romanian piety, a parallel resurgence is taking place in Catholic Ukraine. As for Latins, piety never waned in Poland under the Soviets, but rather grew--and not because of compromise with the Soviets, but because of opposition to them.

AS for blaming the decline of Orthodoxy in Greece on the West, I would say you cant have it both ways. If Greece is not a Eastern and Orthodox nation, then what is?

I think there are other factors which better explain the various trends we are witnessing rather than simply attributing them to either Catholicism or Orthodoxy which will inevitably prove to be an exercise in polemicism (especially when one intimates that all that is good is Orthodox and all that is bad is Western or Catholic).

For instance, relative wealth and poverty, the role of a church in expressing the aspirations of a people--see Jose Casanova on this one. He posits that where religion embodies the aspiration of the state, it will eventually decline very sharply. Where it embodies the aspiration of it members, it thrives.

I would say more, but I need some good sleep tonight.

God Bless,
Fr. J.