American Evangelicals, Theological Fantasy, and the Jerusalem Embassy

by David P. Gushee

The uncritical US evangelical embrace of the Trump US embassy move, as well as of the hard-line Netanyahu government in Israel, has important but odd theological roots.

America’s most visibly pro-Israel evangelicals, fundamentalists, and dispensationalists act as they do, in large part, because for them what the modern State of Israel does matters far less than the fact that a modern State of Israel is. Their interest in Israel is theological, even mythological, rather than ethical or this-worldly political.  Their unwavering defense of Trump’s Jerusalem policy and his partnership with Netanyahu is rooted not just in their loyalty to Trump but also in their highly questionable eschatological scenarios, in which a return of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland is viewed as a fulfillment of biblical prophecy and a decisive event in the end-times before Jesus returns. Continue Reading…

Headscarves, Modern Orthodoxy, and Telling Women What to Do

by Nadieszda Kizenko

Dr. Katherine Kelaidis recently published a piece in this forum on ‘Headscarves, Modesty, and Modern Orthodoxy.’ The article, a loving homage to Kelaidis’s grandmother, aunts, and mother, describes the pressures faced by Greek immigrant women of the American Mountain West two generations ago, by contemporary Muslim women, and by Orthodox women under Ottoman rule. Acknowledging head covering as a historical code for women’s modesty and chastity—shared, one might point out, by Orthodox Jews, African American ‘church ladies,’ Roman Catholics before Vatican II, and Episcopalians before the social changes of the 1960s—the author then makes two unexpected turns. She perceptively notes that, to her supremely modest aunts, mothers, and ancestors, modesty meant “not calling attention to yourself…when everyone was wearing a headscarf, you wore it. But when you when you found yourself in a time and place where women had taken it off, you took it off as well.” “Any other choice,” Kelaidis continues, “was a display of self-aggrandizement.”

This last comment—that any other choice was a display of self-aggrandizement—leads Kelaidis to a complicated place. It is one thing to suggest that discretion is the better part of valor, and that the truly modest thing to do is to bow in true humility to the reigning external cultural standards of one’s day. One is most modest by not standing out from others. Real modesty—and by extension real Orthodoxy and real propriety—lie precisely in not making a show of one’s modesty or one’s Orthodoxy or one’s propriety. Continue Reading…

Headscarves, Modesty, and Modern Orthodoxy

by Katherine Kelaidis

Yiayia Kay kept her scarves in the far upper right hand corner of the long light oak dresser. By the time I was old enough to remember, she never took them out except to garden. She would drape one of the silk covers over her perfectly coiffed hair to protect it against the dry winds of the Colorado high plains. As a little girl and even into her teens and early married life, these had been more than mere gardening accoutrements. They were the outward visible witness of her inner self, signaling to the world, not just that she was a Christian, but that she was a lady, modest and chaste. Then one day, around the time television became king, like so many Greek American women of her generation, she folded up the scarves and put them in the dresser.

The fact is that for most of my childhood in the urban, assimilated Greek Orthodox parish where I grew up, the head covering was completely absent. Continue Reading…

Too Little, Too Late for Religious Freedom in Greece?

by Effie Fokas

European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France

The Western Thrace region of Greece exists as an anomaly in Europe for the prevalence of sharia courts over secular courts on matters related to family law. This anomaly is left over from a population exchange between Greece and Turkey and the terms set out in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. The governance of sharia in the region (specifically, for interference in the selection of Muftis) has been the subject of several cases against the state of Greece in the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), cases in which the Greek state was found to be violating the claimants’ freedom of religion.

Unsurprisingly, the Greek state is keen to avoid further shaming over an issue that already draws significant negative attention from its European partners. In November of 2017, the Greek government announced a bill to limit the powers of Islamic sharia courts operating in Western Thrace. Continue Reading…