Author Archives: Public Orthodoxy

Converting to Time A Lesson from Theoretical Physics

by Nicole Roccas

“I used to believe in the essential unreality of time,” wrote theoretical physicist Lee Smolin in the introduction to his somewhat controversial work Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe.

The book traces what I like to refer to as Smolin’s conversion to time. Like many in his field, Smolin spent much of his career in the realm of abstraction, analyzing phenomena through the lens of theories and formulas so far removed from the actual texture of lived reality that temporality—perhaps the most given element of our universe—had become illusory, nonexistent:

“Time is the most pervasive aspect of our everyday experience. Everything we think, feel, or do reminds us of its existence. We perceive the world as a flow of moments that make up our life. But physicists and philosophers alike have long told us . . . that time is the ultimate illusion.” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013, xii)

How has mainstream physics come to regard time as an illusion? Over the long centuries of the Newtonian paradigm (and more recently relativity and quantum mechanics), theoretical formulas—the lifeblood of physics—have become more real to physicists than the world they seek to describe, a world in which something as tiny as an untimely dust particle colliding with a spacecraft can render even the best theories tragically irrelevant. Continue reading

Why Are Orthodox Christians “Unethical”? The Virtue-Ethical Task of Orthodox Christians in the West

by Stephen Meawad

A quick glance at the modern field of ethics might convey a false reality—one in which Orthodox Christian are decades, if not centuries, behind the West in developing viable ethical frameworks. In fact, Orthodox Christians might often be hesitant or even reluctant to speak in terms of ethics, since the language of ethics challenges the integrity between orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Yet, it seems that a critical tool by which Orthodox Christians are to witness in the West to the transformative power of Orthodox Christian life is by conceptually transliterating Orthodox praxis into Western ethical language. Becoming a vessel of this transliteration is no small task; it requires not only a faithful embodiment of one’s own tradition but also an awareness of and willingness to engage one’s surrounding context. The payoff, however, is well worth the toil; it would allow Orthodox Christians to make fundamental contributions to contemporary Western ethical discussions not just for the sake of joining the conversation but in order to offer a distinct means by which to navigate the myriad of difficulties in this broken, ever-mending, world. Continue reading

Rami Malek and Contentions of Coptic Identity

by Candace Lukasik

On Sunday February 24, Rami Malek won the Best Actor Academy Award for his role as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. In his acceptance speech, Malek spoke of his Egyptian heritage and its representative power: “We made a film about a gay man, an immigrant, who lived his life just unapologetically himself. The fact that I’m celebrating him and this story with you tonight is proof that we’re longing for stories like this. I am the son of immigrants from Egypt. I’m a first generation American. My story is being written right now and I could not be more grateful to each and every one of you who believed in me, for this moment is something I will treasure for the rest of my life.” Social media was alight in comments of praise for Rami, with many news outlets noting that he was the first Arab-American to win an Oscar for Best Actor. The New York Times ran a headline, “An Oscar for the Arabs.” Despite excitement from members of the Arab-American community in the United States, Egyptians, and others throughout the Middle East, many Coptic Christians, particularly in the United States, took issue with labeling Rami “Arab” or “Arab-American.” Rami Malek’s family is Coptic Orthodox and, in interviews, he has described attending the Coptic Orthodox Church growing up.

Social media comments from Copts addressed their disagreement with misidentifying Rami as Arab. “Rami Malek is NOT an Arab or Arab-American. He’s a Copt, and Copts have zero Arab blood.” “1400 years ago Arabs stole Coptic land, 1400 years later Arabs steal Coptic accomplishments. When will the thievery ever end?” Continue reading

Religion and Politics in Brazil: Orthodox Influences

by Graham McGeoch

Fernando Haddad attends a celebration of Divine Liturgy with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow in São Paulo. Credit: Roman Catholic Archdiocese of São Paulo.

The recent elections in Brazil have once again placed religion and politics at the fore of public debates. Not surprisingly, the election of President Jair Bolsonaro has focused attention on the growing influence of Evangelicals in Brazilian politics. This factor is now frequently touted alongside the affirmation that Brazil is the largest Roman Catholic country in the world. While Bolsonaro is himself a Roman Catholic, his election campaign played to an alliance of Evangelicals and traditional Roman Catholics. In the final run-off, the Evangelical vote showed a 2 to 1 split in favor of Bolsonaro, while the Roman Catholic vote was equally distributed between both candidates. Bolsanaro’s opponent was the Orthodox Christian Fernando Haddad. Added to this, Bolsonaro’s immediate predecessors in the Presidential Office were both influenced by Orthodoxy. Orthodox Christianity is in the political mix in Brazil, although it is frequently misunderstood (in the case of Fernando Haddad) or overlooked (in the case of Presidents’ Michel Temer and Dilma Rousseff).

Following a campaign television appearance in which he cited the Bible, Fernando Haddad was savaged on social media and from Evangelical pulpits. Continue reading