Category Archives: Church and Public Life

Beyond Secular Critique? The Trial Speech of Yegor Zhukov

by Dmitry Uzlaner

Yegor Zhukov

The wave of political protests sparked by irregularities during the 2018 mayoral election in Moscow led to a number of arrests of activists and protesters. One of them, a student, Yegor Zhukov, was tried and convicted at the beginning of December 2019 and sentenced to three years of probation. This case, among other things, attracted the attention of the public with a powerful speech delivered by the defendant on December 4—the day before the verdict was announced.

I will not reproduce this speech here, it has already been translated into English and is easily accessible. Instead, I’ll pay attention to the theological and religious background of what was said. Yegor Zhukov, explaining the motives of his political activity, began to talk about traditional values, of which Russia claims to be “the last defender.” In addition to the “patriotism” and “the institution of the family” that are constantly mentioned, he named Christian faith and the Christian ethics that follows from this faith as the main traditional value. In Yegor Zhukov’s theology, Christian ethics implies two main values: responsibility (“Christianity is based on the story of a man who has decided to put the suffering of the whole world on his shoulders, the story of a man who has taken responsibility in the greatest possible sense of the word”) and love (“‘Love your neighbor as yourself’. This is the main phrase of the Christian religion”). According to Yegor Zhukov, these two Christian values motivate him in his social and political activities. He then asked the question: “How does the current Russian state, which proudly defends Christian values and hence the values, that were mentioned above, actually protects them?” His conclusion is disappointing: the policy of the Russian state is a policy of “atomization” and “de-humanization.” As Yegor Zhukov said: “We have become a nation that has forgotten how to take responsibility. We have become a nation that has forgotten how to love.”

What is remarkable about this speech from a religious, theological point of view? Continue reading

Transformative Love of Neighbor A Closer Look at Orthodox Ministries Working to Address the Crisis of Homelessness

by Kyra Limberakis

Homeless Man

Who am I? Who is God? Who is my Neighbor? These three questions frame the theological exploration of vocation that takes place at the CrossRoad Summer Institute—a 10-day academic summer program for Orthodox Christian juniors and seniors in high school.

At CrossRoad, we explore the question of “who is my neighbor” and our Christian call to “love thy neighbor” through both rich theological education and the physical experience of walking the streets to encounter the “least of their brethren” (Matt 25). With St. John Chrysostom’s words, “if you can’t find Christ in the beggar you won’t be able to find him in the chalice” ringing in their ears, our students venture into the streets of Cambridge and Chicago in groups of three, accompanied by a staff member, to share in a conversation, and perhaps a meal, with someone experiencing homelessness.

The primary goals of this activity are to foster an attitude of openness to seeing Christ in the neighbor we often overlook and to challenge young people’s assumptions and stigmas about those on the margins. We remind students that people want to be treated like people rather than objects to be helped or fixed. We encourage them to view service as a way of being in the world that expresses an openness to our neighbor, rather than just a project, charity case, or set of hours to put on a resume. Continue reading

The Greek Orthodox Church Meets Secularization A Theological Comment on a Recent Agreement

by Nikolaos Asproulis

Since the establishment of the Modern Greek state (1830), the Greek Orthodox Church has functioned more or less as one of the (perhaps the most important) institutions of the state and continues to enjoy certain symbolic and other privileges (“prevailing religion”) granted by the Constitution. The progressively-closer dependence of the Church on the state, especially after the Second World War, led the latter to take over the clergy payroll in 1945, in recognition of the Church’s contribution to the nation, even while previously having expropriated most of the so-called ecclesiastical property. The recent agreement between the Greek Prime Minister, Mr. Tsipras, and the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, Mr. Ieronymos—according to which the clerics are no longer recognized as civil servants, while a Church Asset Development Fund run by both sides will manage assets to resolve property-related issues—thus constitutes a landmark moment in this long relationship between Church and State in Greece, opening up a more general debate on the role and position of the Orthodox Church in Greek society and the public sphere. To get a satisfactory glimpse of the on-going discussion, it is necessary to get acquainted with the context lying in the background: the special relationship of the Orthodox Church with the national identity of the Greek state and the secularization process gradually spreading in traditional orthodox countries like Greece. Continue reading

“For You Were Aliens in the Land of Egypt”: Why Orthodox Christians Cannot Remain Silent on United States Immigration Policies

by Aram G. Sarkisian

In recent weeks, distressing images of detained children, renewed calls for drastic immigration restrictions, and the United States Supreme Court’s decision upholding a travel ban against Muslim-majority countries have intensified national discourse on immigration policy. These developments should strongly resonate with Orthodox Christians. Though the church’s demographics have certainly changed over the past century, Orthodoxy flourished in the United States during the early 1900s as a church built by, and for, immigrants. Orthodox Christians must draw on their histories to speak credibly to the anxieties of migration, the human toll of detention and deportation, and the negative implications of immigration restrictions, entry quotas, and normalized xenophobia.

One argument employed to support stringent immigration policies comes from those who insist that since their immigrant ancestors “came legally” and prospered, others should be held to the same standard. The truth proves a little more complicated. Continue Reding…