Category Archives: Religion and Politics

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…

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…

Orthodoxy, Capitalism, and “the West” Is Orthodox Christianity Stuck in the Past?

by Nathaniel Wood

In a recent essay for the Bloomberg View, Leonid Bershidsky attempts to explain why traditionally-Orthodox countries “remain stuck” in the anti-capitalist, anti-Western, and authoritarian mindset characteristic of the communist era. Drawing support from a new World Bank working paper, Bershidsky locates the source of this mindset in supposed theological differences between Eastern and Western Christianity. He argues that post-Soviet Eastern Europe’s slowness to adopt capitalism and its penchant for authoritarian leaders is not explained by its communist legacy but by its Orthodox Christian heritage. His conclusion is that traditionally-Orthodox cultures “aren’t really comfortable in a Western-dominated world,” a problem that can be “mitigated” but not “removed.”

Unfortunately, Bershidsky’s analysis remains stuck in an obsolete “clash of civilizations” narrative that obscures more than it enlightens. The insinuations of irrationality and irredeemable primitivism (as if reason dictated that those outside the West should be comfortable in “a Western-dominated world”) are the hallmarks of a (neo)-colonial outlook that thrives on civilizational divide. Continue Reading…

The President’s Men and the Emperor’s Clothes

by Rev. Dr. John Chryssavgis

The UN Climate Change Conference taking place this week in Bonn, Germany, is once again revealing how unrestrained exceptionalism is digging our country only deeper into global isolationism. As an American citizen, I am often confronted with the U.S. announcement to withdraw from the Paris Agreement at the COP21 meeting two years ago. America, the sole country deciding to abstain from the agreement, is alone in the world at this critical moment. But is President Trump alone in emboldening this disturbing dissociation?

Whether in public affairs or church politics, there is a tendency to criticize leaders and those with prominence and privilege. In Australia, we call it “tall poppy syndrome.” Over time, it can prove a moderate social leveler; but so often, because it results in nothing, it constitutes a meaningless personal catharsis and denigration. And while it may be a temptation to lay blame solely at the feet of leaders, it can frequently lead to a distraction of concern and deflection of accountability. In my modest experience with men of power, and particularly men in black, I have learned that it is sometimes futile to concentrate exclusively on those at the top and generally more fruitful to observe the loyalist admirers on the coattails and the uncritical adherents at the base. This may not always be a foolproof litmus test, but it is certainly a compelling indicator.

Let me flesh this out a little. Continue Reading…