Tag Archives: Modernity

Orthodox Christianity in Eastern Europe and the Challenge of Self-Colonization  

by Ina Merdjanova

Besieged fortress
Image: iStock.com/NSA Digital Archive

Discussions on contemporary Orthodox Christianity have often focused on the multiple ways in which historical legacies and political contexts have shaped the trajectories of Orthodoxy’s institutional development, social presence, and theological responses to important issues such as modernity, secularization, globalization, and religious pluralism, among others. Importantly, Orthodoxy’s responses to adverse historical circumstances, particularly in Eastern Europe, have typically been dominated by a “besieged-fortress” mentality—a mentality which has entailed a self-imposed institutional and theological stagnation that, in my view, can be described as self-colonization.

The notion of self-colonization proposed here is different from the “self-colonizing metaphor” of Alexander Kiossev as well as from the narrative of “internal colonization” of Alexander Etkind. Kiossev showed that the countries in Eastern Europe and other places outside of an actual military, economic, financial and administrative rule by a colonial power, nevertheless, succumbed to the rule of colonial Eurocentric imagination.[1] Etkind interpreted Russia’s imperial experience as simultaneously external (the colonization of other people) and internal (the colonization of its own people).[2] In my usage, self-colonization denotes Orthodoxy’s self-induced encapsulation and stagnation as a result of the traumatic experiences of significant restrictions under Ottoman rule and of oppression and persecution under totalitarian communism. This psychological mindset has hampered enormously Orthodoxy’s coming to terms with contemporary pluralism and the principles of human rights and gender equality, among others.

 What are the major traits in the organizational behavior of the Orthodox churches today that manifest its persevering self-colonization and impede constructive responses to the challenges they face?

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The Word of God and World Religions

By Brandon Gallaher

(This essay was originally delivered as a public talk at the June 2015 Fordham/OTSA conference on the upcoming Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church. It was part of a panel on “The Contribution of the Orthodox Church to the Realization of Justice, Freedom, Brotherhood, and Love among Peoples.”)

There is no one topic that is more important than any other for the Council to consider. What is crucial is that it speaks clearly and sympathetically to this moment from the light of Christ that illumines all. Too often we Orthodox speak to the modern world from a sort of nostalgic Byzantinism or an angry certainty when what is needed are the healing and wise words of the Gospel for those whose consciousness is “modern” or “post-modern.” By these terms I mean that the default understanding of reality for contemporary man, including the average Orthodox, involves a disparate and competing plurality of truths as well as a conception of the human being as essentially plastic with no divine end. In our teaching and worship, our ecclesial self-consciousness is “pre-modern.” Part of this self-consciousness is the awareness of a world radiating with the Word and words of God. It is also includes the belief that by contemplating Scripture and the words in their communion with the Word that we can attain to ‘the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ’ (Eph. 4:13). But we rarely attempt to translate this consciousness into the language of the age in which we live or ask whether we might obtain new insights about Orthodoxy from modernity (e.g. gay marriage, evolution). Continue Reading…