Orthodoxy without Orthopraxy! 

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INSIGHTS DR ADRAHTAS 3

Based on what one comes across in social media and news platforms, the Orthodox Church has undoubtedly lots of good developments to present nowadays, but unfortunately there are aspects of her life that, if anything, are rather disturbing and alarming – to many amongst the faithful or even to most of them. One reads about the keenness of Orthodox religious leaders to create a common Christian front and at the same time, paradoxically, one witnesses their compliance in undermining the integrity of Orthodox unity. Furthermore, one cannot help but wonder as to how much the Orthodox ethos has abandoned its traditional family values by succumbing to the fad of sexual reimagining. And, also, one is amazed with the degree of silence which at times the Orthodox intelligentsia exhibits in relation to the sweeping biopolitics of technoscience imposed by those in power… To put it otherwise, what seems to be at stake in all these cases is the relationship of global Orthodoxy with history, truth, authenticity and freedom, respectively.              

 

The Oblivion of History 

Orthodoxy is not an entity that fell from the heavens; it is not a phenomenon of arbitrary imagination or abstract thought. On the contrary, it is a historical essence, not just in the sense that it has been realised and keeps on being realised in historical circumstances, but also – and perhaps even more so – in the sense that it constitutes a certain historicity, a history-scape. Thus, Orthodoxy is history! It keeps on re-creating itself, but not by ignoring or overlooking its past… In this regard, those who have taken upon themselves the task of engineering, so to say, the Orthodoxy of the future cannot and should not come up with a theological mechanics that creates things in their aspired image and likeness. Yes, the past should not be a restraint, but it definitely is a condition one cannot defy! Even if the world in our time and age is heading – or likes to think that it is heading – towards a more or less unified historicity, this doesn’t mean that alternative histories are disappearing or must disappear. To be sure, it doesn’t mean that Orthodoxy can become one with all other versions of Christianity – however big or small – just by focusing on the objective of a future globalised integration. To put it as simply as possible, your and my future is one thing, and the future of God’s Kingdom is quite another…     

 

The Violation of Truth 

But Orthodoxy does not only have its own history; it also has its own truth. As it cannot defy the past that has given shape to it, in the same manner it cannot betray the integrity that makes it distinctive. Unfortunately, there is a substantial number of religious leaders and thinkers in Orthodox circles that have chosen ‘the right side of history’, that is, have decided – sometimes even wholeheartedly – to go along with the geopolitical games of the great powers of this world, even at the expense of their relationship with their brothers in Christ. Instead of being the example and symbol of Christian unity par excellence, global Orthodoxy gives the impression of utter disunity, disjointed endeavours, and disengaged interactions. Not only inter-Orthodox relations don’t seem to be cherished and nurtured as a priority, but all the worse they are relegated to the bottom of an agenda that is determined by the truth of political correctness. The truth that is supposed to be reflected in the confession of our common faith and the celebration of the common cup is treated just as a legacy, a heritage, a cultural good, a tradition-to-be-proud-of – all of them products and symptoms of severe ecclesiastical secularisation – that, ultimately, manifest not the Truth but one’s identity – and identification. As if endemic nationalisms were not enough, Orthodoxy nowadays broods the chaotic arbitrariness of relativism.                      

 

The Betrayal of Authenticity  

It’s a common secret that family values are being radically reshuffled in light of a new anthropological paradigm; a paradigm that is driven and informed by the ‘Self Religion’ – to recall a term coined by Paul Heelas – of post/modernity. This new religion is all about the prosperity or pleasure principle of the individual: the ‘Gospel’ of one’s own power over their self/body and its needs or desires. Due to the individual’s devastating deprivation of socio-political power, the system ‘compensates’ – cunningly and deviously – with an overdose of individual affirmation: one can be whatever they choose to identify as and thus the new politics of sexuality/gender are being born! Sadly, Orthodoxy seems to be subscribing to the systematic undermining of its biblical family values and to the reimagining of sexuality, if anything because the leaders of the Orthodox Church either do not participate in the dialogue or negotiation that this reimagining entails and presupposes, or they simple do not even voice what would be regarded as their expected disagreement with such an unprecedented bio-social experimentation. In either case, this sort of passivity amounts to nothing less than a major problem of authenticity at the heart of Orthodoxy: if family and sexuality, that is, the fundamentals of social being are so easily and consistently deconstructed, then what sort of social and by extension personal authenticity can the silence of the Orthodox Church promote?             

 

The Yearning for Freedom 

Furthermore, Orthodoxy seems to be silent with regards to yet another challenge of our time and age, namely, the sweeping biopolitics of technoscience imposed by the choices of Neoliberalism. More specifically, the recent Covid pandemic exposed, so to speak, Orthodox religious leaders as to their priorities, and left many a faithful wondering: is the Church still for the freedom of the human person or does she acknowledge the unlimited power of technoscientific control when conditions are deemed… exceptional, and the broader state of affairs… an emergency? Even more, the Orthodox intelligentsia did nothing less than to provide the State apparatus with the ideological crutches needed to substantiate and legitimise its power over the bodies and souls of millions of people. In this connection the question was never the potential danger to people’s health, but the fact that this very real danger became the sufficient condition to say ‘yes’ to health by all means… as if it was the absolute and ultimate criterion… The same situation is more or less the constant in all cases of modern technological achievements: since something has become possible, we ought to treat it as necessary… But that is precisely the whole point with freedom: it has turned out to be a necessity and what should have been the top concern of Orthodoxy, namely, the never-failing freedom of the Kingdom of God, has been substituted by the failure of human choices…  

Global Orthodoxy must become, once again, a global Orthopraxy; it must remain the steadfast eschatological witness of the History that paves the way to the Kingdom of God through the gate of the Truth that requires from each and every one of us the authenticity that makes us free! Otherwise, we are just like the salt that has lost its saltiness (cf. Matt. 5:13) …                    


ABOUT | INSIGHTS INTO GLOBAL ORTHODOXY with Dr Vassilis Adrahtas

"Insights into Global Orthodoxy" is a fortnightly column that features opinion articles that on the one hand capture the pulse of global Orthodoxy from the perspective of local sensitivities, needs and/or limitations, and on the other hand delve into the local pragmatics and significance of Orthodoxy in light of global trends and prerogatives.

Dr Vassilis Adrahtas holds a PhD in Studies in Religion (USyd) and a PhD in the Sociology of Religion (Panteion, Athens). He has taught at several universities in Australia and overseas. Since 2015 he has been teaching ancient Greek Religion and Myth at the University of New South Wales and Islamic Studies at Western Sydney University. He has published ten books. He has extensive experience in the print media as editor-in-chief, and columnist, and for a while he worked as a radio producer. He lives in Sydney, Australia, his birthplace.

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Dr Vassilis Adrahtas

Dr Vassilis Adrahtas holds a PhD in Studies in Religion (USyd) and a PhD in the Sociology of Religion (Panteion. He has taught at several universities in Australia and overseas. Since 2015 he has been teaching ancient Greek Religion and Myth at the University of New South Wales and Islamic Studies at Western Sydney University. He has published ten books. He has extensive experience in the print media as editor-in-chief, and columnist, and for a while he worked as a radio producer. He lives in Sydney, Australia, his birthplace.

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