Vladimir Putin, Defender of the Faith?
Published on: June 13, 2012
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  • Wayne Lusvardi

    If New York Times religion columnist’s new book “Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics” is any indication of a trend there seems to be a resurgence of Christian “orthodoxy” in the U.S. as well.

    Douthat’s book is not a too bad a book about “bad” religion, but it fails in understanding “heresy” in its modern day context.

    Douthat lumps liberal Protestant Christian theologian Friedrich Schliermacher (“On Religion” Speeches to its Cultured Despisers”) and Evangelical Christian Dietrich Bonhoeffer martyred by Hitler in the “accommodationist” category! Is it any surprise that Catholic Douthat sees a need for a nostalgic return to a restored monistic Christianity? Is the Pope Catholic? Maybe this does prove the Soviet joke recited above: Orthodoxy’s function is to falsify collective memories of the past?

    Reading Douthat’s book made me drag out my copy of Dr. Berger’s 1979 book “The Heretical Imperative: Contemporary Possibilities of Religious Affirmation.” In that book Berger pointed out that empirically modernization “universalizes” religious heresies. And modernity – defined by Berger as a movement from fate to choice – makes “heresy” an imperative of modern consciousness. Modernized people feel entitled to a choice of religion, lifestyles, identities, and partners — and there are a near endless set of civil rights laws and government programs to provide it to them. Heresy has become an imperative government program.

    If history is an “endless sequence of ironies” it is perhaps an irony that the U.S. is ending up using its military to defend “orthodoxies” abroad and its legal system to defend “heresies” at home.

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  • tom

    The Melkites are in communion with Rome, not Constantinople.

  • GK

    Christian persecution in India ? Really sir, you club that with the Middle East and other Islamic states ? Coming from India myself, I find this comment deplorable. Not only is Christianity India’s 3rd largest religion with the current defense minister being a Syrian Catholic.

    Extremism exist in India, no denial there. But it is with all communities, incl Christianity. (Google Nagaland for christ, nagaland liberation front etc)

    While I understand this is not the crux of your well written article, propagating stereotypes does your otherwise wonderful article no favors.

  • Thanks Peter, another much appreciated piece even if there are a few things I might if I was face to face want to discuss for clarification with you. Don’t forget of course Sudanese Christians and Muslims particularly currently in the Nuba mountains, being systematically stripped of their dignity and attacked by the Khartoum government.

  • Harold Stassen

    “Patriarch of Moscow and All the Russias”-quite the title.

  • Rafael

    Palestinian Christians are moving out mainly because of the economic strain of the occupation — the isolation, the land confiscation, etc. As a traditionally elite people, they think they deserve more and move out. Polls — for exasmple, that of the Diyar Consortium, a Palestinian Lutheran group — have shown that religious persecution accounts for a very small percentage of Christian emigration from Palestine; and even then, it isn’t clear who’s persecuting this fringe minority — it could be Israel, as Palestinian Christians in Israel say they’re despised by Jews no more and no less than their Muslim countrymen.

    In India, the bulk of the anti-Christian persecution is carried out by right-wing Hindus, such as the extremists of the BJP party. In Orissa – where anti-Christian violence is particularly common – the pogroms of 2007, 2008 and 2010 were all led by Hindus, and the picture in rest of the country is the same.

    I’m not aware of anti-Christian violence in Iran, and in fact the country has a very tolerant attitude towards old Christian groups, such as the Armenian Orthodox, and their cultural heritage. The state often funds church renovation works of such groups. The most obvious limitation to Christian activity in Iran is that it doesn’t allow Christians to preach to Muslims. But missionary work is also limited in China and (specially so) in India, where Hindus have beaten and sometimes killed missionaries (e.g., Graham Staines).

    Anti-Christian violence in Iraq is carried out mainly by an outlawed, widely feared group — Al-Qaeda — that also attacks adherents of the sect to which the majority of Iraqis belong, Shia Islam.

    The author is showing his briefs with his overstatements.

  • Jaaon

    Extremely interesting article. I’m very impressed with the author’s grasp of many complex aspects of history in the region combined with a lot of subtle religious factors that really make for a complicated situation.

    I also noticed, however, the slight mistake about the Melkites – they are Arab ‘Greek Catholics’ (or ‘Eastern Catholics’) with their own particular eastern liturgy but are in communion with Rome.

  • marko

    You say “Two of its recent wars, the ones in Serbia and Kosovo…”. I guess you wanted to say “Bosnia and Kosovo”.

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