Anyone familiar with the history of Orthodox Christianity knows that one of its besetting temptations is to embrace nationalism. The nineteenth century saw the condemnation (1872) of phyletism: making nationality (in particular, ethnic identity) a condition of church membership. Although nowadays we talk a good game about the embrace of people of all nationalities in the Body of Christ, in general we do a poor job of making that claim a reality at the parish level. This is one reason why in the past I have criticized the distinction Afanasiev makes between a so-called “Ignatian” catholicity-in-depth and a Cyprianic “catholicity-in-breadth.” Orthodox theologians since Afanasiev have tended to claim that the “Ignatian” vision of catholicity is somehow  more Orthodox. In my view, what this conversation about catholicity reflects more than anything else is the history of Orthodox-Catholic relations. “Ignatian” catholicity all too easily can become a convenient excuse for a narrow localism, bringing phyletism in through the back door.

I think about this theological debate when I read about the rise of Golden Dawn in Greece. Yes, there have been courageous bishops and other clergy in Greece who have spoken out against the resurgent fascism of Golden Dawn. Why have there not been more Orthodox voices outside Greece condemning Golden Dawn and what it represents as un-Christian, and contrary to the Gospel? A quick search yesterday revealed an October 2012 communique of the Holy Eparchial Synod of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. But where are the voices from Finland, from Russia, from France, from the UK, from the rest of Orthodoxy in the United States? Readers, if you know of any such statements from here in Finland or anywhere else in the world, please tell me!

The age we live in cries out for Orthodox to proclaim with the loudest voice possible that the stranger is not an enemy to be purged but a beloved sister or brother, the object of our love and hospitality in a world marked by forced migration, violence, alienation, suffering, and death. For my part, I would rather that we Orthodox set aside our beloved “catholicity in depth” and open our arms wide to the stranger who enters the doors of our churches, to the foreigner, to the asylum seeker, to the person who looks or acts or speaks somehow different from us. We must not forget that our own salvation as well is at stake: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” the Lord will say to those on his right side at the great day of judgment (Matthew 25:35).

Golden Dawn and groups like it are the antithesis to the Gospel. The Gospel is life. Golden Dawn and what it represents is death.

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