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Current Dynamics within Orthodox Christianity: Between Tradition, Innovation and Realpolitik (1/3)

A109
Panel Chair: Sebastian Rimestad | Thursday, August 27, 1:30-3 p.m. | Venue

During the last 100 years, the areas where Orthodox Christianity predominates have experienced numerous socio-political and other upheavals, including communist rule. Moreover, processes of globalisation, local nationalisms, political cleavages and regionalisms have heightened the challenge of religious pluralism in these regions, as well as increased the number of Orthodox faithful residing in “the West”, outside the traditionally Orthodox heartlands in Eastern and Southeastern Europe. All these developments continue into the 21st century and have already prompted various responses within the Orthodox world. Underlying most of them is the question of authority within the church: To what extent are pressures from secular models, societal modernisation processes, global developments and strategic political considerations considered legitimate from the point of view of Orthodox Christian theology? How do the various Orthodox Churches react to these pressures and accommodate them? Are there any discernible differences in this respect between the historical Orthodox mother-churches and the Orthodox transnational communities across the globe? The nine papers of this panel, divided in three sessions, attempt to offer glimpses of the evolving dynamics within the contemporary Orthodox world and its oscillation between traditional commitments and the challenges of change and innovation.

Daniel Jianu

Orthodox Greece and Digital Media: Theology, Science and Social Media as Reflected through the Particularities of the “Blasphemy Law”

In 2012, a 27-year-old Greek blogger was arrested for what the authorities called “malicious blasphemy”, namely for managing a Facebook-page that lampooned the very popular Eastern Orthodox monk Elder Paisios of Mount Athos (1924-1994). Although the Greek Church has shown that it is very positive to the digital age by enabling the request of various church documents, like baptism certificates, to be made online and by increased use of social media to attract the Greek youth, it has also strongly supported and encouraged these charges of blasphemy. This begs the question of what the social, theological, cultural, and political implications of the use of social media in modern Greek society are; and specifically for the Greek Orthodox Church, what the limits of acceptable behaviour and use of social media are. The paper will analyse this case against the backdrop of historical and theological considerations regarding the relationship between science/technology and Eastern Orthodoxy.

Łukasz Fajfer

To be Online or to stay Offline - that is the Question! Mediatised Spaces within the Orthodox Church in Poland

Mediatisation has been gaining an increasing scholarly interest in the past few years. This term is usually understood as a multi-layered process enhancing the influence of media communication on people’s lives. Mediatisation concerns many spheres of everyday life, such as consumption, entertainment, politics, social institutions and many others, and it affects churches and religious organisations as well. Some of them take advantage of modern media, others still struggle with the issue of using them. This paper investigates the mediatised spaces within the Orthodox Church in Poland. Primary attention is given to the Internet use of the Orthodox Church. In doing so, the following questions are posed: Which media/programs/tools are specifically used? For what purpose are they utilised and since when? And what are the consequences and implications thereof? The related discussions within the church will be taken into consideration and will be analysed in view of the dynamics of the Orthodox Church’s further development and its adaptation to socio-cultural changes.

Ionuţ Daniel Băncilă

The Holy Mountain Athos in the Orthodox Reception of René Guénons “Traditionalism”: Philip Sherrard, Kyriacos Markides, Jean Biès, André Scrima

This paper aims at a comparative analysis of some recent accounts of pilgrimages/voyages to the Holy Mountain Athos authored by some proponents of a “perennialistic worldview”, namely Philip Sherrard, Kyriacos Markides, Jean Biès und André Scrima. This paper argues that their writings refine some major themes of the influential French scholar of religious studies René Guénon (1886-1951), the founder of the current of thought generally known as “Traditionalism”. Guénon did not address Orthodox mystical thought in his writings, preferring to compare Roman Catholicism and Oriental Religions (especially Hinduism) in this respect. In the changing context of the globalised world, the cited authors see in Orthodox thought a way to expand the framework provided by Guénon and bring it to fruition by looking more closely to various forms of Athonite spirituality and mystical experience. This paper, thus, focuses on the ways through which a specific theory of religion is applied to the study of Orthodox Christianity, as well as on related methodological issues.

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