The Critical Discourse of the Church – 1

29 August 2015
Anastasios Tiranas

Archbishop Anastasios of Albania

At this point we need to proceed to the wider milieu of the Church in the modern world, to the need to construct a critical discourse. I will first refer briefly to the general phenomenon of the economic crisis on the planet. This economic crisis, through which we’re living in many countries of the world but especially in Southern Europe, has brought millions of people to a state of depression and, often enough, to despair. It’s increasingly being recognized that this economic crisis is the result of a wider social crisis, a crisis of values. It’s the result of a theoretical view concerning people and nature, which, in the time of affluence, proceeded in a direction which was the exact opposite of Christian values. It expelled faith in God, in the God of truth, of justice and of love, from people’s awareness, and from that of society. As Dostoevsky noted, people today have come to the conclusion that when God doesn’t exist everything’s permissible. Respect for the human person has been replaced by the oppression of impersonal institutions and forces. The erstwhile boost to human freedom has given way to an emphasis on the complete freedom of the market. So having once been a society of free persons, we’ve now arrived at the point where whole peoples are potential slaves to impersonal groups, faceless currency traders, who, to all intents and purposes, regulate the economies of entire countries. This is what’s known as ‘the markets’. They denominate money as an abstract accounting value and trade it. In the labyrinthine intricacies of globalization, new structures have been created for the financial system which entails a virtual economy, which no state or political institution can control.

On the other hand, the decisions of these unknown elements, who act with their faces concealed by masks, can blow states and nations apart and condemn millions of people to unemployment and the whole of society to penury. So the whole of the global economy is now experiencing a tremendous structural crisis in the financial system, and this is the most convincing proof of the crisis of values within society. Injustice on the global level is most particularly apparent when you consider that the 20% of the population of the earth who live in the richest countries, among whom we include ourselves, consume 80% of the world’s wealth. At the same time, the economic unaccountability, corruption, injustice and insensitivity which have flourished, no matter which economic model- capitalist or socialist- has been imposed, have brought with them dangerous social unrest and despair. In this painful economic crisis, the Church cannot remain a mere bystander. It has a duty to address three issues boldly.

In the first place, self-censure for the fact that many members of the Church have not been true to the precepts of the Gospel, insofar as they’ve participated, to a greater or lesser extent, in injustice and local corruption. We must set to work with creative initiatives on the part of parishes, bishops and various Church groups and organizations in order to provide relief and assistance to the weakest members of our society. Thank God that in this respect there are already a good many laudable Church activities in this sphere. You know about them and I think we ought to be grateful to those who are leading these efforts.

A second point is that we should be bold in our criticism of the constricting ideologies and systems that have produced injustice in general and this economic crisis in particular. An attempt should be made to influence political leaders, an invitation extended to eminent scientists and economists to work out solutions which show respect for people, for the human person, and for the identity of nations and support for their efforts. The general view of humankind and creation has been fundamentally subjugated to notions of affluence. The Church is called upon to defend the dignity of the human person as the image of our personal God, and also the whole of creation, since it was made by God. The notion that we humans are owners of creation and that we therefore have the right to abuse the natural environment is not merely mistaken, from an Orthodox point of view, but is actually a sin. According to the Christian faith, we humans are organic members of creation, a part of it, and we ought to treat it with respect.