In the St. Peter Square of Rome, a bare-breasted woman with the message ‘Christmas is cancelled’ written on her skin is chased by a policeman, visibly unable to keep pace with the energy of her youth. In London, Prince Charles deplores the religious persecutions against Christians in the Middle East and the failure of the dialogue between religions. In the Central African Republic, a minority of Islamic rebels took the power and terrorises the majority Christian population. In Romania, the Orthodox patriarch appeals to each of the 40 counties in search of financial assistance for the construction of the grand cathedral of the capital city. This is a brief roundup of what is going on in the Christian world today.
First, we notice that there is a ‘laic’ opposition to Christianity. The Femen activist protested against the limiting of the right to abortion, as the Vatican is among the main opponents to legalising it.
Sarcastically, the feminist movement even brings the argument that, if child Jesus were aborted, women would have had more freedom in history. Here is the founder of Christianity implicitly placed in same gallery of big criminals of history (like Hitler or Stalin), which many would have retrospectively wanted to have been aborted by their mothers. Like some vile people infiltrated in an otherwise almost acceptable world.
How did so many turn against Christianity? Today’s Christians should be, at least in the 11th hour, mature enough to admit their responsibilities, at least the major ones. The recent scandal of the carol with anti-Semitic nuances showed that ‘the good news’ of the birth of God’s Son was not that good for everybody. Some suffered from the Christians’ conceit of being the holders of the absolute truth, or power, at least. In other cases, however, the divergences of opinions are serious. Abortion, for instance, is a ‘problematic enough’ right to spark fierce controversy. Just the slogan ‘It is prohibited to prohibit!’ cannot deal with a maze of ethnic tensions. So, neither ‘cancelling’ the Christianity (like it were a historic show that is no longer staged), nor ignoring the (responsible) criticism against it can represent solutions. Christians should see the (political, moral, cultural) ‘alternatives’ that surround them as challenges that push them to a truly ‘more Christian’ existence.
We also notice that the Western states of Christian tradition have an inefficient international policy of Christian solidarity. At the beginning of the 21st Century, Islam is able to render fragile, sometimes to the extreme, the Christian enclaves from many places of Asia and even Africa. Especially in the Middle East, where Christianity was born and evolved. Is this a disinterest for the ‘more archaic’ Christians, are there more stringent geopolitical or economic interests, or is it simply weakness? A weakness that derives from the new ‘laic’ identity of Europe, which does not know what to do with its Christian past, or from the complexes of former colonists, who in the past legitimised their actions also with the superiority of their religion. As a matter of fact, this is a crisis of Christian politics, whose ideological bases turned brittle. The sometimes exacerbated conflicts at the level of societies decrease the probability of attitudes that will be more than diplomatic initiatives. For many centuries, the agenda of the ‘big powers’ contained ‘the topic of Christians.’ Now, not even a minimum internal political consensus still exists in the majority of states with Christian history, which this kind of initiatives could rely upon. The sufferings of these Christians are thus regarded, at best, as just tragic news, among so many others, in a Middle East ravaged by conflicts. For many Christians, those living there are not perceived as ‘fellow believers’ that deserve an active and efficient solidarity. One that is not just civic, but also political.
We can also notice the eternal allurement of the privileged relations between Church and political power. Which often implies not very honourable complicities, plus supporting a status quo, despite the critical vocation of Christianity. But what is bad in the effort of constructing – say – an imposing cathedral? All in all, the Saint Sophia of Constantinople was built with the sacrifice of Byzantines, and same happened with Saint Peter for the subjects of the Pope. The problem is the spirit of the Church’s presence in society.
Romanian Orthodoxy still uses a disputable model, forged in the era of political and religious nationalism. Which still gives it an air of 19th Century, risking losing in this way both the chance to be prophetic (i.e. of immediately answering the spiritual challenges of the future) and the opportunity to meditate to its evangelic roots, regardless of the privileges offered by one power or another. From these perspectives, the Catholics fare better with regard to the first matter, already awakened by the confrontation with two centuries of virulent secularism, while the Christians of the Middle East have the supplementary experience of having resisted (until now, at least, as the future already is uncertain for them) as periodically persecuted and marginalised minorities. The cultural challenge and some sort of non-demagogic social prophetism, here is the Orthodox mission. Unfortunately, the project of the cathedral does not seem to confirm any of these ways. Only a big investment for a symbol-building for a self-flattering religious authority..