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August 1, 2021

The new anticlericalism

A simple music video sparked an unexpected media storm. An outraged man even burned, in his own yard, a prose volume of the most well quoted Romanian writer of the moment, simply because the author was participating to that music video with a short reply, together with more than 30 other personalities – he filmed his domestic auto-da-fé and he posted it on YouTube. Well known journalists accused the video, and one of its characters even asked his participation to be removed, after only a few days, under the pressure of the protests. Moreover, the leader of the band himself, who initiated the project, seemed to withdraw, bringing cautious explanations.

The lyrics have a simple message: a man is seeking God in a cathedral, but he only finds Him in a small church.

The refrain, which is repeated by more than 30 personalities, states that God loves wood and small spaces. It is an obvious anticlerical satire. Considering the project of the Orthodox cathedral in Bucharest, still unfinished, being a huge and extremely expensive one, the authors of the song aimed the arrogance of a Church institution which seems to be more and more rich and careless. But in front of the outraged Orthodox people’s reactions, which sometimes are furious, and facing their accusations, some of the participants in the project wished to reveal their good intentions and even their own Christian commitment.

But it’s only about caution, considering that the message of the song is not ambiguous, but very clear, even it’s not excessively virulent. You could make a comparison with one of the Johnny Cash’s interpretation of a traditional song, “God’s Gonna Cut You Down”, especially on the video concept, which combines a host of musicians and actors, the more so as it has a religious subject too, although the satirical dimension is missing to the American singer. In the end, both are about seeking God. Taxi’s song “About Humbleness” remembers us a biblical passage, in the Book 3 of The Kings, when the prophet Elijah is warned by God that He will show Himself to him, mentioning that He will be preceded by a storm, an earthquake and a fire, yet He will not be there, but in the smooth breeze that will follow them. For a severe soul like Elijah had, the statement is meant to avoid considering God as a brutal tyrant.

Today’s little song also counts on a partially consonant message: God cannot be found in luxury or in greatness, but rather the simple and “humble” issues of life. This is the main reason of the Orthodox indignation: though the humbleness is continuously invoked in the local religious speech, the clerics promoting it do not seem to be so honest in their support. Priests have a status which is often over the average, and they do not hesitate to request fees for some of their religious services, being much too caught up in the effort of getting privileged material conditions. There is nothing special in this, in a world dominated by the values of enrichment and social affirmation. The contradiction appears, instead, related to the values which they promote with a professional consistency.

The big hypocrisy actually consists in not fully admitting the virtues in which they believe: power, reputation, richness, authority, and they are not like they ask others to be: idealistic, humble, obedient and modest. But this contradiction persists since the beginning of the Christianity, sometimes being stronger: the clergy pretends to care for the “people”, but they do not give up when it’s about the social elite status.

However, this kind of social tension settled a little bit in the modern world, with secularization, therefore with a social marginalization of the Church. The current Romanian situation has its’ specific nature. After decades of communism, the Orthodox Church has experienced a real resurrection, since the 90s: worship places construction exploded, the discipline of Religion was introduced again in the public education system, priests are partially paid from the state budget, religious literature is one of the most popular, etc. Social polarization have evolved according to new dynamics, but endemic corruption has maintained a general suspicion towards certain categories; priests find themselves among these categories , and they are seen not just once as partners of the new governors, regardless of party.

A particular situation is related to the cathedral project. Finally, a project is almost finished after many years and many locations suggested and rejected. The exorbitant budget was the annoying thing in this matter. The „pro” or „against” arguments are not missing the ambiguous and hypocrite nature.

Neither the socialist speech of a more responsible poverty is not quite convincing, nor the one of richness for the people, or the one of the symbolic reputation of the great buildings. With more so as a small wooden church may be much expensive than an ordinary one, made of other materials.

The real conflict is not a social one, as it is a cultural and ideological one. Growing anticlericalism is noticeable; it has manifested surprisingly acute after “Colectiv” Club tragedy, when street protests have claimed not only Prime Minister to be changed, but also the Patriarch. The symbolic presence of the Church becomes more and more challenged in wider blankets than before, just because its’ credibility faces a crisis, after knowing an effervescence in the last quarter century.

The main reason is because it remains silent when it should act. Especially thanks to some remarkable popes, the last half century Catholicism succeeded to become again a credible voice, related to the today’s moral challenges. Instead of this, the Orthodox bishops, excepting a few of them, prefer not to enter in disputed issues, in the name of a spiritual ghetto which belongs to the Orthodoxy. But this restraint is losing, since it is seen as indifference and weakness.

Orthodoxy risks to seem more anachronistic than now, if it will not stop criticize the occidental values, often in a hypocrite manner, in bulk and making no differences, as well as if it will not adapt its’ speech to contemporary issues.

In the end, if the Orthodox priest doesn’t have humbleness, it’s not because he builds more beautiful houses than others, but because he has the pride to believe that the human being can only be saved with his support. And especially because he does not value his message as he should. It doesn’t matter how mystic the Romanian people are; sooner or later they will refocus, if the Orthodoxy will not reconsider its’ offer.

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