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I am a Third Order Franciscan of the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Russian Orthodox and Social Justice

The Russian Orthodox Church is taking a closer look at issues of social justice - for example, one Russian priest has condemend the use of the death penalty on the grounds that life imprisonment can be worse and because of the wrong committed by executing the innocent. [More found here]

Russia Profile has a very interesting piece about the Russian Orthodox Church placing new emphasis on its social justice principles - emphasis which has met with approval in the West, but not so much attention in Russia itself.

The article alludes to the close Church/State connections as a reason for why it has been difficult for the Orthodox to develop a modern social justice movement - but another reason has to be the difference between a Western spirituality focused on the earthly Christ as opposed to an Eastern spirituality focussed on the resurrected and ascended Christ. I don't want to make this an absolute dichotomy but we see some of this in the preference in the West for a dead/dying Christ on the Cross whereas in the East the preference is for a risen Christ.

The West doesn't seem to have a problem with focussing on social justice issues because it readily sees the divine in Creation and Christ in the poor. However, sometimes this leads to a deification of creation and a forgetfulness that this world is not our home. The East has a strong focus on the glorified kingdom to which we are headed, but can sometimes overlook problems with the environment down here.

This is why it is important for the Church to breathe with both lungs.


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