An orthodox proposal for transcending Fundamentalism
Amongst the various conflicting situations observed in politics, religion seems to be one that is purposely manipulated in support of personal, nationalist, racist, international strategic and other interests. It is unfortunate that religions quite often succumb to the unjustifiable designs of international politics; indeed, a country's entire political perspective may be defined by and hinge from, a specific interpretation of its religious truths.
This relationship between Fundamentalism and politics becomes more apparent in the instances of countries that have undergone the painful experience of European colonization and the economic invasion of the West, and the necessary confrontation of crucial problems (economic, social and those related to identity) that appeared during post-colonial and contemporary times and proved to be impediments in the progress and the developing of a preferred political ideology which would express and embrace the people's every need, and would also contribute towards eliminating polarity between people and history.
It is tragic, that from within a combined fundamentalist-religious reality, which fervently proclaims perseverance and adherence to traditional forms, Fundamentalists have shown no hesitation in adopting actions and methods (political, economic, organizational) borrowed from the “enemy” camp, with the intent to cultivate fanaticism, intolerance, rivalry; to commandeer and obliterate the human persona, and to limit religious freedom.
One of the most significant challenges would therefore be the transcendence of Fundamentalism. The attempt to transcend Fundamentalism must be multilateral. The negative consequences of all actions and omissions of the past (voluntary or not), must be acknowledged as the starting point towards a sincere disposition for self-criticism, understanding and inter-acquaintance.
We need to take into serious consideration the fact that Fundamentalists essentially refuse to participate in any attempt to subdue the phenomenon; they manipulate institutional levers of governing powers, or are themselves manipulated by them, thus dividing Religions and Churches; they raise opposition; they lead to extremes and aggression; they confuse and relate faith and its expressions; they eradicate tradition, and worst of all, they subjugate freedom of conscience, ultimately demolishing human dignity. Fundamentalism may be known for its justified causes and its morality, but not as an actual entity.
Utilization of logic may initially be useful in extracting the morbid elements that make communication difficult between people of differing beliefs. Nevertheless, the only way to achieve this is through dialogue, through mutual closeness, through the show of understanding between religions and people; this will ensure prospects for cooperation, peaceful co-existence and joint witnessing of mankind/s anxious petitions and quests (freedom, justice, solidarity, etc). Imperative prerequisites for this dialogue are the mutual acknowledgement of equality, the right to individuality as defined by one/s religious, cultural and ethnic traditions, mutual respect, sincere participation and a disposition for peaceful co-existence.
Unfortunately, despite their attempts for sincere relations based on familiarity and respect, the relations between Christian Churches seem to be going through a crisis. There is an intensity in ecumenical relations, which is attributed not only to increasing demands, but also to indications of a surfacing Fundamentalism. This calls for a constant pursuit and maturing of theological dialogue. Churches are called upon, to work with honesty and sincerity, in order to overcome political or para-political situations and the proselytizing tendencies of nationalist racism. “Universality” does not abolish the identity of peoples; it preserves it; familiarization does not lead to a blending of religions - it leads to respect, and to a pluralism for which there must be a measure of appreciation and evaluation.
For the encouragement of dialogue and any other means for the transcendence of Fundamentalism, government politics can also play an important part, by purposely allowing and recognizing in every religious community the right to live according to its own traditions, with due respect towards fellow citizens and the prevailing laws of the land. In view of the above, the State would be obliged to actively protect the individual's right for freedom of religious conscience, within the context of religious tolerance, which is assuredly a universal vision.
We are aware that in the history of peoples, relations between religion and politics cannot be avoided, however, Churches and other religious bodies (the interested parties), should be very clear about their relations with the State and Politics; they should re-define these relations or re-evaluate them. Religions should never be subordinate to political aims and expediencies, neither should they resort to any institutional-political intervention, in order to unjustifiably and violently impose their faith on others; perhaps a common positioning and a joint draft of religious leaders, in which they could outline their common principles and framework, would comprise a significant step in this direction.
As for the dialogue between Orthodoxy and Islam, it is our belief that – despite the many points of deviation – the Orthodox Church's desire is for a peaceful co-existence with the Islamic world, this being attributed to common historical experiences. Their dialogue would basically focus on issues pertaining to basic human rights common to all people. Any show of alienation from Islam by the European peoples and Churches would prepare the breeding ground for Fundamentalism, which would – amongst other phenomena – not only discourage every endeavor for pacifying the parties involved, but would exacerbate any existing opposition and inevitably breed hostility.
To Orthodoxy, “universality” is not a terrestrial term: it is seen as the dissolution of all human barriers within the New Creation, in the Kingdom of God. God, who becomes incarnate, suffers and is resurrected for the salvation of all mankind, invites us to converse, not in order to revoke or ignore, but in order to transcend the phenomenon of Fundamentalism. Sadly, Orthodoxy's “universality” scares the feeble conscience of Fundamentalists, who cannot interpret the signs of the times, despite the world-shaking evidence around us; neither can they see that the only antidote for the current crisis is not within Fundamentalism and its pathological expressions, but in “universality” and dialogue. Our Church's eucharist proposal has Christ to offer: Christ the Lord was incarnated, thus embracing all of mankind; therefore to participate in the Crucifixion and the Resurrection reflects in essence the act of transcendence of Fundamentalism. Finally, if our adherence to traditions does not cease being a self-justifying reminiscence of the past, and if tradition itself does not become the vessel of prophetic charisma, to shed its eschatological lights of the future onto the present, then tradition will simply be copying elements of the past in a defunct spirit, and our heart will lose the ability to shape the image of God and the image of man (which is exactly what happens in tactile Fundamentalism) and converse with them. This may well be considered Christian Europe's greatest responsibility.