"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Monday, December 29, 2014

Who the Hell is Pope Francis and What is He On About?

We are fast closing in on the second anniversary of the election of Pope Francis, who continues to confound both fans and enemies and, doubtless, will continue to do so in the year ahead. For those desirous of understanding previous popes and their surprising antics in papal history, as well as their relations to the Christian East, they would do well, as I have often remarked in the past, to turn to what is the best one-volume history of the papacy available in English, now about to enter its fourth edition: Eamon Duffy, Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes; Fourth Edition (Yale University Press, 2015), 500pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
This engrossing book encompasses the extraordinary history of the papacy, from its beginnings to the present day. This new edition covers the unprecedented resignation of Benedict XVI and the election of the first Argentinian pope.
Praise for the earlier editions:
“Duffy enlivens the long march through church history with anecdotes that bring the different pontiffs to life. . . . Saints and Sinners is a remarkable achievement.”—Piers Paul Read, The Times
“A distinguished text . . . offering plenty of historical facts and sobering, valuable judgments.”—Henry Chadwick, New York Times Book Review
“Will fascinate anyone wishing to better understand the history of the Catholic Church and the forces that have shaped the role of the papacy.”—Gloria J. Tysl, Christian Century

Friday, December 26, 2014

After the Holodomor

We have, as I have often noted, been commemorating, in 2014, the centenary of the Great War. Next year, as I shall presently note, we shall commemorate the centenary of the Armenian Genocide. But 2014 also saw the emergence of new scholarly works on the Holodomor, the terror-famine that so devastated Ukraine at the behest of Stalin and his henchmen. Though nearly a quarter-century ago, this event continues to haunt Ukrainian political and theological imaginaries, as we learn through the effors of Andrea Graziosi, Lubomyr A. Hajda, and Halyna Hryn, eds., After the Holodomor: The Enduring Impact of the Great Famine on Ukraine (Harvard University Press, 2014), 332pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
Over the last twenty years, a concerted effort has been made to uncover the history of the Holodomor, the Great Famine of 1932–1933 in Ukraine. Now, with the archives opened and the essential story told, it becomes possible to explore in detail what happened after the Holodomor and to examine its impact on
Ukraine and its people. In 2008 the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University hosted an international conference entitled “The Great Famine in Ukraine: The Holodomor and Its Consequences, 1933 to the Present.” The papers, most of which are contained in this volume, concern a wide range of topics, such as the immediate aftermath of the Holodomor and its subsequent effect on Ukraine’s people and communities; World War II, with its wartime and postwar famines; and the impact of the Holodomor on subsequent generations of Ukrainians and present-day Ukrainian culture. Through the efforts of the historians, archivists, and demographers represented here, a fuller history of the Holodomor continues to emerge.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Law, Power, and Ideology in the Iconoclast Era

This forthcoming book was set for release this week, and I was looking forward to it as a Christmas present. But now it's been postponed until February 2015 release: M.T.G. Humphreys, Law, Power, and Imperial Ideology in the Iconoclast Era: c.680-850 (Oxford Studies in Byzantium, 2015), 376pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
Law was central to the ancient Roman's conception of themselves and their empire. Yet what happened to Roman law and the position it occupied ideologically during the turbulent years of the Iconoclast era, c.680-850, is seldom explored and little understood. The numerous legal texts of this period, long ignored or misused by scholars, shed new light on this murky but crucial era, when the Byzantine world emerged from the Roman Empire.
Law, Power, and Imperial Ideology in the Iconoclast Era uses Roman law and canon law to chart the various responses to these changing times, especially the rise of Islam, from Justinian II's Christocentric monarchy to the Old Testament-inspired Isaurian dynasty. The Isaurian emperors sought to impose their control and morally purge the empire through the just application of law, sponsoring the creation of a series of concise, utilitarian texts that punished crime, upheld marriage, and protected property. This volume explores how such legal reforms were part of a reformulation of ideology and state structures that underpinned the transformation from the late antique Roman Empire to medieval Byzantium.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Married Catholic Priests (Take 2)

In September I posted on here word of my forthcoming book, which I will (D.v.) submit to the publisher (the University of Notre Dame Press) tomorrow. After that initial report, several people contacted me on Facebook and via e-mail to suggest additional chapters, and I am grateful to them for their advice, which I happily took. Now the book is much richer, and I am delighted by that. Whereas previously it was almost entirely an "Eastern" book, focusing mainly on Eastern Catholic priests and their families, now it is a genuinely c/Catholic book, with a wide range of contributors: several Eastern Orthodox, a Russian Catholic, Ukrainian Catholics, Byzantine Catholics, two married Anglican clerics who are now married Catholic priests under the Pastoral Provision and later Ordinariate, further reflections from two presbyteras, and a chapter by the young son of a priest, Julian Hayda. With the volume thus strengthened and enriched, its focus is wider, and now the book--and its topic--can no longer be dismissed as merely or exclusively "an Eastern thing." There are now too many married ex-Lutheran and ex-Anglican clerics ordained to the Catholic priesthood to pretend that there are not married priests also in and for the Latin Church.
Fr.Roman and Presbytera Irene Galadza with Children and Grandchildren

A fortiori, then, I repeat what I said in September: this book will be the single-best collection ever published on the topic of married Catholic priests. There is nothing else out there remotely close to what will be in this book. That is a simple statement of facts. I have to say I'm especially pleased with how the essays cohere together. Often collections are very uneven, but many of these essays, even without intending it, build off one another and mesh together in a felicitous fashion.

We're still kicking around titles, though I'm leaning towards something like  Married Catholic Priests: Historical, Pastoral, and Theological Reflections. 

The contents:

I) Introduction: Adam DeVille

II) Historical Reflections:

1) David Hunter (University of Kentucky), "Priesthood and Sexual Continence: the Origins of a Western Tradition."

2) J.K. Coyle (†) (deceased professor of patristics and history at Saint Paul University, Ottawa), "Recent Views on the Origins of Clerical Celibacy: A Review of the Literature from 1980-1991."

3) Patrick Viscuso (professor of canon law at the Antiochian House of Studies and past president of the Byzantine Studies Association of North America, and author, translator, or editor of several important recent books), "Canonical Reflections on Clergy and Marriage."

III: Ecumenical and Pastoral Reflections:

4) Victor Pospishil (†) (a deceased Ukrainian Catholic priest and canonist), "Compulsory Celibacy for Eastern Catholics in the Americas."

5) James Dutko (protopresbyter of the Carpatho-Russian Diocese of the USA), "Mandatory Celibacy among Eastern Catholics: a Church-Dividing Issue."

6) Peter Galadza (Saint Paul University, Ottawa; Ukrainian Catholic liturgical scholar and married priest), "Official Catholic Pronouncements Regarding Presbyteral Celibacy: their Fate and Implications for Catholic-Orthodox Relations."

7) Adam DeVille (associate professor and chairman of the Dept. of Theology-Philosophy, University of Saint Francis), "Ending the Romanticism Around Marriage and Celibacy"

8) John Hunwicke (former priest and scholar of the Church of England, now in the Ordinariate, and author of this delightful blog)“Married Clergy in the Anglican Tradition”

9) Fr. David Meinzen (bi-ritual Byzantine and Roman Catholic priest, formerly of the OCA),  “Reflections on Two Vocations in the Two Lungs of the One Church"

10) Julian Hayda (undergraduate in Chicago and son of the late Fr. Pavlo Hayda), “Growing Up in a Fishbowl: Using Oikonomia to Answer the Tough Questions Posed by the Children of Priestly Families”

11) Christine Hayda (wife of Fr. Pavlo, mother of Julian), "Reflections from the Wife of a Priest."

12) Christopher Phillips (former Episcopalian and one of the first priests ordained in the 1980s under the Pastoral Provision; now rector of  the first parish erected under the PP), “The Peregrinations of a Pioneer of the Pastoral Provision”


13) Lawrence Cross (a widowed Russian Catholic archpriest and scholar in Australia), “Married Clergy: At the Heart of Tradition”

14) Basilio Petrà (celibate RC priest and scholar in Florence; author of numerous works on marriage and priesthood), “Married Priesthood: Some Theological Resonances”

15) Thomas Loya (celibate Byzantine Catholic priest descended from a long line of married priests; pastor of the wonderful parish of the Annunciation Parish in Illinois),    “Celibacy and the Married Priesthood: Rediscovering the Spousal Mystery”

16) Irene Galadza (retired teacher and catechist, and presbytera at the incomparable St. Elias), “The Vocation of the Presbytera: Icon of the Theotokos in the Midst of the Ministerial Priesthood”

Conclusion:  Adam DeVille

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Rise of the Arab-Muslim Empire

When I review with my students the creation of Islam and rise of the Arabs in the early seventh century, and the latter's sweeping moves across Christian territories in Syria, Egypt, Armenia, North Africa, and elsewhere, I remind them that by any measure, ancient or modern, the Arab forces were making astonishing changes in even more astonishingly short a time. A new book from a respected scholar gives us a fresh and wider look at that history: Robert G. Hoyland, In God's Path: The Arab Conquests and the Creation of an Islamic Empire (Oxford University Press, 2014), 320pp.

About this book we are told:
In just over a hundred years--from the death of Muhammad in 632 to the beginning of the Abbasid Caliphate in 750--the followers of the Prophet swept across the whole of the Middle East, North Africa, and Spain. Their armies threatened states as far flung as the Franks in Western Europe and the Tang Empire in China. The conquered territory was larger than the Roman Empire at its greatest expansion, and it was claimed for the Arabs in roughly half the time. How this collection of Arabian tribes was able to engulf so many empires, states, and armies in such a short period has perplexed historians for centuries. Most accounts of the Arab invasions have been based almost solely on the early Muslim sources, which were composed centuries later to illustrate the divinely chosen status of the Arabs.

Robert Hoyland's groundbreaking new history assimilates not only the rich biographical information of the early Muslim sources but also the many non-Arabic sources, contemporaneous or near-contemporaneous with the conquests. In God's Path begins with a broad picture of the Late Antique world prior to the Prophet's arrival, a world dominated by two superpowers: Byzantium and Sasanian Persia. In between these empires, emerged a distinct Arabian identity, which helped forge the inhabitants of western Arabia into a formidable fighting force. The Arabs are the principal actors in this drama yet, as Hoyland shows, the peoples along the edges of Byzantium and Persia--the Khazars, Bulgars, Avars, and Turks--all played critical roles in the remaking of the old world order. The new faith propagated by Muhammad and his successors made it possible for many of the conquered peoples to join the Arabs in creating the first Islamic Empire. Well-paced, comprehensive, and eminently readable, In God's Path presents a sweeping narrative of a transformational period in world history.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas 2014 Recommendations

Thrice in as many years I have reviewed books from those years and done up a list for Christmas recommendations.You can link to last year's list here and from there to the two previous years. In looking back over 2014, there are many noteworthy studies to have appeared. Let us recap thus:

Russian Orthodoxy:

One of the most prominent Russian Orthodox thinkers of the postwar period, Georges Florovsky, was the object of a splendid and hugely important new study by Paul Gavrilyuk, which I reviewed first here, and then in much more detail discussed here (my notes from my presentation on the book in Boston at the annual Orthodox Theological Society of America conference).

The trouble with romantically imagining that Russia today is the one repository of "traditional Christian values" was noted here.

The fascinating question of Russian Orthodoxy and human rights was treated in an important new book whose author I interviewed here.

Orthodoxy in the Russian imperial era noted here and another study here.

It is a welcome achievement to have in English at last the study of Hyacinthe Destivelle on the Moscow Council of 1917, which was detailed here.

The resurrection of Russian Orthodoxy under the early communists was noted here.

Given Russian banditry in Crimea this year, Paul Magocsi's new book This Blessed Land: Crimea and the Crimean Tatars could not have been more timely. It was noted here.

Paradoxes in the Russian Orthodox Church were noted here.

A new and general overview of Russian history was published and noted here.

We have, for much of the last decade, been seeing a major surge in new studies on Sergius Bulgakov, thanks in part to Eerdmans's long-running campaign to translate all his works into English. A recent study on Bulgakov, modernity, and Russian Orthodoxy was noted here.

Iconography and Iconoclasm:

This year saw a new translation of Theodore the Studite on icons, noted here

An interesting new study linking hesychasm and iconoclasm was detailed here.

The Orthodox British iconographer Aidan Hart was interviewed here about his lovely new book on icons, Icons in the Modern World: Sprint, Matter and Beautywhich I greatly commend to your attention.

Icons and portraits in Byzantium noted here.

Iconoclasms ancient and modern noted here and here.

Finally, a much more affordable paperback version of an important and large study of Byzantine icons of the Theotokos was noted here

Orthodoxy and Identity:

I was greatly cheered when Orthodox Constructions of the West was published. I discussed it in three parts, including here, here, and here. It remains a landmark work that must have a place in every library.

There are now at least three books on the topic of Orthodox identity, including the one noted here and a second one here.

An important study on Orthodoxy and nationalism was noted here.

Another significant study, this time on Eastern Christianity and politics (still a relatively under-developed area), was detailed here

The identity, and especially contemporary history, of converts to Orthodoxy in North America were studied by Oliver Herbel's splendid new book, Turning to Tradition: Converts and the Making of an American Orthodox Church. I first reviewed the book here, and interviewed him here. This wonderfully written book must have a place in every history of American Christianity.

Liturgics and Sacraments:

The scholarly proceedings of a conference on liturgies East and West was noted here.

An interesting study on the Eastern monastic psalter was noted here.

My prolific friend and Orthodox liturgical scholar Nicholas Denysenko published an important book I was only too happy to adopt for my graduate students next semester: Chrismation: A Primer for Catholics. I interviewed Nick about the book here.

East-West Relations:

The Italo-Greek monastery of Grottaferratta remains a fascinating place of East-West encounter. A recent scholarly collection that focuses on it in part was published as Monastic Tradition in Eastern Christianity and the Outside World: A Call for Dialogue. I interviewed the editor here.

The dialogue of love between Orthodoxy and Catholicism, begun in the 1960s, was discussed here

Is the Latin definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception a totally sui generis definition at odds with the East? Or is it in fact deeply grounded in quintessential Eastern sources? Christiaan Kappes argued the latter proposition in my interview with him here about his book The Immaculate Conception: Why Thomas Aquinas Denied, While John Duns Scotus, Gregory Palamas, & Mark Eugenicus Professed the Absolute Immaculate Existence of Mary.

The Centenary of the Great War:

2014 being the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War, we saw a flood of books devoted to the topic, some of which were noted here.

Of those many books, Philip Jenkins' singular and fascinating study retains pride of place: The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade, which I reviewed briefly here.

A new study on Rafael Lemkin on genocide was noted here while Turkish resistance to acknowledging the Armenian genocide was noted here. What, nearly a century after that genocide, can be said about the state and future of Armenian Christianity? A new book seeking answers to those questions was noted here.


Pope Francis continues to surprise in many ways. I noted some recent scholarship on the papacy here.


Two major studies of Cyril of Alexandria were noted: one on Trinity and the Scripture noted here and the second on Cyril's Christology here.

The Fathers and Mothers of the desert studied by Benedicta Ward were noted here.

Newly translated works of Maximus the Confessor were noted here.

An interview with the author of a new study on John Moschos can be found here

Augustine Casiday's very important Remember the Days of Old: Orthodox Thinking on the Patristic Heritage, a work that helps in the crucial task of rescuing the Fathers back from the fanatics and fundamentalists, was reviewed in depth here.

Casiday was also interviewed here about his new and important study, Reconstructing the Theology of Evagrius Ponticus: Beyond Heresy.

A Festschrift for one of the great patrologists of our time, Andrew Louth, Celebration of Living Theology: A Festschrift in Honour of Andrew Louth was noted here.

Eastern Christian-Muslim Encounters:

Practical advice for Christians living under Islam was noted here in a translation from Patrick Viscuso: Guide for a Church under Islam: The Sixty-Six Canonical Questions Attributed to Theodoros Balsamon.

A landmark collection in a grossly understudied area of great importance was edited by Sam Noble and Sasha Treiger as The Orthodox Church in the Arab World, 700 - 1700: An Anthology of Sources. I interviewed the editors here.

What happened to Coptic Christians during the campaign of gradual Arabization was noted here.

The Christians of Jerusalem under Islamic rule were studied here.

The Crusades, of course, continue to fascinate and madden one in about equal measure. A new book on Islamic views of the Crusades was noted here while a study on Byzantium and the Crusades was mentioned here.

One of the early and landmark works in treating Jewish and Christian realities under the Ottomans (the "millet" system and all that) has long been out of print, but an abridged version was published this year, as I ntoed here, and belongs in every library devoted to the topic:

A recent study (one of several) on the connections between the Quran and the gospels was noted here.

A recent monograph on Muslim-Christian debate on whether God is one was noted here.

From the catalogues I have been sent for 2015, there will be no let-up in the new studies on all aspects of Eastern Christianity emerging from a variety of presses. Stay tuned in the new year for those!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Politics and War in Lebanon

Lebanon remains a fascinating place: a country with substantial Eastern Christian (especially Maronite) and Muslim populations whose lives alongside one another are in some ways similar to, but in other ways vastly different from, comparable relations across the border in Syria and places further afield. The messiness of religion and politics that we see across the region is especially magnified in Lebanon, making it ripe for misunderstanding. Transaction Publishers just sent me their spring catalogue, and one title that stood out will be published in May and aims to help clear up some of the misunderstandings: Mordechai Nisan, Politics and War in Lebanon: Unraveling the Enigma (Transaction, 2015), 237pp.

About this book we are told:
Lebanon is an exceptionally misunderstood country; its religious politics are typically misrepresented and denigrated in Western political commentary. Politics and War in Lebanon offers a lucid examination of Lebanese society and politics. Mordechai Nisan examines Lebanon in its own terms, on its own cultural turf. He then points to the causes of political disintegration in 1975 and explores the capacity of Lebanon to recover and retain its unique national poise.
Avoiding disorienting Western stereotypes, Nisan presents Lebanon in its own native frame of reference, as a multi-ethnic country that operates according to its immutable and enigmatic political forms. Lebanon is different from other Arab countries, as demonstrated through its very complex electoral system, its tradition of cross-elite cooperation, and its special sense of Lebanese national identity that differentiates it from its overbearing Syrian neighbor.
Nisan explores intra-Maronite Christian feuds, identifies Syria’s occupation strategy, analyzes the violence of the Palestinians, and studies Israel’s failed policy strategy and the role of Hezbollah in the Lebanese power equation. Lebanon is caught between its special historical identity as a country with poise, creativity, and liberty and the interminable warfare in the streets and villages of the country. Although its future appears dim, its resilience enabled it to prevail in the past, and may yet do so.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Immaculate Conception and the East

Today for Latin Catholics is the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Here in the United States, it is the country's patronal feast. I take the liberty of directing you to the interview I did earlier this year with the priest and scholar Christiaan Kappes about his new book, The Immaculate Conception: Why Thomas Aquinas Denied, While John Duns Scotus, Gregory Palamas, & Mark Eugenicus Professed the Absolute Immaculate Existence of Mary.

Petrine Ministry and the Malankara Syrian Church

Having said a few things about the papacy and the East in my Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy: Ut Unum Sint and the Prospects of East-West Unity, I maintain an active interest in the topic. Thus I am looking forward to a new academic study recently released: Biju Mathew, The Role of the Petrine Ministry in  the Ecumenical Relationship between the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and the Catholic Church (Peter Lang, 2014), 451pp.

About this book we are told:
This work deals with the role of the Petrine ministry in the ecumenical relationship between the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and the Catholic Church. The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church traces her origin to the Church of St Thomas Christians, founded by St Thomas, the Apostle who reached the south Indian state of Kerala in 52 AD. The book explores the Ecclesiologies of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, the St Thomas Christians of India and the Catholic Church from a dogmatic-juridical-historical perspective. The author tries to mediate between the two Churches in order to support them in the reviewing process of their history and Ecclesiology and re-establishing the unity for which Jesus Christ prayed: «Holy father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one» (Jn 17, 11). The author in his role as mediator makes a few suggestions for solving the problems related to the concept of the Petrine ministry on a universal level in the light of the Communion Ecclesiology of Vatican II, the studies of the various unofficial ecumenical dialogue commissions and the analysis of the experience of the Syro Malabar Church, one of the 22 sui iuris Churches in the Catholic Church.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Our Friend Uncle Joe

It has been nearly a decade since the last major biography (at least in English) of Stalin appeared. I read with great interest Simon Sebag Montefiore's Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar when it came out in 2005, followed, in 2006, by Robert Service's Stalin: A Biography. Shortly before that, I had read William Taubman's fascinating 2004 biography of Stalin's successor, Khrushchev: The Man and His Era. All three are worth your time.

And now we have another study, a hefty first volume no less. This book has already generated a number of fascinating reviews that I have read. I am looking forward even more to reading the book itself. Nobody interested in the fate of the largest Orthodox Church in the world, the Russian, can understand her recent history without understanding Stalin. Stephen Kotkin, Stalin: Volume I: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928 (Penguin, 2014), 976pp.

About this book we are told:
It has the quality of myth: a poor cobbler’s son, a seminarian from an oppressed outer province of the Russian empire, reinvents himself as a top leader in a band of revolutionary zealots. When the band seizes control of the country in the aftermath of total world war, the former seminarian ruthlessly dominates the new regime until he stands as absolute ruler of a vast and terrible state apparatus, with dominion over Eurasia. While still building his power base within the Bolshevik dictatorship, he embarks upon the greatest gamble of his political life and the largest program of social reengineering ever attempted: the collectivization of all agriculture and industry across one sixth of the earth. Millions will die, and many more millions will suffer, but the man will push through to the end against all resistance and doubts.

Where did such power come from?  In Stalin, Stephen Kotkin offers a biography that, at long last, is equal to this shrewd, sociopathic, charismatic dictator in all his dimensions. The character of Stalin emerges as both astute and blinkered, cynical and true believing, people oriented and vicious, canny enough to see through people but prone to nonsensical beliefs. We see a man inclined to despotism who could be utterly charming, a pragmatic ideologue, a leader who obsessed over slights yet was a precocious geostrategic thinker—unique among Bolsheviks—and yet who made egregious strategic blunders. Through it all, we see Stalin’s unflinching persistence, his sheer force of will—perhaps the ultimate key to understanding his indelible mark on history.

Stalin gives an intimate view of the Bolshevik regime’s inner geography of power, bringing to the fore fresh materials from Soviet military intelligence and the secret police. Kotkin rejects the inherited wisdom about Stalin’s psychological makeup, showing us instead how Stalin’s near paranoia was fundamentally political, and closely tracks the Bolshevik revolution’s structural paranoia, the predicament of a Communist regime in an overwhelmingly capitalist world, surrounded and penetrated by enemies. At the same time, Kotkin demonstrates the impossibility of understanding Stalin’s momentous decisions outside of the context of the tragic history of imperial Russia.

The product of a decade of intrepid research, Stalin is a landmark achievement, a work that recasts the way we think about the Soviet Union, revolution, dictatorship, the twentieth century, and indeed the art of history itself.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Polish Orthodox Church

Though Poland is of course an overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country, its position in Eastern Europe, and its shifting borders over the years, has meant that at times it has greater and lesser populations of Eastern Christians living within her borders or very nearby. A new book examines one such group: Edward D. Wynot,The Polish Orthodox Church in the Twentieth Century and Beyond: Prisoner of History Lexington Books, 2014), 158pp.

About this book we are told:
The Polish Orthodox Church in the Twentieth Century and Beyond: Prisoner of History shows the adaptability of an Orthodox community whose members are a religious and ethnic minority in a predominantly Roman Catholic country populated by ethnic Poles. It features a triangular relationship among the Orthodox and Catholic hierarchies and the secular state of Poland throughout the changes of government. A secondary interrelationship involves the tense relationship between ethnic Poles on one hand, and minority Ukrainians and Belarusans on the other. As a “prisoner” of its own history and strangers in its own land, the Polish Orthodox Church faces a constant struggle for survival.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Thinking Orthodox in Modern Russia

Given the explosion in scholarship, over the last quarter-century especially, on Russian Christianity, it is becoming increasingly untenable to portray Russian society as entirely backwards and filled with nothing but unlettered peasants let by superstitious monks and clerics until the dawn of the twentieth century. Moreover, even more recent scholarship is helping us to appreciate how intellectual, theological, and religious life continued even under the Soviets in various guises--that it was not all violently stamped out, though much was, and not for want of trying on the part of the regime. A new book helps us to appreciate this intellectual and theological life at the end of the nineteenth and into the early twentieth centuries: Patrick Lally Michelson and Judith Deutsch Kornblatt, eds., Thinking Orthodox in Modern Russia: Culture, History, Context (University of Wisconsin Press, 2014, 316pp.).

About this book we are told:
Thinking Orthodox in Modern Russia illuminates the significant role of Russian Orthodox thought in shaping the discourse of educated society during the imperial and early Soviet periods. Bringing together an array of scholars, this book demonstrates that Orthodox reflections on spiritual, philosophical, and aesthetic issues of the day informed much of Russia’s intellectual and cultural climate.
            Volume editors Patrick Lally Michelson and Judith Deutsch Kornblatt provide a historical overview of Russian Orthodox thought and a critical essay on the current state of scholarship about religious thought in modern Russia. The contributors explore a wide range of topics, including Orthodox claims to a unique religious Enlightenment, contests over authority within the Russian Church, tensions between faith and reason in academic Orthodoxy, the relationship between sacraments and the self, the religious foundations of philosophical and legal categories, and the effect of Orthodox categories in the formation of Russian literature.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Why Deny a Genocide Took Place?

Last month, on Remembrance Day, I gave a lecture on the several massacres of Eastern Christians during the First World War. The Armenian genocide is the best known of them, but they were comparable slaughters of Pontic Greeks, Assyrian Christians, Aegean Greeks, and others, not least when the war ended and the forced population exchanges began in 1922/23 with the destruction of Smyrna. Though the 1915 genocide of Armenians has been increasingly well publicized and studied, many do not realize that 1915 did not fall from the sky one day like a new idea. Mass slaughter of Armenians under the Ottomans had a long history, a history still controversial today in Turkey itself, where denial of a genocide as such is still official policy. Why is it still denied? A recent book attempts to shed light on this question: Fatma Muge Gocek, Denial of Violence: Ottoman Past, Turkish Present, and Collective Violence against the Armenians, 1789-2009 (Oxford UP, 2014), 684pp.

About this book we are told:
While much of the international community regards the forced deportation of Armenian subjects of the Ottoman Empire in 1915, where approximately 800,000 to 1.5 million Armenians perished, as genocide, the Turkish state still officially denies it.
In Denial of Violence, Fatma Müge Göçek seeks to decipher the roots of this disavowal. To capture the negotiation of meaning that leads to denial, Göçek undertook a qualitative analysis of 315 memoirs published in Turkey from 1789 to 2009 in addition to numerous secondary sources, journals, and newspapers. She argues that denial is a multi-layered, historical process with four distinct yet overlapping components: the structural elements of collective violence and situated modernity on one side, and the emotional elements of collective emotions and legitimating events on the other. In the Turkish case, denial emerged through four stages: (i) the initial imperial denial of the origins of the collective violence committed against the Armenians commenced in 1789 and continued until 1907; (ii) the Young Turk denial of the act of violence lasted for a decade from 1908 to 1918; (iii) early republican denial of the actors of violence took place from 1919 to 1973; and (iv) the late republican denial of the responsibility for the collective violence started in 1974 and continues today.
 develops a novel theoretical, historical and methodological framework to understanding what happened and why the denial of collective violence against Armenians still persists within Turkish state and society.
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