Tuesday, August 27, 2013

( 8 ) " The " Third Rome " and Russia: Russia Inherits the Orthodoxy Legacy. "

By Sodium

Recorded human history tells us that all empires, sooner or later, had fallen, however the reasons might have been. The Eastern Roman Empire, ( or Byzantium for short ), was no exception. Its seat of power, Constantinople, finally fell in 1453 A.D. to the Ottoman Muslim conquest. That was a blow, not only to the great seat of political power, but also to the imperial Orthodox Church whose seat of theological power was also in Constantinople.

In spite of the Byzantium fall, the " great mother " of all Christian churches, world wide, the Orthodox Church has survived till present time in the Middle East, Russia, Balkan, and Greece.

However, the struggle between the Orthodox Church in the East and the Latin Church in the West,( Rome ),continued. " While the psychological blow to Eastern Christianity of defeat and loss of power was huge, it is important to note that Islam did not become the eternal deadly enemy of Christianity in these Eastern reaches of the world; they all lived too close together for that. Whatever the now subject Christians felt about it, there was little choice but intimate coexistence on both sides."

It was the Russian Tsar (Caesar), Ivan III,  who moved quickly after the fall of Constantinople, [ to declare Moscow the " Third Rome " ], as the center of religious power for all Christianity, meaning to the Latin Christianity in Rome and Byzantine Church in the East. Such a title " Third Rome " meant a great deal to Russia: " it represented a messianic vision of a new civilizational and spiritual role, an obligation that had now fallen upon Russia to preserve the true faith of Christianity against the heresies and evil of both Roman Catholicism and Islam."

However, there are historical records which attest to the fact that the Eastern Orthodox Church in Moscow, or the " Third Rome " preferred a coalition with the Muslims of the Middle East than a coalition with Christianity in the West, in Rome. In other words, the division of Christianity into Orthodox Church in the East, ( Russia, the Balkan, the vast majority of the Christians in Middle East plus Greece ), and Latin Christianity in Rome, had reached the point of no return. In other words, the split has become permanent until our present time. Let us read what the Byzantine scholar Vasilios Makrides at the University of  Erfurt argues in this connection:

" It is particularly interesting to observe certain anti Western coalitions [ across ] otherwise incommensurable lines which took place at that time, namely between Orthodox and Muslims in the Eastern Mediterranean area....Orthodox and Ottoman anti-Westernism were far from being identical, but their eventual " cooperation " was not out of the ordinary....An analogous attitude towards Muslims and Western Christians can be observed in thirteenth century Orthodox Russia. Tsar Aleksandr Nevsky gave preference to a coalition with Tatars and Mongols over an anti-Muslim alliance and a union with Rome, which has been proposed to him in 1248 (A.D) by Pope Innocent IV. "

It has become clear that the old Russian Orthodox suspicions of the West has not changed, but might have become greater to the point of another Russian Tsar of several centuries later had repeated what had Tsar, Aleksandr Nevsky, had done in 1248 A.D. If one compares the year of 1248 A.D. in which the Russian Tsar, Alexander Nevsky, made an alliance with the Muslim Tartars and Mongols, with the year 1453 A.D. in which Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Empire, one would find that even after the passing of 205 year, (that is more than two centuries), the suspicions between the Orthodox Church in Moscow, ( "Third Rome", after the fall of Constantinople ), and the Latin Church in Rome continues unabated, even to the present time of the 21st Century.

In short, what we are witnessing, in this topic, is what Graham Fuller, the author of the book, " A World Without Islam " has made it clear in the following brief paragraph:

" The Russian state is thus revivifying its nationalism, national traditions , and glories in particular through the magnificent cultural vehicle of the Russian Orthodox Church."

All of this attests, once more, to the fact that the state, any state, can use the Church for political expediency and global reaches, if such a state has what is required to do so. Russia has what it takes to do so. And hence, it has inherited the great legacy of the Eastern Orthodox Church, " the great mother " of all Christian Churches known in the realm of Christianity, since day one, when the Eastern Roman Empire adopted it to be its state religion. As one looks around, at that time, one might have found that Russia had parallel powers, if not equivalent powers, to what Byzantium had once, at its peak of geopolitical power. In short, no other power was more qualified to inherit the torch of the Orthodox Church than Russia. And so it was, and so it had come to pass, as we shall see in the next topic. 


Next topic will be topic ( 9 ) Russia and Islam: Byzantium Lives !              

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

( 7 ) " Shared Echoes: The Protestant Reformation and Islam. "

By Sodium

Although it is good to acquire as much knowledge as possible about the Protestant Reformation, our concern, here, is the " Shared Echoes, "  that might have existed between the Protestant Reformation and Islam. However, there are certain names that carried initially the Reformation movement on their shoulder and all students of history of the Christian Churches must know, since they are the exponents of the Protestant Reformation. They are:

* Martin Luther.
* Ulrich Zwingli
* John Calvin.

The most radical among the three reformers listed above was John Calvin. In fact, he was the brain behind the strict and demanding tenets of the Protestant Reformation. His theological ideology has seemed to me as similar, if not identical, to the Wahhabi Islamic practices, in Saudi Arabia, or perhaps similar to the Hanbali Mathhab, ( School of Thought ), in Islam.

Any reader who is interested in knowing the detailed life of each one of those three reformers can do so by Googling the following words:

Who's Who in the Reformation.

Before touching the " Shared Echoes, " it will be sufficient, here, to know that the Reformation movement started in 1517, in Germany, by a Catholic monk, named Martin Luther. He was excommunicated by the Catholic Church in Rome, after nailing 95 accusations against his own Catholic Church.

According to Graham Fuller, author of the book, " A world Without Islam," Martin Luther had succeeded in his Reformation because he was " directly supported " by certain German princes who were interested in cutting " the power of Church to size."

The Shared Echoes:
The book contains so many fascinating detailed echoes, or rather similarities between the Protestant Reformation and Islam, one may summarize them in the following important points:

~ Both the Protestant Reformation and Islam have no centralized theological power equivalent to the Catholic Papacy in Rome.
~ Both the Protestant Reformation and Islam adhere firmly to the narrative of their respective theological texts.
~ Because of the absence of a centralized seat of religious power in both the Protestant Reformation and Sunni Islam, they both encountered radical interpretations of the narrative of their respective theological texts, by radical adherents to their respective faith. ( Please notice the two words, "Sunni Islam," because this point does not apply on Shi'i Islam.)

Some Interesting Quotations From The Book Being Reviewed:
" The state is an attractive target for any reformer of society, religious or secular, for its capture provides the means-persuasive or coercive-to impose and implement religious values within society."

" For all of the period's intense focus on theology, it was its political and social forces that drove the Reformation. "

" Above all, the Reformation carried huge and deliberate political implications for the German princes and other northern European rulers. Where you stood on Reformation theology depended on where your economic and political interest lay.
    We have seen this in the turmoil of a changing Mecca, the shift from tribal to more mercantile values, and the loss of more traditional tribal safety nets and  the emergence of Muhammad. Jesus, too, was emerging in a new social environment in which among other things, Galilee was hostile to the economic and religious power of Jerusalem. "

" Those self-trained theologians challenge the state over the proprietorship of Islam. " it is not your Islam, it is my Islam," as one street placard put it. It is the fundamentalists, trained or untrained, who seek to apply Islam and lend it relevance-to use it as an instrument for political and social reform, to change or overthrow the state that they see as serving neither Islam nor the people. "

Some Thoughts/Views of the Christian Reconstructionists:
There is a small segment of the adherents to Protestantism, calling itself Reconstructionists. Although they are  small in number, in comparison to the total number of  Protestants in the world, they have a rather effective influence on the politics of the Christian Right.

I have found the following paragraph in the book, " A World Without Islam, " to be revealing about the Reconstructionists' view points and thoughts:

"  For reconstructionists, TOLERANCE is not neutral concept that acknowledges validity of all religious belief before the law; instead, they speak of a "Christian tolerance" that permits equal treatment but not equal ACCEPTANCE of all doctrine. Reconstructionists would not seek to regulate personal BELIEFS, but would regulate PUBLIC ACTIONS and behavior. This view is remarkably similar to some Islamists who advocate Shari'a law under nearly identical terms. In this view, tolerance within an Islamic state means just that-the state will tolerate other beliefs, but that does not imply acceptance of equal doctrinal validity. "

I must admit that I had almost skipped quoting the above quotation, because the author of the book had/has used, in it, the word " Islamists," which had/has been used by the Islamophobes to imply something evil, to a point that had compelled ( and wisely ) the Associated Press to refrain from using it in its news reporting and forecasting. However, I have overcome my own disagreement concerning the author's usage of the word, " Islamists, " because the paragraph, in the book, was so explicit about the reconstructionists' thoughts/view points; and the probable echoes that might have existed in thoughts/view points with the advocates of Shari'ah Law, among some adherents to the Islamic faith.


Next topic will be topic ( 8 ) The " Third Rome " and Russia: Russia Inherits the Orthodox Legacy.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

On The Occasion Of EID EL-FITR.

To: The Muslim Readers of this Website and My Muslim Friends.

From: Sodium.

Today is the first day of EID ELFITR. On this occasion, I wish my Muslim friends and the Muslim readers of this website, across the globe, the best of wishes and a Happy Eid.

May the future be kind to all Muslims in the world, especially in the Western World, where abusive and orchestrated campaigns are being waged against them and against Islam. These abusive and orchestrated campaigns have been conducted, for so many years, if not decades, by some Islamophobes, either based on ignorance, at best, or for serving their own political or religious agenda, at worst.

Once again, I wish you the best of wishes and Happy Eid.


Note: The series of topics on the reviews of the book, " A World Without Islam " by Graham Fuller, will resume some times after the Eid.