Western model of secular society has stopped working, says Russian church official

The Russian Orthodox Church is warning Westerners against dividing public and religious life.

"I believe that western theological and philosophic thought followed the wrong way many centuries ago when it divided religious and "secular" spheres. St. Augustine's words about "the city of God" and "the earthly city" were exaggerated by western theologians," the head of the Synodal Department for Church and Society Relations, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, said at a conference in Germany.

According to Fr Chaplin, the "doctrine of two swords," which was not far from opposing religious and "secular" establishments, gradually formed views about the allegedly inevitable conflict between religious life and the life of the state and society, and resulted in attempts to radically divide religious and secular spheres "depriving religion of any right to determine parameters of social order."

Today this tradition faces new challenges, the priest further said, and, first of all, it is a challenge of mutual misunderstanding with a significant part of Europe belonging to the Orthodox world and many believers of the Catholic Church and some Evangelical movements, which are not inclined to divide religion and public life. Secondly, it is the challenge of Islam, which, according to the reporter, "considers division of religion, law and state as absurd as separation of the sun and light."

"Thirdly, it is a challenge of some nations lacking the vital forces needed to provide their future in conditions of difficult world processes. Low birth rates, a focus on consumption, personal comfort and health (now limited by the economic crisis), and a lack of religious and moral imperative can very quickly turn nations that used to send knights to crusades into voiceless victims of outside expansion," the church representatives warned.

He believes the first way out is the further expansion of secularism, carried out by militant, political, promotional, "educational" methods.

"For some time it may be successful, but evidently that more and more people and communities will actively disagree with it and oppose it," the priest is convinced. 

The second way is to develop the western political system paying attention to traditions which don't divide religious and public life. "I mean not only Islamic principles, but also Orthodox teaching on the symphony of Church, state and people," the Russian church representatives explained.

He believes West could "sooner or later raise a question: maybe it's worth to consider working models of society based not on constant competition among branches of authorities, political and social groups, but on harmonic unity of authorities, people and one or several religious communities."

The priest believes that the most important is that modern westerners "still can recall their own glorious Christian tradition in its best manifestations," and it "will help them not only find their way to future in the past, but to reach unity and mutual understanding with the keepers of the most ancient church traditions - Orthodox Christians.


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