Christianity, Democracy, and the Shadow of Constantine

Christianity, Democracy, and the Shadow of Constantine

Christianity, Democracy, and the Shadow of Constantine

Christianity, Democracy, and the Shadow of Constantine

Synopsis

The collapse of communism in eastern Europe has forced traditionally Eastern Orthodox countries to consider the relationship between Christianity and liberal democracy. Contributors examine the influence of Constantinianism in both the post-communist Orthodox world and in Western political theology. Constructive theological essays feature Catholic and Protestant theologians reflecting on the relationship between Christianity and democracy, as well as Orthodox theologians reflecting on their tradition's relationship to liberal democracy. The essays explore prospects of a distinctively Christian politics in a post-communist, post-Constantinian age.

Excerpt

Whatever one may mean by “political theology,” or even whether, as Stanley Hauerwas questions, there can be such a thing as political theology, it is fair to assert that the discussion on these themes has followed primarily a Protestant-Catholic trajectory. The post-Communist situation has thrust the Orthodox into these debates, though there appears little evidence in the literature of any mutual influence between the centuries-long Protestant-Catholic conversation and that emerging within the Orthodox world. It was this lack that we hoped to address at the Patterson Conference, “Christianity, Democracy, and the Shadow of Constantine,” sponsored by the Orthodox Christian Studies Center at Fordham University.

The question of the relation of Christian ity to democracy is especially acute in the post-Communist Orthodox countries. Although Orthodox theological engagement with modern liberalism is evident in nineteenthand early twentieth-century Russia, it was in relation to the existing imperial structures and was interrupted by the Communist Revolution. The traditional Orthodox countries are now not empires, and even though one sees movements toward totalitarianism within some of these Orthodox countries, there is no way for the Orthodox countries to avoid engagement with the challenge of modern political liberalism. Even in Greece, where church-state relations have been a national public issue since Greece’s liberation from the Ottomans in the early nineteenth century, the complicated relation to the European Union manifests how an East-West divide shapes Orthodox thinking on the political. There is not an Orthodox . . .

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