Christian Faith and the Public Sphere. A glance at the Ukrainian context Друк

b_300_0_16777215_0___images_stories_redaktor_v.zhukovskyy.jpgThe epoch of postmodernism, in which we happen to live, dares man with serious challenges: the relativisation of personal and social values, secularism, consumerism, moral and ethical disintegration, spiritual chaos as well as the multi-layered decline of Ukrainian culture, politics, economics, business, science etc. Ukrainians often ask themselves rhetorical questions: What is the basis of the complex, systematic crisis of Ukrainian society since its independence? What is the reason for the permanent irresponsibility and amorality of the higher echelons of the post-Soviet political and business “elite” who by their vocation, should be caring “parents” of the nation, people of truth and honour, spiritually strong statures of clear biblical morality: from the small and formal to the life essential, all of which determine the development strategy of the country? What are the causes of personal and social immaturity as well as the lack of principles in upholding moral, ethical, national and democratic values in civil society? These difficult, yet fundamental questions concern every citizen of Ukraine. This includes all who have, even a minute feeling of responsibility before society; from the asphalt workers to the deputies of various levels, ministers, leaders of the regions and other spheres. This holds true particularly for those who have a greater burden of responsibility before the Lord and nation for every uttered word and accomplished deed.


Without examining of their Christian sources, it is impossible to develop the correct national, economic, business cultural, moral, and family orientations which influence the formation of Ukrainians. Rather than genial criminals, expert perverts, technically literate morally and spiritually deprived people, every country needs highly moral and spiritually mature professionals in all social spheres. This is why teaching pupils, students or young specialists the depth and particulars of a profession is a secondary task. The primary task – is the formation of a specialist of a given sphere with spiritual maturity, who will employ his professionalism for the welfare of the nation as well as mankind rather than for the satisfaction of his or her own corporate egoism. This implies that each Christian within his own faculty: economist and banker, entrepreneur and businessman, scientist and artist, medical man and sportsman, in short, everyone who received God’s talent, must be an expert in his professional activity for the welfare of society.

From an Eastern Christian understanding, the determining factor of the role of faith is its ontological dimension. In defining faith, Orthodox theologian V. Loskij wrote: “Faith is not a psychological state, but an ontological, inner and objective connection between the human being and the Lord. According to this understanding, it is presented to the human being in baptism and anointing. It is a gift which renews and livens up the deepest nature of human being.” The very inner and ontological renewal of the connection with the Lord is the basis for the renewal of human spirituality and moral integrity. Moreover it encompasses the subsequent adequate attitude of man to all realities which surround him/her in general and, particularly, to public and professional challenges.

The objective of “The Christian and the World” is to present the fundamental role and significance which the Christian faith plays in the self-realization of professional Christians. The Christian life of faith is a personal spiritual experience. In the post modern epoch, in each person’s specific sphere, it increasingly becomes their basis for reputable, informed answers to real life and work challenges. That is why faith, as an anthropological and ontological phenomena is always shown in various concrete contexts of problems which demand thorough solutions.

“To be and then to act” is the magazine’s epigraph. These words express the particular dynamics of moral and effective vigour of the human being: from the inner to the outer. Until a person embarks on the path of inner: change, purification, transfiguration, spiritual and moral maturity, and integrity; until they embark upon an inner search for: truth, good, and beauty- all their outer activities, regardless of good premise, good PR and genuine needs, remain the servant of ill-motivated sinful temptations yielding no good fruits. The effectiveness of work not blessed by the Lord, not based on deep faith, has no stable ground and will vanish in the time of its first real life trials. The “Babylon Tower effect” may play the role of a symbolic warning concerning such work. The professional of any sphere enslaved by sinful temptations becomes the source of contagion in spreading spiritual disease and disharmony and moral degradation in society. Every personal sin adds to the total pathological degeneration of values on every different level of society, which, reborn as “structures of sin”, make impossible any positive development on all the levels of life and activity of society. On the contrary, each healthy personal, family or professional “cell” of the social body has the positive impact of making everyone and everything that surrounds them healthy. Not without reason, Orthodox saint Seraphym Sarovskyi stressed: “Save yourself and thousands around you will be saved.”

The world of economic activity, business, and banking is the main theme of the first issue. The term “economics” comes from the Greek word oikonomia (oikos – household, house, environment, nomos – the law), which means “art, law of managing a household”. The notion oikonomia (by then spelt: iconomia) is also one of the most important in Christian theology and means “Divine craft concerning human existence and the created world”, that is: all that the Holy Trinity does for the transfiguration of the world- redemption, justification and salvation of mankind through assimilation with Jesus. Thus, two realities – the household of the human being and the “household” of the Lord, which seem contradictory, are denoted by one term. However, these realities are necessarily connected. Only then, in union with God and with His blessing will the human household and earthly economy be truly successful and effective.

In one Ukrainian university during the presentation of the “The Christian and the World” magazine issue devoted to “the world of economy”, a listener asked me: “What will be the theme of the second issue of the magazine?” He was very surprised to hear the answer: “The world of politics”. How is it possible to combine two apparently foreign realities: the Christian world (i.e. the world of faith, truth, purity, honesty, justice, commandments, responsibility, sacrifice, solidarity) with “the world of Ukrainian politics” which society generally associates with lies, filth, dishonesty, shamelessness, injustice, the generation of mammon, social irresponsibility, and individual and corporal egoism? Possibly, by polarizing these two dimensions of human existence on Earth; the true Christian life and Ukrainian political life. In their intimate conscience the listener associates one of them as that of the Lord and the other as that of the devil. What are we really dealing with here: True antagonism which will last till the end of this world, the kingdom on Earth? Or perhaps, contrarily an honest collaboration and interpenetration of these two social life spheres? Almost as old as the world itself, this deep and difficult, problem begs the fundamental question: How does the Lord’s power correlate with the power of mankind?

While observing Ukrainian political life and those “laws”, by which it lives and regulates, and which it follows; at first sight it may seem fair to radically polarize these two spheres of life and activity. However, the deeper and more adequate assessment of the interconnection of Christianity and political activity is based not on realities antagonistically opposed in systems of coordinates such as: good-evil, light-darkness, one or the other. Coexistence, and moreover, the collaboration and unity between it is possible; but it is based on understanding them as parts of the one whole and single Lord’s plan of salvation. Here we shun not some “filthy”, in this case, political sphere of activity, as not worthy for salvation, but accept every morally and spiritually ill organism into the curing and healing sphere of the anthropomorphic organism of the Church, where the total therapy is accomplished: the purification and change of both the individual and various human communities. It is not that politics is inadequate in Ukraine for democratic transformations and economic reforms, but the people in politics are chronically dependent on a “matrix” of amorality and irresponsibility. Being unable to change themselves and their attitude towards work, they are also not able to hold mature and fruitful activity in their sphere of political and economic responsibility before the nation. Impurity of politics is not some special disease inherent only in politics and political structures – it is the disease of today’s spiritually-ill, post-Soviet and post-atheistic Ukrainian society. Respectively, such diagnosis requires therapy for the whole society. The more such societal disease is neglected, the more radical must be the methods, which penetrate into the root of the disease, into the depth of the spiritual “genetics”. Such different kinds of old and new postmodern strains of “viruses” of amorality grew and multiplied in favourable surroundings of the Soviet communist and atheist regime. This is the condition of the root of the spiritual sphere of the human being. The basis of the moral and political activity of the Ukrainian politician, who manifests himself in the pre-election P. R. campaign as Orthodox, Greek-Catholic, Protestant, is Christian spirituality, deep ontological connection with faith, which creates moral ground of proper decision-making in any public sphere of life and activity. Only honourable characteristics are acceptable for holding any responsible government position. The values which possess spiritual connection to the concrete personal Christian asceticism of faith are difficult for man to understand, especially a man who sees that living without moral landmarks in a society which is in the transitional period of national development, seems to be easier and simpler. Nothing burdens you, no inner imperative is holding back from hedonism and egoism. That is why morality does not exist for sake of morality. The simple prohibition of any moral inadequacy, to which society is so much accustomed, that it became “its second nature”, brings about taboos. It in its turn promotes misunderstanding and repealing of any morality, which is associated with conservative taboo. Moral violations for disfigurement by spiritual disease of personal scale of values become “the true” human dynamics of life. Thus, proper public activity in politics or economics is moral activity, which is impossible without deep spiritual and Christian grounds.

The de-Christianization of the in the Soviet and current authorities in Ukraine, together with the influence of secularism, led to the pathological degeneration of the very notions: “the Lord’s leader”, “leader”, “administrator”, “the servant of the nation”. This notwithstanding, these terms are the most fitting for the politician serving the nation, its valuable, integral welfare and happiness. The new nature of the human being, who went through the initiation of Christian conscience, has to be the basis of the morality of the public figures. The essence of Christian faith is a radically new style of life in all its variability.

In collaboration with the Lord’s grace, the Christian faith of the politician, businessman, and economist will transform to repel and overcome the diseases which fill authoritative or business spaces. These spaces never stay empty and are always torn by the powers which want to possess them Either the Christian spirit is present (the spirit of faith and truth, harmony and growth of moral responsibility and stability), or the antichristian spirit (God fighting, amoral, destructive, dividing and mortal).

Summing up, faith is a personal, experiential, ontological phenomenon. Its place in the public sphere, as well as its influence on Ukraine’s democratization processes, is to be viewed from the depth of the very life of the Church. However, this should not be viewed exclusively as the object of “outer” rational research. It is necessary to deepen one’s understanding of the nature of faith and correspondence between believer and the Lord. That is why it is important to discuss the problems of “contemporary life” faced by professionals who are people of faith.


Viktor ZHUKOVSKYY

Source: http://www.cpportal.org/k/n22654/news/view/465277/383320/Christian-Faith-and-the-Public-Sphere-A-glance-at-the-Ukrainian-context.html


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