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A. N. Papathanasiou, National Socialism & Orthodox Church (1)

Signs of National Socialism in the Greek Church? Athanasios N. Papathanasiou Th e stage began to be set from the moment Greece agreed to the terms of the fi nancial bailout from the international community, i.e., from the spring of 2010. It was not created in a vacuum, but rather had its own characteristics, which developed with dizzying speed. Especially since the beginning of 2011—when the eff ects of the economic crisis began to be felt more acutely, the extent of political corruption became more widely
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   461 St Vladimir’s Teological Quarterly 57:3-4 (2013) 461–478  S󰁩󰁧󰁮󰁳 󰁯󰁦 N󰁡󰁴󰁩󰁯󰁮󰁡󰁬 S󰁯󰁣󰁩󰁡󰁬󰁩󰁳󰁭 󰁩󰁮 󰁴󰁨󰁥 G󰁲󰁥󰁥󰁫 C󰁨󰁵󰁲󰁣󰁨?  Athanasios N. Papathanasiou Te stage began to be set rom the moment Greece agreed to the terms o the financial bailout rom the international community, i.e., rom the spring o 2010. It was not created in a vacuum, but rather had its own characteristics, which developed with dizzying speed. Especially since the beginning o 2011—when the effects o the economic crisis began to be elt more acutely, the extent o  political corruption became more widely known, and the protests o the so-called “indignant” swelled—we also witnessed a surge in ecclesiastical rhetoric which, i we look closely, seems to consist o a paradoxical combination o sharp criticism o the political system along with expressions o intolerance: lament, or example, or the decline o democracy, while simultaneously waxing nostalgic about the leaders o the Junta (1967–1974). Watching this unold, I could not help but sense that the lingering tendency in some religious circles toward authoritarianism and totalitarianism had, in some cases, assumed eatures peculiar to National Socialism. 1 Tings began to deteriorate in an alarming way in the summer o 2012, when the “Golden Dawn” party, with a documented 1 Since this began, I have detailed my growing concerns (i.e., that we are dealing with a social radicalism accompanied by covert intolerance or democracy itsel) in various  publications. See my “Foreword,” Synaxi  120 (2011): 3–4 [in Greek]; book review o the collective volume On an Economy with a Human Face  (Athens: Youth Offi ce and Foundation o the Archdiocese o Athens, 2011), in Synaxi 121 (2012): 101–04 [in Greek]; “An Age o Spiritual and Material Bankruptcy in Europe? A Valuable Op- portunity or ‘Meaning’ to Emerge,”  Maniesto  35 (2012): 32–36 [in Greek]; among others. I intended to present my findings at the international conerence “Ecclesi-ology and Nationalism” held by the Volos Academy or Teological Studies o the Metropolis o Demetrias, May 24–27, 2012, and other Orthodox theological insti-tutions, but various exigencies o lie prevented me rom participating. Te present text represents my belated contribution to that conerence, and was first published in Greek in the journal Synaxi  125 (2013): 23–37.  462 S VLADIMIR’S HEOLOGICAL QUARERLY  history o neo-Nazism, 2  entered parliament afer the May 6th and  June 17th general elections. Did it really come as a surprise, then, that some ecclesiastical figures expressed their enthusiasm or this  party’s success? Or was it simply that some ecclesiastical circles’ latent inclination toward National Socialism, which began to swell in 2011, finally boiled over? Personally, I think it is the latter.From a theological point o view, the whole issue has enormous spiritual significance. Tis is not a partisan or narrowly political controversy. It concerns, rather, the dilemma between fidelity to the gospel o Christ and apostasy. 3  In this context, there are two critical questions (which may be regarded as two aspects o the same issue): first o all, what is it that makes it possible or religious circles to tolerate or even welcome Nazi or neo-Nazi ideas, and secondly, what is it that makes some Christians adopt essentially national socialist  views while ervently rejecting, at the same time, Nazi paganism?  We must, then, examine the religious landscape to discover what had taken root there which would now lead to the abomination o desolation in the holy place.Normally, it would require no more than two minutes or someone to see that Christianity and National Socialism are completely incompatible. Te cornerstones o the Church—such as the new commandment to love, and the recognition o all people as brothers and sisters—render any merger between Christianity and National Socialism clearly impossible. And herein lies the problem: the blurring  , in the rhetoric o the ecclesiastical figures who are 2 See Dimitris Psaras, Golden Dawn’s Black Book: Documents om the History and  Activities o a Nazi Group  (Athens: Polis, 2012) [in Greek].3 Since the summer o 2012, there have been an abundance o substantive theologi-cal articles condemning neo-Nazism and its supposedly “ecclesiastical” supporters,  which—I believe—should be catalogued as a testimony to our times. See, or in-stance, Tanasis [Athanasios] N. Papathanasiou, “Friends o the Lef: Don’t Stick Your Heads in the Sand,” Te Way o the Lef  , 22 October 2012, p. 22 [in Greek]. In the Christian anti-Nazi works I reerenced in that article, I did not have time to include the recent thoughts by Vasilis Argyriadis, which are particularly insightul: “From the ‘Right Hand o the Lord’ to the Far Right o the Devil!” (13 October 2012,, and “Metropolitans Walking the ight-rope” (18 October 2012, [both in Greek].  Signs of National Socialism in the Greek Church  463 flirting with National Socialism, o the Gospel commandments on the one hand (since none o them can openly preach against love or seek to remove the parable o the Good Samaritan), and views consistent with National Socialism on the other. Similarly, hatred o the non-Orthodox and the desire or God to smite them (so much or the incident in which the disciples asked Christ to smite the Samaritans, and he rebuked them!) can ofen be witnessed today coming rom pastors who, at the same time, run soup kitchens that  welcome everyone, including oreigners! As is always the case when things combine, what is needed is or the intelligent believer to distinguish that which is central and that which is peripheral, that  which is essential and that which is merely a açade. In this particular muddying mixture, the Gospel commandments are still preached in word, but in practice they are nullified, since they are not made the priority. Te priority is instead given to the anti-Christian elements, which are then highlighted as evidence o “true,” militant Christianity!Considering what is expected o a pastor, a priest who flirts with Nazism should be relieved o the burden o the Gospel: either the  priest himsel should withdraw rom the Church, or the Church should recognize that he no longer constitutes one o its members. But what about the people in general who vote or the Nazi party? Te truth is that the majority o them are not themselves Nazis but are, rather, simply disgusted with the etid political system. But  whatever the motives, the act that the demonic has managed to  penetrate the Christian consciousness (evinced even by seemingly innocent comments such as “I didn’t vote or them, but good or them”) is a very serious problem. We need to see just how ar the ecclesiastical criteria have eroded.Te existence o overt  as well as latent   elements o National Socialism is not unique to Greece. At the European level, National Socialism is openly preached only by ringe groups. Te issue, however, is to what extent various ideas o National Socialist flavor or srcin have taken root in other political groups which, in order to enter the political mainstream and join Parliament, have declared  464 S VLADIMIR’S HEOLOGICAL QUARERLY  themselves democratic, and now only vaguely discuss their hardline  positions. Tese groups belong to the ar right, the exact current identity o which has been the subject o countless academic studies. A more apt definition o the parliamentary ar right is  probably as a “populist radical right.” Te populist radical right is not identical with National Socialism, and, in act, several parts o it differ considerably. Tere is, however, a great deal o overlap and cross-ertilization, which should not be ignored. In a ascinating study, researchers have ound that the populist radical right has enjoyed particular success in countries which offi cially collaborated  with Nazi Germany during World War II (which, however, is not the case in Greece). Although these populist movements do not define themselves as descendants rom the historical Nazi parties, there is, nevertheless, a certain Nazi influence, which ofen creates conusion and doubts about their identities. 4 I will now attempt, thereore, to examine the points at which elements o National Socialism come into contact with the illnesses in the religious sphere. Te reader will have already noticed that 4 See Cas Mudde,  Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe  (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 244–46. See the discussion among experts about whether these should be considered ascist, neo-ascist, etc.: Andrei Zaslove, “Te Populist Radical Right: Ideology, Party Families, and Basic Principles o their Ideology,”  Political Studies Review  7: 3 (2009): 307. Mudde himsel (op cit, 413), considers them radical, but not extreme, to the extent that they are not unconstitutional. Ig-nazi argues that the traditional neo-ascist parties have been replaced by a new kind o ar right party which, while unconnected with ascist ideology, is nevertheless con-trary to the undamental values o the democratic system. See Piero Ignazi,  Extreme  Right Parties in Western Europe  (Oxord: Oxord University Press, 2003). See also Shadows Over Europe: Te Development and Impact o the Extreme Right in West-ern Europe  (eds. Martin Schain, Aristide Zolberg, & Patrick Hossay) (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2002), 61–81, and Hans-Georg Betz, “Te Growing Treat o the Radical Right,” in  Right-Wing Extremism in the wenty-First Century  (eds. Peter H. Merkl, Leonard Weinberg) (London: Frank Cass, 2003), 74–93. Here in Greece, it is worth noting that Golden Dawn has moved rom using the term “National So-cialist” to the term “Nationalist.” Te General Secretary o the party wrote: “Let no one be mistaken—there is no hint o apology in this. We do not take back a single  word o what we have written and argued. It is simply that we now consider this the most appropriate term.” N. G. Michaloliakos,  Enemies o the Status Quo: Golden  Dawn 1993–1998   (Ashkelon, 2000), 70, cited in Psaras, op cit, 251.

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Aug 4, 2017

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Aug 4, 2017
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