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The Visible Religion

The Russian Orthodox Church and her Relations with State and Society in Post-Soviet Canon Law (1992–2015)


Alexander Ponomariov

«The Visible Religion» is an antithesis to Thomas Luckmann’s concept. The Russian Orthodox Church in post-Soviet canon law suggests a comprehensive cultural program of modernity. Researched through the paradigms of multiple modernities and post-secularity, the ROC appears to be quite modern: she reflects on herself and the secular environment, employs secular language, appeals to public reason, the human rights discourse, and achievements of modern science. The fact that the ROC rejects some liberal Western developments should not be understood in the way that the ROC rejects modernity in general. As a legitimate player in the public sphere, the ROC puts forward her own – Russian Orthodox – model of modernity, which combines transcendence and immanence, theological and social reasoning, an afterlife strategy and cooperation with secular actors, whereby eschatology and the human rights discourse become two sides of the same coin.

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7. Church, State, and Society in Post-Secular Settings


7.1. State ↔ Religion

Although the ROC is a dominant religious organization in the Russian Federation with some 80% of nominal supporters, the Kremlin is interested in smooth relations with all religions in the country that might exercise a sizable influence either inside or outside its borders (cf. De Biase 2013).625 It is clear that, in return, religious communities are expected to provide their support to some state policies.

For instance, a public attack on the Russian authorities concerning the Winter Olympic Games of 2014 in Sochi, perpetrated by a British actor Stephen Fry, who positions himself as a “gay” and a “Jew” (Fry 2013), received a subtle public blowback from a religious organization. In his appeal to the British government and the International Olympic Committee, Fry compared the Russian law on homosexual propaganda among children (see section 7.2) to the persecution of Jews under Hitler.626 It did not take long for the Federation of the Jewish Communities of Russia (Федерация Еврейских Общин России), representing the international ultra-orthodox Hassidic movement Chabad Lubavitch, with Rabbi Berl Lazar as a spokesperson, to come up with a public counterstatement. After expressing his resentment with the parallels drawn by Fry, Rabbi Lazar stated the following:

Nobody says that we want to destroy or oppress representatives of the sexual minorities. There is no one who would pursue such a goal. What we are asking is that the discussion of homosexual issues should not pertain to children, for children are open to...

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