Author Topic: Theological Underpinnings of the Russian Autocracy  (Read 83376 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline RichC

  • Knyaz
  • ****
  • Posts: 757
    • View Profile
Re: Theological Underpinnings of the Russian Autocracy
« Reply #105 on: January 22, 2007, 03:12:23 PM »
I merely want to say "what he said" about this, although I would add that the resurgence of faith as a factor in American politics has been unimaginable to someone who lived through the 1960s and 1970s --- can you imagine JFK, LBJ or Nixon giving the impression that God is on personal retainer to the Republic? At least the Russian Tsar presided over a more-or-less monolithic faith community as a power base. How about "theological underpinnings" for a Republic?

And so it would seem to follow that, while it might be hard to stomach, the evangelical movement has not had quite the sort of earth-shattering, significant, negative impact on American politics that you and Tsarfan seem to be implying.

Bush and many of his ilk have merely identified with the goals and aims of the evangelical movement in order to count upon them for votes at the ballot box.  This policy was wildly successful and is what put him in the White House.  It's only begun to falter in the last few years as some evangelicals have wised up.  So, the evangelical movement is itself real and has had a major impact American politics.  Huge, if you ask me, Elisabeth.  And politicians  are right there to take advantage while sneering at their own supporters behind their backs.  Of course Bush is a phony on many levels; he's not really an evangelical, he's certainly not a "man of the people"; he's not even a real Southerner -- his family's roots are actually in New England.  His grandfather was a longtime senator from Connecticut.

Isn't U.S. history replete with a series of "Great Awakenings" or religious revivals going back to even before the American War of Independence?  Perhaps that's what we're going through now?

BTW, Elisabeth, I thought God Bless America was revived in the wake of 9/11.  I think Celine Dion (don't laugh!!!) did a recording of it right after the attacks and it was really beautiful.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2007, 03:18:34 PM by RichC »

Elisabeth

  • Guest
Re: Theological Underpinnings of the Russian Autocracy
« Reply #106 on: January 23, 2007, 12:13:55 PM »
Bush and many of his ilk have merely identified with the goals and aims of the evangelical movement in order to count upon them for votes at the ballot box.  This policy was wildly successful and is what put him in the White House.  It's only begun to falter in the last few years as some evangelicals have wised up.  So, the evangelical movement is itself real and has had a major impact American politics.  Huge, if you ask me, Elisabeth.  And politicians  are right there to take advantage while sneering at their own supporters behind their backs.  Of course Bush is a phony on many levels; he's not really an evangelical, he's certainly not a "man of the people"; he's not even a real Southerner -- his family's roots are actually in New England.  His grandfather was a longtime senator from Connecticut.

Well, I couldn't agree with you more, RichC, about Bush and the Republican leadership's cynical attitude towards the evangelical movement (and the other things you mention, such as Bush's background). But that's precisely why I think you and some of the others here have rather exaggerated the impact of the evangelical movement on American politics. (Please note, I never claimed that they had had no impact, just not such a "huge" impact as you say.) For example, maybe someone like John McCain would have been the Republican nominee in the 2000 election, if only he hadn't called Jerry Falwell and his ilk "the forces of darkness" (and BTW, I can't help but admire McCain, if only for that soundbite!) and thereby played into the hands of Bush and his Born Again cohorts. So yes, maybe the course of history might have been changed if not for those blankety-blank evangelicals. But I tend to think not. Because McCain has been a supporter of the Iraq War, albeit perhaps a reluctant one (he's said it's time to pull out if 100,000 new troops aren't forthcoming - and in Bush's latest gameplan, needless to say, they are not).   

Isn't U.S. history replete with a series of "Great Awakenings" or religious revivals going back to even before the American War of Independence?  Perhaps that's what we're going through now?

Good point, and no doubt it's true that the twentieth century as a whole witnessed a great revival of religious feeling in the United States, not just recently, but as I said before, beginning at the very earliest with the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s (although surely the Temperance movement of the turn of the century, culminating in Prohibition, also counts). So Christianity has indeed been a force for both the positive and the negative in American history... it's just my personal opinion that, given the gains of the Civil Rights movement under Martin Luther King, Jr., in the ultimate scheme of things, the positive far outweighs the negative. And let's not forget that the 19th-century abolitionist movement, both in the United States and Great Britain, was spearheaded by deeply religious people. I think, again, that these facts rather outweigh the so-called religiosity of American slaveholders and the Ku Klux Klan (which was at any rate completely at variance with the teachings of Christ). After all, it's important to remember that slavery was not a European invention, although outlawing it might very well have been.

BTW, Elisabeth, I thought God Bless America was revived in the wake of 9/11.  I think Celine Dion (don't laugh!!!) did a recording of it right after the attacks and it was really beautiful.

Hmmm, I seem to recall Bush having it played on important occasions even before 9/11, but you might be right. As for Celine Dion, sorry, to be honest, I can't stand her, or her voice!

Offline Tsarfan

  • Velikye Knyaz
  • ****
  • Posts: 1848
  • Miss the kings, but not the kingdoms
    • View Profile
Re: Theological Underpinnings of the Russian Autocracy
« Reply #107 on: January 23, 2007, 01:52:15 PM »
Good point, and no doubt it's true that the twentieth century as a whole witnessed a great revival of religious feeling in the United States . . . .

Here are some figures on U.S. religion demographics derived from Gallup Poll and other research data:

14% of the electorate in 2000 identified itself as part of the "Christian Right".  79% of them voted for Bush.

In 1976, 34% of people polled identified themselves as either Evangelical or Born-Again Christians.  In 2000 that figure was 45%.

However, these groups don't vote as a bloc.  84% of the white evangelical Protestant vote went to Bush in 2000, and 40% of Bush's total vote came from Christian evangelicals.  However black protestant voters (of whom most are evangelical) voted 96% for Gore.

Almost half of all evangelicals identify as Republicans, and about a quarter identify as Democrats.

Older evangelicals in the U.S. lag behind the general population in education and income.  However, the evangelical movement is making inroads with young, highly-educated suburbanites, particularly in the South and the Midwest.

Evangelicals are much more focused on getting out their vote.  In 2000, 79% of people who voted for Bush had been contacted by a politicized religious group, compared to 36% who voted for Gore.

Protestant churches that push political activism are the fastest growing segment of religion in the U.S.  Between 1990 and 2000:

  • the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) grew by 19.3 %
  • Churches of Christ grew by 18.6%
  • the Roman Catholic Church grew by 16.2%
  • Pentacostal Assemblies of God grew by 18.5%

Elisabeth

  • Guest
Re: Theological Underpinnings of the Russian Autocracy
« Reply #108 on: January 23, 2007, 02:58:55 PM »

Protestant churches that push political activism are the fastest growing segment of religion in the U.S.  Between 1990 and 2000:

  • the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) grew by 19.3 %
  • Churches of Christ grew by 18.6%
  • the Roman Catholic Church grew by 16.2%
  • Pentacostal Assemblies of God grew by 18.5%

Yes, that's some revival. But I still don't think it makes the United States a theocracy, or anything bordering on such, and the state of our federal government is certainly not comparable to Russia under Nicholas II, as I believe Simon argued or at least implied earlier (but perhaps I misunderstood him?). Personally I find it depressing that certain Protestant churches are experiencing such a boom in converts; on the other hand, if you look at the Russian Federation, and the state of Orthodoxy there, maybe it's not such a bad thing. At least most Protestant sects have a strong work ethic. (Hey, please don't butcher me here, I'm just trying to look on the bright side! Speaking of which, has anyone else seen the new HBO series Big Love? Fantastic, isn't it?)

Offline Tsarfan

  • Velikye Knyaz
  • ****
  • Posts: 1848
  • Miss the kings, but not the kingdoms
    • View Profile
Re: Theological Underpinnings of the Russian Autocracy
« Reply #109 on: January 23, 2007, 03:09:13 PM »
Speaking of which, has anyone else seen the new HBO series Big Love? Fantastic, isn't it?)

I bought the first season of Big Love  on DVD and devoured the whole thing within a week.  Sort of a Desperate Mormon Housewives.  My favorite line was when Bill Paxton goes to check on his ill father, only to find him lying filthy and gasping for breath on the living room floor.  Then Paxton's mother -- no fan of that husband of hers -- sticks her head in to report, "he's doing much better today."  Who knew Mormons had a sense of humor?


Offline Louis_Charles

  • Velikye Knyaz
  • ****
  • Posts: 1498
    • View Profile
Re: Theological Underpinnings of the Russian Autocracy
« Reply #110 on: January 23, 2007, 03:57:03 PM »

Protestant churches that push political activism are the fastest growing segment of religion in the U.S.  Between 1990 and 2000:

  • the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) grew by 19.3 %
  • Churches of Christ grew by 18.6%
  • the Roman Catholic Church grew by 16.2%
  • Pentacostal Assemblies of God grew by 18.5%


Yes, that's some revival. But I still don't think it makes the United States a theocracy, or anything bordering on such, and the state of our federal government is certainly not comparable to Russia under Nicholas II, as I believe Simon argued or at least implied earlier (but perhaps I misunderstood him?). Personally I find it depressing that certain Protestant churches are experiencing such a boom in converts; on the other hand, if you look at the Russian Federation, and the state of Orthodoxy there, maybe it's not such a bad thing. At least most Protestant sects have a strong work ethic. (Hey, please don't butcher me here, I'm just trying to look on the bright side! Speaking of which, has anyone else seen the new HBO series Big Love? Fantastic, isn't it?)

Oh, God, no, I don't think we're a theocracy (I don't think Tsarist Russia was, either). But I do think that what stops us from going down that road is the plurality of American denominations --- I mean, there is a lot of religious criticism of Bush's policies being put out by the Roman Catholic Church.

My point is that we were not designed to be a religious state, so it is odd to me that the Evangelical card has been as effective as it has.

Simon
« Last Edit: January 23, 2007, 04:00:13 PM by Louis_Charles »
"Simon --- Classy AND Compassionate!"
   
"The road to enlightenment is long and difficult, so take snacks and a magazine."

Bev

  • Guest
Re: Theological Underpinnings of the Russian Autocracy
« Reply #111 on: January 23, 2007, 06:31:13 PM »
I think that what keeps us from going down that road is the constitution.  There used to be a time in this country when religion informed ladies' and gentlemen's characters, now it's used to inform the neighbors.

Offline RichC

  • Knyaz
  • ****
  • Posts: 757
    • View Profile
Re: Theological Underpinnings of the Russian Autocracy
« Reply #112 on: January 23, 2007, 07:58:38 PM »

So yes, maybe the course of history might have been changed if not for those blankety-blank evangelicals. But I tend to think not. Because McCain has been a supporter of the Iraq War, albeit perhaps a reluctant one (he's said it's time to pull out if 100,000 new troops aren't forthcoming - and in Bush's latest gameplan, needless to say, they are not).

I recognize that the reasons for going into Iraq probably did not really stem from desires on the part of evangelicals, Elisabeth.  I guess what I meant by the "huge" impact was the numbers of evangelicals who voted for Bush in the first place, thinking that he stood shoulder to shoulder with them on a whole list of issues.  He really had them hoodwinked, so much so that he was able to get them to blindly follow along on almost anything he wanted.  In order to keep up the charade, for example, he referred to the Iraq war as a "crusade", a comment clearly designed to play to the evangelical base. 

« Last Edit: January 23, 2007, 08:12:58 PM by RichC »

Offline Tsarfan

  • Velikye Knyaz
  • ****
  • Posts: 1848
  • Miss the kings, but not the kingdoms
    • View Profile
Re: Theological Underpinnings of the Russian Autocracy
« Reply #113 on: January 24, 2007, 06:01:54 AM »
I think that what keeps us from going down that road is the constitution.

Unfortunately, I have begun to lose faith in the constitution as a sufficient barricade to a determined ideologue.

Just last week, Attorney General Gonzales testified before Congress that the administration's furtive wiretapping had been done under the President's plenary powers to wage war.  However, there is an interesting clause in the constitution that confers the power to declare war only on Congress.  And Congress has taken no vote to declare war on Iraq or even on "terrorism".

Bush is not the only President to have skirted this particular clause of the constitution.  In fact, Congress has declared no war since December 1941, yet we have been engaged militarily in Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon, and a host of African and central European countries.  But at least we observed the niceities.  Korea was called a "police action".  Vietnam was arguably authorized by the Gulf of Tonkin resolution.  And (except for that humid weekend in Granada) we were in other countries under U.N. sponsorship.

But I can remember no President before Bush who has claimed officially  to assume wartime powers when no war has been declared.  It is a bald usurpation from Congress of the power to declare war.

Another constitutional threshold was crossed with the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives.  Flouting if not the narrow language of the constiution, then certainly the long lineage of court cases that have elucidated the dividing line, Mr. Bush put both the office of the President and the funds of all taxpayers behind the promotion of religion for political purposes.

Bush's zeal to launch a war against someone early in his presidency -- without waiting for proof of offense, without securing U.N. support, without securing a legal declaration of war -- certainly had a lot to do with our perceptions about terrorist threats.  But it also had a lot to do with giving him political aircover early in his presidency to advance some social agendas that were dear to his political base but lacked more widespread support.

Many political commentators have remarked how smoothly Bush assumed office on the heels of a contested vote count in which there were serious doubts that he really carried Florida in 2000 (where his brother was governor and the person who certified the vote was a staunch Republican who pushes a "Christian right" agenda) and that he really carried Ohio in 2004.  They compared it to the public unrest in Mexico over a similarly-confused recent election and drew the lesson that the U.S. is an ultra-stable political society.  However, I have wondered if Bush's precipitous rush into Iraq didn't have something to do with deflecting public and Congressional discussion about voting procedures in the U.S.

What is scariest to me about all this is not that Bush is doing it.  Franlkin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, to name but two Democratic Presidents, were equally cynical and Machiavellian.  What is scariest is that there have been so few challenges to it, either in Congress or the courts.  (Perhaps it's no coincidence that all three of these Presidents were "wartime" Presidents and were driving aggressive social agendas:  the New Deal, the War on Poverty, and the Moral Crusade.  Has war somehow sneaked up on us as something a President views as necessary for driving an aggressive domestic agenda?)

I think that Bush's presidency will be one of the most studied by future students of U.S. history . . . not because it was successful, but because it pushed the edge on so many points relating to our system of checks and balances.

Offline Louis_Charles

  • Velikye Knyaz
  • ****
  • Posts: 1498
    • View Profile
Re: Theological Underpinnings of the Russian Autocracy
« Reply #114 on: January 24, 2007, 07:11:54 AM »
Very interesting point about war being a license to put pressure upon constitutional observance. I think that in the mind of a religious person, one's duty to God trumps one's duty to the constitution if the two are perceived as being in conflict. Any checks and balances that can keep a ruler from behaving in this fashion are salutary, I suppose. In the United States these certainly include the Constitution (provided it is vigorously enforced by the courts and legislature). But it is also the diversity of religious belief in the country (and a significant absence of the same on the part of many people) that keeps theocratic rule at bay. It is no longer possible, if it ever was, to promote one religious set of beliefs as peculiarly "American".

Not true in Tsarist Russia, and the submission of the Russian Orthodox Church to the throne gave the Tsars carte blanche to manipulate religion as a tool of rule. It also put the Church at a disadvantage when it came to criticizing his actions as monarch, or the imperial system as a whole. This was particularly true when it came to war. As Tsarfan has pointed out, it is difficult to reconcile war with Christianity, but an imperial rule is predicated upon the activity because imperial regimes are inherently expansionist. At various times in American history, we have been imperial --- the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War --- but our expansionist tendencies were easily met by the western movement. But the Tsar was expected to add to the empire, and the kind of pressures that Tsarfan describes as straining the American Constitution under wartime conditions also existed in imperial Russia --- without the check of a constitution OR a critical church until the end.
"Simon --- Classy AND Compassionate!"
   
"The road to enlightenment is long and difficult, so take snacks and a magazine."

Offline Louis_Charles

  • Velikye Knyaz
  • ****
  • Posts: 1498
    • View Profile
Re: Theological Underpinnings of the Russian Autocracy
« Reply #115 on: January 24, 2007, 08:07:58 AM »
As far as the imperial Russian Orthodox Church was concerned, how effective an advocate for the poor was it? My impression is that the initiatives to free the serfs did not arise from the Church. Elisabeth's mention of the role that religion played in the American abolitionist movement set me to thinking about this. It certainly does not seem to have intervened to succor the Jews, but did it put pressure upon the Tsar to relieve poverty?
"Simon --- Classy AND Compassionate!"
   
"The road to enlightenment is long and difficult, so take snacks and a magazine."

Offline Tsarfan

  • Velikye Knyaz
  • ****
  • Posts: 1848
  • Miss the kings, but not the kingdoms
    • View Profile
Re: Theological Underpinnings of the Russian Autocracy
« Reply #116 on: January 24, 2007, 01:26:43 PM »
There were numerous reports that pogroms were often instigated by and participated in by local clerics.

The Kishinev pogrom of 1903 is reported as the first state-sponsored pogrom of the 20th century.  For a month, rumors circulated in the city that tension was building, fuelled by flyers and press reports of the ritual murder of a young Christian boy.  The archbishop was asked to speak out to calm the situation but declined.  The actual violence broke out on the first day of Easter upon conclusion of church services.  The rioters left the square where Easter was being celebrated and spread themselves out evenly across the Jewish districts to begin three days of attacks on Jewish persons and property while the local police and nearby army units awaited orders to intervene.

I, too, would be interested to hear what the Orthodox Chruch did to address serfdom, poverty, and to reign in anti-semitic violence in Russia.

Elisabeth

  • Guest
Re: Theological Underpinnings of the Russian Autocracy
« Reply #117 on: January 24, 2007, 01:31:14 PM »
As far as the imperial Russian Orthodox Church was concerned, how effective an advocate for the poor was it? My impression is that the initiatives to free the serfs did not arise from the Church.

Excellent point, Simon. As far as I know, most or even all of the initiatives to view the serfs as fellow human beings, and not as mere subhuman slaves, originated with Russian writers of the late eighteenth to early nineteenth century (most notably Radishchev in A Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow and Karamzin in his sentimental tale about a serf girl, "Poor Liza"). During the reign of Nicholas I (1825-1855), the state toyed with the idea of emancipating the serfs, at least in so far as Nicholas appointed special commissions to look into the question. According to a lot of historians who specialize in this historical period, Nicholas's commissions set an important precedent for Alexander II when it came time for him to begin his great reforms, which included the Emancipation (1861). But I don't know of any initiatives undertaken by the Russian Orthodox Church... in fact, not a single one has ever come to my attention.

Elisabeth's mention of the role that religion played in the American abolitionist movement set me to thinking about this. It certainly does not seem to have intervened to succor the Jews, but did it put pressure upon the Tsar to relieve poverty?

My impression is that in the modern era, the Russian Orthodox Church's relationship with the imperial state was a lot like faith-based initiatives under President George W. Bush... only, if you can imagine it, and if it's even possible, probably a hundred times worse. Because as you know, the Orthodox Church, after Peter the Great, was completely subservient to the autocrat. Thanks to Peter, and even arguably thanks to Ivan IV before him, the Russian Church never stood a chance of playing the same crucial role as a counterweight to secular authority as the Catholic Church played in the West. In fact, during the reign of Ivan the Terrible, the Metropolitan Philip called upon the tsar to repent of his crimes: "If you are high in rank, then in body you are just like any other man, for though you may be honored with God's image, you are still God's 'subject.' He who truly can be called a ruler, rules himself; he is not controlled by passions but is victorious through love" (Metropolitan Philip, quoted in Benson Bobrick, Fearful Majesty: The Life and Reign of Ivan the Terrible, p. 226). Ivan responded to Philip's repeated criticisms of his conduct as tsar by ordering him to be put on trial, kidnapped, imprisoned, and finally, it seems, murdered by suffocation. And after Philip, not surprisingly, Russian prelates proved to be very unwilling indeed to undertake any sort of criticism of the reigning tsar, until not much more than a century later, Peter's reforms eviscerated the Russian Orthodox Church all together.  
« Last Edit: January 24, 2007, 01:37:01 PM by Elisabeth »

Elisabeth

  • Guest
Re: Theological Underpinnings of the Russian Autocracy
« Reply #118 on: January 24, 2007, 01:50:14 PM »
There were numerous reports that pogroms were often instigated by and participated in by local clerics.

The Kishinev pogrom of 1903 is reported as the first state-sponsored pogrom of the 20th century.  For a month, rumors circulated in the city that tension was building, fuelled by flyers and press reports of the ritual murder of a young Christian boy.  The archbishop was asked to speak out to calm the situation but declined.  The actual violence broke out on the first day of Easter upon conclusion of church services.  The rioters left the square where Easter was being celebrated and spread themselves out evenly across the Jewish districts to begin three days of attacks on Jewish persons and property while the local police and nearby army units awaited orders to intervene.

I, too, would be interested to hear what the Orthodox Chruch did to address serfdom, poverty, and to reign in anti-semitic violence in Russia.

The average cleric in the tsarist Russian Orthodox Church, even up to the early twentieth century, was notoriously under-educated and ill bred. There's simply no comparison, on the educational level, to Catholic priests in the West. Hence the great disdain with which the average Russian priest was usually regarded by most of the population, peasants and nobility alike. It was left to Russia's great religious philosophers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, not all of whom were officially approved of by the Orthodox Church, to condemn anti-Semitism. Such a philosopher was Vladimir Soloviev (sometimes transliterated as Solovyov), who also influenced the Symbolist movement in the arts; another, who fully developed his theology only in the Russian emigration (i.e., after 1917), was Father Sergei (Sergius) Bulgakov.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2007, 01:53:29 PM by Elisabeth »

Offline Tsarfan

  • Velikye Knyaz
  • ****
  • Posts: 1848
  • Miss the kings, but not the kingdoms
    • View Profile
Re: Theological Underpinnings of the Russian Autocracy
« Reply #119 on: January 24, 2007, 02:15:57 PM »
In fact, during the reign of Ivan the Terrible, the Metropolitan Philip called upon the tsar to repent of his crimes: "If you are high in rank, then in body you are just like any other man, for though you may be honored with God's image, you are still God's 'subject.' He who truly can be called a ruler, rules himself; he is not controlled by passions but is victorious through love" (Metropolitan Philip, quoted in Benson Bobrick, Fearful Majesty: The Life and Reign of Ivan the Terrible, p. 226). Ivan responded to Philip's repeated criticisms of his conduct as tsar by ordering him to be put on trial, kidnapped, imprisoned, and finally, it seems, murdered by suffocation. And after Philip, not surprisingly, Russian prelates proved to be very unwilling indeed to undertake any sort of criticism of the reigning tsar, until not much more than a century later, Peter's reforms eviscerated the Russian Orthodox Church all together.  

This is a very cogent statement of the reason I think mystical ceremonies in which the Church imbued the Tsar with God's authority through the quasi-sacrament of coronation are just so much hocus-pocus.  The Orthodox Church, no matter what its origins, had long since become the major propaganda arm of the autocracy by the time of the Revolution.  One cannot be vested with authority by an institution that one controls.

As peasant jubilation or indifference at Nicholas' abdication showed, you can fool some of the peasants all of the time and all of the peasants some of the time.  But you can't fool all of the peasants all of the time . . . even when you're wearing Church raiment.