Saturday, April 30, 2022

Defending Christianianity?

I'm getting a bit of heat from the idiot Right in criticism of their view of Russia the new defender of Christianity. So I wonder how the guys will spin this.

This is the new "decoration" of the ISS courtesy of the Russians.

Russia is rehabilitating the Soviet Union and our idiot "Christian" Right are cheering them on. Let that sink in for the moment. The Christian "dissident" Right is supporting the party of Marx and the Gulag. Let's not forget which country spent millions of dollars trying to undermine the West. A lot of the Globohomo that we have now was a direct result of the subversion policy's of the USSR from a long time ago.

This is why the Right loses all the time: They're too stupid to see that they're supporting the forces that will ultimately undermine them.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Some More Military Religious Art

I got a fair amount of grief from the pro-Russian crowd in my last post about the Russian Military Cathedral which I felt tried to reconcile communism with orthodoxy.  Commo-Orthodoxy much like Judeo-Christianity is fundamentally incompatible due to their foundational premises.  As I tried to point out in my last post, patria and Christianity are compatible, Communism (and fascism for that matter) is not.

The allies destroyed of confiscated a lot Nazi art following the war, and I'm not sure how much of it had a religious element. But I managed to find an example of religious art produced in a time of totalitarianism that gets it right.

Oskar Martin Amorbach was a well renowned painter during the time of the Third Reich. He painted one of my favourite works from that time, The Sower. What I was not aware of is that he also painted a mural in the The Holy Trinity Chapel in Waldsassen. The mural was completed in 1940 while the Reich was on the rise. Titled, The Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, the mural of the German soldiers is seen as an allegory of the corporal acts of mercy. Of note, you have to look very carefully to see any Nazi imagery. The emphasis is clearly on German soldiers being good Christians.

They guys are clearly Wehrmacht but it's very difficult to see an Nazi symbolism at all.  In this image we see the German give a drink to French, Italian and Spanish prisoners of War, visiting the sick...

...and burying the dead. Note, the grave next to German grave is French. The imagery is clearly one of Christian morals, rather than a celebration an attempt to reconcile Nazism and Christianity.

Even this sort of thing from another Church and from the First World War, put in a Russian context would have been  more appropriate.

I'm not an artist, but it isn't too hard to see how faith and patria could be depicted in a way which acknowledged historicity while criticising totalitarianism.  Even some of the icons of Alexander Schmorell, a saint of the Russian Church, acknowledge his German military background in their depiction of him:

Note the German uniform under the white overshirt.

Now the guys who built the Cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces weren't stupid, they could have chosen to depict the Russians who fought during the Soviet era in a way which emphasised the faith and downplayed the Soviet.

They didn't and that's the problem, they're trying to reconcile the two.

BTW, I have taken most of the images here from the site of a Russian Photographer, Vladimir Pomortzeff,  The Woe of the Vanquished. Great site, have a look.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

The Cathedral of the Armed Forces in Russia

I meant to write about this last night but got stuck with other things.

Russia has built itself a new cathedral for its armed forces, and I've got to admit, on first impression, I really quite like it. It's a spectacular building of relatively traditional design which is very impressive.  I think the use of glass and color in the building is particularly imaginative and overall produces a grand ecclesiastical space with a sense of grandeur and sanctity that is completely lacking in most modern religious architecture. I've never really liked byzantine art but I've really warmed to this.

I'm not a big fan however, of how they have sited the building, placing a military "theme' park/museum next to it. I feel it detracts from the gravity of the space and it detracts from the sanctity and seriousness which the building itself so successfully evokes. The building has had it's critics, complaining about its color, which I like: it's glorification of the military, which I also think is appropriate in the right context, and some of the stylistic choices which I think are  petty.

In the previous post, Commetator Joseph A said:
I'd think the most controversial iconography in the military temple is the resurrection icon in the apse. I admit its rad coolness, but it strikes me as pretty innovative, as far as temple iconography goes. Not as wild as Jesus as Thor in D.C.'s National (R.C.) Basilica, but pretty wild for the Orthodox.
I personally think it is fantastic and great example of how a modern stylistic element can be incorporated into a traditional style in a way that adds to the intended effect. It's modern but  synches with the old. When I first saw it, I was gobsmacked.

Till I started noticing a few details.

Like the hammer and sickle on the ceiling, the abundance of unabashedly Soviet military officers and commemorations of the suppression of the Hungarian Revolution and the Prague Spring. Original proposals even included the image of Stalin, cast in a positive light. (Removed after protest from the Orthodox community.) Hmmm, I thought to myself, something's not right.

The purpose of any religious decoration is to convey the religious theology in some kind of visual form. So the presence and positive context of Soviet imagery in an Orthodox Church was either a mistake or some attempt to "synthesise" the two. Theologically, the synthesis is impossible since the ideals of Communism and the Ideals of mainstream Orthodox theology are oppositional. The only way such a synthesis can be achieved is by elevating the Russian commonality between the two extremes.  In such a schema the only way that  communism and Russian Orthodoxy can be reconciled is  because of their Russian-ness. God matters less than being Russian.

Stalin's image was removed after an outcry from members of the Orthodox Church.

Commentator Joseph A also said:
Many cathedrals and temples depict significant historical events. The National Cathedral in Washington D.C. (Anglican) has depictions of the War between the States among other important episodes in the life of the American nation. The Russian military sobor in this article does the same -- it is a temple for the armed forces, and there is an emphasis on WWII.
This is true but the issue is how to depict the art while being true to the religion. I fully understand that the "Great Patriotic War" was both an exercise in the expansion of Communism and a war of liberation against the Genocidal Germans, so Russia does have something legitimate--from a Christian perspective--to celebrate about it. How to depict it is the problem,  since what you don't want to do is elevated the anti-Christian in a such a depiction.  I don't think the art achieves this balance, neither do quite a few orthodox.

Lest anyone think that my comments are due to my inherent anti-Russianism, this interesting article by the Russian, Alexi Lidov, raises similar objections:

And from the perspective of social psychology it is interesting that many people are quite comfortable with this sort of understanding of Christianity, with the love of God soothingly transformed into the veneration of power.

It seems to me that the church we’re talking about aspires to become a monument of the era and a bright reflection of contemporary Russian religious consciousness[ED], as the most vivid manifestation of the deepest spiritual crisis but nowhere near a manifestation of triumph. And there is something paradoxical in this. I think this ambiguity and incongruity has been felt by many Orthodox people and this is precisely why the military church has evoked such an explosive reaction, and occasionally also deep antagonism, despite the unprecedented promotion of the project via state mass media. And it seems to me, too, that this will live on as a memorial of sorts to the era. But in my opinion, the proposed path is — undoubtedly — a ruinous dead end and should certainly not become an example for imitation.

Bonus: Lidov actually gives a very good talk here about the cathedral and various other Russian relgious topics. Worth a listen.

Fun fact that I didn't know: Stalin, after mercilessly persecuting religion in Russia only allowed it to practice again in order to get Lend Lease American military supplies. Apparently the Christians in Congress were refusing to the let the appropriate legislation pass because of Stalin's brutality towards religion. The only reason he opened the Churches in Russia was to win favour with the American Congress!

*Images are not mine and have been used under fair use provisions.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Religious Art du Jour

 Some interesting religious art from the newly consecrated Cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces.

The one on the left is the original version, the one on the right is what is considered theologically acceptable. (Stalin's been rubbed out.)

The Church also commemorates the crushing of the Prague Spring and Hungarian Uprising.

Some interesting theology going on there.

Some more pictures. 

Thursday, April 07, 2022

A Pseudo-Right Own Goal

The Pseudo Right support of Putin only results in the furthering of the causes of the Left.

The facts were quite clear. Among Putin's four military interventions in the former Soviet space, three targeted Christian and Orthodox countries. The direct aggression against Georgia was to the benefit of the Muslim Abkhazians. During the last conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, the French far right and the Republicans (Les R├ępublicains) called for Christian solidarity against the Turkish-Muslim threat. I had reminded them in an article (Le Monde, 18 November 2020) that the Russians were on Azerbaijan's side and not at all on the Armenians' side. They let the Azeris take over Karabakh and then pretended to intervene. In the wake of the war in Chechnya, Putin supported the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. The only place in geographical Europe where Sharia law is applied is in the Republic of Chechnya, in Russia. The attack on another Orthodox nation, Ukraine, will further accentuate the divisions in the Orthodox world but also in the Christian world in general (the Ukrainian Catholic Uniates are a bastion of Ukrainian patriotism). The only Ukrainian patriarch who still recognises the supremacy of Patriarch Cyril of Moscow, Onuphre, has just called on the faithful to defend the Ukrainian homeland. Putin has lost his claim to represent the Orthodox world.

Great essay by Oliver Roy. Note, in quoting Roy I don't agree with all that he says. I'm a big believer in the Clash of Civilisations theory. The problem isn't with the theory but in what is considered a civilisation. Samuel Huntington painted with too broad a brush, failing to appreciate that local factors--which cause the formation of identity--modify this theory quite a bit.