Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Wealth & Religion

Dmitry Orlov, in Post-Soviet Lessons for a Post-American Century, writes of the religious differences between the Soviet Union and America - which reminds me why I am more at ease in Orthodoxy, than I could have ever been in fundamentalist Protestantism:

In spite of the architectural ostentation of the Russian Orthodox Church, and the pomp and circumstance of its rituals, its message has always been one of asceticism as the road to salvation. Salvation is for the poor and the humble, because one's rewards are either in this world or the next, not both

This is rather different from Protestantism, the dominant religion in America, which made the dramatic shift to considering wealth as one of God's blessings, ignoring some inconvenient points rather emphatically made by Jesus to the effect that rich people are extremely unlikely to be saved. Conversely, poverty became associated with laziness and vice, robbing poor people of their dignity.

Thus, a Russian is less likely to consider sudden descent into poverty as a fall from God's grace, and economic collapse as God's punishment upon the people, while the religions that dominate America - Protestantism, Judaism, and Islam - all feature temporal success of their followers as a key piece of evidence that God is well-disposed toward them.


What will happen once God's good will toward them is no longer manifest? Chances are, they will become angry and try to find someone other than their own selves to blame, that being one of the central mechanisms of human psychology. We should look forward to unexpectedly wrathful congregations eager to do the work of an unexpectedly wrathful God.

2 Comments:

Blogger Ian said...

The call to an ascetic life was a great pull for me also: I too easily fall into the temptation of material comfort: Orthodoxy, thanks be to God, keeps me focused on the important thing.

Wed Aug 09, 05:21:00 pm 2006  
Blogger Francis said...

Constantine, Constantine...how ironic it is that I just happened to give you this article just a few days ago! That's quite alright though. I was hoping that you'd find this passage. It stuck out for me too. ^.^

Fri Aug 11, 03:01:00 pm 2006  

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