Written by Vladimir Moss



     Globalization is a fact that one can lament but which one cannot dispute or fight against. For better or worse, most of us live in multi-ethnic and multi-cultural societies in which the possibilities of isolation from other peoples or cultures are few and getting fewer all the time. Our Orthodox Christian faith requires that we defend ourselves from the harmful influences, if not of other peoples, at any rate of other non-Orthodox cultures and faiths. But this cannot be done in the manner of the Talmudic Jews, by creating defensive ghettoes in which we isolate ourselves completely from the external world. Even if the older generation can achieve this to a limited degree because old people are less useful to society as a whole, this is impossible for the young, who have to go to school and university, get jobs, raise families, use the internet and social media, and in general interact with many non-Orthodox people and institutions.


     Even the contemporary so-called “Orthodox” states offer no real protection to their citizens; for none of them today, however loudly they may talk about faith and “traditional values”, is based on the truly Orthodox faith. The real principles upon which they operate are an uneasy and constantly shifting mixture of nationalism, “human rights” and simple greed and fear. But, as the political scientist Francis Fukuyama writes, “a political order based on Serb ethnic identity or Twelver Shi’ism will never grow beyond the boundaries of some… corner of the Balkans or Middle East, and could certainly never become the governing principle of large, diverse, dynamic, and complex modern societies…”[1]


     Fukuyama is discussing the problem of preserving social stability and trust in our globalizing world. He recognizes the historical importance of religion in preserving stability and morality, but doubts the possibility of traditional religion again playing such a role. “Some religious conservatives hope, and many liberals fear, that the problem of moral decline will be resolved by a large-scale return to religious orthodoxy, a Western version of Ayatollah Khomeini returning to Iran on a jetliner. For a variety of reasons, this seems unlikely. Modern societies are so culturally diverse that it is not clear whose version of orthodoxy would prevail. Any true form of orthodoxy is likely to be seen as a threat to large and important groups in the society, and hence would neither get very far nor serve as a basis for a widening radius of trust. Instead of integrating society, a conservative religious revival may in fact accelerate the movement toward fragmentation and moral miniaturization that has already occurred: the various varieties of Protestant fundamentalists will argue among themselves over doctrine, orthodox Jews will become more orthodox, and newer immigrant groups like Muslims and Hindus may start to organize themselves as political-religious communities.


     “A return to religiosity is far more likely to take a more benign, decentralized form, in which religious belief is less an expression of dogma than of the community’s existing norms and desire for order. In some respects, this has already started to happen in many parts of the United States. Instead of community arising as a by-product of rigid belief, people will come to belief because of their desire for community. In other words, people will return to religious tradition not necessarily because they accept the truth of revelation, but precisely because the absence of community and the transience of social ties in the secular world make them hungry for ritual and cultural tradition. They will help the poor or their neighbours not because doctrine tells them they must, but because they want to serve their communities and find that faith-based organizations are the most effective ways of doing so. They will repeat ancient prayers and re-enact age-old rituals not because they believe that they were handed down by God, but rather because they want their children to have the proper values and want to enjoy the comfort of ritual and the sense of shared experience it brings. In this sense they will not be taking religion seriously on its own terms. Religion becomes a source of ritual in a society that has been stripped bare of ceremony, and thus a reasonable extension of the natural desire for social relatedness that all human beings are born with. It is something that modern, rational, sceptical people can take seriously, much as they celebrate their national independence, dress up in traditional ethnic garb, or read the classic of their own cultural tradition…”[2]


     Fukuyama’s remarks are penetrating and true as regards most contemporary religion, including most that goes under the name of Orthodox Christianity. But as he himself admits, the religion he describes is not real religion; these worshippers are “not taking religion seriously on its own terms” because religious belief now “is less an expression of dogma than of the community’s existing norms and desire for order”. And since Fukuyama sees no possibility of a revival of real – that is, dogmatic – religion, he is resigned to the continuance of the adogmatic forms of religion that he describes (perhaps also because he himself is adogmatic).


     But he is not necessarily right. Let us look at the example he himself cites – that of the Iranian revolution under Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. This religious revival came completely out of the blue to most observers. Moreover, in spite of its being based on “Twelver Shi’ism” rather than the more universalist Sunni form of Islam, it has had a wide and expanding influence beyond the borders of Iran. And this has excited a corresponding revival in its Sunni rival. No political or social commentator can now ignore the influence of fundamentalist Islam in general. Moreover, - and this is the important point, - this revival is a real religion in that it is dogmatic and demands to be taken seriously on its own terms – that is, in terms of its beliefs.


     Of course, while Islam is a real religion, it is not the true religion. That honour belongs to Orthodox Christianity alone. But Islam claims to express the truth – the one truth about God and mankind as a whole. Unlike ecumenist Christianity and ecumenist Orthodoxy, it believes in the existence of one truth, and it believes that the truth resides exclusively in Islam. That is why we call it a real religion…


     Now if a real, if untrue religion can undergo such a spectacular revival in our secular, relativist and globalized world, there is no reason why another real, but true religion cannot have a similar revival. “With God all things are possible”, and He wishes “that all men be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth”. The only precondition for a revival of Orthodox Christianity is that sufficient numbers of people should sincerely and deeply desire the truth…




     We must remember that the original, spectacular expansion of Orthodoxy took place in another age of globalization. The Roman empire at the time of the apostles was very similar to modern western civilization in its ease of communications, multi-culturalism and ecumenism. Of course, the vital difference between then and now is the apostles themselves: truly apostolic figures in contemporary Orthodoxy are extremely difficult to find. Nevertheless, if we suppose that such apostolic figures will appear, the conditions are surely right for a very rapid expansion of the faith. Interest in religion as such is certainly not in decline; some of the main intellectual pillars of the atheist world-view, such as Darwinism, are definitely losing support; and while people are turning away from the churches, this if not necessarily because they have ceased searching for God, but because they have not found Him there – “they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him” (John 20.13).


     Globalization, television and the internet have made it perfectly possible for a contemporary St. Paul to travel all over the world and speak to vast numbers of people simultaneously. If he knew English, Spanish and Russian he could speak to most Christians; if he knew Arabic, Turkish and Farsee he could speak to most of the Muslims of the Middle East; if he spoke Chinese, Japanese, Malay, Urdu and Hindi he could speak to most of the Muslims and pagans of South Asia and the Far East. St. Augustine said that the gift of tongues had ceased in his time because the Roman world in which he lived had already been evangelized. The “speaking in tongues” of the Pentecostalists is clearly not the genuine article, but a demonic deception. Perhaps we are approaching the time when the genuine article will appear again – in response to a genuine need.


     Of course, to most of those who grieve at the undoubted and profound fall of the Christian world, this will sound like madness, pie-in-the-sky utopianism of the most incurable kind. Surely, they will say, this is a time to batten down the hatches and wait for the Antichrist, not look for the evangelization of the world! And yet did not the Lord say, at a time when the chosen people of the Jews had reached their absolute spiritual nadir: “Lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest” (John  4.35)? The harvest is surely no less great now than in the Lord’s time. And if the labourers seem to be even fewer now than then, is this any reason why we should not pray to the Lord of harvest to send fresh labourers, rather than allow that global harvest to rot – and ourselves and our children to perish with it?


     Again the Lord said: “This Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached throughout the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24.14). Who would be so bold as to say that this prophecy has already been fulfilled, so that all we need to do now is wait for the end? Can we honestly say that the Gospel of the Kingdom has been preached in China, or India, or Indonesia – to mention just three of the largest countries in the world? Is it not rather the case that the world is as much in ignorance of the true faith now as it was in St. Paul’s time? And is it not more reasonable to suppose that the present process of globalization is a preparation for a world-wide spreading of the Gospel, just as the Hellenization of the oikoumene, the then-known “inhabited world”, in the centuries before Christ was a preparation for the spreading of the Gospel by the apostles and their successors?




     The very nature of the quintessential globalist heresy, ecumenism, should make us ponder on the meaning of this prophecy. For what is ecumenism if not: (a) a powerful witness to a strong desire, among people of all religions and none, for a universal faith that will unite the world spiritually as it is now united economically and technologically; and (b) an attempt to ban the spread of the one universal faith that can quench that spiritual longing – Orthodox Christianity? Globalism and universalism would seem to go together: but ecumenism succeeds – or has succeeded so far – in pushing them apart. If the world is now a little village socially speaking, and if the consequences of disunity in the village – in the form of nuclear wars, environmental catastrophes, etc. – are so immense, threatening the destruction of the whole planet, then it makes sense to come together and seek agreement on a universalist faith and vision that will truly unite the nations. This must involve examining the various religions and subjecting their claims to truth and universality to critical examination. Now Orthodoxy has nothing to fear from such an examination. Our faith, being founded on the Rock that is the Resurrected Christ, has “many infallible proofs” (Acts 1.3) to support it. But the ecumenical movement seems designed specifically in order to avoid any such critical examination. The aim appears to be, not to find which of the many faiths is the true one, but to assume – without any good reason – that all of them are partially true, so that the whole truth can be found by finding the lowest common denominator among them. Moreover, it follows from this assumption that the preaching of any one faith as if it were true – in other words, missionary work – is undesirable and to be condemned.


     No scientist would approach the goal of scientific truth by assuming that all the hypotheses in front of him are partially true; but the leaders of the world’s faiths appear to think that such an irrational approach is acceptable in the religious sphere. Tragically, this includes the official leaders of the Local Orthodox Churches, whose participation in the World Council of Churches and its apostate decisions has continued now for over half a century. Moreover, on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, 1992, these Orthodox leaders, meeting in Constantinople, decided to stop missionary work among the Catholic and Protestant Christians of the West. A later agreement with the Monophysite and Nestorian heretics in Chambésy in 1994 more or less precluded missionary work among them also. In other words, in the globalized civilization that we all share, when both the opportunities for, and the necessity of, preaching the one true faith throughout the world have become greater than ever, this preaching has come to an end… This is not only a betrayal of Orthodoxy: it is a betrayal of the world, and of all those people searching for the truth who might have come to Orthodoxy if they had been given any encouragement. It is a failure of faith and hope; but even more it is a failure of courage and of love …


     The best form of defence is offense, and the best – probably now the only – way of defending ourselves against the evils of globalization is go on the offensive and bring the Gospel to our adversaries, thereby turning them from adversaries into friends and brothers. Neither the pseudo-globalism of ecumenism, nor the denial of universalism that is implied by nationalism, can provide more than a temporary and specious defence. For our faith is not only true: it is true for all men at all times, not least our own times.


     To say that Orthodoxy is only for Greeks or Russians or Serbs, together with a smattering of Hellenized, Russianized or Serbianized foreigners, is a betrayal of Orthodoxy’s essence. And to defend Orthodoxy only on the grounds that it is the cultural heritage of Greeks or Russians or Serbs is to condemn it to a parochial backwater that will inevitably dry up within one or two generations. For not only will our children have no solid ground on which to defend their faith against the globalist temptation: the world outside will not find in us the answer to their universalist thirst, and we will suffer the fate that the Lord decreed for the salt that has lost its savour: “It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men” (Matthew 5.13).


January 11/24, 2014.

St. Theodosius the Great.

[1] Fukuyama, The Great Disruption, London: Profile Books, 1999, p. 280.

[2] Fukuyama, op. cit., pp. 278-279.

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