Michael Cherenkov's column

On 'Ukrainian Christianity'

31.05.2011, 14:50
On 'Ukrainian Christianity' - фото 1
“Ukrainian Christianity” is not Christianity sui generis, it is the same Christianity that serves all, and in our case, serves the Ukrainian people. In this sense, Kyiv- or Ukrainian-centrism is not a religious and political counterweight of Moscow or the Vatican, but an orientation to serve in the epicenter of one’s nation’s life.

cherenkov_kyjiv.jpgWhat is “Ukrainian Christianity”? It is the same Christianity that exists in Europe and America, Asia and Africa, which existed during the Patristic and Scholastic Periods, during the Reformation and Modernism. Universal, synodal, the only in its history and its faith of Christ, Christianity serves every nation, coloring in unique shades, creating recognizable social institutions, according to national requests.

“Ukrainian Christianity” is not Christianity sui generis, it is the same Christianity that serves all, and in our case, serves the Ukrainian people. In this sense, Kyiv- or Ukrainian-centrism is not a religious and political counterweight of Moscow or the Vatican, but an orientation to serve in the epicenter of one’s nation’s life.

The concept “Ukrainian Christianity,” for some fortunately, others unfortunately, is denied of essentialism. There is no magic recipe for Ukrainianness. There is no magical substance that produces “Ukrainian Christianity.” Unfortunately, because without it, it is more difficult – not a single ruler of secrets, prophet of the nation, primate of a church knows the secret of “Ukrainian Christianity” and thus cannot create on the basis of his knowledge a single national church. Fortunately, because without the vital and magical substance the project of “Ukrainian Christianity” remains open, as something that we create together and not find somewhere in its ready form.

There are two ways to discuss the idea of “Ukrainian Christianity” – through the historical-theological approach or the modern theological approach. The historical-theological approach offers a reconstruction of an already existing tradition and is interesting for those who (in history) are already there, or can prove their right for a place in it. At the same time, the historical arguments of belonging to the tradition of St. Volodymyr’s baptism look rather strange even for the Orthodox and Greek Catholics, neither of which existed in 988, for the Great Schism of 1054 had not taken place, and especially because there had still been no union.

Former head of the UGCC Patriarch Lubomyr’s famous thesis about the unity of the Orthodox and Catholics on the basis of the archetypal date of the Baptism of Rus’ is weak in its chronological historical point, and strong in its meta-historical point, in the sense that it appeals to the common history of the church and people, to the Christian responsibility for the fate of the people of Kyivan Rus’ and their descendents.

The strong point of the thesis about the common history and unity of Ukrainian churches relates most likely to the second approach – the modern theological approach. Indeed, tradition is not recorded in some date but open to formation or to continuation. The view from today requires not so much a historical search of a lost tradition as the creation of this tradition with the will and strength of churches open to this cooperation. Then there will be a discussion of not only the details of the past but also of the principles and conditions of unity and common service of various branches of the diverse “Ukrainian Christianity.”

The identity of “Ukrainian Christianity” is open; it is no longer the voice of the land and blood, land and faith, but a conscious choice of an individual and the society, the community and culture. There cannot be an “Orthodox nation,” just as there cannot be a “Protestant ethic” or culture. These are all idealistic, not realistic, types. In reality there is a Ukrainian nation and Ukrainian culture, in which there are various types of ethics, cultural traditions, and features of the denominations.

In a world where differences are increasing, a condition for a peaceful life is realizing that one is part of something bigger. Traditions of various churches that serve the Ukrainian people relate to each other not like a part and whole, but like different parts of one whole.

Globalism has forced us to relook at the “nationalism” of the church, state, economy, and culture. National specificity persists but is included in the larger orders, where there is an awareness of oneself as part of something bigger. As such Christianity is self-reflected not only in the plurality of national or denominational traditions but also in a single entity, in the global, world Christianity. What is observed in the large scale is consistent with the processes at the national level – “Ukrainian Christianity” begins to be identified as an all-inclusive, collective entity.

This collective identity of Ukrainian Christianity forms at various levels. The president met with the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (AUCCRO) after all, which, as hoped, made him and the government feel the unity and strength of Ukrainian Christianity. In the AUCCRO Catholics, Orthodox, Greek Catholics, and Protestants all sit at the same table, and decisions are made by consensus. But this is only the political-diplomatic dimension, which is supposed to be supplemented by working groups, advisors, authorized representatives, commissions. Church hierarchs are to meet at the table not only in a celebratory atmosphere. There must constantly be theological discussions takings place between the denominations, which are to help the denominations re-identify themselves as small traditions that make up a larger tradition.

Today a lot can be heard about the churches’ dialogue and traditions, but not all know that there are types of the dialogue in which community is not valued and not sought after. The dialogue “Me and the Other” can teach a lot, but it does not achieve unity. “Me and Him” can eventually become “Me and You,” but in a dialogue of parts where each considers itself the whole, there is no chance for the hypostasis “We” as a collective entity. Ukrainian churches learned to be themselves, but they still know little about the “courage to be a part,” as described by the Protestant Tillich (who is rarely read by both our Orthodox and Protestant believers).

The common historical heritage includes not only the three Orthodox churches and the Greek Catholics but also Protestants and Romans Catholics. Historical inclusiveness supplements community in the modern, modern-oriented service to the Ukrainian people. Each church can dream about a patriarchate, but for all to be in one patriarchate will be crowded. There are other categories – communities, families, brotherhoods, spiritual unity – where there is room for everyone, where it is possible to emerge from the narrow-denominational scope.

The long-awaited unity of “Ukrainian Christianity” requires that all denominations be recognized as parts of a whole. Of course, this unity will not be canonical but spiritual, a Eucharistic community and not a religious institute. As such the “schism,” that is, the division of various parts of the past and future whole, will not be considered a tragedy but a natural plurality of denominational displays of one large tradition.