Does Russia’s “resacralization” of public life have much to teach the secular West?
Some think so. Matthew Dal Santo recently wrote in First Things: “Russian culture identifies a spiritual goal and norm for public life, the earthly counterpart of the holy city, and its name is not infrequently invoked in public discourse: Holy Rus. In this regard, Russian culture is closer to the truth than is the West’s all too rigorous political atheism.”
Dal Santo doesn’t defend Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But he argues that Ukraine’s growing alliance with the West entails growing secularization in contrast with Russia’s “public revival of Orthodoxy.” As he sees it, Russia has a spiritual telos that the West lacks.
Russia asserts, Dal Santo notes, that its invasion was to “save Orthodox civilization from Westernization and secularization, symbolized by the rainbow flag flown atop American embassies.”
Admitting that Putin cynically exploits religion, as rulers often do, Dal Santo still surmises that Russian spirituality is civilizationally superior to Western secularism.
This claim might appeal to some Americans rightly distressed by contemporary decadence. They may be the audience Putin and Russia’s Orthodox Patriarch Kirill hope to reach when claiming to represent religious traditionalism.
Russian religious traditionalism is different from America’s. Russian identity is rooted in Russian Orthodoxy. The conversion of Vladimir the Great, Kyiv’s grand prince, to Christianity in 988, shaped Russian identity and culture. This narrative inextricably links Russia to Russian Orthodox Christianity and to Ukraine, where Russian culture under Vladimir purportedly was born.
Continue reading at WORLD magazine here.