With the swearing in of the new Greek Prime Minister this past week, I heard multiple news pundits share that it was really strange to see such a strong religious aspect accompany a seemingly secular event. Many references were made to separation of church and state–yes, our separation of church and state. Some personalities seemed to imply that our less religious political transfers of power should be more of the norm for other western, developed countries. The commentary was often laden with ethnocentrism mixed with disbelief that others could be so different. Disbelief that others could be so elementary or even so wrong.
Just because there are religious leaders all over the place does not make Greece or other declared Orthodox countries super-religious. This is not too different for Catholic countries as well, but one peculiarity of Orthodoxy is the nationalism that it reinforces and generates. Without a centralized Pope, many Orthodox countries have their own Patriarch. There has been a multi-century symbiotic relationship between the state and the church in these lands which I would contend continues to this day. The state has relied on the church to confirm its voice or authority as the one designated by God to lead the people. As for those of the cloth, the church has relied on the state to keep its head and shoulders connected. Whether this is actually execution, state funding, and/or unique, favorable legislation, the mode changes, but the outcome is very similar. In addition to the nationalism that this codependent relationship fosters, it also often leads to a secularization of society. Everyone is aware that there are charades afoot and all are willing and expecting to play along. Once the ceremonies are over, however, all can return to normal.
So, methinks, maybe a little less ethnocentric worldview would be good in general and especially so for the sent ones. Also, methinks that there is much to learn about how another people think, worship, live, etc. Understanding culture is a never-ending incremental process that we would do well to embrace if we are to be the ones to announce and demonstrate in contextually appropriate ways that indeed, our God does reign.