It appears that not a week can go by these days without seeing yet another group of offendotrons start foaming at the mouth over some triviality.
Who’s fewmin this time?
Well, primarily the more jihadist elements of Romania’s Orthodox Church. Fortunately, that’s not a huge number of people, although their numbers are growing as far-left, pro-Russian, anti-capitalist, anti-American and anti-European elements align themselves with far-right, neo-Legionaries. It’s an unholy alliance to say the least, and one that the vast majority of good, decent Romanian Orthodox Christians want nothing to do with.
So what’s the scandal about?
A music video of course. A music video featuring a song by a Romanian group, Taxi, which dares to suggest that building a huge great cathedral costing hundreds of millions of euros is not perhaps the best way to demonstrate your faith in God. The song is neither anti-religious nor anti-Orthodox. The exact opposite in fact. It projects a message of humility and respect, based around the simple idea that God can just as easily be found in traditional, small wooden churches as he can in ostentatious cathedrals that are little more than religious malls (St. Paul’s in London, which costs £18 to visit, being just one example).
We would tend to agree. We think that if in this day and age you are so insecure in your faith that you need to build a huge cathedral to show it, then you might want to take a good hard look at what it is you actually believe in. It’s certainly not the humble Jesus Christ of no fixed abode and no possessions – who was happy to preach anywhere to anyone – that most of us were brought up with.
Imagine if the money being spent on the cathedral (still less than half complete) were instead used to provide disabled access to every church in Romania. (Indeed, here’s a question we’d love to know the answer to: How many churches in Romania currently offer step-free access to those in wheelchairs?) Or would it not be better to ensure that ordinary priests in small villages – people who often carry out amazing work with absolutely no help from the centre – are paid a decent wage?
These subtleties have all been lost on the offendotrons of course. To them, any criticism (no matter how warranted) of the church is unacceptable and just a further example of how persecuted Christians are in Romania.
First of all, nothing and nobody – including church or religion – should be above criticism in a free country. Do these people want Romania to become a fundamentalist state? A kind of Christian Saudi Arabia? (Actually, yes, there are some who would welcome this: the pro-Russian, misogynistic, anti-abortion, anti-contraception, anti-women’s rights crowd in particular).
Secondly, the idea that Christians are being persecuted in Romania is nonsense. The Romanian Orthodox Church benefits from all sorts of state-funding, subsidies and indirect sweeteners such as tax exempt status. Not to mention the property it received after the Uniate Church was disbanded in 1948, which it appears to be under no obligation to hand back. All of these benefits come without any strings attached, not even the requirement to make its accounts public; something which, as we wrote late last year, would in fact greatly help its cause.
Taxi’s video features 33 familiar faces from the world of Romanian culture and art. Some are well-known Christians. This, ultimately, appears to be what has pissed off the jihadists the most (so much so that one of them has started burning books. Oh dear): the fact that disenchanted members of the church are beginning to challenge the direction the church leadership is taking. There was a similar questioning after the disaster at Colectiv last October, to which the church’s initial response was appalling. The church quite rightly got a rap over the knuckles and was forced to apologise (again, the offendotrons were not happy).
As with the aftermath of Colectiv, it is clear that the leadership of Romania’s church needs to once again look at what it stands for. Its love of luxury needs to be cast aside, else more and more people will question what kind of church it really is. If the offendotrons really do care about their church they would do well to get off their high horses and join the voices of those demanding reform. Simply insisting that criticism is unacceptable will only see the church’s authority and support erode further.
PS Worth noting that the church leadership has actually made no comment on the video. The offendotrons who would like to think that they are speaking in its name are doing no such thing.
PPS Might we point out that we opposed the construction of the Arena Nationala with public money too.