Orthodox glamour and the dictatorial practices of the new bohemia
Aleksandr Shchipkov, political philosopher, essayist
This paper is written in an interview format and is based on a series of questions and answers. The questions were couched by the author himself and serve to organize the discussion. The paper addresses a topic which might seem incongruous to a common reader: glamour in Orthodoxy. The author reflects on the role of glamour in present-day culture and shows how glamour intrudes upon politics and religion. He looks at secular religiosity and describes social groups influenced by the myths of New Sincerity. He offers insights into political features of ritual irony and reveals the role of glamour in contemporary forms of totalitarianism.
Is the issue of glamour really important today?
Glamour is one of the key concepts of contemporary culture, yet it remains largely unexplored. Glamour falls into the category of taboo subjects. In the 1990s the needs of bosses (managers) came to set the society's agenda. Magazines, books and films were churned out to provide entertainment for this privileged class. This conspicuous trend was even more pronounced in Russia than in the West. Glamour became the discourse of the minority which the latter imposed on the majority.
What does the concept 'glamour' mean?
Technically, the term means something enchanting or charming. In a sense, it is a sort of synonym for 'gloss' or 'glitz', but the meaning is much broader. These are 'pretty pictures' that captivate readers and cause confusion in their minds. Essentially, it is a glittering vacuum. Note that in the late-modern mythology, glamour is placed beyond the pale of progress. It does not fit into the central mythologem of liberalism. Glamour is static phenomenon. It contains no dynamics. It is capable only of reproducing itself.
In which areas is glamour most prominent?
In show business and on television. Leonid Parfyonov is undoubtedly the icon of Russian glamour. He clearly overshadows Vladislav Listyev, Vladimir Posner and many other fathers of TV glamour. He was intensely engaged in Russian history, creating a sort of 'waxwork' image of time. A distorted vision of historical realities, real but 'sugar-coated'. Present-day TV glamour is still impregnated with the spirit of its founder.
Does glamour exist in politics?
Glamour pervades all areas of our lives, including politics. Political figures that were trend-setters in political glamour in the 1990s have gone to the better world. They were high-profile persons, but they lacked proper educational background and intellectual culture and personified a light version of the upper crust (i.e. the superficial layer of society). At a more profound level, the late Sergey Kuryokhin and Timur Novikov were engaged in politics mixed with glamour. This also holds true for some living cultural figures. It is fairly simple to determine whether or not a politician is 'glamorous'. The key is their attitude to people. 'Glamorous' types consider ordinary people to be scum, or filth that should be avoided unless you want to get 'dirty' and 'infected'. In 2008, following the tragedy in Kemerovo, glamorous handshakeable freaks were quick to post messages like, "These cows, ticket-attendants, who locked the doors of the cinema halls are just like those who were burned there alive", "Consider it as if they themselves had started the fire in which they died", and "People have only themselves to blame". These liberal guys are afraid of and reject anyone who appeals directly to people and castigate him as a 'populist'. This means that a person is not glamorous and undermines the magic of glamour. Mr. Putin's phrase about 'wanting to howl' or Patriarch Kirill's heartbreaking speech in Kemerovo about the deaths of children are just some examples of the demise of the glamour ideology.
Is glamour also present in the Church?
Yes, unfortunately. Most notably, glamorous attitudes are typical of the so-called 'liberal-Orthodox' camp, which introduces elements of the secularist ideology, or pseudo-religiosity, into the Church. This creates hodgepodges such as the 'Maidan theology', mythology of 'volunteering', etc. Thus, singing praises of the creative class as superior to 'dull commoners' is done in terms of biblical symbolism. The universally accessible Word of God is replaced by social esotericism elitist knowledge reserved for the privileged few. All this has been carried out under the smokescreen of pseudo-Christian celebrations, special effects displays, media coverage on topics like 'Celebrities Meet Spiritual Elders' and other mindless shows, tat and tinsel. The 'glamorous religiosity' emerged in the late 1990s as a 'gospel for the rich', but soon started to turn into a particular style of 'religious goods' consumption.
What is glamour from the Christian perspective?
Glamour means spiritual illusion. A seduction away from God. It means that the truth of Christ is surrogated by something dramatic and compelling, but false. The Antichrist is the one who is really glamorous. The figure not just opposes Christ, but seeks to supplant and replace Him. Glamour always means a substitute. In this sense, glamour is definitely a tool of the Antichrist. This should be remembered by those who produce glossy church magazines, programs and events.
Is 'glossy Orthodoxy' still developing?
The peak occurred in the 2000s. Now the process has lost momentum. Many people in the Church today are reluctant to embrace the ideas of glamour. This project was intended for 'winners' and designed as both preaching the gospel and a business endeavor. But these are mutually exclusive principles. The intention of Orthodox glamour was to demonstrate to the wealthy the love and grace of Christ without showing them His awful death. The idea was to avoid appalling them by images of the gone beauty which is lying in the tomb 'disfigured, dishonored, bereft of form', as we sing at funeral services. In other words, true Orthodoxy became replaced with a surrogate. This is a striking example of the damaging effect of glamour in the Church. Irony has similar damaging effects for art as well as for deep relationships between men and women, children and parents.
The issue of irony in the Church is normally not up for discussion. It is reserved for secretive, unofficial communication. But it does exist in church life. Is irony in the Church beneficial or rather harmful?
Absolutely harmful. The topic of irony in political and religious life is taboo (I will later explain why).
Can irony be used in missionary activities of the Russian Orthodox Church? Wouldn't it show that the Church also includes real human beings?
Irony cannot have a missionary effect, as it divides people. In the 1990s, postmodern ideas attempted to take over the ambon. Moscow and Saint Petersburg protodeacons, protopriests and hieromonks set about energetically using irony as part of missionary work. They rose to popularity and found imitators and followers in a number of dioceses. Their sermons, lectures and books attracted both young and old. The sacred blasphemously mixed up with buffoonery seemed a bold innovation. Puzzled attention of the general public was seen as a victory of the new homiletics. For quite a long time, these so-called preachers served as a sort of 'showcase' of the Church and swamped the secular media. The latter, covertly sneering at Orthodoxy, were eager to demonstrate 'funny clergymen'. Thirty years have gone by. The result is obvious. The novices recruited by 'ironical' preachers have long since either left the Church altogether or moved to social media, joining the ranks of liberal-Orthodox grumblers. Absurd political posturing proclaimed from the ambon by women is the final symbolic outcome of their missionary efforts. The preachers themselves who once sported jesters' caps of postmodern relativity are now silent, afraid to accept that they have distorted their priestly path. They are not able to figure out where their true self, as distinct from the mask, happens to be. An ill-fated destiny.
So, irony and humor are two different things, aren't they?
Absolutely. Good-natured humor is not pejorative. Rather, it emphasizes equality, solidarity, communality, and warmth of relationships. In contrast, 'civil irony' is an access code to enter a certain select club. The wish to become part of this elite circle was what motivated those ironical priests. On the other hand, irony has a specific goal to undermine any value which oversteps the limits of market prices, to disrupt the very idea of values. Ironical priests have completely failed. The realm they had set foot on ultimately proved their undoing, turning them into cynics.
However, irony emerged long before the 20th century, while you describe it as a totally new, postmodern thing.
Certainly, irony appeared long ago, almost at the same time as philosophy. Later it started to change. Different times produced different types of irony. There are broadly three types of irony. The first type known as Socratic irony is the ancient method used by Socrates, in which he asked leading and stimulating questions and exposed inconsistencies in opponents' reasoning. The second, Romantic, type is yearning for the ideal so high that everything on earth looks petty and ridiculous compared to it. This is essentially a sort of wistful humor rather than irony, as it involves toppling false values for the sake of something more authentic and sublime. This conception emphasizes higher values rather than undermines them. The third type encapsulates the postmodern irony that has grown out of the Enlightenment. It is this type of irony that undermines values. This irony negates ideals rather than yearns for them. As such, it opposes to Romantic laughter, or Romantic feeling. This third type dominates the current practices. Further still, it has become part of ideology.
The thing is that irony has developed into a group phenomenon precisely a group one, as opposed to universal or individual. It divides the world into 'us' and 'them', cool forward-thinking people and backward rednecks. It highlights the social distance. This secularist practice can be defined as 'social racism'. But church life is incompatible with segregation, division and alienation. On the contrary, the Church serves to bring people together, as all humans are made equal before God. The fact that irony invades the Church is a clear sign of secularist influence. But the Church by definition must be free of secular elements. Unfortunately, the Church's immunity from the divisive, destructive irony is today compromised.
So what does this look like in practice?
For example, a famous book by Maya Kucherskaya is entitled Modern Patericon. It reminds us of The Amusing Gospel by Léo Taxil who turned the Scriptures into a joke. Kucherskaya does the same thing making jokes out of the Holy Tradition. "Once upon a time there was a priest who ate people..." Some readers like it, many others are put off. It's a hostile type of laughter. The author invites the unbelievers to mock at the Church. "Look how funny and ridiculous those clergymen and women, seminary students and churchgoers are!" That's a caricature of the Church Fathers' tradition.
Some say that writings of Mikhail Ardov, Maya Kucherskaya and similar authors continue the tradition of foolishness for Christ.
I cannot concur with this view. Foolishness for Christ was a medieval practice, whereas 'civil irony' is a product of the modern and its extreme form, the postmodern. In some indirect way it can be related to buffoonery, but by no means to foolishness for Christ.
What is the difference for you?
The role of a fool for Christ implies self-effacement and self-deprecation. This serves to ward off pride and feelings of superiority. Holy fools' mockery was a means of religious truth-telling and sin-denouncing rather than a secular precept. Their mission was to expose the evil in the world. This 'tomfoolery' was done for Christ's sake and had nothing to do with secular common sense. Buffoonery is quite a different story. A buffoon or jester does not denounce the world, but rather exhorts, scoffs and derides, as exemplified by Shakespearean fools. A fool for Christ cannot have a social status, as opposed to a buffoon. Think of Arkady Raikin, who was an integral part of the Soviet establishment. A buffoon is far more down-to-earth than the audience he entertains. It is a secular figure. The same is true for the works of Kucherskaya and Ardov. In spite of dealing with religious topics, these authors share more values with secular readers than with fellow believers. They chose to channel their literary creativity in this direction.
And what about Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka by Nikolai Gogol? Gogol is an Orthodox writer after all. Still, his stories contain subtle humor and satire on sensitive issues.
It is humor rather than irony. Gogol, especially in the early period when Evenings were written, is a warm writer. This is a Romantic type of laughter. Somewhat carnivalesque too. But Gogol and his protagonists do 'care', whereas postmodern irony is inherently tied to apathy and indifference. Irony is not just a game. It is a game with emptiness behind it. The human soul does not tolerate vacuum. The feeling of emptiness is the main reason of depression and despair so common in people today. You probably remember how horrified was the innkeeper from Wells' novel as she saw the Invisible Man removing his bandages and revealing not a grimace or disfigurement, but just emptiness.
Vasily Aksyonov once coined the catch phrase 'ghastly seriousness', meaning the bigoted bombastic tone characteristic of totalitarian thinking. Is ghastly seriousness any better than irony? After all, the Church is not free of narrow-minded hostility, tokenism and intolerance, all those things that scare people off.
The cult of irony means that nothing can be taken seriously except irony itself. Note that the concept of ghastly seriousness was originally put forward by the German Romantics. They used it as a protection against bureaucratism and materialism. Aksyonov reiterated the idea one and a half century later and, as an 'urban' writer, turned it against both Communists and 'village writers'. For Aksyonov, irony was a weapon in the fight against totalitarianism. But the world's totalitarian practices have since come a long way, and 'ghastly seriousness' is today characteristic precisely of ironical discourse. That's because this kind of irony is cold, externally imposed and compulsory, even annoying.
What conclusions can be drawn from this?
The postmodern ritual irony (when it's inappropriate not be ironic) and ritual shame (when you feel ashamed for your opponent rather than for yourself) are two characteristic features of contemporary totalitarianism. Actually, the antitotalitarian discourse is also imposed on us by totalitarian methods which are quite compatible with irony. Irony is totalitarian and ideologized. That is why it worries so much about totalitarianism: it's often the thief that shouts 'stop thief!'.
Why is it done so?
Because totalitarian projects are today easier to implement if packaged in a game format. Irony and glamour provide a game touch to totalitarianism. It is like you are sitting in a cinema and watching yourself from outside, unaware that you are being manipulated. You are no more capable of enjoying spiritual and intellectual freedom the feeling which only the Christian religion can give.
What makes glamour so attractive?
Many people are not able to experience profound joy and so they replace it with 'quality labels', 'certificates of cultural conformity'. Note that true joy is not a fun, but rather a special state of peace and confidence, of love. Glamour, in turn, is like a pass to a sham earthly paradise which you must deserve by adopting the 'right' views and putting yourself on the 'right side of history'. This of course comes at a price. You have to give something up. For example, you have to change your circle of friends and turn your back on those who are not 'glamorous'. You have to draw an insuperable line inside yourself, leaving 'lowbrows' and 'Soviet-minded barbarians' on the other ('evil') side of reality. You have to follow the example of Ksenia Sobchak and castigate Russians as 'genetic trash'. You have to take the cue from Andrey Makarevich and Aleksei Serebryakov and call your fellow citizens 'mean idiots'. The above-mentioned trend-setters seem to have everything both money and fame. But their life is characterized by lack of joy.
Do you mean that 'glamorous' discourse tends to degenerate into social racism?
Such is the nature of this process. Glamour is part of a divided society. It implies a pagan world-view incompatible with the Christian truth that it’s not what you see or hear that defiles you, but what comes out of your mouth that’s what defiles you. Commitment to glamour is a sign of distrust in the primeval world and God. It is a wish to become a small god in your own right. People with a lack of trust in the world feel contempt for humanity, are irritated by the others' presence and tend to shift the blame away from the guilty to the victims.
What emotion corresponds to glamour?
Fear. An underlying, suppressed fear. Adherents of glamour are afraid of ordinary, not-so-successful life, which basically is reality. Thus, glamour is a psychological defense mechanism against the transient world. It is a kind of escapism or a refusal to accept the reality.
What is glamour from the philosophical perspective?
The idea of glamour can be traced back to pagan magic. Just like magic, glamour opposes the true history of the world. It feeds off this history and plunders it, leaving a 'meaningful', but empty form, illusion instead of the substance. Glamour is a distorted feeling of reality. An imitation. The principle of imitation works as follows: the substance of a thing is replaced with an image of 'perfect', glamorous form. The image captivates. The thing is torn out of the world adopting the role of a mirror of Truth. Adherents of the 'glamorous cult' are mesmerized by it, which leaves no room for critical judgment and intellectual pursuit. They are willing to contemplate it forever, just like Kai from Andersen's tale who was ready to arrange pieces of ice into the word Eternity for the rest of his life.
And what about art?
Glamour kills art. It drains the substance and engages in empty, worthless experiments with the form. Look at all those museums of contemporary art like Garage or Winzavod. What is more, we are now witnessing Russian icon-painting being swallowed by glamour. Roman Catholics are actively and professionally engaged in this sector.
What are the historical roots of glamour?
Culture can be understood in two ways: as cultivating the land and as self-adornment. Glamour takes its roots in the second view which is typical for societies with prevailing magical traditions. Self-adornment is a 'cold' culture congruent with today's transhumanism and other late-modern doctrines. It is based on the wish to see things not as they are, but to possess them and treat this possession as a symbol of the other, better reality and a proof of one's high status and superiority.
What are the functions of glamour in culture?
There are a number of functions. First, glamour is used for self-identification. Glamorous codes help recognize like-minded people. Thus, a subculture within the culture, a sect, is created. Second, similar to any other addiction or passion, glamour serves to fill the existential emptiness by helping to run away from the question 'Why do I live?'. Just like gambling, drug addiction or fanaticism, glamour takes the place of true religious belief. Third, glamour is used to build models of conspicuous consumption. This issue was elaborated by Jean Baudrillard in works such as For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign and Symbolic Exchange and Death. Glamorous consumption is a game of signification. The point is that the glamorous person consumes not so much things themselves, as signs. The individual pays not for the thing, but for the status confirmed by the possession of the thing. This, the thing serves as a sign. As for the status of the thing, it is certified by a label, a brand. This person (the victim of glamour illusions) not only judges a book by its cover he/she judges every page inside it, plus the binding, as well. Such person does not notice that he/she has mistaken the form for the substance. That's a serious personality disorder.
Why do people long for glamour? Why are they so attracted to it?
In order to indulge in another, 'better' world. Glamour refers to an imagined reality so-called hyperreality which purportedly surpasses objective reality. But in fact this 'better' reality is just a world of simulacra, semblances, mock appearances. For simplicity's sake, using Marxist concepts, we can say that the superstructure in this culture completely determines the base. The glamorous life follows the logic of symbolic rather than commodity exchange and is ruled by the principle 'symbol – money – symbol' rather than the usual formula 'commodity – money – commodity'. Accordingly, symbols are sold by those who possess symbolic power the thought leaders who can impose their set of symbols on others. This power provides for symbolic exchange and is maintained by the same, generating more and more symbolic resources. This power manipulates people by means of glamour ideology.
How dangerous is glamour?
Do you remember Medusa, the monstrous woman in Greek mythology? Whoever gazed into her eyes turned into stone. Perseus approached Medusa looking at the mirror of his shield and he won. That's the way glamour works. It hypnotizes, brings you under control, enslaves your mind. But it can be disarmed if you know how to talk about it. Therefore, the key question is, what our 'discourse about glamour' should look like? This discourse should be able to 'translate in both directions' by demonstrating how glamour replaces reality with a simulacrum. The glamorous mentality divides the whole world into first and last grade. It applies not only to things, but also to people, nature, historical periods, religions.
Religions? Is it possible?
Exactly. Do you remember who was the first 'glamorous' figure in Russian history? Pyotr Chaadayev, of course. He argued that Russia had made a wrong choice and, in modern language, placed itself on the 'wrong side of history'. In his opinion, Vladimir the Great should have listened to ambassadors of the Pope and adopted Catholicism. But the prince made a non-glamorous choice. This wrong decision is what allegedly prevents Russia from becoming a civilized country and keeping things up to the only 'right' standards.
You said that the golden age of glamour in our country was connected to the bosses culture. Is that not true now?
Today, like a challenge banner of a socialist competition shock worker, glamour has passed to the creative class, a more unconsistent community that likes to play Maidan. But the influence of the 'bosses' is still evident. It is especially noticeable when the managers bring forward the slogan of digitalization of the whole country. They offer to digitize literally everything: government, economy, education, culture, religion, citizens, people's personal data. Also, respectively, corruption, underfinanced economy, export of capital, whatever there is. Digitalization is crucial. What is it if not form over substance? And the priority of the form is the most important principle of glamour.
Let's hope that the ideologists of glamour will not be allowed to make their biggest dream come true, digitizing the army and the navy and thereby putting an end to the history of Russia. By the way, a while ago, the 'Yudashkin's uniform' became a step towards the glamorization of the army.
What can be opposed to the glamour?
Only those things which occupy the highest place in the system of values. These are God, love, mercy. 'Lay down your life for your friends' instead of 'you die today but I tomorrow'. Opposed to glamour is a stable system of values and a sense of reality. They are best combined in religion but do exist in other combinations. This breaks the 'spell' of glamour. This restores the people's opportunity to decide their own fate, the fate of their children, the fate of their country.
The actors like to say that people do 'serve' only in the church and in the theater but that in other places they 'work'. Does this mean that the actor, as well as the priest, has a special mission and a special responsibility for the upbringing and spiritual development of the people?
This is a very nice archaic word usage, preserved to this day in certain fields of activity. Nothing more. They also 'serve' in power structures or in state bodies. But service and ministry are different concepts which should not be confused.
Today, actors and directors are constantly invited to share their religious experiences on TV shows. Where does acting end and life and faith begin?
I first encountered this problem when I hosted the What Russia Believes radio program on the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company. I happened to talk to Evgeny Alekseevich Lebedev, an outstanding Russian actor, master of impersonation. It was shortly before his death in 1997. We talked about the theater, about his roles. He had a particular style of speech, fast, abrupt, pattering. Gesturing, he poured forth names, dates, quotations from his roles. In a word, he was acting in front of me. Suddenly, he began to recite liturgical texts, half intelligibly, with missing words, mixing Cherubic Hymn, A Mercy of Peace, scraps of litany... Distorted texts spilled out of the depths of his memory. He was very excited. Suddenly he stopped acting. He began to say that his father was either a deacon or a priest. By virtue of life circumstances, Evgeny Alekseevich left him and grew to be a non-believer. He became an actor. He portrayed Stalin on stage. He survived. Father was shot. Half a century later, the old actor was murmuring liturgical texts as an abracadabra, confessing to me that he did not understand their meaning at all. But these texts were associated with the memory of his father, towards whom he clearly felt guilty. A big actor who accomplished much in his profession and at the same time a deeply devastated person.
But still it was a different era. Today there are no prohibitions or persecutions. You are welcome to combine religion with acting profession. Valeriya Gai Germanika showed this clearly, acting as a 'shepherd' in the Orthodox missionary Internet project 'Faith and the City'.
The authors built this project on contradiction. For a host they invited a filmmaker with a peculiar reputation and whose way of life does not coincide with the usual idea of an Orthodox behaviour. This is confirmed by the name of the project, referring directly to the American project Sex and the City. The task is to attract the attention of the public, combining the uncombinable. Look, Orthodoxy is just as appealing as sex. Make Orthodoxy. Watch, click, like, practice. You will succeed in life. This is a striking example of 'Orthodox' glamour.
But is it possible to change religious aesthetics artificially?
It is. In the 1930s Germany, the aesthetics and stylistics of the Christian life were changed vigorously. Look at their church art of the time where Christ is portrayed as an athlete. Powerful, beautiful, muscular, invincible, like Germany itself.
The Orthodox glamour also creates its own peculiar image of the church. This is a church for successful people, a church for the middle class. Accordingly, the churchness, from their point of view, should be styled as is customary among them. There should be a place for irony, emancipation (hence allusions to sex), carnival, and, most importantly, for constant doubt. The participant of this 'Orthodoxy' game should be in constant doubt. Being doubtful is stylish and at the same time frees you from responsibility. Just what a modern wealthy person needs. Stanislavsky's 'I do not believe!' became their motto.
Speaking about the professional reputation of Valeriya Germanika, do you mean her scandalous TV series School?
School is savouring children's sin. Moreover, the author made money on this savouring. In an existential sense, this is no different from child pornography. This film seduces the viewers, both teenagers and adults.
So you do not believe in Germanika's religious sincerity, in the possibility of her spiritual change, repentance?
Christ, of course, is open to everyone. But repentance is not turned into a talk show for sale. Repentance does not earn money and fame.
Do you want to say that one can exploit faith in his or her self-interests?
It is not literally making money on the exploitation of religion. They simply use the resource of the church, the resource of Orthodoxy to create their own images, to implement media and creative projects. The most tragic example is Ivan Okhlobystin. In his spiritual 'art project' he reached the logical end. He took a real, not a sham antimension and then threw it.
Not so long ago, the notion of New Sincerity came into use in secular and church circles. Are you interested in this phenomenon?
I should word it rather differently. Recently, an information attack on church media was launched with the help of this concept. But this concept is taken from the non-church sphere, so I think it will not take root in the Church.
Is sincerity a bad thing?
Sincerity is fine but imitation is killing it. First of all, why is it new? And where did the old one go? In the public sphere, sincerity arises when people are captured by some kind of common drama and not in the order of entertainment. Therefore sincerity, like joy and love, cannot be new or old. Either it is or it isn't there. Sincerity cannot be formatted, decreed, its presence cannot be confirmed by a sociological survey. Such attempts are social and language games, media manipulations. The fact is that the New Sincerity is formed within the framework of the liberal consciousness, therefore it is a speculative construct. With regard to the Church, it has a special function.
Its bearers would like to secularize the Church not through theology or ideology but through popular culture.
Where did the concept of New Sincerity come from?
The concept of New Sincerity was born in the western philosophy of culture at the boundary between the 1980s and 1990s and is synonymous with metamodern. It means using a form of direct utterance – a wise naivety, an adult childishness, so to speak, in a postmodernly mastered way. From the natural aspiration of the human soul, sincerity turns into a tool. In Russia, the concept of New Sincerity has long been used by literary criticism to characterize such phenomena as the works of the poet Andrei Rodionov or the writer Evgeny Grishkovets.
In which way is the New Sincerity different from the old one?
In such a way that this is not a drama, not a catharsis, but a device. Postmodern masters psychological content and devalues it, subordinating it to the play consciousness. And in the postmodern interpretation all that is related to play is essentially irresponsible. A pseudo-confessional genre is being built around New Sincerity, and this makes us sense something phoney.
How is sincerity transformed into a device?
For example, on Facebook there is a generally accepted tone of addressing the audience that implies turning yourself inside out. What is said there is not going from heart to heart. They say anything and to no one in particular, for a show. The purpose of this form of communication is not confession but self-promotion. A person 'promotes' himself or herself in order to get as many likes, comments, and friends as possible. New Sincerity is also self-promotion, a marketing move.
Why is real sincerity impossible in such a situation?
Because such artistic strategies have a commercial nature and genuine sincerity cannot be sold massively. The peculiarity of the New Sincerity is that the 'sincere' statement is not addressed to those who really need it. Such selectivity would be simply unprofitable. It is addressed to and imposed on the widest possible audience. After all, you need coverage, you need to form the demand.
Why does liberal Orthodoxy generate such phenomena?
It is the form of relationship with the world common for the bearers of the liberal Orthodox ideology. It is a special type of consciousness, a kind of occult positivism. Religious scholars engaged in post-secular research call this kind of belief substitutive or vicarious religiosity. The Orthodox tradition becomes a form of secularist cult. For example, the cult of humanism, contrary to the real trend towards the dehumanization of society. Or the cult of social progress.
Is social progress bad?
It is good if it is a real process, the advancement of society towards morality and humanity. But not when it is a mythology set forth in pseudo-scientific cyber jargon and freeing its adept from the remnants of critical approach and unnecessary questions. In fact, progress and the cult of progress are different and, as a rule, mutually exclusive things. The followers of the orthosecularist doctrine ignore this distinction.
Because their mindset is 'to serve two masters', to express secular content with the help of a religious language, to create an amalgam, an inversion. This cannot bear fruit, except for absurdity.
Because glamour is one of the ways to establish the dictatorship of Bohemia over society.
And the Orthodox glamour?
The Orthodox glamour is an attempt to monetize Orthodoxy. Similarly, all sorts of artistic unions are now trying to monetize Russian conservatism. Orthodoxy and conservatism are on trend so there are buyers. And if there are buyers, why not go into business? And sometimes it is difficult to understand where is the edge, where is the transition line. Where is the true conservatism of the Russian people and where is the fake monetized by shrewd showmen? Where is the true Orthodoxy and where only its form, its shell. But we see this phenomenon and understand what is happening.
You say that the Orthodox glamour creates a church for the wealthy. But after all, the church is really for everyone, both poor and wealthy.
The Orthodox glamour distorts Orthodoxy. They talk about Jesus Christ as about a volunteer walking around and helping everyone for free. However, they do not talk at all about the main component – Christ's self-sacrifice. The wealthy people are invited to leave behind that part of the Gospel which speaks of Christ's terrible physical suffering. Of his blood, sweat, torn body. After all, it looks somehow non-glamorous.
The Orthodox glamour promises to teach how to manage to crawl through the eye of the needle into the kingdom of heaven while remaining rich, with all the villas, yachts, derivatives and offshore companies. There are consumers of such an 'orthodox service' so the market comes in. But all this has nothing to do with Christianity.
The Church is a school of participation in the God's work, a school of theosis and of attaining grace. The Church thinks in a moral system of coordinates, but it thinks and does its work and provides care. Here, the process of drawing closer to Christ and to the brothers in Christ through the sacraments and good deeds is important. The help in doing works of love. And may God let us go this way successfully.
The paper was published in Moskva magazine (No. 7, 2019)