Religion and Politics in Greece : The Greek Church’s ‘Conservative Modernization’ in the 1990s
This article addresses the sensitive question of Church-State relations in Greece. Recent studies have suggested that the Greek Church’s discourse was plainly incompatible with modern conceptions of liberal democracy. Populism and nationalism have been the two theoretical concepts used in relation with the Church. Discourse analysis based on public declarations of Church officials has been the main methodological tool. The Greek identity cards’ crisis of the nineties has been its testing ground. Through an analysis of this “crisis” this article intends to show that these methods can offer only very limited perspectives of understanding the process for two main reasons. First, they show little interest for sociological analysis and especially for the internal functioning of the Church. Second, discourses are one outcome of the actors’ strategies but have to be deciphered and not taken for granted. Analysts disregard one of the main presuppositions of semantics theory: discourses are produced within a specific socio-historical context and according to certain prefabricated schemes. This dual pattern of production allows for continuity as well as for change. Thus, this article also argues that a Church¹s conservative discourse may be closely related to the efforts of certain actors within this institution to renovate it. While refuting the “clash of civilizations” thesis, this article finally intends to suggest that the renewed interest for religion in general and orthodoxy in particular due to this thesis should be put to use by researchers in order to acquire new and more comprehensive socio-historical accounts of the Greek Church.
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