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World Understanding of Orthodoxy
Based on Orthodox Reportage

Andrei Zolotov, Moscow, Russia

Writing on religious matters, we always have to keep our reader in mind. Who are we writing for? Certainly not for ourselves, our families, our parish priest, bishop or patriarch. If we write for secular newspapers or work on television or radio, our reader is most likely to be someone who has practically no idea of what the Orthodox Church really is, what it aspires to and how it lives.

There is a great need today for secular journalists, who would be professionals and could explain the realities of Orthodoxy in the secular media.

We like to complain about the secular world attacking us, misunderstanding us or listening to our enemies more than it listens to us. But what have we done for this to be any different? Through decades or, in some cases, centuries of isolation, we have often lost touch with reality. Even in the so-called Orthodox countries, such as Russia, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia, people who more or less regularly read the Scriptures, attend the Divine Liturgy and go to confession and communion are a small minority. At the same time, our churches, for historical reasons, have the self-understanding of majority churches and the mentality that everybody, for some reason, is obliged to us for what we had done, over centuries, for the nation. Writing in secular media, we have to remember, that our readers are not obliged to us in any respect. It is our duty to make them interested, to inform them and to explain to them the basics of our Church which most of us would consider self-evident. Our major disadvantage today is that our churches √ we - all of a sudden found ourselves on pluralist societies with a flow of news and ideas, but we were not ready to compete on this market. Hence, we show the desire for a monopoly which would be granted to us by the state, or in case of media, by some sort of censorship. This generates a natural resistance from people from the non-Orthodox majority and makes negative stereotyping of the Orthodox very easy. But it is us who are making it easier for others to attack us.

The Orthodox Church is primarily seen in the secular society as a rigid, ritualistic and nationalistic body, which does not want to face the challenges of the modern world and has become either irrelevant to modernity, or has a negative affect on modern societies by generating hostilities. It is seen as concerned only with self-perpetuation and wealth, ignores scientific knowledge and technological progress and is entirely inward looking.

But if I ask you to tell me before the cross and the Gospels whether these views are completely untrue in regard to the earthly part of the Church, what would you say? We should show the diversity within our churches. We should be able to criticize their negative developments and , in some cases show that these are not the only components of our church life, and in the others explain what are the greater spiritual reasons standing behind one or another phenomenon.

We fail to show to outsiders that Christ stands behind our services, saints and fasts. We cannot preach our ritual or our rich history as such. We have to preach Christ, all the rest being only means to convey His message of salvation. In the media context, that can only be told through people▓s stories √ what is called in the media "human interest stories." Only a believer can explain what a certain ritual means to them, and it is our duty to look for articulate people who would be able to articulate their understanding and emotions, their aspirations and their sense of how God helps them in their daily life. A bishop▓s address won▓t explain that.

To be professional journalists, we should be able to detach ourselves from our beliefs and tell a fair, balances story told from a secular perspective. Objectivity is an unattainable goal for a journalist. But balance is. We should not ignore our critics and bad-wishers, but quote them and find an adequate response from church leaders and activists, and quote them too. We should not pretend as if everything is wonderful in our community, but speak about our problems and grieves ourselves before they are raised by either ignorant or unfavorable outsiders. Who is first to break the news and offer a background, in most cases, gets a huge advantage in interpretation. In the modern information society, it is impossible to conceal a news. If we don▓t break it, someone else will. Most of our bishops do not understand this, and it is our task to explain it to them again and again, to prompt them, even provoke them to say things on time.

We should fight news globalization on its own territory √ by creating timely news and commentaries. Time is crucial. A daily newspaper does not need a comment tomorrow, no matter how wonderful it is going to be. It becomes completely irrelevant.

We not only can, we must be critical of ecclesiastical authorities. It is hard. It can be heartbreaking at times. But Truth could be the only goal.  Only by being faithful to the eternal Truth and fair to the truth of the day, I can reconcile my Christian conscience and reporter▓s sense of duty.

We have to create our lobby in the secular media. The only way for a secular journalist to carry out his duties is to be a professional. As Ms. Liana Kanelli said, the only way is simply to be the best. An Orthodox journalist  does not necessarily have to write on religious issues. He or she can preserve an Orthodox outlook while writing about sports, or restaurants, or politics. It is important to prove to your colleagues that you are a professional. Then, one could write on religious matters. If we are fair, if our fairness is not limited to own religion, we can be credible. By being credible journalists, we can witness of Christ and of our Orthodox faith.

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