A Greek God

Given that this is the Balkans, every “lite” fundamentalist or superstitious compatriot has a better understanding than sports journalists of why Greece was beaten by Serbia on the basketball court and by Romania on the soccer pitch on Sunday. It was not because the God of the Christians chose to defend the national-athletic interests of other versions of Orthodoxy, but because He had another entreaty to respond to, made a few hours earlier by Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos. The PASOK leader assigned new duties to God at a press conference at the Thessaloniki International Fair, where he said he was confident that the current Parliament would elect a new president “because Greece’s God is stronger than opportunism and foolishness.” He has many “national” reasons for wanting this, not least of which is that he hold onto his role.

“Blasphemy!” many will proclaim. And I am afraid that some among them will be accusing me of blasphemy for writing as I do, for pushing back against the abrupt Hellenization of God, and not Mr Venizelos, who is nationalizing God – just as his boss, Antonis Samaras, also does – rallying Him, in the national colors of blue and white, behind what is a private party cause.

Our deputy prime minister, a Christian just like the rest of us born on Christian soil, stated that he is confident the 180 votes needed to elect a president will be found in the 300-seat House. He is confident that this will in fact happen without the usual machinations, trade-offs and intrigues, but by the will of “Greece’s God.” “May God be listening,” someone, another blasphemer, may whisper when considering how many years opportunism, foolishness and other backward forces have prevailed without the salvation of divine intervention.

We are not Eastern zealots, by God, but we demoted God quite improperly (and un-Christianly) to “Greece’s God” a long time ago. And, in spite of the commandment telling us not to take His name in vain, we treat Him with theatrical and self-admiring piety like an on-call superhero whose only obligation is to protect His chosen nation – that is us, of course – from its foes and from its own errors, from the inertia or opportunism and foolishness. We expect His blessing on the pitch or court for a cure to the sudden losing affliction of our otherwise winning genes. We expect Him to act for us in dry spells and storms, to help us with the debt and to make it shrink, to take on our ideological rivals.

Maybe the coalition government will manage to find the 180 votes it wants to elect yet another institutionally weakened president. But such a miracle will not be by the providence of “Greece’s God.” Because, very simply, “Greece’s God” does not exist. After all, even Zeus favored the Trojans.

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