Cynical power game

The threat of religious obscurantism in recent years has provided an easy and cost-free target for a group of local intellectuals who are eager to show off their democratic and rebellious credentials. Even so, many of them are subservient to power centers at home and abroad which now, at a time of globalization, pose a threat to social fairness, human rights and well-meant national interests. True, much of their rhetoric has been a reaction to the public language of an archbishop, who has frequently overstepped the mark. Christodoulos wants to be seen as a guardian of the nation and have a say in political decisions. His ambitions would be comical were they not taken seriously by the government – or at least by part of it. The intention of Education Minister Marietta Giannakou, a self-styled reformist politician, to upgrade clerical colleges by awarding them university status is not without a measure of political expediency. In fact, it is just another episode in the unfolding relationship between the Church and the conservative party. This time, it’s not about some big idea – like those that have often brought the archbishop to the verge of tears in public. Rather, it’s a cynical power game that puts off even those who are moved by Christodoulos’s sound bites on questions of national and religious identity. This time around, charges of religious obscurantism are well grounded. The government is allowing the archbishop to set up a rigid mechanism under his control. In return, he will turn his flock into a pool of conservative supporters. The deal threatens both the political system and the Church’s mission. Unsurprisingly, religious schools have reacted. But the upgrade would have another casualty. The academic community, Panteion’s rector said, hopes to tackle the big problems facing universities. But it can do little to escape ridicule.

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