A Byzantine Perspective on “Integralism” – Introduction

Wisdom Hath Builded Her House

One buzzword now being tossed around a lot in the Latin world is integralism. This term can be summed up as denoting the idea the Christian faith cannot be divided or separated from the other aspects of human life but rather must be connected or integrated with everything else. All things: from the humblest tasks and chores of home to the loftiest levels of culture and governance.

As such, it is unfortunate that we even now feel compelled to use a special term to denote this attitude. For in its fundamental form, it is simply pure Christianity, lived out to the fullest extent. If all of us practiced our faith with the sincerity and passion of the first Christians, the conversion and sanctification of society would follow quite naturally upon it, without any special attention on our part.

And as with all such -isms, there is a danger of turning “integralism” into an idiosyncratic ideology and thus breaking the very unity of all things in Christ it professes to establish. In other words, this is what happens when the goal of Christianizing all things is interpreted too closely in terms of one particular agenda. It could be a narrow, cultish mentality where one group alone claims the solution, or a preoccupation with only one potential solution, like monarchy.

However, it is also inevitable in 21st century Western society that discerning Christians will feel compelled to define this holistic quality of our faith in more specific terms. For we are no longer looking with the clear vision of our fathers, but through the distorting lens of the opposing -ism or ideology. Secularism, or the purported “separation of church and state,” is the idiosyncratically modern view which man today, whether or not he be Christian, holds almost by default.

We Christians who have grown up in America or a similar Western country have been unconsciously programmed with the notion that religion is just something you do on Sunday in church. And if you happen to rattle off a few prayers during the week or display some religious artefacts at home, God forbid that you bring anything that savors too much of Him into the public square. And don’t even begin to think about allowing your faith to influence your work or your politics!

This error of shutting away our faith in a neat little box closed off from the rest of our life must be expunged if we are to holistically live out our Christian calling, let alone build a Christian civilization. The unity of all things under the common theme of Christ is a key feature of the traditional Christian perspective which has been well-preserved in the Eastern Churches. And herein lies the general point I would like to make as a Greek Catholic weighing in on this Latin debate.

To be continued…


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