Presentations (Communicative Events)

The Politics of Religion

Bird, Thomas E.

The impact of four waves of Russophone refugees and immigrants has been transformative of American approaches, attitudes, and appreciation of European culture, theology, philosophy, and ecumenical relationships. The lives and works of these men and women have exerted a paradigm-changing influence on the artistic, spiritual, and academic life of America. The First Wave put down roots across the country and altered the way American society functioned in politics, labor relations, and religion. The Second Wave included influential iconographers such as Dmitry Alexandrov and Pimen Sofronov; culturologists like Helene Iswolsky and Andrei Urusov; historians Nicholas Arseniev and George Fedotov; philosophers Nicholas Lossky and Eugene Spektorsky; and ecumenists Georges Florovsky, John Meyendorff, Alexander Schmemann, and Leonid Kishkovsky. The Third and Fourth Waves brought vigor onto the American academic scene, revitalizing and broadening the horizon of the study of Eastern Europe and Russia and creating new relationships between Russia and the United States. Their fruit of their initiatives and accomplishments constitutes a signal aspect of twenty-first globalization. In the aggregate they strove to express their backgrounds, cultures, and views both intramurally to their own communities; and extramurally to the broader American public. They indigenized their presentations, making them accessible to this broader audience, profoundly changing America’s intellectual and creedal landscape. Finally, they fundamentally transformed theological conversations among Christians in America and internationally, in the academy, in interreligious convocations, and in local parish settings. The dispositive role of these figures in the deliberations and decisions of the National and World Councils of Churches and at the Second Vatican Council is incalculable. An analysis of their achievements and legacies will provide multiple challenges to our thinking and a richer appreciation of their lasting significance. It will also make possible a full integration of these decades of history into America’s scholarly calculus.


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Harriman Institute
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September 20, 2013