*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 16th of June 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
Growing up in the 1980s “Russian” meant “Soviet”.
These were the dirty atheists hell-bent on destroying our way of life, they might even do something wild like invading a small town in Colorado from whence they will overthrow the United States… if it were not for a plucky group of high school kids. Wait, that’s Red Dawn. But you get the point. Russians=Soviets=Bad.
But once you get past the childish caricatures and binary thinking about “good” and “bad” nations we can find a lot of fascinating things, people and ideas… so today, let me introduce you to Sergei Bulgakov.
He was born on the 16th of June in 1871. This puts him at the end of the Russian Imperial Age. It also places him on the cusp of the silver age of Russian literature.
Golden Age= early to mid-1800s with authors like Pushkin and Dostoyevsky
Silver Age= this was the Romantic age with symbolism, futurism, and new peasant poetry to name a few important schools.
This Silver Age would come to an end with the end of the Romanovs, the Revolution of 1917, and the commencement of the Soviet era. It was a complicated time and thus fitting that we look at an emblematic, but also complicated figure in the history of the Russian Church.
Sergei Bulgakov was raised in a family that had been involved with the Russian orthodox church for generations. He attended seminary but dropped out when he had a crisis of faith. He would graduate from Moscow University with a degree in law. He had hoped to study agricultural systems in the west and to see if particular tenants of Marxism might aid certain non-Industrial regions. He found that it did not work. He sought to confirm his ideas but had them change him. And this wasn’t the first time.
He would toy with idealism before being brought back into the fold of the Christian faith. In 1906 he was elected to the Duma (the congress-type thing that came after the Revolution of 1905).
His vision was a kind of unified theory of Christianity and culture. The sacred/secular distinction at the heart of so much of the 20th century was not present in his mind or context. Even the way his biographers talk about him belies this fact: they call him a philosopher, a politician, a theologian, a priest (he was ordained in 1918), an economist, a Christian socialist… this is what makes him so fascinating as a thinker writing at the end of one era and the beginning of the other.
Bulgakov was expelled by the Bolsheviks in 1922 and would live in Prague and then later, Paris. He was the head of the St. Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute until his death in 1944. The book to read by Bulgakov is his Philosophy of Economy and the book to read on Bulgakov is “The Cross and the Sickle by Catherine Evtuhov. Born on this day in 1871, Sergei Bulgakov was 72.
The last word for today comes from the Gospel of Matthew, the 20th chapter. The disciples are arguing about who will be the greatest in heaven:
But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 16th of June 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by Christopher “Wolverines!” Gillespie.
The show is written and read by Dan “avenge meeee!” van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.