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Book: Discourses of Crisis and the Study of Religion

Chapter: 13. “Social Church" and a ‘Pragmatic’ Relationship with the State: The Wager of the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico and Orthodox Church in Russia in Times of Crisis

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.43943


Without intending to portray these two religious institutions as static and monolithic, this chapter examines how the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico and the Orthodox Church in Russia navigated two critical periods of political and social crisis during the twentieth century. Specifically, it focuses on the years at the end of the Cristero War in Mexico and the time of glasnost and perestroika in Russia. It argues that these institutions have survived – despite their internal fractures and divisions – because they managed to have a ‘pragmatic’ relationship with the government and wagered to be a ‘social’ church and not an ‘individual’ one. It also compares if and how the church’s current efforts/posture resemble responses during previous political and social turmoil, given that, today, the ‘enemy’ is not a political condition or ideology but a universal health crisis.

This chapter is divided into four sections. The first one sets out the definitions of “crisis” and “social church.” The second and third parts explore the prevailing approaches after the Cristero War in Mexico and perestroika in Russia that the Catholic and Orthodox Church used to navigate those difficult years. Finally, the fourth section reflects on how those approaches remain salient (or not) for these churches in their current responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chapter Contributors

  • Xochiquetzal Luna ( - xluna) 'Wilfrid Laurier University'