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OVM Hosts Lecture on Vocation and Fundamentalism

“I feel like I’m part of this campus family because the love is great and the joy is great - but that also means my responsibility is great,” said Dr. Chrysostomos Stamoulis as he began his lecture on Fundamentalism and Vocation. Hosted on Monday, November 7 by the Office of Vocation and Ministry, the lecture was well-attended, drawing nearly thirty students, faculty, and staff from the HCHC community.

Dr. Stamoulis, Professor of Dogmatics at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki as well as an accomplished musician, said he was inspired to study fundamentalism because of its prevalence in his home country. “In Greece, it has the potential to endanger the entirety of natural and social life,” he said. “But fundamentalism is everywhere.”

Drawing from examples as diverse as the refugee crisis, ISIS, and last summer’s Great and Holy Council, Dr. Stamoulis explained that fundamentalism arises when a community is no longer united by a common culture. “People are always seeking for a reality that will allow them to live together,” he said. “Fundamentalism denies or destroys otherness.” This crusade against otherness then unites the community - in violence. “And I don’t just mean physical violence - a look, a gaze, words, movement. Sometimes psychological violence is even worse than physical.”

But the Church’s response to this, said Stamoulis, has to be one of love, not retreat, continuing dialogue with every discipline from politics to science. “Science is the continuation of the creative work of God in the world,” explained Stamoulis, “so theology has to find itself in continual dialogue with science and the rest of civilization.” As he pointed out, this is not a modernist idea, but hearkens back to the time of Church Fathers like St. Basil the Great.

Musical interludes, during which attendees were encouraged to critically reflect on what they had heard, featured a sampling of Dr. Stamoulis’ many choral and symphonic compositions, including “Symphony of the Senses” and “Song for Children.” An accomplished musician and composer, Dr. Stamoulis has released five CDs and is well-known internationally for his compositions.

When asked how to help students and young adults avoid the pitfalls of fundamentalism, Dr. Stamoulis said that we must always be cautious of arriving at a place of certainty. “Where certainty begins, sanctity retreats,” he said.

Students said they enjoyed the high level of critical thinking that Dr. Stamoulis encouraged. “It forced me to draw a lot of links between theology and its practical applications,” said Alexandra Drechsler, a Hellenic College student. “Like connect-the-dots.”

“I’ll take away that there is a difference between conservatism and fundamentalism,” said George Bryant, a Holy Cross student, “and that we need to be alert for divisive hostility, among us, within the church, and toward those without.”

“We have to let the spirit of love dominate,” said George.