A conservative is someone who identifies with an institution but will not accept the means necessary to create or maintain it. This especially extends to religion, where modern Christians will adopt the trappings of Sacred Tradition and the heritage of a particular denomination but enthusiastically condemn their own past. What they want is simply for modernity to suffer them to exist. What they worship is egalitarianism – and the “god” they invented is simply a marketing scam.
L'enfant terrible Matt Heimbach and longtime white activist Matt Parrot operate the Traditional Youth Network, an organization that fights for “Traditionalism” with heavy Christian overtones. Both Matts are converts to Orthodox Christianity, and incorporate their faith into their activism, with explicit role models including the Romanian Iron Guard, the Greek Golden Dawn, and to a lesser extent, Putin’s Russia. To many reactionaries, Traditionalists, and white advocates, an Orthodox civilization with what Dugin calls the “Byzantine idea of the symphony of powers” is gradually forming a counter-bloc to the post-modern “West,” which seemingly defines itself by multiculturalism and sexual degeneracy. This may be actually happening -- or it might just be another example of the hard right falling into its classic error of seeing what they want to see. (Ron and Rand Paul anyone?)
Whatever the case, despite the reputation of Heimbach and Parrot as primarily white advocates, much of the TYN’s energy is directed towards restoring a kind of old-fashioned Christian moralism. They oppose feminism, homosexuality, and the breakdown of the family. A true organic society, they argue, is opposed to both “rape culture” and “slut culture.” Thus, a group of TYN activists, featuring a bearded Heimbach sporting an Orthodox cross, protested a “Slutwalk” at Indiana University. As to be expected, they were attacked by violent leftists, giving us the amusing image of Matt Heimbach, Cross-Bearer, defending his comrades.
Soon afterward, one Father Peter Jon Gillquist issued an “important message” to his congregation saying that Matt Heimbach had been excommunicated. Normally, this would be private of course, but “as in the present case of Matthew Heinbach” [sic] it was necessary to trumpet his actions to the world. “Heinbach” apparently was only received into the church because Father Gillquist did not know about Heimbach’s “nationalist, segregationist” views. And after all, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).”
This is similar to the denunciation of Jewish convert “Brother Nathaniel” by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia on the same grounds that “there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all (Colossians 3:11).”
Naturally, various “Orthodox bloggers” hastened to make sure they were also counted among the elect. A Father “Ernesto Obregon” implicitly compared TYN to a pedophile – perhaps an unfortunate insult for priests to be slinging these days. Obregon also confessed he had a “nightmare” that TYN’s views would be seen as Orthodox. As terrifying as it sounds,
“They continue to post very pro-White messages on their Facebook page. No, they do not post overtly anti-other ethnic group messages…Nevertheless, one finds direct links to more toxic groups…. one encounters messages very much in favor of each ethnic group being able to maintain its cultural identity, and encouraging people to marry within their ethnic group to preserve that identity and keep each ethnicity separate and clearly identifiable.”
And we can’t have that. At least among whites.
Eric Jobe, a Ph.D candidate who mostly “specializes in Hebrew poetry, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Second Temple Judaism,” offers us some subtle and intellectual rhetoric that it is a “satanic delusion” to believe in racial integrity. Also, “racism and ethnic nationalism is just such a malignant tumor and an infectious disease that has no place among the holy people of God.”
There’s also one Sister Maria Gwyn McDowell. Sister McDowell is a “feminist [and] a student of liberation theology” with a “doctorate in Theological Ethnics from Boston College.” She entertains herself by suggesting that the Theotokos is on the side of Pussy Riot and publishing other “anti-kyriarchal” amusements. A real model of piety – and one who need have no fear of excommunication.
The most important response, however, is that of the American Conservative’s Rod Dreher who giggles about getting to use words like “repent” and “heresy” to attack “racism, anti-Semitism, and fascism.” “When things like this happen in public, the Church must speak clearly and uncompromisingly about them,” Dreher intones. Dreher also throws in a sneering reference to “neopaganism” for good measure. No Church Militant for the “Crunchy Con.”
Interestingly, many of the self-proclaimed Orthodox Christians critical of TYN do not come from the customary Orthodox background of ethnic communities. Fr. Gillquist is the son of Archpriest Peter Gillquist, who led a movement of former Protestant evangelicals into the Orthodox Church in America. Dreher is a former Methodist who converted to Catholicism and then Orthodoxy. Father Obregon, another convert, is upset about “pro-White messages” but trumpets his Cuban ethnicity in the very name of his blog precisely because it is not a traditional Orthodox community. And while “McDowell” claims to be a longtime member of the church, her participation in it seems to be characterized by her desire to change everything about it. Not surprisingly, she writes that members of her family were “Jewish… card-carrying communists.”
Perhaps more than any other Christian denomination (not including the poorly attended “national churches” of Europe), the Orthodox Church is characterized by its close identification with national and cultural boundaries. The explicit identification of the two is condemned as the heresy of “Phyletism.” However, formal condemnation does not change the fact that Orthodox Church organizational bodies tend to be rooted in a particular community and even churches in the United States are closely linked to ethnic groups with a strong identity. Like Mexicans coming to America or Yankees coming to the South, Dreher and his new friends are doing their best to turn their refuge into a carbon copy of the thing they once fled by condemning this.
More importantly, as even McDowell admits, the Orthodox Church is not exactly a bastion of egalitarianism. It could even be called a particularly “kyriachal” institution. Groups like the Black Hundreds and the Iron Guard were inspired by Orthodoxy and received the blessing of church officials. St. John of Kronstadt was a member of a nationalist party and expressed his dedication to the Russian Tsar, as highlighted by TYN. The Church Father St. John Chrysostom’s Adversus Judaeos explicitly blames the Jews for the crucifixion and suggests that the “chosen people” of God are now Christians – “They became dogs, and we became the children.”
Of more relevance is the traditional Eastern Christian unity between church and state. The Russian government and specifically the Russian Orthodox Church are pushing a new narrative of an Orthodox “Russian world” that will provide an alternative to the decadent West, much to the wailing of the media. Patriarch Kirill explicitly identifies the mission of his church as a defender of a “Russian world” that is a “distinct civilization” based upon Orthodoxy. Not surprisingly, possible ecclesiastical divisions among Orthodox communities are becoming a forerunner to possible political divisions in Ukraine.
What is at stake is two differing ways of viewing the church, and in a larger sense, religion. TYN sees the faith as a one element of a people composed of “faith, biology, and culture.” A faith may be universally applicable, but it should support a people’s right to maintain its own separate existence. It is an ordering principle for a people. Whatever the theological truth of this, this is how most religions develop, particularly the Eastern Christianity characterized by strong links to the state and organized along national lines. The Russian Orthodox Church of today sees itself in this way.
The second way is to regard religion as a purely abstract creed that can be adopted by anyone. This is at the heart of Jobe’s chest pounding about a “holy people of God” who may be from any background, but adopt certain beliefs. It is the “proposition religion.” Jobe, McDowell, Fr. Obregon, and Fr. Gillquist reflect this in their oddly simplistic and emotional pronouncements that Orthodox Christianity mandates the destruction of white ethnic identity.
The reduction of Christianity to “you are neither Jew nor Gentile, man nor woman” seems almost designed to force non-suicidal whites to adopt explicit Identitarian religion and Neopaganism. Dreher clearly senses this, hence his attack. But Dreher is the most dishonest of TYN’s critics because he wants to have it both ways. Dreher is pursuing what the late Lawrence Auster called an “unprincipled exception” to liberalism. He wants a conservative denomination that reflects his interest in place and community and allow him a superficial dissent from political correctness once in a while. However, he will not tolerate anything that has a definitive statement against liberal universalism.
As Dreher’s own life shows us, Catholicism used to be the cliché conversion faith for American conservatives trying to look hard. After all, it wasn’t that long ago when the Pope was condemning “Americanism” as a heresy. However, that is increasingly hard to sustain when the contemporary Vicar of Christ tweets profound wisdom like “inequality is the root of social evil.” Of course, that hasn’t stopped Catholic conservatives from maintaining the proud post-Vatican II tradition that whoever is Pope didn’t actually mean whatever the latest tripe he served. But it has reduced the Church of Rome’s appeal. Now the hot new thing is Orthodoxy, but the same hollowing out process has already begun, at least in America.
What is called “religion” in the modern world isn’t really religion at all. It’s simply a collection of empty rituals that serve as variations on the same egalitarian theme. Absent a direct connection to community, religion is viewed publicly like choosing a sports team or a favorite food – a private preference of little consequence. The fact that almost all religions are identified with ethnic communities or a past connection to a regime or cultural order simply makes it easier for people to continue to align with it out of shallow nostalgia. But the linkage is no longer explicit.
As modernity runs its course, the churches actually serve as a necessary safety valve. They give people the illusion of identity without the substance. They present the form of Tradition while preaching a doctrine of destruction. And they carry forward the existence of an institution while hollowing it out from the inside. Those churches that try to cling to doctrine in the face of this usually fall into the trap of the “unprincipled exception” themselves – for example, hammering on the sin of gay marriage, while fanatically preaching about the evils of racism. Far from being an obstacle to modernity, the churches are a necessary facilitator, a tool to systematically render would be Traditionalists either impotent or counterproductive.
Before long of course, the institutions are exhausted. What is, after all, the Unitarian Church other than a tax dodge for progressive activists? What are the mainline Protestant churches but facilitators of mass immigration? And what is the bulk of the Catholic Church today but yet another ornate temple to social democracy, albeit one that opposes abortion on the grounds of egalitarianism? Those believers that are left are betrayed by their own shepherds. Viewing the collapse of American churches, it seems that Orthodoxy is simply a generation behind. Like American conservatism, American religion is a “game, a way of making a living,” in the words of Joe Sobran, another man who took the heritage of his church seriously and paid for it.
Dreher bases his career (such as it is) on the importance of “place,” but peoples create significance and meaning, not tracts of dirt or old buildings. And peoples sustain a faith or doom it to oblivion. Whatever the truth of a particular doctrine, once cut off from the ethnic roots that sustain it, a faith will either wither and die or transform into a golem like monstrosity that will choke the life out of the very community that gave it existence.
Joseph de Maistre, a great Christian reactionary, wrote that every people gets the government it deserves. This may be true of the churches as well, as the denominations are drying up in the shallow soil of 21st century America, leaving the real seekers for Truth bereft. Matt Parrot asks, “What does a man do when his championship of Authority and Tradition results in his traditional authority prohibiting his life’s work immediately and without warning?” Perhaps the answer is that the authority he bowed to is not a real guardian of Tradition or legitimate authority. Perhaps it doesn’t even have a stake in its own long term survival. Perhaps, it doesn’t want to be saved from itself.
It is not for me (of all people) to answer which side “God” is on in this fight. But I can say this with certainty. Whatever God TYN’s critics worship, it is not the God of St. John of Kronstadt, St. John Chrysostom, or the soldiers that fought in the name of Holy Russia throughout the centuries. It is not the God that sustained the monarchies of Eastern Europe, the oppressed Christians groaning under Muslim occupation for centuries, or even the Russian faithful of today.
It’s just the politically correct god of the Market Place, decrying the newly invented sins of “racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia.” It’s a god who doesn’t offer salvation or even damnation, but just passive aggressive lecturing. It’s a god our rulers depend on even more than the most tyrannical autocrat of the past depended on his state church. And if that’s the “God” we’re expected to bow to, I’d rather be a “heretic” – or a heathen.