Religion Dispatches, a left-wing churchy website, has published an op-ed by a Greek Orthodox person named Katherine Kelaidis, in which she condemns Orthodox Christians who have embraced white nationalist movements. So far so good. She’s right to do that.
But look at this:
When high-profile, decidedly mainstream Orthodox converts like Rod Dreher promote the idea that modern society has become so corrupt that Christians should separate themselves from society completely and cites gay marriage as his “case-in-point,” what message does it send to other, less-refined discontents?
Shame on her. For one thing, as readers of The Benedict Option know, I explicitly do not endorse total separation. Kelaidis would not be the first critic to denounce the book without knowing what it actually says, but she’s the first I’ve read to use her ignorance to accuse me of aiding and abetting white nationalism. Plus, if she believes that opposing same-sex marriage makes one a party to racialist grievance among Christians, she ought to have the sense to know that she’s saying that every Orthodox Christian who believes what the Orthodox Church teaches about homosexuality and marriage is a proto-Klucker.
It’s a shameful, malicious smear, but I don’t actually doubt that someone as thoughtless as Katherine Kelaidis actually believes such things. Notice that her previous complaint against the Orthodox bishops is that some of the things they support — traditional marriage and religious liberty in the HHS mandate case — are also things that “the Religious Right” supports — as if this alone were sufficient reason to deny the bishops’ position. That’s it. There is no argument, only assertion. This is a real problem with many on the Left, this inability to make elementary distinctions among those with whom they disagree, or to meet disagreement with argument. Their approach seems to be: Demonize everybody, and let God sort them out.
The effect of Kelaidis’s piece is likely to be the opposite of what she seeks. Again, she’s right to call out Orthodox priests and bishops who are not dealing with white nationalism arising among some in their congregations. But given that she believes that criticizing contemporary American popular culture, and affirming the Church’s teaching on homosexuality and marriage, make one a fellow traveler of Orthodox white nationalism, people within the Church may see her as what she is: a left-wing crank who is disgracefully trying to use the example of some truly wicked people to advance a heterodox progressive agenda within the American Orthodox Church. It becomes easier to dismiss her entirely — which is a shame, because Orthodox religious authorities really should make the church’s position on this stuff unambiguously clear.
I don’t think people like Kelaidis actually want to see this, to be honest. If she did, she would be appealing to ordinary Orthodox, especially conservative ones, within the Church to join her in asking the bishops to take a clear and firm stance on white nationalism. Instead, she just wants to denounce conservatives indiscriminately. This is why fewer and fewer thoughtful conservatives take liberals seriously: they know that no matter what, conservatives are going to be called bigots, and lump them in with racist rabble.
UPDATE: Reader Ralph Sidway comments:
Re: “Orthodox religious authorities really should make the church’s position on this stuff unambiguously clear.”
Rod, I don’t keep up with the GOA or the Antiochians on this issue as much, but the OCA and ROCOR have certainly been at the least “unambiguously clear” both about the Orthodox Church holding unswervingly to traditional Christian anthropology, and to its unchanging and divinely established understanding of marriage as between one man and one woman, and on the entire meta-issue of human sexuality.
Follow this link to see the OCA’s statement immediately following the Obergefell ruling:
In the midst of the statement, there is this admonition:
“The ruling does not change the teaching of the Church, but it does remind us of the need to be Christ-like in our dealings with everyone. The state has the responsibility to enact laws that protect the rights of each individual. The Church, while it does not bless ‘same-sex marriages’ or view them as sacramental, does see the image of Christ in every individual, and his or her worth in the eyes of the Lord Who died upon the Cross for our salvation.”
At the end of the statement are links to six preceding documents from the OCA Synod of Bishops or by authorized writers from within the OCA on the subject of marriage and sexuality. This is all as “unambiguous” as it gets, both in its defense of the teaching of Christ and the Church regarding marriage and sexuality, as well as in its call for Christ-like compassion and care for those stricken with the passion of same-sex attraction.
ROCOR has similar statements available, and this year has provided an expansive article titled ‘A Christian Understanding of Homosexuality’. I am providing the link to Part 4, which includes a link to the entire article in PDF format, as well as links to Parts 1, 2 and 3 for those who wish to read it online:
I think your choice of language — “Orthodox religious authorities really should make the church’s position on this stuff unambiguously clear.” — was both wildly inaccurate and extremely ill advised, as it only serves to undercut the solid work being done by Orthodox hierarchs, theologians and educators to clearly express the timeless teaching of Christ’s Church in an age where that teaching is being driven underground and in which it may soon be openly persecuted.
As you’ll see from the links provided, the Orthodox Church is ready for that eventuality also, though up to the end, it will continue to offer Christ’s love to all, and pray that all may, in the words of St Silouan the Athonite, “come to know the Lord through the Holy Spirit.”
I appreciate this comment, and want to clarify that I was not accusing Orthodox Church authorities of failing to do this, only saying that it is a thing that ought to be done. I can see how my meaning was not clear.