Orthodoxy’s Appeal to the Liberal Left
The Orthodox Christian Laity website recently published a breathlessly relayed fluff piece on “Orthodoxy’s Extremist Appeal“, full of some rather unfortunate typos and devoid of the scholarly substance one would normally associate with a Ph.D. holding anti-establishment feminist.
For your enjoyment we have taken the liberty of correcting these errors, complete with hard evidence and citations. Think of this lengthy article as a handy reference resource for combating the Hydra which is Cultural Marxism in the Church.
Ancient Faith Ministries promotes speakers who advocate feminism & abortion, ROCOR ordains clergy who support LGBT groups, and venues such as Orthodoxy in Dialogue and Public Orthodoxy push the envelope on homosexual activity, same-sex “marriage”, and gender-fluid intersex children.
Orthodox Christian groups have increasingly become a bastion for far-left extremists of various stripes. Over the past couple years, we have been engaged in an effort to understand why. This is both a professional and personal interest.
As scholars, we are interested in how history is deployed in the service of contemporary political discourse, particularly on the far-left. As practicing Orthodox Christians, we want to challenge us to think about the ways in which our witness to the world suggests that the Orthodox Faith might very well be a safe haven for those who would visit hatred against God and violence against fellow human beings adhering to God’s laws. Because, challenging this notion is an essential part of our timeless witness. This work specifically focuses on Orthodox Christian identity in the American far-left.
This phenomenon has a poster child in Peter San Filippo, the founder of a popular blog called Orthodoxy in Dialogue. San Filippo, who received his M.Div. from St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary and formerly pastored a church in Canada, is often used as an example that the Church is “dealing” with this problem, as San Filippo was defrocked following public outcry after a divorce and subsequent relationship with a man.
Even after these sad choices, which lead to a scandal, instead of repentance he since doubled down. His thesis for the University of Toronto was titled, “A Bed Undefiled: Foundations for an Orthodox Theology and Spirituality of Same Sex Love.” San Filippo since partnered with Public Orthodoxy who published his piece “Conjugal Friendship” which infers same sex relationships amongst our saints and thus, alleged proof of its acceptability.
But our research suggests his excommunication is false comfort. No one wants to see any child of God separated from the Body of Christ, but when these children choose to remain apart, all we can do is pray for conversion. Some in leadership have turned a blind eye to the root of this problem. As a result the growing forces of hatred towards Orthodoxy which have become an increasingly visible and viable part of the North American and European political landscape are enjoying a highly problematic relationship with the Orthodox Church. And we are not going to bury the dead.
It seems clear why this has happened. These extremists have their agenda, that when writ large, we find socially acceptable; and so, we are reluctant or frankly unwilling to challenge them even when their rhetoric and sometimes their actions cross the line into advocating extreme forms of heretical indoctrination and violence.
Political Correctness, LGBTQ approval, and Cultural Marxism are our gateway drug — acceptable forms of liberalism in Orthodox thought and action — excuses for ignoring the laws of God and excusing the nature of sin in human beings. Our tolerance of these forms of pressure to acquiesce to that which is abhorrent to Orthodox Christianity or be accused of 1984-esque “Thoughtcrime” has devastating consequences — leading to constant slanderous harassment on social media, inferred or overt threats of real life violence, job loss, and excommunication on the basis of mere accusation alone without merit or substance. Those in glass houses should not throw stones, however, particularly when accusations can be countered with hard evidence of egregious sins and not mere whispered spectres.
In this article, we want to look at the two streams which we think are feeding the emergence of an explicitly Orthodox far left; and secondly, we want to look at the form this takes and what we might be able to do about it. As an advance warning, an actual solution is probably way above our pay grade.
Influence of Cultural Marxism
It is important to note that for much of the history of the post-World War II Western far-left, Orthodox Christianity was seen as one of those fundamentalist threats to liberal and decadent society. There is no “Do as thou wilt” in Orthodoxy; we are commanded to do as God wills. The Human Rights Campaign reports as late as 2018 that Orthodox Civilization is a threat to inclusivity.
San Filippo, already mentioned above, runs the Orthodoxy in Dialogue group. As The American Conservative journal has noted, Orthodoxy in Dialogue makes demands which are entirely contrary to fundamental beliefs in Orthodoxy, calling for nothing short of same sex unions blessed by the Church, online renouncement of everything the Church teaches that is contrary to their agenda, and ceasing participation in anything pro-life.
The transformation of Orthodox Christianity in Western left-wing thought from threat to Christendom’s standard-bearer of Tolerance for all forms of degeneracy has been driven in no small part by a wave of conversions by those from non-traditionally Orthodox backgrounds used to heresy, female bishops, and homosexual priests.
Over the past three decades, there has been an increasing interest in Orthodox Christianity from those in liberal Protestant circles wishing to infect others with their reformist or progressive impulses found within their own traditions. While reliable statistics are difficult to come by, that this interest frequently results in conversions is something that can be felt in Orthodox parishes, media, and apologetics.
This influence is particularly felt due to the extent to which formerly Protestant converts dominate self-identified Orthodox media, both in specifically Orthodox circles and within mainstream media. The Orthodox radio/podcast network Ancient Faith Radio is full of the voices of adult converts to the faith, and the aesthetic of the network mimics that of American Protestant Christian media as it has developed since the late 1960’s. Quite a few of the contributors exhibit lukewarmness, minimize the gravity of sin, and push ecumenism.
Among their ranks we find Ancient Faith authors who attend Women’s Marches alongside those who celebrate Christ as a “feminist” at an event long known for pushing LGBTQ and Planned Parenthood propaganda (Summer Kinard) and another who outright supports abortion (Angela Doll Carlson). Summer Kinard has also publicly stated that “gender is a social construct” and that “sexual transitions might function to aid us in the journey into holiness“. Are these the sorts of authors and speakers that Ancient Faith Ministries should be supporting?
In secular media such as “Vox” and “Salon” we find Katherine Kelaidis. She is editor of The Wheel and contributor to Public Orthodoxy, and is regularly called on to represent a feminist’s “modern” Orthodoxy. She has the ability to curiously balance lifelong membership in the Greek Orthodox Church while maintaining a position of LGBTQ support, equality in same sex marriage, access to abortion, and a belief that women should hold leadership positions in the Church. This publicly expressed mindset alone should disqualify her obscene hit pieces as being remotely valid or worthy of consideration in the Orthodox world.
Public Orthodoxy, associated with Fordham, a Jesuit University, is headed by George Demacopoulos. They are widely known for their encouraging acceptance of homosexuality in the Church funded by hundreds of thousands in grant money, pushing for female ordination, and gender bending. The interconnectivity of Public Orthodoxy, Orthodoxy in Dialogue, and The Wheel can only be viewed as a coordinated effort to attack God’s Truth in Orthodoxy as it has been taught and practiced for millennia.
Thanks be to God these operatives do not move without notice or opposition. Wonderful articles exist, written by stoic defenders of the unadulterated Faith, rightly calling these organizations “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” In a well crafted article found on Touchstone, we can see evidence of their “Trojan horse” approach to change Orthodoxy into something wholly unrecognizable. To quote:
In a blog post in January 2015 on an official website of GOA, Demacopoulos depicted his unnamed theological opponents in overwrought ad hominem smears as ‘extremist’ and ‘radical opportunists’ who pose an ‘insidious danger’ motivated by self-promotion.
Of course, psychologists would consider George’s screed to be little more than a classic case of projection and narcissism.
While these outlier extremist groups attempt to invoke the specter of historical Christianity, the fact remains that this is a political, rather than a theological, proposition. The position taken by Demacopoulos and other similarly situated self-styled “Orthodox Christians” is namely that Eastern Christianity *must* become the standard-bearer of Tolerance, because it is the only form of Christianity which resists the corrupting influences of Western modernity. It is notable, however, that this position is only tenable when Eastern Christianity is radically transformed into the image of an imagined ecumenical paradise of “all paths lead to God”, which is shockingly ahistorical.
Ecumemical Patriarchate: Radicalization and Idolatrous Pursuit of Self in America
At the same time as American Orthodoxy has experienced this infusion of Marxist thought, Greece, a majority Orthodox nation, has re-entered the global geopolitical fray in pretty big ways via the Ecumenical Patriarch’s meddling in the Ukraine, a topic beyond the scope of this article but worth mentioning even if in passing.
When placed in the context of Orthodox history and contemporary Greek Orthodox posturing, the threat of the union between American liberal Orthodoxy and a revived, radicalized Greek Orthodox Church both within Orthodoxy and within the broader world becomes evident. The Phanar already considers America to be under his jurisdiction. In this context, Bartholomew has taken on a strange new image, particularly among ascendant far-left movements. He gives a blessing to Muslims during Ramadan and participates in the perversion of interfaith dialogue. Even those in the Greek Church have spoken about the dangers of ecumenism, to no avail.
Additionally, there was a small upheaval about a ROCOR parish in Oklahoma City, OK. Members in the anti-fascist (Antifa) Orthodox Facebook group celebrate the fact that a well-known Marxist Communist is ordained as Deacon in the parish. Antifa, by the way, has been labeled as a domestic terrorist group by both the Dept. of Homeland Security and the FBI.
This Deacon, despite advice to the contrary, continues to support and share Facebook posts of Antifa organizations such as Red Dirt Defense, Oklahoma People’s Party, and Oklahoma Antifa Action, that explicitly call for LGBTQ support, an overthrowing of patriarchy, and violent revolt to install communism.
He proudly posted photos of himself holding a firearm and his “comrades” handling semi-automatic weapons. They were holding target practice while he served Divine Liturgy, until he too takes on an armband of their terroristic organization and joins in afterwards. How can one touch the Holy body and blood of Christ then set out to practice/fantasize spilling the blood of those who defend the Holy Church?
Then we have the case of another ordained clergyman, this time a Reader, who held membership in an OCA parish near Seattle, WA for years. Alex Riggle and his wife Charlotte (an Orthodox children’s author regularly promoted by Ancient Faith bloggers) participated in a homosexual Pride March and posted a scandalous image, complete with a rainbow flag in his hat, in a public photo album on social media.
Outcry lead to their priest asking if he wouldn’t at a mimimum set the album to private, and the response was to set the image as a Facebook profile cover, front and center, and to leave the OCA for a GOA parish. (Though considering the OCA’s new LGBT-inclusive sexual harrassment policy, perhaps his move was premature.)
According to his wife, their new priest is “fine” with their participation, and he “welcomed them with open arms into the Greek Church.” Since this fiasco she has likewise doubled down, and she advertises her financial support of an organization that targets LGBTQ reading materials at children.
She has even positively recommended a book on her Orthodox blog — aimed at families — depicting homosexual parents as “normal”.
Shockingly this questionable children’s author has been promoted by Ancient Faith in a blog tour, allowed to write for an Ancient Faith blog, also she and Kinard were both promoted by the Ancient Faith children’s editor Jane Meyer. As of May 26, 2019, writings by this pro-LGBT author can still be found on the Ancient Faith website.
Worst of all was an invitation to an Ancient Faith conference in 2018, ultimately canceled due to poor ticket sales. When reputation proceeds, does one really need to wonder why this was the least successful conference when others are routinely sold out?
Another issue — once again in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese — is an extremely vocal Florida man who is an unrepentant homosexual. Since he is a relatively low-profile layman, not subject to the same scrutiny as ordained clergy and influencers with unfettered online access to Orthodox families, we will not give his name here.
He regularly writes of his delight in being allowed to commune weekly alongside his “husband.” This seems to be common practice as others report the same phenomenon in several other parishes: notably Denver, NYC, Portland, and San Diego. Despite some very questionable things posted by these parishioners, these parishes may not necessarily be “Pro-Marxism” or “Pro-LGBTQ”, but there is much to suggest that their bishops and priests are perhaps a bit too tolerant of those who are.
And for the Faithful, this is the problem. Much of what these extremists say may not sound extreme to our ears — Isn’t it “loving” and popular to support such movements, after all? — In fact, often the nature of rhetoric in Orthodox circles, both in the diaspora and beyond, is a little too close for comfort to the rhetoric of the minority on the liberal left. They are very vocal and well-platformed extremists, and their broad publicity provides an appearance of widespread approval across the Orthodox world — and that makes us susceptible to becoming co-opted by them.
What we advocate is better conversation, which is what we are trying to do here. For far too long, the Orthodox mentality has been one of siege, and our fears have frequently manifested as unconditional acceptance lest we are called “intolerant” or “bigoted.” Clearly, there are historical reasons for this, but we cannot see any theological ones save one — which concerns end times prophecy.
“Be not afraid” the Lord tells us again and again. We have nothing to fear, least of all the world, least of all our fellow human beings. When we live in fear, we create a culture in which their agenda can grow unopposed, in which violence can be defended as the proper response to so-called “fascism” (which is what they call the teachings of the Church Fathers).
If the relationship between Orthodoxy and the far left makes you uncomfortable, well, it should. Then we implore you to use your voice, and speak up! They may attempt to brand you with the scarlet “P” for “phobic”, or call you a “NAZI” for defending God’s Truth. They will outright hate you. Do it anyway. The world hated Christ first. Remember always that Our Lord and His Saints stand alongside you!
As noted at the beginning of this article, Kathy Kelaidis penned a piece on “Orthodoxy’s Extremist Appeal“, claiming that the Orthodox Church has recently become a bastion for right-wing “extremists” who hold to traditional morals and values. The evidence, however, demonstrates otherwise. Traditional morals are just that — traditional — and faithful members of the Church have been holding those values for two thousand years.
The newcomers — the modernists — are those on the liberal left. They are the ones infiltrating Orthodox groups, seeking to remake them in their own image. Of course, Jesus already warned us about the gates of hell, and thankfully, He promised us that they would not prevail against the Church.