Orthodox America Has a Lost Cause Problem

by Aram G. Sarkisian

confederate battle flag

For more than a decade, researchers have excavated the fascinating story of Philip Ludwell III, an Anglo-American convert to Orthodox Christianity who lived in colonial Virginia during the mid- to late-eighteenth century. A friend to Benjamin Franklin, cousin to Martha Washington, and a member of one of Virginia’s most established and well-connected planter families, Ludwell was also a distant relation of Robert E. Lee. Recently, a group of Orthodox Christians from the American South have drawn on this story to establish the Philip Ludwell III Orthodox Fellowship, a group devoted to “nurturing the roots of Orthodoxy in Dixie’s land.”

What is interesting, but troubling about the rise of the Ludwell Fellowship is its appropriation of an eighteenth-century story to fit a twisted and ahistorical agenda of the twenty-first. Scholars and other observers are noting the growing links between Orthodox Christianity and the American alt-right. This includes, but is not limited to the rise of Orthodox political candidates Michael Sisco and Lauren Witzke, the rhetoric of white supremacist leader Matthew Heimbach, and the participation of OCA priest Fr. Mark Hodges in the January 6th insurrection at the United States Capitol. Normalizing a conservative strain of Orthodoxy rooted in the farthest reaches of the political right, the Ludwell Fellowship poses their namesake as a spiritual antecedent to a convert-driven Southern Orthodoxy that neatly maps onto neo-Confederate ideologies of a redeemed Dixie. In this way, the fellowship is but one aspect of a larger movement within some Orthodox communities in the United States to draw on these developments to help shift the fulcrum of Orthodox America into the heart and history of the American South, and in turn, normalize white supremacy.

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Domestic Violence, Faith, and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church
16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence

by Romina Istratii

Ethiopian men

As the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign takes off, it is an opportune time to revisit the role of faith and theology in addressing domestic violence.

The relationship between faith/spirituality and domestic violence is not a simple one, but it is definitely one that should be understood with the nuance it deserves to be leveraged effectively in responding to the problem. While religious language can be used in distorted ways to justify or continue harmful attitudes and behavior, faith and spiritual living can serve as a coping mechanism and a source of healing for victims and survivors and can potentially deter abusiveness among some prospective perpetrators. Moreover, clergy have an important documented role in influencing religious communities on issues of marriage and family life.  

A common reference for the scholarship that looks at faith-based interventions is the understanding that religious personnel, the discourses they use, and their responses to communities can both contribute to the continuation of the problem of domestic violence and serve as a positive influence in efforts to address the problem (Istratii and Ali, under review). While clergy are well-positioned to respond to domestic violence in religious communities, they often lack an understanding of how their own discourses and responses can unwittingly reinforce negative norms, attitudes, or situations, and how to support victims and perpetrators with awareness of safeguarding risks and due processes.

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Orthodoxy and Psychoanalysis

by Carl Waitz and Theresa Clement Tisdale | български | ქართული | ελληνικά | Română | Русский | Српски

Jacques Lacan

Are psychological wellbeing and salvation antithetical concepts? If one stops at the investigations of some Orthodox authors, one might easily gather the impression that the Orthodox faith is not compatible with practices like psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. The aims of psychotherapy seem at times to conflict with the aims of Orthodox asceticism. Notably, however, psychoanalysis and psychotherapy do not take the same aim, and it may surprise some to hear that one of the most Freudian analysts of the 20th century proposed a vision of psychoanalysis quite compatible with the Orthodox Faith: Jacques Lacan.

Lacan, a French psychoanalyst active in the 1930s through 1970s, reformulated psychoanalysis, stepping away from Freud’s biological determinism and toward the philosophical shifts occurring in postwar Europe, such as existentialism, structuralism, and later, poststructuralism. While many practicing analysts in the US may find Lacan difficult to understand, his works have had notable influence in other disciplines and other parts of the world, such as the noticeable influence he has had on Orthodox authors such as Christos Yannaras. In considering the relationship between Freudian-Lacanian psychoanalysis and Orthodox theology, a helpful starting point may be the end—that is, the aims of the Orthodox faith and of psychoanalysis.

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Liturgy and the Limits of Minority Rights
The Opening of the “Taşhoran Church and Cultural Center” in Malatya, Turkey

by Christopher Sheklian | български | ქართული | ελληνικά | Română | Русский | Српски

Tashoran Church
Tashoran Church. Source: Wikimedia Commons

“To find something that is lost is always a happy occasion!” So said Patriarch Sahak II Maşalyan of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople, during his sermon at the first Divine Liturgy to be celebrated at the Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church in Malatya, Turkey, in over one hundred years. Reconstructed through joint efforts of the “Malatya Hayırsever Ermeniler Kültür ve Dayanışma Derneği” (Malatya Armenian Culture and Solidarity Philanthropic Association, known as “HayDer”) and the Malatya Municipality, the reconsecration of the Սուրբ Երրորդութիւն/Surp Yerrortutiun (Holy Trinity) Church on Saturday, August 28, and the celebration of the Divine Liturgy the day after was a momentous, historic, and, indeed, happy occasion. Patriarch Sahak II deftly connected Christ’s famous parables from Luke 15 and the weekend’s “Feast of the Finding of the Holy Belt of Saint Mary” with the historic occasion. He emphasized the monumental event of restoring an Armenian Apostolic Church that had been abandoned during the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and left to ruin not only being renovated by a Turkish municipality, but again hosting Armenian Christian liturgical life. Joy at recovering something lost and the promise of new life, the themes of the Lukan parables, were palpable in the videos and news from the weekend.

Malatya, an ancient central Anatolian city known historically as Melitene, had a notable Armenian presence since at least the time it served as a Roman provincial capital. While the church, known colloquially in Turkish as Taşhoran, was left to ruin after the 1915 Genocide, Malatya was one of the few urban centers that maintained an Armenian presence throughout the twentieth century. Today, Malatya is famous among Armenians as the birthplace of Hrant Dink, the journalist and intellectual who founded the influential paper Agos and was assassinated outside of its offices in 2007. Several of the articles about the reconsecration mention the proximity of the church to the neighborhood where Hrant Dink was born.

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