Category Archives: Orthodoxy in America

God’s Controversy with the United States
Rod Dreher and the Orthodox Jeremiad

by Aram G. Sarkisian

torn American flag

“Beware, O sinful land, beware;
And do not think it strange
That sorer judgements are at hand,
Unless thou quickly change.
Or God, or thou, must quickly change;
Or else thou art undon:
Wrath cannot cease, if sin remain,
Where judgement is begun.”

-Michael Wigglesworth, “God’s Controversy With New England” (Written in the Time of the Great Drought, Anno. 1662)

“Christian faith is in steep decline and a softer form of totalitarianism is on the march. I firmly believe that we American Christians, and in truth Americans of any traditional faith and convictions, that we’re now living in exile. We know from the Hebrew Bible how God deals with His people when they have become unfaithful to Him. He judges them.”

-Rod Dreher, September 13th, 2022

In the United States today, public pronouncements from prominent Orthodox Christians often take the form of jeremiads, grave sermons decrying general social and moral transgressions for which humanity faces imminent persecution from an angry and vengeful God. Jeremiads follow a typical structure: a reference to a doctrinal baseline, ordinarily culled from the Old Testament; an outlining of the covenant between God and His people; and then an explanation of the contemporary significance of that covenant, first through a grave and graphic exposition on how God’s people had so catastrophically failed, and then in an explication of how they may reverse their perilous fate. 

From the settler colonialist preachers of seventeenth-century New England to the circuit-riding revivalists of the nineteenth-century to the televangelists and YouTube preachers of the present day, jeremiads have warned that without atonement and correction, God’s people in America were doomed. Many such jeremiads are premised on the notion that the United States is a Christian nation, exceptional and ordained above all to serve God’s plan for humanity, and burdened with that should it fail to retain its covenant with the divine, the nation would fail and its people suffer. A renewed upsurge of Christian Nationalism has caused such rhetoric to swell in recent years, and as we have seen, such ideas too ripple through Orthodox Christian institutions and communities.

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Thinking Out Loud: In Response to the OCA’s Curbing of Intellectual Freedom

by Very Rev. Dr. Isaac Skidmore

thinking figure
Image: iStock.com/Benjavisa

I would like to respond to the Statement on Same-sex Relationships and Sexual Identity, issued by the Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America during the recent All-American Assembly in Baltimore in July. I believe it will be evident I have concerns about the statement’s curtailment of intellectual and academic freedom. In particular, I would like to share my reaction to the following paragraph:

We call upon all clergy, theologians, teachers, and lay persons within the Orthodox Church in America never to contradict these teachings by preaching or teaching against the Church’s clear moral position; by publishing books, magazines, and articles which do the same; or producing or publishing similar content online. We reject any attempt to create a theological framework which would normalize same-sex erotic relationships or distort humanity’s God-given sexual identity.

When I read these words, I feel a combination of sadness, fear, and anger, because, to me, they mean that the Synod might be posed to intrude upon my intellectual and academic freedom, which I consider to be integral to my own wellbeing, and the necessary context and precondition for any genuine statement of faith.

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Freedom from Fear: Response to the Statement of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America

by the editors of the The Wheel

This post was originally published at The Wheel and is reposted here with permission.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)

In our inaugural editorial in 2015, we stated: “The Wheel is a journal for the intelligent and constructive articulation of the Christian Gospel in the 21st century. We live in an era of pluralism, when the social identity of Christian faith and its role in public discourse present new and unique challenges. By embracing contributions on Orthodox theology, spirituality, and liturgical arts alongside serious engagements with the challenges of contemporary political ideologies, empirical science, and cultural modernism, this publication aims to move beyond the polarizations of much current discourse in the Orthodox Church.”

We also quoted the great theologian of the twentieth century Vladimir Lossky:

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Fullness of Faith or Fullness of Fear?
On Prohibiting Open Theological Discussion

by Gregory Tucker

Image: iStock.com/BertiK

At the conclusion of the “Bridging Voices” conference in Oxford in 2019, I thanked the distinguished group of participants for restoring my confidence in the church as a discursive society bound by love of and in Christ. Our meeting was demanding, at times very tense, and inconclusive, but commitment to working through some of the most challenging questions of our day kept a large group of thinkers with divergent perspectives together productively at one table. As far as I am aware, no factions formed at the conference and no participant found it necessary to denounce or reprimand any other. Most attended the divine services together and many remarked on the importance of the liturgical unity of the gathering. Patience and humility made space for attentive listening, transformative encounter, and the refinement of theological argumentation without fear.

It is therefore disheartening to read the latest statement of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America on same-sex relationships and sexual identity, which appears to intend to stifle genuine, faithful intellectual inquiry and cultivate a climate of fear. Much in this text is unremarkable, little more than a rehearsal of apologetic tropes, and a repetition of statements issued previously. Nobody can honestly claim that the position of the Holy Synod of the OCA on these topics is unclear. The same conclusions, the same small body of proof-texts, the same appeal to the unanimity of the tradition, and the same assertion of synodal authority over these issues have been repeated time and again. So why issue yet another statement?

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