To a casual reader of social media, it may appear that the culture war battles in the Orthodox circles around human sexuality have finally ceased, especially compared to the raging 2010s. I think that, rather, the lines have been drawn, and most of the combatants have retreated to their respective camps. Certainly the need for intellectual and spiritual freedom to continue the important anthropological and theological work in the Church is an issue that is much broader than the limits imposed by the nature of social media interactions. Yet I ponder what has emerged from the fray as the paradigm of “compassionate denial.” This position can be summarized along the lines of “My heart breaks for people in the Church who struggle with same-sex attraction, and we should counsel them and offer them support with love in their ascetic endeavor to carry the cross of chastity.”
It may be due to the temporary distance from this discourse that the pitfalls of the “compassionate” approach struck me anew. Of primary concern is that it provides the well-meaning “traditionalists” with a comfortable alternative to the toxic hatred propagated by a subset of Orthodox culture warriors. It allows the satisfaction of feeling loving and accepting while at the same time remaining within the comfortable confines of an officially prescribed position: we are fully accepting of our homosexual brothers and sisters as long as they satisfy the requirement to forsake their need for human companionship.
Three years ago, a scandal broke out. An outspoken white supremacist by the name of Matthew Heimbach was received into the Orthodox Church on Lazarus Saturday. A few days later, on Bright Monday, Heimbach and his cohorts from the Traditionalist Youth Network (a white supremacist group affiliating itself with Orthodoxy) beat up a protester at a hate rally with an Orthodox wooden cross.
The story went viral. There were multiple demands on the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America (ACOUSA) to speak out against the white supremacy and the racists’ claim that it is “ontological” to Orthodoxy. Quoting Heimbach,
“As an Orthodox Christian I believe in the separation of races into ethnically based Church’s. That is why even in Orthodoxy there is for instance a Greek, Russian, Romanian, Serbian, etc. Orthodox Church. Regional and racial identity is a fundamental principle of Christianity, must to the dismay of Leftists. I believe black Christians should be in their black Church’s, with black priests, having black kids, going to black Christian schools, etc.”
Instead, the Antiochian Archdiocese quietly dealt with the matter by excommunicating Heimbach and his mentor Matt Parrott (another chrismated Orthodox and leader of the “parent” Traditionalist Workers white supremacist group) and posting a notice on the parish website. No public statement was ever made by the bishops of either the Archdiocese or the Assembly. Continue Reading…
Orthodox in America are privileged in enjoying complete freedom of worship untethered by allegiance to the state. This is an environment that still, a few hundred years later, is experienced as somewhat of a novelty compared with our much longer history in which we were either joined to the state, or oppressed by it.
We have to admit, however, that we have not used this gift to its full potential. Continue Reading…