The Burning of the Archpriest Avvakum
I saw the following colloquy in Orthodox England. It’s thought-provoking, and it’s an ideal springboard for development. Before going forward, any ideas that follow this quotation are my thoughts on the matter… Fr Andrew had nothing to do with them. They’re mine, and mine alone… don’t go bothering Batiushka on this issue… it’s my work, completely and utterly.
I have been told that the Orthodox Church is more “conservative” than other Churches. Is this the case?
I think that this is very misleading, indeed. In some respects… married priests, the importance of laity, freedom to move around at services, etc… we are much more “liberal” than other Churches. The point is, we are not “conservative”, but Traditional (with a capital T, because we follow the 2,000-year-old Tradition) and the Tradition is always radical and new, because it is inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Fr Andrew Phillips
The semi-educated and semi-literate konvertsy mindlessly bandy about vague and meaningless buzzwords from crank and crooked “Western” sources. These children don’t understand that the Western Media, Western Academe, Western Political Movements, and Western Religious Bodies have their agendas… and that these notional suppositions bear NO relation to grounded Orthodox reality. They toss about epithets such as “Conservative”, “Liberal”, “Fundamentalist”, and “Sectarian” as though they knew the actual meaning of the words.
Of course, there are legitimate concepts with these titles… for instance, a Sectarian is someone who belongs to an autogenetic religious movement that grew out of Reformation Protestantism, prime examples being the Mormons, Pentecostalists, and Hard-Shell Baptists. By definition, Sectarian excludes anyone who’s Catholic, Orthodox (Eastern or Oriental), Evangelical Lutheran, Anglican, Methodist, or Calvinist Reformed. I’d also include Old Reformation Anabaptists such as the Mennonites (and all their various offshoots, such as the Amish). Here’s what an ignorant convert wrote about the ROCOR (it’s from Stokoe’s comboxes… I eliminated the boobish crosses in front of JP’s name, though… no grounded person should show any mercy to jumped-up frauds that employ such boorish usages):
The big news on the OCA web site is Jonah celebrating the Divine Liturgy with the head of ROCOR. Who cares? ROCOR were purely sectarian and Moscow re-absorbed them; great! However, ROCOR refused to concelebrate with those of the OCA… WHY? So, finally, they decide to bury the hatchet and concelebrate with Jonah. Again, who cares? These people still have sectarian ideas regarding the Orthodox Church and indoctrinate as if they were living in Russia in 1700. What do these people have to do with an American church? Why is Jonah emulating them? Maybe he would feel more comfortable with them!
The ROCOR was NEVER Sectarian in the grounded, legitimate, and formal sense of the term. There were loudmouth ignoramuses at SVS (Paul Meyendorff comes to mind in regards to this) who used such loose and irresponsible language, but the ROCOR was never in formal schism, let alone descending into Formal Sectarianism. Yes, the MP and the ROCOR were “out of communion”… but the MP never anathematised the ROCOR as a body, nor did it ever anathematise any ROCOR clerics by name. The ROCOR existed (and exists) under an authorisation given in a ukase issued by Patriarch St Tikhon Bellavin… and that ends the discussion.
Yes, there are groups that call themselves “Orthodox” that are schismatic… Philaret Denisenko’s “Patriarchate of Kiev” and Valentin Rusantsov’s “Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church” come to mind. The Church has formally anathematised both these groups and their leaders. Indeed, I’m leery of calling schismatics Sectarian… they did come from the Church, after all. The Old Ritualists HAVE become Sectarian (especially the bezpopovtsy), but this was after the Church issued a formal anathema against Avvakum Petrov, and after his execution by the Russian state. Note it well, the loud konvertsy have an overblown affection for the Old Ritualists. The Old Ritualists are outside of the Church, full stop. They are NOT of us (the konvertsy also are equally indifferentist towards the Unia… if they’re softheaded on one issue, should it surprise you that they’re addlepated in a similar case?). If such people can’t even tell who’s in the Church and who’s not, they shouldn’t use such adult terms as Sectarian… it shows their utter ignorance and impetuosity to the world.
Another word that’s bent and twisted out of all relation to reality is Fundamentalist. If someone doesn’t like a particular group, and if that group stresses Tradition and Received Wisdom… why, that means that they’re “fundamentalists”, of course. Firstly, you CANNOT apply Fundamentalism to non-Christians. Fundamentalism is a substratum in Western Theology; specifically, it’s a movement within Calvinist Reformed circles. To be even more precise, it’s an intellectual current in early-20th century American Presbyterianism, it’s most influential explicator was Professor J. Gordon Machen (1881-1937). What did Professor Machen teach? Let’s see:
- Faith is indeed intellectual; it involves an apprehension of certain things as facts; and vain is the modern effort to divorce faith from knowledge. But although faith is intellectual, it is not only intellectual. You cannot have faith without having knowledge; but you will not have faith if you have only knowledge.
- There are many who believe that the Bible is right at the central point, in its account of the redeeming work of Christ, and yet believe that it contains many errors. Such men are not really liberals, but Christians; because they have accepted as true the message upon which Christianity depends. A great gulf separates them from those who reject the supernatural act of God with which Christianity stands or falls.
- Many a man, with feeble, struggling belief, torn by many doubts, may be admitted into the fellowship of the Church and of the sacraments; it would be heartless to deprive him of the comfort which such fellowship affords; to such persons, the Church freely extends its nurture to the end that they may be led into ever fuller knowledge and ever firmer faith. But to admit such persons to the ministry would be a crime against Christ’s little ones, who look to the ministry for an assured word as to the way by which they shall be saved.
- The chief modern rival of Christianity is “liberalism”. An examination of the teachings of liberalism in comparison with those of Christianity will show that at every point the two movements are in direct opposition.
THIS is Fundamentalism. It’s antipodes apart from the “fundamentalism” that one hears about in the Media and from Academics. Anyone who uses this term as a pejorative adjective deserves a Cossack horse-whipping for culpable stupidity. This word is a favourite of the SVS crowd (cf. Paul Meyendorff’s “Liturgical Fundamentalism”… whatever that nebulous neologism means) and of the konvertsy (especially the former Episkie rabble). NO grounded Orthodox Christian should ever use it, except in its formal and actual sense.
If you read the above with care (and it’s only the merest foretaste of the satisfying intellectual feast that awaits you in Machen’s works), one can see that Fundamentalism is a sober and grounded intellectual system… it isn’t a bunch of unwashed Bubbas in a tarpaper-shack backwoods tabernacle handling snakes, or a mealy-mouthed Franklin Graham encouraging “birther” nutters, or a (mythical) wandering band of bomb-wielding Wahabbi Muslim fanatics. Virtually none of those who toss about “fundamentalism” has ever heard of Professor Machen, let alone read his works. It’s an open question if they have the general literacy to do so… for example, if one looks at Paul Meyendorff’s illiterate maunderings, one does wonder.
The Price of Neoliberal Economics… the decline of real wages 1964-2004. Reflect on this… the Republican Party wants even LOWER wage levels… we can’t penalise the “productive people”, dontcha know… they need to pay their country club dues, after all…
Of course, one of Professor Machen’s quotes leads us to a consideration of the word Liberal. He said, “An examination of the teachings of Liberalism in comparison with those of Christianity will show that at every point the two movements are in direct opposition”. Firstly, I would submit that Liberal isn’t a synonym for Socialist or Social Market. Only bozos addicted to the “conservative” Media think so. So, what’s Liberalism? Simply put, it’s “free of restraint”… Classical Liberalism is at the bedrock of BOTH American political parties, with the present Republican Party more infected than the Democratic Party is. Stripped of all the rhetoric, Classical Liberalism believes that individuals should be free to pursue their self-interest without control or restraint by society. Bluntly put, it’s a belief in the rule of the jungle (“the race goes to the swiftest”), in Social Darwinism of the worst sort, of a Hobbesian world where the government doesn’t intervene in anything, for that would “restrict” the “freedom” of the oligarchs to oppress their employees! One can see why Professor Machen labelled Liberalism THE Enemy of Christianity.
The Liberal believes that Tradition has NO place in life… everything must be organised on a pragmatic and utilitarian basis. We see this in the current “conservative” Republican platform… everything is sacrificed to the interests of the oligarch class. Look at Minnesota… Tim Pawlenty cut income taxes by raising “user fees” and property taxes, regressive moves that shifted the tax burden from the well-off to moderate-income individuals (oh, yes… he’s a loud “Born Again” Sectarian, too… I thought that you’d like to know that). In other words, Mr Pawlenty is a sterling Liberal… he wants no restraint to the power of the ruling class. He’s no Conservative.
One last thing… as the graph shows, there’s a cost to Neoliberal excess… today, working stiffs have an average salary 13 percent LOWER in constant terms than in 1974, the peak year for income for hourly employees. Income redistribution lives… and it’s not the poor picking the pockets of the “productive”… it’s the oligarchs (and some of their minions) stuffing their boodle bags at everyone else’s expense… the graph doesn’t lie, kids. Ronald Reagan (and Thatcher in the UK) consciously Liberalised the economy… setting off a rise in the gap between the rich and poor that’s still going on (the gap had been NARROWING since the 1920s). As I asked before, is that Conservatism?
So, if Liberalism is actually “conservatism”… then, what’s REAL Conservatism? For one, it stresses the principles of natural law, as embodied in the transcendent moral law, which enlivens tradition, order, hierarchy, and organic unity, finding an expression in classicism and high culture. Note well that contemporary Robber Baron Neoliberalism (“Conservatism”) spits on all of these. We’re just atomised cogs in the works of the modern economy. We’re all faceless “world citizens”, with no distinctive culture… with no national loyalty… with no reason for being other than to work and consume. Real Conservatives are horrified, aghast, disgusted, and appalled at the excesses of Neoliberal “conservatism”. Conservatism rests upon four great pillars:
- Blood-and-Soil Patriotism
- Transcendent Morality
- Mankind’s Incorrigible Imperfection
Remove any of these, and Conservatism dies. Neoliberal “conservatives” reject all four of these principles in reality (although many “mouth” them). Neoliberals reject Legitimacy… they believe in the Primacy of the Almighty Dollar. They do NOT believe in Blood-and-Soil Patriotism, they’re ready to “outsource” all local industry, thereby destroying the local economy, if such a move were to enrich them personally. They do NOT believe in Transcendent Morality… the only thing that matters is the “bottom line”… if it’s profitable; it’s good. Most of all, the Neoliberal “conservatives” don’t believe in Mankind’s Incorrigible Imperfection… they believe in “progress”… things are getting better and better.
If you were to ask me, the most important part of Conservatism is Rootedness. Note well that a characteristic feature of Neoliberal “conservatism” is a demand that one “move to where the work is”. This is wrong and EVIL. I’ll NEVER move away from the Northeast… for it’s my homeland. I’m rooted here, for good or for ill. I’m a part of this particular land… of this particular corner of the earth… no… I REFUSE to move for mere lucre’s sake… it’s abandoning one’s birthright for the proverbial Biblical “mess of pottage”. You’re NOT a Conservative if you don’t love a particular region above all others… I love Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New York, and Pennsylvania (Québec is cool, too, but that’s Canada)… the Northeast IS DIFFERENT from the Midwest, South, Plains, or West… radically so. The Interchangeable Corporate Weasel isn’t a Conservative… their very peripatetic wandering precludes it.
Ergo, I can understand why Frank Schaeffer, Julie Nixon Eisenhower, Christopher Buckley, C C Goldwater, Wick Allison, and Jeffrey Hart, amongst others, have repudiated Neoliberal “conservatism”. I have done so, too. Remember, those who call themselves “conservatives” today are NOT Conservatives. They don’t stand for Legitimacy, they aren’t real patriots (their jingoism and warmongering notwithstanding), they’re effectual atheists (their loud cries of “belief” are insincere and vapid), and they have a juvenile faith in progress and mankind’s continual “upward march”. Can Conservatism live again? That’s an open question…
Wednesday 1 June 2011