My last post led to some private messages and emails. One priest’s wife was astounded that Matthew Heimbach was a member of the Traditional Orthodoxy (Canonical) group of Facebook and that that group has thousands of members, with not one saying anything about his presence. To the best of my knowledge, the moderator certainly does not. Another person thought the real question should not be whether Orthodoxy has the doctrinal basis for rejecting racism but whether it has the testicular fortitude (though this was stated a bit more crudely). Time will tell on that. Neither of these kinds of responses are what led to this post, though.
What I wish to build from is the realization that my last post struck a nerve with some “pro-white” types who think I’m “anti-white” and such. The ad hominems came out. I am for “McOrthodoxy” and I have a “crap goatee,” that sort of thing. I have to admit, although race and ethnicity are not “funny” issues, I did laugh at the ad hominems. Look, they were funny. My racist opponents may be glad to know that the crap goatee is now no longer a problem. I’m now clean shaven! The McOrthodoxy charge is similarly ironic, but leads to a larger point. Those who refuse to recant their racist statements and actions seem to have created a false dichotomy between being “pro-white” on the one hand and a supporter of “McOrthodoxy” on the other, wherein the latter terms refers to some sort of raceless, consumerist form of Orthodoxy.
This false dichotomy raises a few important angles. First, regarding the “consumerist” aspect of Orthodoxy, I would recommend everyone reads the recent books published by Amy Slagle and myself. Reading these works will help people see the larger American Orthodox and American Orthodox convert landscapes in a much more informed manner. Only then should one enter into a discussion about “consumerism.” Second, the idea of a “raceless” Orthodoxy is silly if one means trying to make one “race” out of all races or ignoring race and ethnicity all together. As noted in the previous post, the 1872 statement was against exclusion based on race. Including people of all ethnicities and races does not make something “raceless.” It simply includes all and is open to all (though if this inclusion is what’s meant by “raceless” then YES Orthodoxy IS raceless). That’s the Gospel’s transmission–neither Greek nor Jew–”Go ye therefore into all nations,” etc. Third, there is the issue of Tradition that is raised. For the false dichotomy is being championed as Tradition. This is the point I wish to address briefly here.
Tradition is a multifaceted word. Indeed, this youtube video from Princess Bride may well be applicable. When it comes to the Orthodox tradition, is it best to continue with strict, exclusionary racial and ethnic boundaries or best to integrate them? One could answer the former by highlighting our multi-jurisdictional situation today or how internationally, Orthodoxy is directly tied to nationalism, by way of name and structure (“Russian Orthodox Church”) if nothing else (and often it is tied in more ways that that). The better answer would be the latter. Why? Well, the breakdown along national lines was a development of the history of evangelization (the tie to nationalism as we know it is a modern element). It was a matter of getting the Orthodox faith into different cultures. It began at Ascension (actually even before, with Jesus’ willingness to reach out to the Samaritans and non-Jews), continued into the early Church, as seen in Africa, for instance, and later India and even China (via the Nestorians). Here in America, it happened notably amongst many Native Alaskans. When this occurred, the primary, fundamental connection was not culture and certainly was not race, but was the Orthodox faith. There is something very ironic about seeking to exclude races from the church, either directly or even indirectly (remove all “non-European” types from American borders, etc.) and then justifying it, at least in part, upon a history that shows the Orthodox faith to be something that is to be shared across racial divides. Another reason is that integrating races and ethnicities within the Orthodox church is consistent with this in a new way in America. Tradition does not mean merely repeating something from a father or a past time. You cannot recover a “past time” anyhow (though we often try–read my book). Rather, tradition is a verb, not just a noun. It is something that is living and ongoing and in America, the “new” continuation of the kind of evangelization our Orthodox church has done is fulfilled by making each parish fully open to all races and ethnicities. Anyone who wishes to be a part may enter. This also means our parishes must be championing the kind of conditions that enable this.
That seems to be where my racist opponents object most fully. They do not want the kind of conditions in America that would foster this integration within our parishes. Yet, America allows for this integration in a special and profound way. When we are sworn into the military, we do not take an oath to any person or carefully defined political ideology. We are neither Nazi Germany nor the Soviet Union. We take an oath to defend the Constitution. The Constitution provides a vision that ultimately results in a country willing to be open to people regardless of ethnicity and race. America has not always lived this correctly, to be sure, but it is so open and in being so open, it provides our church (and any other church) the opportunity to integrate all people and share the Gospel with all. Ultimately, that is the real danger of those who wish to exclude (whether directly or indirectly) on the basis of race and/or ethnicity–one works against the spreading of the Gospel. That is certainly not “tradition.”