“Another City” has striven to set aside partisan politics in its editorial policy, and this commitment remains. But sometimes cultural and politics issues substantially overlap, as is the case with certain dark forces that are now manifest in Western culture and American society and which are important to understand deeply rather than in a partisan manner. Deacon Paul Siewers’ fine review article addresses these issues in a balanced and insightful way that many of our readers will find helpful.
By Fr. Dn. Paul Siewers
HEALING HUMANITY: CONFRONTING OUR MORAL CRISIS
This week marked the appearance of Healing Humanity: Confronting our Moral Crisis, a book from Holy Trinity Publications featuring contributors who are clergy, professors, and prominent writers in the Orthodox Christian tradition in North America, co-edited by Archpriest Alexander Webster, Prof. David Ford, and myself, based on a conference on the same at Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville last year. By meaningful coincidence, the week also marked the appearance of another new book, by one of those contributors, Orthodox Christian writer Rod Dreher, Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents. Both books relate integrally to the culture of self-destruction, social division, and cultural totalitarianism in our era of “woke capitalism.” As if to advertise these books by giving a sign of our dire straits, the same week brought a random Tweet from the founding editor of America’s radical-Left flagship magazine, voicing his approval for the killing in 1918 of the Romanov children venerated by Orthodox Christians as Holy Royal Martyrs. Such decadent elitism in American corporate-consumer culture today seeks a new American Cultural Revolution, drawing on cultural Marxist ideologies of Critical Race Studies, Anthropoceneism, Pansexualism, and Antifa. It would shape America’s future as a sequel to Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s epic historical fiction cycle The Red Wheel, the latest and climactic volume of which, March 1917:, Book 2, appeared in timely fashion in English just last November. All three books –Solzhenitsyn’s, Dreher’s, and the Jordanville collection– should be on the reading list of American Orthodox Christians this fall during the threatened unraveling of the old republic “under God.”
THE URGENT NEED FOR THE WEST TO EMBRACE TRADITIONAL ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN ANTHROPOLOGY
The urgent need for the West to embrace traditional Orthodox Christian anthropology and morality articulated in the Healing Humanity book reflects the relation of the so-called sexual revolution of 1960s America to America’s new Cultural Revolution today. The latter offers a techno-totalitarian version, as Dreher’s new book explains, of the Bolshevik Revolution described by Solzhenitsyn’s cycle, followed by its successor the Maoist Cultural Revolution in Communist China. But in America’s Cultural Revolution 3.0, we see a volatile mix of consumer capitalism and anarchist upheaval, fueled by the materialistic passion and self-pleasure sown in our earlier sexual revolution. Today’s American revolutionary movement could also be trademarked as Identity,TM given its commodified or objectified view of self, built up by targeting others while unleashing plagues of extreme loneliness and both subtle and direct forms of social terror.
To demonize in modern parlance means to objectify one’s self or others. This is what today’s Cultural Revolution does, indicating its own demonic trajectory. It calls for spiritual warfare, and the Russian Orthodox philosopher Ivan Ilyin’s book On Resistance to Evil by Force and the Orthodox classic Unseen Warfare: The Spiritual Combat and Path to Paradise, edited by St. Theophan the Recluse, are two helpful resources to guide our prayer lives and faith walk in these difficult times. (Nota Bene: Critique of culturally totalitarian ideology on all sides does not question the need for authentic concern for victims of bias or hate, and for remedying institutional and personal corruption that enables such evil passions, which is a duty of Christian love and practice, including for example needs to improve the American criminal justice system.)
Of the link between the sexual revolution and cultural-political revolution generally, the Canadian writer Jonathan Van Maren notes: “The sexual revolution may have given people freedom, but what it took away was far more precious: a sense of belonging, identity, and families filled with siblings, cousins, and other relatives. This way of life is so scorned and even demonized that many of the bitter, angry young people marching to the trendy tune of the latest Pied Piper do not even realize that their primal screams are howls of longing for the very things many of them claim to despise.” The Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt, herself an exile from Nazism, warned in her study The Origins of Totalitarianism that such loneliness enables the rise of technology-enabled totalitarianism as seen in both the Nazi and Communist systems.
The new Cultural Revolution today, in separating individuals not only from family ties but in delusion from bodily limitation and personal relationships, also seeks to obscure the historic Church and the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Relying on abstracted experience of initiated cognoscenti, it offers a new technocratic version of the ancient disembodied heresy of Gnosticism. Sexually, more advanced forms of contraception, and ever-more quasi-magical technologies, seek to defy embodiedness, mortality, and God in hyper-instrumentalist approaches to physical life. They move people to seek “out of body” passion without God, with abstracted minds separating from embodied hearts (to use terms developed from millennia of Orthodox ascetic experience) in a drive to orgiastic power and ultimately violence. May the resulting extremities help lead all, by God’s grace, to steadfast faith in Him through His Orthodox Church!
AN ANTIDOTE TO AMERICAN TECHNO-GNOSTICISM
St. Irenaeus of Lyons in early Christian times, a spiritual grandchild of the Apostle John the Theologian, wrote the classic text Against Heresies. It was primarily a critique of ancient gnosticism, but offers an antidote to American techno-gnosticism today. It is helpfully summarized and briefly excerpted in the account of St. Irenaeus in The Synaxarion by Hieromonk Makarios of the Monastery of Simonos Petra below:
He showed first that this ‘Gnosis,’ which heretics vainly sought in the mythical plots and complicated constructions of their perverted intelligence, is the pre-eminent gift of the charity that the Holy Spirit gives to the Christian in the living organism of the Church. It is only within it that one quench one’s thirst with the clear water that flows from the side of Christ, thence to receive life eternal. All other doctrines are nothing but broken cisterns (Jer. 2:13). The true ‘Gnostics’ are not those who reject and despise the body to worship God, ‘ineffable’ and his ‘Demiurge,’ but spiritual men who have received from the Holy Spirit the earnest of the Resurrection of the body and of incorruptibility. Breaking with the Hellenic duality of body and soul, Saint Irenaeus developed Saint John’s doctrine of the Word made flesh to interpret the meaning of the vocation of man. The first Adam had been formed from clay by the two Hands of God: the Word and the Spirit, in the image of God conformed to the model of the glorious flesh of Christ; and the breath of life had been given him in order to progress from the image to the likeness of God. Having been tricked by the Devil, jealous of his prerogatives, and having fallen into death, he had not, however, been abandoned by God, who had from all eternity intended to make him a partaker in His glory. The revelations and prophecies of the Old Testament, and above all the Incarnation of the Word, His death, His Resurrection and His glorious Ascension, constitute the necessary stages in this ‘Economy’ of the history of Salvation. Always keeping in mind this ultimate end for which He had created man, the Word was made flesh, ‘recapitulating’ the first Adam in Himself. As the first man, born into a virgin earth, fell, through the virgin Eve’s disobedience by a tree, so Christ came into the world through the obedience of the Virgin Mary and had been hung on the tree of the Cross. ‘He gave His soul for our souls and His flesh for our flesh, and He has poured out the Spirit of the Father to bring about the union and communion of God with men, bringing God down into men by the Spirit and drawing men up to God by His Incarnation.
The Word of God who had created the world, invisibly making it in the form of a cross, made Himself visible at the time appointed on the Cross, in order to bring together in His body all the beings that had become separated, and bring them to the knowledge of God. Appearing, not in His ineffable glory but as a man, He has shown in Himself the restored image of God, conformed once more to the likeness. He has nourished us ‘at the breast of His flesh,’ so that, accustomed to eating and drinking the Word of God, and strengthened by the ‘bread of immortality,’ we might draw near to the vision of God that gives us incorruptibility. ‘It is impossible to live separated from Life, and there is no participation in life without participation in God, and this participation in God consists in seeing God and enjoying His sweetness…. For the glory of God is the living man, and a man’s life is the vision of God.
For Irenaeus, a disciple of those who had known the Apostles, knowledge (gnosis) is love and the deification of man in the Person of Christ the Saviour. Much more than a simple refutation of false ‘Gnosis,’ his doctrine, wonderful in its simplicity and profundity, contains the seed of all that the latter fathers developed in their inspired writings.
Against such holy teaching and experience of embodied virtue in Christian anthropology, modern revolutionaries of all types offer the false joy of dominance, exemplified in the works of the Marquis de Sade, extended by technological control in taking pleasure in self-destruction. Writer Vicky Osterweil’s manifesto In Defense of Looting, and Prof. Mark Bray’s Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, both ultimately advocate philosophies of violent anarchism in the service of revolution leading to totalitarianism. Hipster revolutionaries are discovering their own sweet spots of status and potential power in a cultural sado-masochism that mirrors and amplifies the worst elements of historic American flaws, and more basically those of unredeemed human nature everywhere throughout history.
THE ATHEISM OF KARL MARX VERSUS SOBORNOST
The roots of today’s entwined movements of Antifa, Antiracism, Pansexualism, and the Anthropocene, lie in the atheism of Karl Marx and cultural Marxism. Advocates of Marxist revolution emphasizing cultural subversion developed the latter term originally to distinguish their approach from the classical Marxist emphasis on class struggle. This is not to dismiss the real humanity and concerns of people who are victims of oppression in any form, and the good intent of many in such effors. But the movements as a melding ideology, increasingly totalitarian in culture, separate themselves from such personal concerns in a common drive toward Marx’s goals of undermining traditional networks of family, faith, and community. The goal socially is to overthrow Christian sobornost, or spiritual unity and solidarity in Christ. The political philosopher Eric Voegelin saw these trends as technocratic gnosticism, evident in Nazism and Communism, but also in the movement toward the administrative state of liberal social democratic countries, which emerged as dominant global culture in the late twentieth century. The administrative or managerial state of the social welfare regime sought in his view to “immanentize the eschaton,” to take technocratic visions of a new culture by illuminated experts as a blueprint for secular utopia. More recently, the Polish Catholic philospher Ryszard Leguko, has written of the advance of a new wave of cultural totalitarianism, different from the classical totalitarianism of Nazism and Communism, in liberal democracies such as the European Union. He described that trend as an emerging neocolonial hegemony of the global West, which is really technocracy, or total social control by technology. The current Cultural Revolution builds on that framework, despite its claim to radicalism.
By contrast to such materialistic schemes of power, sobornost in Orthodox Christian tradition is the intersection of mystical hierarchy and conciliarity in our Lord Jesus Christ. In sobornost, freedom is self-restraint, freedom from objectifying passion. Such freedom flows from service to universal truth, in the person of Jesus Christ. Sobornost in this Orthodox Christian tradition functions as a synonym for justice, the grace-sustained righteousness (a biblical synonym for justice) which ensures the opportunity for all to engage in such meaningful life. Sobornost is a millennia-old experiential teaching and practice in Christianity, growing from terminology in the 4th-century Nicene Creed, but was coined as a term by modern Russian philosophers such as the Jewish-Orthodox Christian refugee from Communist and Nazi totalitarianism, S.L. Frank, in his The Spiritual Foundations of Society.
Sobornost derivatively was the historical basis of America as a constitutional republic “under God,” however dimly reflected in practice and deeply flawed. It is glimpsed in axiomatic references to God as the source of equality in the Declaration of Independence and Gettysburg Address, and the derivative structuring in the Constitution of a decentralized republic “under God.” This was designed to restrict the fallen human drive for power, echoing Christian ideas of republic seen in Byzantium, relating kingship (the Presidency), aristocracy (the Senate, the Supreme Court, and Electoral College), and democracy (the House of Representatives), restricted by limits recognizing fallen human nature yet with respect for each man being made according to the image of God (the Bill of Rights).
THE AMERICAN CULTURAL REVOLUTION:
LINKING THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION AND PASSIONS OF CIVIL UNREST WITH MILITANT ATHEISM
Self-serving idealism and materialism also formed part of the history of America, and merged in recent generations with the subversions of cultural Marxism to produce the current Cultural Revolution 3.0, linking the sexual revolution and passions of civil unrest with militant atheism. One mark of a totalitarian movement is a lack of self-reflection, in which case its major blindspots become instructive. Types of systemic violence obscured by the Cultural Revolution reveal the integral flaws of its atheistic materialism. These include the systemic violence of abortion disproportionately killing babies of color; the tragically high number of deaths of youths of color at the hands of other youths of color, often from broken homes in American cities; substantive issues about the poor state of America’s schools especially in urban areas; and the rising cultural and criminal depravity of sexualizing children. The most vulnerable suffer in systems where dissolute elites in effect cheer on social self-destruction. Extreme levels of violence involving youths with inadequate educational systems occur in major U.S. cities ruled for decades by political machines ostensibly serving the cause of social justice, as in my hometown of Chicago.
Across American culture, developments such as the decline of marriage and rise of children outside of wedlock, ubiquity of cyberporn and taking sexual advantage of children, normalizing polyamory, and generally the pansexualizing of culture, all indicate the essentializing of passions at the expense of traditional norms of self-restraint in Christian traditions of the old republic. These are all trends in which elites and often ostensibly Christian people have participated and led. They end badly. On the link between objectification of others and violent revolution, as one micro-example consider the backgrounds of some of those allegedly hunting down 17-year Kyle Rittenhouse during a recent riot in Kenosha, WI: one a registered sex offender-pedophile, another convicted twice for domestic abuse, and a third allegedly a gang member and amateur porn actor. None of that at all justifies fatal shootings, to be sure. But such contexts suggest how private passions provide a context for erupting social violence and anarchistic politics, which Hannah Arendt also saw as a necessary source of totalitarianism.
Note that in the great tradition of Lenin’s Vanguard, none of our current cultural revolutionaries in education, letters, media, politics, the arts, or the corporate world are stepping away from their careers or incomes to allow others less privileged socioeconomically and culturally to take the status of their positions in accord with their own ideological rhetoric. Life handbooks like How to be an Anti-Racist and White Fragility have become the latest pop culture versions of Mao’s Little Red Book, Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking, or replacement for the King James Bible in secular society, as bedside guides, while garnering fame and status for their contemporary authors as oracles underwritten by elites.
The systemic issues neglected by the Cultural Revolution as mentioned above, together with the ongoing need for bipartisan improvement of the American criminal justice system, challenge the modern idea of progress itself. If honestly faced, they challenge the moral status of America’s “woke” elites. Despite the Christian roots of the early American republic, historically such cultural elites nurtured ideas of their exceptionalism from chiliastic (utopianist) variants of Protestantism and Masonic-Deistic idealism, as well as Eurocentric Western Enlightenment thinking fed by technological progress and scientistic enthusiasms. Such factors mingling with atheistic Marxism to shape the modern techno-Gnosticism of our current Cultural Revolution, with its attempted erasure of traditional social and faith networks, and privileging of those deemed culturally illuminated, who supposedly enjoy technologically empowered quasi-magical expertise outside of traditional faith, family, and social networks.
CRITICAL RACE THEORY AND EUROCENTRIC SECULARISM
Along those lines, critical studies efforts in academia have developed since the 1960s as hotbeds of advocacy and activism rather than what C.S. Lewis would have called the “old learning” of the humanities with their cautions on the need for virtuous self-restraint with otherworldly grace. The morphing of humanities fields into race/class/gender studies ghosting “woke” social sciences, of Environmental Studies into revolutionary-technocratic Anthropocene and environmental-justice studies, and other late-twentieth-century “studies” fields of gender and race into ever-more-radical forms of advocacy and activism on the Left, leave little tolerance for dissent, which they classify as phobic madness and hate. To paraphrase Tacitus, “they make a desert and call it victory.”
Russian philosophers from an Orthodox Christian standpoint since the days of the Slavophiles and Dostoevsky’s “back to the soil” movement have challenged Eurocentric secular ideas as neocolonialist and oppressive. But today’s American “studies” fields ironically do so in a dominant Eurocentric secular voice, by advancing cultural Marxism with hatred of traditional Christianity, and shaping the culturally totalitarian ideology of the new global West.
The claim that the Green New Deal–often closely linked to Environmental Studies’ activism-advocacy today–is nonpartisan is a good example of the blindspots in self-reflection and transparency of this American Cultural Revolution. Organized by the Sunrise Movement, the Green New Deal movement seeks to galvanize the election of hard-left Democratic officials nationally to gain control of levels of power in America. It now seeks to link its “anthropocene” view of cosmology — technocratic and devoid of God — to Critical Race Studies’ Antiracism, a natural fit for cultural elites building the current revolutionary coalition, and Pansexualism that seeks to eradicate traditional family. For years the official Black Lives Matter website had featured its opposition to the nuclear family, ironically as a rejection of a racialized white hegemony by group leaders immersed in the global West’s neocolonialist cultural Marxism. Such “radical” views were recently scrubbed from the website, in an apparent effort to keep and gain support with non-elites who still identify with a traditional faith or know the history of communism.
Authentic Marxism, wrote the young Antonio Gramsci, a founder of cultural Marxism, “sees as the dominant factor in history, not raw economic facts, but man, men in societies, men in relation to one another, reaching agreements with one another, developing through their contacts…a collective, social will; men coming to understand economic facts, judging them and adapting them to their will until this becomes the driving force of th economy and moulds objective reality, which lives and moves and comes to resemble a current of volcanic lava that can be channeled wherever and in whatever way men’s will determines.” (The Revolution Against Capital, Selections from Political Writings, 35-6)
Ironically, what is called “systemic racism” is another name for socialism’s modern historical effects–oppressing minorities through government-corporate conglomerates. Examples include Chinese Communist persecution of the Uighurs and other minorities; Soviet Communist persecution of Ukrainians, Christians, and Jews; Nazi German persecution of Jews and Slavs; the subjugation of low-income African-Americans in the Democratic “progressive” political machines of America’s major urban centers; and the “industrial slavery” of urbanization with alliances between government, corporations, and unions, which morphed into high-stress paycheck-to-paycheck “professional” as well as working-class lives, often impacting minorities disproportionately, which now offers a “solution” in nascent dehumanizing social credit systems, initiated in Communist China as its contribution to cyber-cultural Marxism.
All this reflects the technocratic categorization and objectification of people and communities begun in European secular projects of scientism, overlaid by Social Darwinism in America’s first “progressive” movement, and now by neocolonialist consumer culture, of which identity politics is the latest digitally enabled style. Without critical reflection on the source of its modern objectification of both individuals and whole peoples in materialistic will-to-power virtual reality, this Cultural Revolution serves elites as a tool of obfuscation for self-serving and destroying passion, advancing socialism in a broad sense on all sides of the political spectrum, which is the greatest political source of human slavery and suffering in history. Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s dissident colleague Igor Shafarevich detailed the self-destructiveness of this trajectory in his prophetic book The Socialist Phenomenon, another key work that American Orthodox Christians need to read. Shafarevich included the important thread of Protestant chiliasm or utopianism in describing the development of socialism in the West. That is the background or formational cultural milieu (even if generationally distant) of many in the revolutionary movement in America.
DISSECTING CRITICAL RACE THEORY
Critical Race Theory (Third Edition): An Introduction offers basic definitions by practitioners of today’s current lead revolutionary ideology in America, Critical Race Theory or CRT. Its self-contradictions reveal the quasi-religious aspect of the American Cutural Revolution today. First, CRT describes racism as ordinariness, in the sense of Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil” or Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s “permanent lie.” But this masks the very totalitarianism of cultural Marxism, by which the arbitrariness of the homogenized virtual reality of binarized racism and antiracism is enforced by socioeconomic elites in “woke” capitalism, media, and educational institutions. It ignores the ideological complicity of cultural Marxism, of which CRT is a part genealogically, in deaths of tens of millions in racial and cultural genocides in the past century under Communism, a hate-filled legacy that remains the American revolutionary Left’s great unacknowledged unreparated moral debt. And it ignores the companion “secularness,” of which CRT forms a part, seeking to eradicate traditional minority cultures in America.
Another principle of critical race theory according to the participant-authors is “material determinism.” This alleges an unspoken alliance of elite economic interests with psychic needs of the white working class. A version of dialectical materialism, an atheistic ideology going back to Karl Marx, its materialistic approach is undermined by the embrace of CRT by “woke” capitalists and privileged cultural elites. Their material role in the economy would seem to belie their pre-determined support for revolution.
A third principle offered by the book is social constructivism of race accompanied by “differential racialization,” concluding that race is fluid identity and constructed for purposes of social control, and marginalized or privileged in varied ways across time. But, in another paradox, CRT’s “intersectional anti-essentialism” asserts that varied identities can simultaneously shape a person’s socially constructed situationality even while a mystically united “voice of color” deserves privilege. In the “voice of color,” “people of color” unite to assert the primacy of their own narratives in a white American culture that is itself becoming a minority culture, by comparison with the aggregation of groups claiming both to be minorities and the new majority, and thus by right dominant, in contradiction of valorization of minority marginalities.
Paradoxes inherent in CRT as an ideological field betray the secular quasi-religious nature of the current Cultural Revolution, its lack of self-reflection on inherent paradoxes and contradictions. That revolution’s drive for power oddly melds with economic passions of the corporate world, as key elements of the “surveillance state” and “surveillance capitalism” join it. Cyber-scholar Paul Edwards warned of the totalitarian impulse inherent in high-tech virtual reality and its uses by tech-centralized states, in his pioneering study The Closed World. Shoshona Zuboff writing from the Left added explanation of how corporate efforts to monitor and control people’s lives accelerate as well, in her Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at a New Frontier of Power.) Both work together in the new Cultural Revolution, as the Orthodox Christian writer Jean-Claude Larchet notes in his recent book The New Media Epidemic: The Undermining of Society, Family, and Our Own Soul.
RETURNING TO THE TECHNO-GNOSTIC SPIRIT OF THE AMERICAN CULTURE REVOLUTION:
ROMAN CATHOLIC AND PROTESTANT INFLUENCES
To return to the techno-gnostic spirit of the American Culture Revolution, behold the close ideological affinities between CRT’s Antiracism and Antifa, with the latter’s principle of “pre-emptive violence” as a means to eradicate dissent and non-conformity, and both of them with the “environmental justice” of the Green New Deal movement, objectifying the identities of humanity within an atheistic technocratic frame of resource regulation, and of all of them with Pansexualism that asserts the non-essentiality of sex in a new technologically post-human world while like its other allied ideologies paradoxically at the same time asserting the essentiality of its own identity power interests. All seek to erase traditional Christian cosmology and anthropology as a public presence by equating them with hate, in efforts such as the Equality Act endorsed by the Democratic Party in the U.S. The latter would relegate public expression of traditional views of sex and family to illegalities. Targeting of dissenters from faith minorities with technologically enabled social and economic pressure for such ends are described in Dreher’s new book.
The techno-gnostic spirit of disembodied will-to-power by those with supposedly esoteric knowledge, controlling others through virtual reality, also has fundamentally affected many established religious organizations and movements of America. Their affinity to cultural Marxism results not only from intentional infiltration and subversion of major denominations across decades (although that has occurred), but relates to the departure in emphases of those traditions across centuries from non-Western Orthodox Christianity amid the secularization of the West, again especially in utopianist elements of Protestantism and Deistic-Masonic philosophies. The Orthodox writers Archpriest Josiah Trenham and Archpriest Peter Heers provide background on Western religious wanderings contributing to modern moral collapse of the West, Protestant and Catholic, in companion studies to Shafarevich’s survey of socialism: Respectively, Rock and Sand: An Orthodox Christian Appraisal of the Protestant Reformers and Their Teachings, and The Ecclesiastical Renovaton of Vatican II: An Orthodox Examination of Rome’s Ecumenical Theology Regarding Baptism and the Church. Together these studies illustrate how the crumbling of Western faith in schisms and heresies contributed to the current new Cultural Revolution in America. They highlight how the Orthodox Church is the place of refuge built on the rock of Christ from apostolic times to the present, and until He comes again.
In the West, heretical theology historically divided in the view of the Eucharist, as the central rite of the Christian Church, into the consubstantiation of many Protestant religions seeing the transformation of the mystery as symbolic, and the Catholic view of transubstantiation seeing a literal transformation of the bread and the wine into the Body of Christ, God. In Orthodox Christianity, these views remained integrated, in that the Eucharist involves the very Body and Blood of Christ and also at the same time the bread and the wine. This reflects the Orthodox identification of natural law with grace, as can be seen in writings associated with the so-called Eighth and Ninth Ecumenical Councils, by St. Photios the Great and St. Gregory Palamas, and other Church Fathers. The full Incarnational sense of Christian theology is that embodiedness matters integrally in our relation to God, and that our relation to God’s uncreated energies or divine grace is the very source of our identity and salvation as embodied individuals. In that lies the Orthodox Christian antidote to the technocratic Gnosticism of our age with its totalitarian bent.
Historic American racist attitudes developed in primarily Protestant culture, involving, like consubstantiality, a symbolic meaning for the color of people’s skin, ultimately separated from the actual physicality of human embodiedness, and a scientistic tendency to conceptualize and categorize races. That same approach ironically continues now in different forms with the race politics of Antiracism in its binary of blackness and whiteness, the Anthropocene cosmology of the Green New Deal encouraging a technocratic matrix for earth, and the techno-gnosticism of Pansexualism. All encourage conceptualizations of reality, rather than embodied integration with Creation in the Body of Christ. Today’s American Cultural Revolution is led by secularized people still embedded in the civic after-life of America’s foundational utopian Protestant and idealistic Masonic-Deist and Enlightenment cultures, now nurturing cultural Marxism as establishment ideology.
THE ORTHODOX FUTURE:
RENOVATIONISTS WITHIN THE CHURCH OR OPPORTUNITIES FOR CULTURAL RENEWAL?
Even the Orthodox Church, persecuted terribly in the modern era while spread diasporically by exile and evangelism, in the secular West today suffers efforts by academics to change her traditional Christianity into the 21st-century equivalent of the renovationist Bolshevik “Living Church” in the Soviet Union, to be the tool of a new secular American order. Some Anglo-American academics claiming affiliation with Orthodoxy pursue agendas of altering its anthropology and cosmology by seeking to justify the ordination of women, and of essentializing sexual passions as identities. Some fringe individuals in America have similarly tried to connect Orthodoxy with racism and racist neopaganism, which is likewise rejected by the Church.
But the extremities of the American Cultural Revolution can be spiritual opportunities for Orthodox Christianity, too. S.L. Frank, the Russian Orthodox exile from totalitarianism in the mid-twentieth-century, described the effects of the breakdown in sobornost or spiritual unity in Christian cultures as offering existential clarity beyond the “fallen idols” of false idealism (see especially the appendix to his book The Meaning of Life). A disturbing glimpse into the fall of the idols of American culture without the hope of God can be seen in the video linked above, portraying the controversy around recent shootings in Kenosha, WI, a bleak wasteland of extremist violence in a small Midwestern American city. Yet into such wastelands before in other lands from the post-Roman Irish Sea to post-Soviet Russia have come Orthodox saints of the Church, dedicated monastic communities, and mission parishes, and God willing this will occur in America. Pray for her salvation.
INSPIRING A NEW MOVEMENT OF ANTI-SECULARISM
Perhaps future academic fields will emerge such as Critical Secular Theory to inspire a new movement of Antisecularism. These could show young people the evils of Secularness, Secular Nationalism, and Systemic Secularism, while advocating for Believers to advance from their marginal cultural position in today’s technocratic America, and commemorating the tens of millions killed outright by genocides of Secularness in the past century.
But the systemic evil that critical studies of all types seeks to trace involves ultimately the fallenness of human nature and its drive to power, influenced by demonic forces. Utopianism that would attempt to establish a perfect society in human or post-human technological terms is doomed to fail, as the classic totalitarian systems of Soviet Communism and Nazi Germany did in their own variant forms of twisted utopianism. Their was and is the heresy of chiliasm. There is no salvation in extremes of the political Right or Left, nor in their identitarianisms. As Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote in the section on “The Soul and Barbed Wire” in his The Gulag Archipelago, “Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states nor between classes, nor between political parties, but right through every human heart.”
In today’s America, a 1611 Project, celebrating the Authorized or King James Version of the Bible, and the widespread availability of the Bible in the vernacular in Anglophone lands uniting people in study of Scripture, could be an antidote for the fragmenting excesses of the 1619 Project, with its partisan twisting of history, and supplement any helpfully countervailing 1776 Project, given the inevitable mortal limits of the American project.
Ultimately, however, what the Apostle Paul described as running the race is the antidote for any static will-to-power sense of race (white, black, or other), which with sex are now contested master symbols for essentializing of passions and identities by all backgrounds and political perspectives in technocratic Eurocentric atheism. The Apostle wrote (I Cor. 9: 24-47): “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”
The anti-Christian spirit of the current American Cultural Revolution seeks to reject the Incarnation of God in our Lord Jesus Christ, and His One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, for the abstract and disembodied techno-gnostic spirit of Anti-Christ. The latter leads to isolation, terror, cultural totalitarianism, and loss of any remnants of the historically Christian-inspired sense of commonwealth in America. We suffer for our sins and are humbled as a nation. But as the Prophet David sang, a broken and a contrite heart God wilt not despise. May America’s trials be an opportunity for the spread of the Holy Gospel and the Orthodox faith, for the remission of our sins and the healing and salvation of our souls and bodies. Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia pray to God for us!
Source: Reflections on Ecosemiotics, Ecopoetics & Apologetic Theology: Reading the “Signs of the Times”
Orthodox Books Recommended in this Essay
[Other timely books with Orthodox perspectives recommended in this essay include The Socialist Phenomenon: A Historical Survey of Socialist Policies and Ideals, The Meaning of Life by S.L. Frank, Rock and Sand: An Orthodox Appraisal of the Protestant Reformers and Their Teachings by Archpriest Josiah Trenham, The Ecclesiological Renovation of Vatican II: An Orthodox Examination of Rome’s Ecumenical Theology Regarding Baptism and the Church by Archpriest Peter Heers, The New Media Epidemic: The Undermining of Society, Family, and Our Own Soul by Jean-Claude Larchet, On Resistance to Evil by Force by Ivan Illyin, and especially Unseen Warfare: The Spiritual Combat and Path to Paradise, edited by St. Theophan the Recluse.]
About the Author
- Dn. Paul Siewers is William E. Simon Visiting Fellow in Religion and Public Life at Princeton University, Associate Professor of English at Bucknell University, and a Reader at a mission of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. He currently is co-editing a collection based on a scholarly symposium on the centennial of the October Revolution held at Bucknell. His views are his own.
- 2020.10.17ArticlesOrthodox Responses to the Nihilism of Cultural Revolution, Self-Destruction, and Social Division
- 2018.07.15ArticlesOne Hundred Years Since the Murder of the Russian Royal Family
- 2018.06.18ArticlesThe Unbearable Essentializing of Being: Metropolitan Kallistos Ware’s Sorrowful Joy of Sex