Is Racial Nationalism Compatible with Orthodox Christianity? A Theological Reflection on Holiness and Priesthood in the Old Testament

Archbishop Iakovos with arms locked together with Coretta Scott King (MLK's widow) and Pres. G.W. Bush at an MLK Day celebration
Archbishop Iakovos of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America with arms locked together with Coretta Scott King (MLK’s widow) and President George W. Bush at a Martin Luther King Day celebration in Atlanta

“And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.” – Genesis 1:3-5

In response to growing sentiments of unrest online following the reception of Matthew Heimbach into the Orthodox Church, a person active in the white nationalist group known as the Traditionalist Youth Network, I offer the following explication of certain theological ideas which I see to be at the root of the issue as it pertains to Orthodox Christianity.  Heimbach’s position is favorable to the ethnophyletism found in the Orthodox Church, the situation where each ethnicity has its own church and its own distinctive ethnic boundaries and nationalist agendas.  It is claimed that such a situation is compatible with Orthodox ecclesiology and Orthodox theology as a whole, which ideas I desire to disabuse.

As a point of history, it should be noted that the Undivided Christian Church was always ethnically diverse. From the earliest Christian communities in Palestine (Acts 6) to those that were founded throughout the Roman Empire, diversity was a key component in the development of Christian theology. The Roman Empire at the time of the birth of Christianity was extremely diverse, with people from all over the known world transferred via the army and via immigration. A brief review of the ethnicities named in Acts 2 will satisfy as an illustration.  It was not until the 19th century, as the Orthodox world began to crawl out from underneath the rubble of the fall of Imperialism that the various ethnicities that made up the Orthodox population began to acquire distinct national identities. It is now in this very unnatural situation that I turn to examine certain theological principles that will orient us toward Christ’s High Priestly Prayer that “they all be one.”

Holiness Described

It is widely acknowledged by biblical scholars that Genesis 1 was composed by a priestly author who wrote the famed chapter describing the creation of the cosmos with certain priestly concerns in mind. Some see the account of the seven-day creation as describing the temple architecture with the intent of describing all of creation as the temple of God. Others see the primary intent of the seven-day creation as providing a reason for Sabbath observance. Whatever the full meaning of the priestly intent behind this account of creation, we can observe within it what the Levitical priesthood of the Old Testament understood to be the essence of priesthood written into the very fabric of the cosmos, and through this understanding of priesthood we may see very clear marks of what priesthood means even today within the Orthodox Church, especially in regard to priestly responsibility in regard to the outside world.

Within the creation account of Genesis 1, the author uses a particular Hebrew word repeatedly to describe God’s creative work. The word wayyaḇdēl (“And he divided”) is derived from the root BDL meaning roughly “to divide, distinguish, be distinct” and is placed in the causative stem meaning “to cause division, cause/make distinction.” Repeatedly throughout Genesis 1, God divides and distinguishes between kinds, mostly in regard to the division between light and darkness, (vv. 4, 14, 18) and the division between the waters (vv. 6-7). Furthermore, each creature that is made is given the power to reproduce “according to its kind.” In accordance with the priestly, Jewish Law of Mixing (kil’ayim), kinds are kept distinct with no mixing. Linen and wool are not to be mixed in clothing (Deut 22:11), cattle and plants are not to be crossbred (Lev. 19:19), and Israelite is not to mix with non-Israelite lest the Israelite contract ritual impurity or engage in avodah zera, illicit worship. Furthermore, one particular task of the priest of the Old Testament was to distinguish between malignant skin diseases and benign spots (Lev. 13). The priest was also placed in charge of declaring a leper to be cleansed, so that his infection would not spread to the rest of the people (Lev. 14).

The concept that is being described through the actions of God in creation and the priestly duties in diagnosing skin diseases is the very notion of holiness. Holiness is the property of being distinct, separated to God for His purpose and use. In Leviticus 10:10, the Lord charges Aaron in his high priesthood “to distinguish (lǝhaḇdīl) between the holy and the profane, between the unclean and the pure.” Therefore, to be a priest and to act as a priest is to perform this duty, the very duty that God himself performed in the creation of the cosmos thereby signifying that holiness is a part of the very fabric of reality.

Holiness Interpreted

Now, there are two ways that this notion of holiness, of distinction, can be interpreted and applied. One interpretation is that of the New Testament Scriptures and the other is that of a twisted and satanic lie.

St. Peter’s First Epistle draws heavily upon this concept of holiness and distinction, as is written “But you are a chosen race (γένος), a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (2:9).

To which “race” does he refer? To the race of Christians, those called from every nation and race to constitute the New Israel, the Body of Christ.  Notice here the darkness/light motif, picking up on the same motif within the creation account. To be holy, to be a part of God’s race, is to distinguish darkness from light, that is, to distinguish between evil and good. In this race, St. Paul states, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). In the new race of Christians, there is no racial distinction, because we are one in Christ, the Verus Israel, the True Israel.

The other way to interpret this concept of holiness is the satanic delusion that the many races of humanity are to be kept distinct and unmixed. As Jew was not to mix with Gentile in the Old Testament, so races should not mix today – so the thinking goes. This could not be further from the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, wherein the shadow of the old Law of Moses is fulfilled spiritually in Christ. The distinction between Jew and Gentile was not for the purpose of keeping human ethnicities distinct for all time, but for the purpose of creating the distinct, spiritual race of Christ, the people of God, who are holy, separated, and distinct from the race of Adam, corrupted by sin and given to evil. Therefore, to advocate any sort of racial purity or ethnic nationalism is contrary to Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Holiness Prescribed

Having now described the role of the priesthood and having “distinguished” between what is the biblical and the unbiblical interpretation of the Law of Mixing, we find that the priesthood of Christ, the very priesthood of the Orthodox Church, instantiated first in the office of the bishop and extending to the presbyters and the diaconate, and finally to the “royal priesthood” of every Christian, is charged with maintaining the purity of the Church. It is the responsibility of the priesthood to distinguish between what is holy and what is profane, what is good and what is evil, the benign spot and the malignant tumor, what is clean and what is an infectious disease. Racism and ethnic nationalism is just such a malignant tumor and an infectious disease that has no place among the holy people of God.

It is, then, the task of the Orthodox Christian priesthood to make the necessary distinctions in order to preserve the holiness of the Church. Let us not find that the world is holier than Christ’s Church, that the world distinguishes and cleanses itself of racism and ethnic nationalism to a greater extent than God’s holy people.

Eric Jobe

About Eric Jobe

Eric Jobe earned his Ph.D. in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. He specializes in Hebrew poetry, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Second Temple Judaism. He is also an instructor of Bible and biblical languages for the St. Macrina Orthodox Institute.

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61 comments:

  1. Bravo, I especially like how you boldly state “Therefore, to advocate any sort of racial purity or ethnic nationalism is contrary to Gospel of Jesus Christ.” I fully agree.

  2. “I have sinned: by judging, malicious gossip, anger, remembering of offenses done to me, hatred and returning evil for evil; by slander, reproaches, lies, slyness, deception and hypocrisy; by prejudices, arguments, stubbornness, and an unwillingness to give way to my neighbor; by gloating, spitefulness, taunting, insults and mocking; by gossip, by speaking too much and by empty speech.” – St. John of Kronstadt

    Might a White Nationalist be guilty of this?

    1. I do not know Mr. Heimbach nor I am not here to defend “white nationalism”, however it is being defined, but is it possible that your comment is slanderous? Is someone who holds such views beyond the pale of quiet, loving guidance?

      1. Notice that Paul asked if “White Nationalist [sic]” are guilty of this. He did not accuse an individual, but the movement itself. So, no, it is not slanderous

          1. Be that as it may, judging the character of such a movement or of those who espouse it is not slanderous, but wise and discerning. Slander is bringing a charge against someone that is untrue or uncharacteristic of them. Calling a spade a spade is simply declaring the truth.

      2. Mason, the time for quiet addressing of his views was before he was received–during the catechism. If they were and he ignored the teaching and did not repent then either the priest was not diligent or was fooled. As Mr. Jobe has done, the true teaching of the Church needs to be expressed in as strong a manner as possible.

        The pastoral care of Mr. Heimbach now that he is a member of the Church and taken odious public actions needs to be especially diligent and not especially quiet. It needs to be made clear that his views are NOT the views of the Church in much the same way that Adam Silver made clear that the views of Donald Sterling are not the views of the National Basketball Association.

        Unlike the NBA, however, such actions are not designed to force the sinner from our midst, but to call him to repentance and healing. That is where the love resides.

        There is an inter-jurisdictional Central Indiana Orthodox clergy association that is quite active and Mr. Heimbach’s priest is a member. I would hope it would be addressed privately and publically by that association with the full support of all bishops for the area (Greek, OCA, Antiochian, Patriarchal Bulgarian, Patriarchal Romanian, Patriarchal Serbian and ROCOR)

        Ah, I do wonder what Met. Philip would have done? I do not think he would have been particularly quiet.

  3. Ethnicity and “race” are separate categories that when left inadequately defined often confuse more than clarify. Indeed the Roman Empire was diverse, ethnically speaking, but does that mean that every race of peoples were living together in harmony under one common religion and creed? The evidence does not support such a view.

    Let us remember that our Creator is the author of ethnic & racial differences and that he appointed to each ethnos their habitation. Acknowledging or even openly advocating for the preservation of distinctions amongst what God has created does not necessitate bigotry toward the other. Physical realities must be acknowledged in order for the spiritual to be realized lest we turn ourselves in disembodied gnostic entities. It is perfectly normal for common identities amongst the peoples of the earth to develop and traditions to be passed down that incorporate linguistic, historical, and spiritual components. The spiritual can only flourish within these physical realities. With that said, no ethnos is incapable of receiving the Christian faith, however its development is best worked out within common bonds of identity. This is precisely why Russian scholars, who are mostly very Orthodox, are re-conceptualizing dasein (being) in terms of ethnic and cultural circumstances.
    We cannot use Gal. 3:28 as a tool to eliminate all human distinctions. This is nonsense. It is only when the physical is given primacy over the spiritual; when these common physical attributes are used to justify subjugation or denegration of others does it become satanic. However, one can question the wisdom of amalgamating every tribe into one geographical area without without being labeled a racist, right?

    1. How do you propose to “cleanse” the areas of “ethnic impurities”, then? Just shoot anyone not of the proper “tribe” or simply round them up and dump them on the border?

  4. The point of mentioning the ethnic makeup of the Roman Empire was to illustrate that Christianity was born in a pluralistic society. Certainly the various ethnic groups were often not living together harmoniously, but that is beside the point. At no point in the history of Christianity, either in its Scriptures or in its most illustrious defenders has anyone advocated anything like what you describe above. As I explained above, Israelite/Jewish separatism was received by the Church in a spiritual, not a literal fashion, and such a literal continuation of ethnic separatism is contrary to the Gospel as it was preached by the Prophets, by Christ, by the Apostles, and by the Fathers down to this very day. This does not mean that cultural and linguistic elements of Orthodoxy be done away with or amalgamated. They can and will exist within the framework of the ecumenical, Catholic faith of Orthodoxy. Yet these cultural elements cannot stand above the unity of all Orthodox Christians as the one race of Christ. I disagree quite strongly that “our Creator is the author of ethnic and racial differences and [has] appointed to each ethnos their habitation.” This is the very definition of racial nationalism which the Church through its bishops has condemned.

    1. I take issue with the apparent implication of your statement that because the Old Testament promoted some degree of ethnic separatism for spiritual reasons that now in the Church Age our spiritual unity should completely negate any degree of ethnic preservation, and moreover that this should be a denial of the faith. As Mason put it, wth Ethnic consciousness and organic culture grown out of a baptized people are a part of Orthodoxy.
      I also dispute positions that Heimbach takes. He seems to ignore the danger he is in of promoting Phyletism and he attempts to justify his political views with theology. This are serious errors. That said, I think preserving or not preserving one’s ethic make up is the prerogative of each family, individual or nation. This can be done within a diverse diocese. I oppose strict ethnic separatism but support ethnic preservation. I see no hatred or heresy in this. Spiritual unity of all peoples in Christ doesn’t require remaking the Tower of Babel by dissolving all ethnic distinctions.

      1. When the issue of National or racial segregation is instituted the Church becomes exclusive, and is no longer the Church of God, for we are one people, “The children of God”.

  5. “Yet these cultural elements cannot stand above the unity of all orthodox Christians as the one race of Christ.” Precisely why I wrote the physical cannot take primacy over the spiritual. Differences need to flourish within the unifying element; maximum diversity with maximum unity. The perfect balance of the one and many which can only occur in Christian community. We are in agreement here.

    If God did not create biological differences amongst the peoples of the Earth, then, pray tell, who did? Satan? Again, acknowledging differences does not require bigotry toward the other. There is nothing wrong with articulating conceptual space for a particular people to flourish within a pluralistic society, as long as it is not at the expense of others. Unfortunately this ideal has not been met within our own society and animosities have developed as a result. This does not however disallow the majority ethnic group within a society to acknowledge its heritage.

    Brief thought experiment: If the Japanese people would convert en masse to the faith yet want to retain their unique ethnic identity then we should have no problem with that at all. If they suddenly overemphasize the physical attributes that they have been endowed with (and I’m going to assume from our Creator) and develop a superiority complex that manifests itself in open hostility toward others others, thus elevating the physical over the spiritual, then it is fair to question if they are being led by the spirit of antichrist.

    Perhaps I have not read charitably but your article articulates a spirituality that verges on gnosticism. The faith as handed down is without question a spiritual community which does not prevent anyone from joining. However this cannot mean that physical distinctions are eliminated or have become altogether meaningless.

    1. Not every aspect of culture or human ideology has to be attributed either to God or to Satan. Human societies develop, both according to divine principles understood as a reflection of the Logos and according to evil principles corrupted by sin. I am certainly not advocating any sort of gnosticism. I’m perfectly fine with Russians being Russian and Greeks being Greek as long as you don’t tell such ethnicities that they should stay in their own countries and not come to ours, which it seems that Mr. Heimbach’s movement seems to advocate (with heavy irony).

      1. ” I’m perfectly fine with”

        And with what do you think God “will be fine”?
        Or with do you think Russians, Greeks and humans in general would be fine?

        1. Yes. I don’t think God is necessarily opposed to human culture as long as that culture is not expressed in sinful ways.

    2. A statement by Father Peter Jon Gillquist which seems to address the issue quite well:

      Statement Regarding Matthew Heimbach

      Posted on April 29, 2014
      On Saturday, April 12, 2014, I received Matthew Heimbach into the Orthodox communion through the sacrament of Chrismation. I did not understand at that time that he held nationalistic, segregationist views. Immediately upon learning of the scope and development of Matthew’s views, I responded to his decisions quickly and decisively, meeting with him in person and by phone on multiple occasions, and conferring with our bishop.

      Typically pastoral issues are best handled confidentially between priest and penitent in order to protect the privacy of those coming for counsel. If, however, a person makes inflammatory public statements in the name of the Orthodox Faith, as in the present case of Matthew Heinbach, a public statement is most certainly warranted.

      Though Matthew has made progress in coming to understand the teachings of Christ, he has not formally renounced his views promoting a separationist ideology. Orthodoxy rejects the teaching that churches or countries should be divided along racial lines. For, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). And again, “They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one Shepherd” (Jn. 10:16).

      Matthew must cease and desist all activities, both online, in print, and in person, promoting racist and seperationist ideologies, effective immediately. He must formally reject violence, hate speech, and the heresy of Phyletism. Finally, he must submit to period of formal penance in order to be received back into the Orthodox communion.

      – Father Peter Jon Gillquist

  6. “Not every aspect of culture or human ideology has to be attributed either to God or to Satan.” I don’t either. You substituted words and categories thus we arguing different things. This is very common in internet dialogue which is why I do so little of it.

    ” Human societies develop, both according to divine principles understood as a reflection of the Logos and according to evil principles corrupted by sin.” Excellently stated. One can see this very clearly in the differences in Eastern and Western Europe, which has developed along divergent views of atonement and cristology (among many other things). The orthodox east, incidentally, is less open to unlimited non-Christian immigration from every part of the world. While we should not turn anyone away for assistance, and should extend the love of Christ to all, is it sinful to acknowledge limits on what is possible in terms of charity? Our Lord did not seem very charitable to the Pharisees, after all.

    As for the original subject of your article, the views of Mr. Heimbach, while I have not taken the time to examine the cause he advocates, I cannot determine if he is a lying bigot, as another commenter has ascertained. Before I pass such judgement publicly, I would probably contact him or a spokesmen for his group and seek clarification on their positions. Affording those that celebrate the Eucharist with us the same level of respect as those that do not celebrate it with us seems like the right thing to do.

    Anyway, please, feel free to take the last word. I do thank you for your time and respectable discussion. Blessings in Christ.

    1. There is enough out there on various internet outlets from Heimbach himself that his views are very well known – which is part of the problem regarding the pastoral issues.

    2. If you wish to understand Matt Heimbach’s nationalist views, all you need to do is pick up a copy of “Hold Back This Day” by Ward Kendall (amazon.com) a novel he has praised and recommended to others on his blog.

  7. So far as I can tell, the Church has apparently never had a problem with a distinct ethnicity in its geographic redoubt drawing a line around itself and ensuring that it remains the dominant ethnicity within its borders. They even get their own Local Church, if they keep it that way for long enough.

    It’s kind of silly for everyone to erupt over this white American layperson while ignoring the patent ethno-nationalism of the mother Churches. Ethno-nationalism is exactly why we have overlapping jurisdictions in America. Any Orthodox bishop who makes a public statement on Mr. Heimbach needs to be reminded of this, and asked what they intend to do about it.

    1. Neither I nor anyone else responding to the Heimbach situation is ignoring the ethno-nationalism or ethnophyletism present in Orthodox churches all over the world. It is a huge problem, and the Heimbach situation plays into it. In my opinion, with Heimbach, we got a real good look in the mirror at what Orthodoxy could become if such ethnophyletism were to grow, and we didn’t like what we saw, as when Galadriel and Frodo looked into the mirror and saw what could be if evil took hold (_The Fellowship of the Ring_ Book II, Chapter 7.)

        1. I’m approving this comment only to warn you to tone down your rhetoric and engage in the discussion in a less inflammatory manner.

  8. I’ve yet to experience any racism at an Orthodox church. I’m part German, part Swedish and part English, and thus ethnically speaking, I should not exactly feel the love at a Russian parish, but at my local ROCOR parish, the love I have felt is beyond description. For that matter, the ROCOR parish has several Serbians in its membership. The Antiochian cathedral I go to, of which I am a member, is even more ethnically diverse.

    My main concern in the consolidation of the hierarchies however is that our ethnic diversity might actually be endangered; it would be sad if the distinct liturgical traditions you encounter in, for example, Greek, Carpatho-Rusyn, and Bulgarian parishes, were blurred away into a bland, homogenous American orthodoxy, and at times one can even see a precursor to it, in some Antiochian and OCA parishes (and note that I am an Antiochian who loves the OCA).

    As we move towards a unified management system for the Orthodox church in America, I think its of vital importance that, at a minimum, a system of ethnic eparchies be in place to preserve the beautiful cultural heritage of the past. I am also a huge fan of the Western Rite, and I feel it should be nurtured and grown, so that converts to Orthodoxy can preserve their own liturgical customs, where those forms of worship are not contrary to Orthodoxy (the saying of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco on the Roman Liturgy seems apropos).

    1. I don’t think ethnic diversity would be endangered. I think it would be allowed to flourish in the proper context without the usual chiding that goes on. I have also have very positive experiences with the Antiochian Western Rite, which I attend most often when I am in Houston. I would hope that it would grow, but it is as much an ethnic expression of Orthodoxy as any other. We should not think of it as being neutral (not that I am accusing you of doing that – just continuing the discussion).

      1. Indeed, Eric, I recognize the Western Rite as being another diverse ethnic tradition. In fact, I would argue that we really shouldn’t have one Western Rite, but rather, Western Rites; we should fully embrace the liturgical diversity that used to exist in the Western church prior to the mid 20th century. We already have in the AWRV an Anglican Rite, and a Tridentine Rite, and in the ROCOR, the Sarum Rite. I would love to see Western Rites developed based on the liturgical traditions of the Mozarabic Rite, the Ambrosian Rite, the Gallican Rite, and indeed, various adaptations of some of the better Protestant liturgics, such as the services of the Lutheran Church in Sweden, and the exquisite prayers of Devotional Services, a liturgical masterpiece, only very loosely based on the Book of Common Prayer, by Congregationalist Minister John Hunter, of the King’s Weigh House Chapel (which I believe is now in use as a Serbian Orthodox parish!). Devotional Services is out of copyright, and I’m very tempted to Orthodoxify it and put it out there for the use of any interested Western Rite Orthodox. One should also mention by the way, the fantastic website occidentalis already has Orthodoxified versions of most of the liturgical rites in question; sadly however, many of them, such as the Rite of Braga, seldom see the light of day.

        I would also love to see more liturgical diversity in the Eastern half of the Church; I would love to see Syriac revived as a liturgical language in the Antiochian church, and I would love to see the Divine Liturgies of St. James, St. Mark, and St. Peter celebrated with greater frequency. My thought is they might be a useful draw to attract parishioners to otherwise poorly attended weekday services (and using them in this manner would also help to emphasize the exquisite beauty of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, which is surely the most sublime liturgy ever to grace a Christian church).

        1. As much as people like us love the historical liturgical diversity, it is dangerous to do too much (if any) liturgical archaeology and try to reconstruct liturgies and cultural recensions where there is no need. As a Syriac scholar myself, I would like nothing more than to see Syriac revived within the Church, but there is currently no need for it other than ornamentation and a nod to a historical heritage that most people have forgotten. Sam Noble and I are working on editing the Akathistos Hymn in Syriac, and we may one day find someone to serve it as a demonstration piece, but until we are in communion with the Syriac Church, that is only a dream. The Western Rite is diverse as it exists right now, with some being very Roman and others being very English, and others somewhere in the middle. Unfortunately, there has not been enough standardization and conciliar effort to decide upon such things as the celebration of Corpus Christi or Benedictions to the Blessed Sacrament, of which some WR priests are opposed to and others are not. So there are inherent theological conundrums that arise with such things, and we have a long way to go in that regard. Accepting high church Protestant liturgies is extremely problematic, due to the fact that they have no historical pedigree within Orthodoxy. The Roman Rite and its variants were at least present in some form within the Undivided Church.

          1. In my opinion, the criteria for evaluating the Orthodoxy of a liturgical text is the theological meaning of the text itself, which comes down to three things, really: the theological intent of the original authors (if this is even known), the most obvious theological interpretation for “the average layman”, and the range of other possible interpretations.

            The latter is of great importance, as the experience of Anglo Catholics not entirely unsuccessfully arguing for the doctrine of transubstantiation based on the 1662 BCP shows. However, I do believe this textual analysis is possible, and desirable, to the extent that it aids the conversion process.

            Regarding the Divine Liturgies of St. James and St. Mark, they are still alive, and St. Peter has only been out of service for 40 years or so (actually I think some ROCOR parishes have used it).

            I am very comfortable, at the very least, with variants of the Anglican liturgy, on the basis of the reforms which lead to the Divine Liturgy of St. Tikhon. In fact, I particularly enjoy such services, because I feel like I am honoring St. Tikhon, who is a saint to whom I am much devoted, for attending them. The committee of Russian bishops that recommended the changes that are present in the AWRV liturgy was very thorough, and their report in my opinion sets the gold standard for the process of “Orthodoxifying” the liturgies of our separated brethren in Christ.

            By the way, regarding the Syriac liturgy, correct me if I’m wrong, but there are extant Syriac liturgical texts from the Chalcedonian faction. Is there any reason why those texts could not be used? Or for that matter, just translate the contemporary liturgy into Syriac. One might add that there is relatively little explicitly Miaphysite content in the Syriac Orthodox texts; the “Theopaschite” clause I would argue is merely implicitly Miaphysite, and the main other problem would be the veneration of Oriental Orthodox saints. The hymn at the end of the liturgy, Haw Nurone, by St. Jacob of Sarugh, would obviously be objectionable to many a Chalcedonian Orthodox, but it is rather beautiful. As I’ve said elsewhere, I’m hoping we can accomplish a full reconciliation on the basis of the faith of the seven councils, which I personally am convinced the Oriental Orthodox possess (and the Assyrians come fairly close to it, since the reforms of Mar Dinkha IV).

          2. I have very fond memories of the Anglo-Catholic parish I attended before I became Orthodox, and I grew to love the Anglican Rite I Eucharist very much and have enjoyed it the few times I have been present for it in the AWRV. When I was an inquirer into Orthodoxy and I got news that there was a Western Rite, I was very joyful for it. In fact, without it, my parents would have had a much more difficult time in their journey to Orthodoxy. The problem with the Western Rite at the moment is that it is not very self-sustaining. Once the initial generation of converts have grown old, will there be another generation to come after them? The influx of converts from Anglicanism has dried since Rome opened its own Anglican Use, and after the ROCOR troubles with it, I fear for its future.

            There is a large cache of Chalcedonian Syriac manuscripts at St. Catherines, Mt. Sinai, and Sam Noble has gone through many of them. The problem is, there are only a handful Chalcedonians that know Syriac, and most of them are scholars like myself. There is simply no need for Syriac when people do not know it.

          3. Well, that’s the whole point of a liturgical language. That said, I am sure that the Syriac Orthodox or the Assyrians would be more than willing to help in the translation of those texts, in the interest of building ecumenical bridges. I myself know a number of Syriac Orthodox and Assyrian Bishops and several of their top scholars, being somewhat of an afficinado of Syriac Christianity, and I’d be happy to get you in touch with them. My prayer is that someday the Syriac Orthodox and Assyrian churches can be reunited through the theology of Chalcedon.

  9. In your words, “The distinction between Jew and Gentile was not for the purpose of keeping human ethnicities distinct for all time, but for the purpose of creating the distinct, spiritual race of Christ, the people of God, who are holy, separated, and distinct from the race of Adam, corrupted by sin and given to evil. Therefore, to advocate any sort of racial purity or ethnic nationalism is contrary to Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
    Mr. Jobe, I am not sure I agree with your strictly utilitarian exegesis of Galations 2. Your summation intimates God’s transfiguration of ethnic purity into spiritual purity makes antichrist any further acknowledgement or preference of one’s ethnicity. Is any acknowledgment of the good in pre-Christian norms an abomination? For example, is it a sin to wear 100% linen coat or abstain from pork? God forbid. Ethnicity/race might not be the qualifying focus of salvation, but as part of the creation, is it so irredeemable as to be agnostically disregarded in all circumstances? While it may have no place in the Church, where is the logic that it belongs in no human organization? I think you did not explain it well.

    Can you also comment on Gal. 3:28 in specific regard to male and female? It seems from your interpretation of the passage, you might also take issue with the “hierarchical sexism” of Orthodoxy (as another author on the Heimbach issue has described it.) Do you foresee a time when the Church ends its affirmation of gender differences and distinctions?

    1. I do not believe the consequences of my statements to be so extreme. Acknowledgement of one’s ethnicity is not precluded. Preference must be nuanced – certain types of ethnic preference are prejudicial and preference for ethnic purity or the concept of “pure blood” is a relic of a past riddled with racism. However, general “birds of a feather” preference for one’s own like people is not inherently sinful or precluded by my statements. It is not a sin to keep the Torah as long as one is not following it in order to be justified by it.

      Re: Gal 3:28, the non-distinction between male and female, slave and free, Jew and Greek is in regard to salvation. In ancient Judaism, the male, free, Jewish members of the household were the primary agents of piety and worship. It was the free, male, Jew who could go to the Temple and offer sacrifice. Subordinate members of the household were covered by the male’s piety. In Christ, each person stands as an individual worshipping agent responsible for his or her own salvation within the community of the Church. Male and female, slave and free, Jew and Greek partake from the same Cup. This does not preclude economical or functional differentiation within the church hierarchy. The Orthodox Church recognizes the common, “royal priesthood” of all persons in Christ, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or any other distinction, though the sacramental priesthood is discharged only to certain qualified men who function in their masculine archetypes as images of Christ the Logos. (I direct you to Paul Evdokimov’s _Woman and the Salvation of the World_ for more on this). In regard to ethnicity, it would be proper and wise to have a Russian priest, for example, serving a parish made up of predominately of Russians. This is not ethnophyletism. However, if that Russian priest refused to accomedate non-Russians or refused them pastoral ministry, it would be.

  10. I find it strange that Matthew Heimbach joined the Antiochian Church and placed himself under the authoity of Metroploitan Phillip, (Memory Eternal!) a Lebanese Arab. Also, that if Mr. Heimbach ever venerates an icon of the Theotokos any of the Apostles, or even the Lord himself He bows before and kisses the hands or feet of Jews. How can he explain this? Kissing someones hands is not very seperate.

      1. That’s what they all say. A brief reading of his public comments about Jews makes me think otherwise. I just watched a video in which he was celebrating the fact that his buddy punched and knocked out a Jewess at a demonstration. All of this carefully worded discussion about nationalism and separatism is a pathetic cover for good old fashioned hatred and fear. Does anyone really buy it?

  11. Another shameful and misleading attack on Christian nationalists. Notice that Heimbach is not an advocate for racial separatism in his Church, but only advocates an explicitly White political order for both believers and infidels. Conflations like this are causing great confusion among Christians and are certainly exposing Mr. Heimbach to unwarranted reproof and personal pain. You should be ashamed. There is nothing hypocritical about venerating Inuit saints, or even submitting to an Arab patriarch, AND also defending one’s own people’s best interests.

    As a Catholic I fully hope this incident will expose “Orthodoxy” as heresy and a false hope for patriots across the Occident. Heimbach and the rest of TradYouth are welcome into the Catholic Church, which is a very big tent and, whatever its faults, does not excommunicate members for their political ideologies, so long as they always profess Christian charity or all their neighbors, as Heimbach always has.

    Our Lady of Fatima, ora pro nobis!

    1. I would hope the theology that I outlined in this post would speak for itself in regard to the place that nationalism has within the Church. In regard to receiving or not receiving such people, I have in this post said that it is the duty of the priesthood to “distinguish” what is holy and what is profane. The Ecumenical Patriarch has spoken on the issue of ethnophyletism and has condemned it. His bishop and priest have called him to repent having “distinguished” that his views are contrary to the Gospel.

      1. HIs speech is full of mockery and disdain for others, especially those who disagree with him. Many other people who preach a similar ideaology have the same underlying tone and attitude. I know for a fact that I am guilty of these sins (mockery, spite, hatred, slander) and I do not presume to know his heart and I don’t want to pass judgement on Matthew. As, Fr. Peter said in his letter, Matthew speaking publicly and attempting to use the the Orthodox Faith to justify this stuff. I do not see the Saints modeling that behavior.

  12. Mr. Jobe,

    You wrote: “In this race, St. Paul states, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). In the new race of Christians, there is no racial distinction, because we are one in Christ, the Verus Israel, the True Israel.”

    It would seem to follow that you also believe that “In the new race of Christians, there is no gender distinction, because we are one in Christ.” And from an eschatalogical and soteriological standpoint you would of course be correct.

    However, and I hope you find this obvious, meaningful gender distinctions do in fact exist in the social and political order, whether Christian or not. And in fact, such distinctions may in fact aid in the salvation of, say, a traditional nuclear family. If we are to take seriously the natural distinctions between man and woman, then a well run Orthodox home striving for holiness and peace may require certain roles (i.e. nurturing and ordering vs. providing and protecting) to be filled by husband and wife as distinct bearers of natural traits.

    Similarly, in the political order, it may behoove the rulers of nation states to restrict migratory flow into their nation for all sorts of reasons. One, in fact, may be in the interest of the cultural, ethnic, and linguistic cohesion that has repeatedly shown itself to contribute to greater civic participation and greater regard for the commonweal. To the extent that race is a proxy for such cohesion, it may be involved in such decisions. Having actually read the text and background of the Synod of 1872 condemning phyletism, this sort of decision by a ruler would not in any way be contrary to the Orthodox faith. If you can provide a citation from that synod that would condemn such actions by a wise ruler as heresy, I would be glad to see it.

    Would you agree that this is within the purview of the exercise of proper political authority from an Orthodox perspective? If not, why not?

    1. I believe I have stated in another comment that my post is specifically dealing with theological issues, not those of geopolitics or such. The point of my post, and of Gal 3:38, is that no race is more or less entitled to salvation than another and no race is more or less a participant in salvation than another. Similarly, and in contrast to 1st century Judaism, women are fully autonomous agents in regard to their participation in their faith, the same as men. This is the “new race,” where the theological, spiritual race supersedes that of fleshly race, where our new birth in Christ supersedes our birth as a citizen of a nation. Within a 1st century context, the newly-found religious personhood of women would be significant, but gender roles in the sacramental priesthood would not necessarily have been affected or erased by it. St. Paul repeatedly emphasizes that we are all one in the Body of Christ but possess a “variety of gifts.” One is ontological, the other is economic.

      As I stated in another comment, I have no problem with Greeks being Greek or Russians being Russians and having their own customs and rituals. This is unavoidable, and a neutral religion does not and cannot exist. Nevertheless, as we can see before our eyes in Ukraine, ethnophyletism can have profoundly disastrous effects, and separatism is too often the result than is mutual recognition that all are one in Christ. Diversity may contribute to “civic participation and greater regard for the commonweal” as homogeneity, for such diversity may work to prevent separatism along ethnic, linguistic, or religious lines. The fracturing of Ukraine, the tribal wars of Iraq, Syria, and other places attest to the benefit of diversity and the acceptance of diversity within a population. Too much homogeneity may produce a strong “us and them,” “insider and outsider” mentality that is cancerous and anti-Christ.

      Now, politics is not my area, so I will stay away from that, but my gut instinct is that a strong sense of nationalism tied to a particular ethnic group or race is almost always dangerous.

      1. Mr. Jobe,

        Thank you for the reply.

        You write: ” Diversity may contribute to “civic participation and greater regard for the commonweal” as homogeneity, for such diversity may work to prevent separatism along ethnic, linguistic, or religious lines.”

        Although I disagree with this statement, and in fact think that the evidence points to greater homogeneity and greater federalism within a nation leading to greater peace (see http://necsi.edu/research/social/scienceofpeace.html), my question, which went unanswered, was whether you believe it would be heretical from an Orthodox standpoint for an Orthodox ruler to restrict the flow of immigration into a given nation specifically to preserve ethnic homogeneity and cohesion. What do you think?

        (Just as an additional note – there is a reason why the Ukraine is experience violence and political disruption, and its not because it is homogeneous ethnically; it is precisely due to the heterogeneous nature of its population that it is experiencing its current troubles with Russia. If the nation of Ukraine did not have a very large population of Russians within its borders, Russia would have very little excuse to be involved. Similarly, in Iraq, the problems of violence in the Kurdish north are due almost entirely to the fact that the Kurds to not have their own nation state, and are rather an ethnic minority within a larger state. In the case of Iraq in particular, ethno-nationalism for the Kurds would be a great boon for peace.)

        1. I envision two kinds of heterogeneity in a nation, one like the US, where cultures and ethnicities are more or less integrated (albeit after bitter struggles to achieve it) and those that you find where different ethnicities and cultures are more or less distinct but forced to live within the same geopolitical boundaries. Ukraine would be an example of the latter. What is lacking there is the full acceptance of the “other” as having a right to co-occupy those same geopolitcal boundaries. If Ukraine were to try to expel all Russians or expel all Ukrainian Catholics and establish a pure, Kyivan Orthodox nation, then yes, I do take issue with that. I think that is ethnophyletism and is heterodox. What is needed is growth to accept the “other” whether that be a different ethnicity, race, or creed. Such growth should be the hallmark of Orthodoxy, but unfortunately it is too often not.

          1. I agree that the forced expulsion of other Orthodox ethnic groups within Ukraine would be an example of phyletism. But that was not my question. My question was whether an Orthodox nation-state would be acting in a “heterodox” fashion by restricting immigration flow for the purpose of preserving ethno-cultural cohesion.

            Or, for that matter, whether it would be permitted to preserve religious cohesion, such as in the case of an Orthodox nation restricting the immigration of Muslims or radically low church Protestants into its territory.

          2. As I am not a political philosopher, I’m not really sure I can answer that question. If such restriction were to the detriment of people trying to immigrate for economic reasons, there might be some moral issue with it. Such a policy might be a bit too far from the theological concerns of the Church to make a sound judgment on whether or not its Orthodox or not.

  13. Mr. Jobe,
    It seems that your argument implicitly runs as follows:

    Premises
    1. Orthodox Ethno-Nationalists believe that races or ethnic groups should not mix
    2. Such individuals justify this belief by appealing to the old testament distinction and division between Jew and Gentile – “As Jew was not to mix with Gentile in the Old Testament, so races should not mix today – so the thinking goes.”
    3. But this is a gross misinterpretation of both the Old Testament purpose of distinction-as-holiness (as a means by which God’s people were set aside for purity), and the New Testament incarnational reality of Christians as a race of those baptized into the body of Christ.
    Conclusion
    Therefore, Orthodox Ethno-nationalism partakes of a “satanic delusion” and to “advocate any sort of racial purity or ethnic nationalism is contrary to Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

    There are two problems with your argument:

    1. Premise 1 is not necessarily the case. The ethno-nationalist position is actually that in a given nation, it would be better, for political, cultural, social and economic reasons to maintain a cohesive ethnic identity within the bounds of that nation state than for the nation to be a conglomeration of various ethnicities/cultures/races. This does not preclude foreign visitors, foreign non-citizen enclaves (such as the Venetian quarter of old Constantinople – which, by the way didn’t turn out well), and the like. It may, however, involve severely restricting immigration, and promoting a national linguistic and cultural homogeneity.
    2. Premise 2 is also doubtful. An ethno-nationalist could easily appeal to the social, economic, and cultural benefits of ethnic homogeneity rather than appeal to the Old Testament law. The group calling itself the Traditionalist Orthodox Brotherhood, which is ethno-nationalist in character, certainly does not make this appeal.

    This brings me to our previous exchange. You’ve admitted to not being a political philosopher, and have admitted that in cases of prudential political judgment, the Church is often, and should be, silent. But ethno-nationalism is inherently political. If it were simply phyletism that were being discussed this post would be apropos. But please recall that phyletism was a very specific thing – namely, the overlap of ecclesiastical jurisdictions within the same city along ethnic lines, and the restriction of membership according to ethnicity. (The actual historical case condemned in 1872 was complicated but involved the Bulgarians setting up their own bishop in Constantinople/Istanbul and restricting attendance at their churches to fellow Bulgarians).

    The folks who might be guilty of phyletism would be the Orthodox of the United States (though I do not believe they quite are, as they do not explicitly restrict membership), and not those advocating for ethno-nationalism. Ethno-nationalism is the Romanians not letting the Hungarians into their country for reasons of ethnic preservation and cohesion. Phyletism is having four different bishops whose jurisdiction is Chicago and whose flocks are arranged specifically along ethnic lines.

    1. Re: my premises (1) Yes, (2) Ethno-nationalists may espouse this idea, but they may not as well. (3)Yes

      Re: your comments, I don’t believe that “Cohesive ethnic identity” necessarily entails separatism or the kind of politic espoused by Heimbach. Nor do I believe that a cohesive ethnic identity is a paramount value that supersedes Christian charity. I do believe that too strong of a connection between the Church and an ethnic and national identity is very dangerous. Ethnicity qua Orthodoxy is fine and good. Orthodoxy qua ethnicity is bad. Ethno-nationalism is political, but it is also a moral issue as well and is therefore a matter of priestly distinction. I do agree that the current situation in American Orthodoxy is replete with phyletism and is untenable. I also believe that ethnophyletism is the primary force behind the Moscow Patriarchate/Kyivan Patriarchate schism, the squabbles between the MP and the Ecumenical Patriarch, and many other atrocities that plague the Orthodox world. What we need more than anything is a sense of our common spiritual-ethnic heritage that supersedes any claim to earthly ethnicity or nationality. Ethnic nationalism is tearing the Orthodox world apart from Macedonia to Ukraine, and no kind of “cohesive ethnic identity” has ever proven to be an agent of unity among Christians. Distinct customs, languages, and cultures can and should exist in Orthodoxy and be celebrated, but nationalism should have no place in the Church. We are to obey our rulers and be upstanding citizens, but our loyalty and our ethnic identity should come from Heaven, our spiritual Fatherland before it comes from our earthly motherland.

      1. Thank you for the cordial exchange.

        My main purpose in bringing these points to the fore was to ensure that those in the Church such as yourself would not dismiss those like myself out of hand as heretics.

        For I do believe, strongly, that there are distinct benefits to the preservation of a cohesive ethnic identity, especially in this age of secular cosmopolitanism. I suspect you do as well. But where we disagree is the means by which such cohesion is preserved, and the extent of importance attached to its preservation. Certainly its importance is superseded by many things. To the extent that ethno-nationalism seeks ethnic/racial/cultural preservation through the means I’ve already outlined, I should hope that you don’t condemn it as heresy.

        1. I’m not sure your outline above is specific enough to be distinguished from the sort of ethnophyletism that I do regard as being heterodox. If by “Cohesive ethnic identity” qua Orthodoxy you mean employing separation as a means of achieving it does not make sense to me as an Orthodox value. Again, I do value distinct expressions of culture. The problem I see is where the desire to preserve ethnic distinction drives political policy and ecclesiastical policy to exclude diversity. Such expressions of ethnic cohesion were not a part of Apostolic Christianity.

          1. You wrote: “The problem I see is where the desire to preserve ethnic distinction drives political policy and ecclesiastical policy to exclude diversity.”

            The Church has condemned ecclesiastical exclusion on the basis of race or ethnicity (see Phyletism).

            However, the Church has not condemned the political policy of excluding foreigners from citizenship in a particular nation or from pursuing the goal of ethnic solidarity therein. The political situation and arrangements of the late Roman Empire are not normative. Just because the political policy of the Roman Empire was what was in play in the apostolic age doesn’t make such political policy normative as far as the Church is concerned.

            What can be gleaned as normative from the late Roman, apostolic period is how the Church responds and operates in a multicultural, multi-ethnic, imperial, cosmopolitan situation.

            What cannot be gleaned is that the Church condones states that are ethnically and culturally diverse more than those that are homogeneous, or that the Church condemns the attempts of wise rulers to make exclusions and exceptions on the basis of ethic identity in order to maintain peace. That conclusion does not follow.

          2. What the Church does teach is that a person’s identity should be derived from his inclusion in the Body of Christ. True personhood is to be “of Christ” and not of one particular nation or ethnic group.

  14. Of course. But there are layers of identity. One’s gender, race, ethnicity, class and so on, are all part of one’s identity. We are one in Christ, but these distinctions are meaningful, real, and form important parts of who we are.

    I will let you have the last word if you wish. I am bowing out of the conversation. It was nice conversing.

    1. Likewise. Perhaps here we meet in the middle. There are layers to identity, but the aspect of our identity that is constituted in Christ permeates them all. If we are Greek, we are Greek in Christ, if we are Romanian, we are Romanian in Christ, and so on. And so, when a Greek sees a Romanian, he sees someone who is his brother and not someone who is intrinsically different than him. Christian identity permeating and transforming ethnic and national identity. “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” writes the Apostle. The renewal of the mind, the nous, is that all things become new. There is no longer Jew or Greek, Russian or Ukrainian, but all are one in Christ. And it is then that Russian identity or Serbian identity becomes not something to be held onto and preserved by exclusion of others, but it becomes a gift that we give to others. I have very little ethnic identity of my own, a mix of Welsh, Irish, German, English, and not a little Cherokee, Choctaw, and Chickasaw. As I have come into Orthodoxy, I have so regarded its ethnicities as gifts that I receive and benefit from – Greek, Russian, Serbian, Romanian. But, you see, these are not identities in abstract, these are persons – my Russian godparents, my Greek friend, my Serbian priest, my Russian choir director, the Romanian nun who instructed me in iconography. They gifted me not an abstract ethnic identity, but their personhood constructed in their ethnic identity but all transformed by Christ. If we actively exclude each other and separate from that which is different, we refuse both to offer such gifts and receive such gifts, and as such we cease to become Eucharistic persons.

    2. Race, as you are using the term, is not a category that the Church has ever recognized as being a real distinction. The Church speaks of the “Christian Race” and the fallen race of Adam. Where do you find, in any writings of the fathers, that we should make distinctions based on skin color?

      Also, are you opposed to interracial marriage? The Bible isn’t: http://fatherjohn.blogspot.com/2012/05/moses-black-wife.html And in the Church, when we speak of a “mixed marriage”, we are talking about when an Orthodox Christian marries a non-Orthodox Christian. And so if a black Orthodox Christian marries a white Orthodox Christian, this is no big deal. For an Orthodox Christian who is white to marry a white Baptist, that requires a special blessing of the bishop.

      1. Since the Old Testament conflates marriage outside of an ethnic demographic – the Hebrews – with one’s religion, I fail to see how they are two different things. Solomon was punished for marrying foreign women for they caused him to depart to foreign ways. Was an exception made for Moses? Clearly nobody outside the Hebrew people were practicing the Hebrew religion.

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