The New Cold War
‘Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance…And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire…He will throughly purge his floor and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire’.
Most of those who read this will remember the Cold War. It had a special significance for those of us in the West who adhere to the Russian Orthodox Tradition. As conscious Russian Orthodox, we were all naturally anti-Soviet. However, the fall of the Soviet Union was not necessarily a matter for rejoicing, for it was soon replaced by a mafia kleptocracy, which imported into Russia the shocking immorality which had developed in the West since the 1960s. Little wonder that many Orthodox inside Russia, seeing this ‘permissiveness’, in plain English, moral depravity, began even to regret the passing of the old order.
As for us Orthodox in the West, we soon began to see, if we had not already understood it before, that under the label ‘anti-Soviet’ there lurked both anti-Russian and anti-Orthodox. Thus, already in the early 1990s my parishioners working for Radio Liberty used to tell me how shocked they were that their CIA paymasters were rejoicing at the break-up of the former Russian Empire, as countries like the Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan split off from their real, historic centre, Great Russia. Their joy was not at the break-up of the Soviet Union, but at the destruction of what Orthodox Tsars and their peoples had struggled to build up over centuries before the Western-inspired catastrophe of 1917.
All of this has been revealed all the more clearly in recent years, as many former supposedly ‘Orthodox’ opponents of Soviet Communism have revealed their true, sectarian colours. Thus, the tiny groups that have broken away from the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) or from the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) in recent years have largely been composed of such individuals. They refused to recognise the repentance of those inside Russia who, from human weakness, had collaborated with the Communist authorities in the past. Therefore, those groups also refused to accept the inevitability of the unity of the two parts of the Russian Church, ROCOR and the MP. Unsurprisingly, many members of these groups were either ex-CIA operatives or worked for other Western spy services. Others were Non-Russians, who had never liked Russians or belonged to small convert groups who had never integrated the Orthodox Faith, never fully accepting the ways of the Church. Once they had left one of other of the two parts of the Russian Church, these tiny groups began warring with one another, as is the way of anti-unity sects.
Many members of the convert groups had been received into different Western European dioceses of the Moscow Patriarchate, which for decades had been controlled by renovationist, that is, modernist, clergy. These had survived in place because the Patriarchate in Moscow had been paralysed and could do nothing against its members abroad. However, once their renovationist bishops had died out, these small groups were left high and dry. For the first time they faced the choice of accepting authentic Russian Orthodoxy in its fullness or else drifting off into some jurisdiction outside the Russian Church, where their free for all and philosophical and Gnostic fantasies would be allowed to work themselves out unhindered.
Once the Patriarchate in Moscow had sent real Orthodox bishops to replace the renovationists who had died out, then local co-operation with dioceses of the ROCOR, which had previously been maligned and slandered by the renovationists, became natural. Most members of ROCOR had only been waiting for this moment, for this was what had been meant by the founding decree of the holy Patriarch Tikhon in 1920. According to that, the Patriarch had established the full but temporary independence of ROCOR, on the understanding that it was to last only until contact with the centre could be established in freedom. Clearly, that was impossible with renovationists in place, for enslaved by renovationism, their Church was not free. In other words, after the canonisation of the New Martyrs, the condemnation of Sergianism and the branch theory by the Patriarchate in the Year 2000, once the renovationists and their disciples had been removed from their personality cults and power bases, all reasons for disunity melted away.
Thus, today, there is no need to search vainly for ‘a Local Church of the Russian Tradition’ in some new foreign grouping. We already have it! It is in the combined presence of the worldwide dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia together with those of the Moscow Patriarchate. The absurdity of trying to find ‘a Local Church of the Russian Tradition’ outside the combined forces of the whole Russian Church is so obvious that, surely, it need hardly be stated. Moreover, one of the tasks of our combined forces must surely be to counter the hate campaign against the Russian Church and its influence, which is at present being run in the West, which, greedy for cheap oil and gas, seeks a new Cold War. One such anti-Russian and anti-Orthodox campaign is that run by the Murdoch media empire.
Only last week its now tabloid newspaper, The Times of London, published an article by the arch-Protestant Canon Michael Bourdeaux, entitled ‘President Putin and the patriarchs’ (sic). According to this, the revival of the Russian Church has nothing to do with the recovery of faith among Russians through repentance, but it is all on the orders of ‘the Kremlin’s iron fist’ (!) According to the article, the Church ‘now acts as President Putin’s agent in extending his control over all sectors of society’ (!). No mention of course that the democratically-elected President Putin is very popular and has the backing of the vast majority (about 64%) of the Russian people, unlike the minority-elected and unpopular President Bush or the ex-Prime Minister Blair (elected by 22.5% of the electorate) or the unelected Prime Minister Brown. And all this after nearly eight years of Putin in power. Could this be because Putin’s government replaced the corrupt Yeltsin government, which imported Western decadence into Russia in order to destroy its national identity? There is certainly more than a hint of jealousy here on the part of Canon Bourdeaux, a minister of an Anglican Communion which has been sharp decline for forty years and is now on the brink of schism over its encouragement of open immorality.
Canon Bourdeaux then goes on to tell an untruth – that Metropolitan Sergius’ notorious 1927 Declaration has never been repudiated. Clearly, he is still living in the Cold War past. As for criticisms of State policies being forbidden to the Church – this is complete nonsense. The fact, which Canon Bourdeaux does not know, is that in Russia Church and the State are separated. Simply, the State invites the Church, as the nominal faith of 85% of the population, to play a part in national life, a part which the vast majority of those Russian citizens welcome and want. The fact that sects have second-class status is normal in Russia – or does Mr Bourdeaux wish to see all manner of fanatical and suicidal sects encouraged – in any country, perhaps in his own? The Canon does not understand either that the Russian law on the separation of Church and State is, as in the United States, actually about protecting the Church from State interference. Really Mr Bourdeaux should know about this, for in the UK, where there is no separation of Church and State, the Church of England constantly suffers from the meddling of the British State and Establishment in its internal affairs, even to the point where it cannot freely choose its own Archbishop of Canterbury.
The next untruth in the article is when Canon Bourdeaux refers to some vandalism in the provincial town of Kaluga. This he attributes to an ‘extremist’ pro-Putin youth group. In reality, the group in question, ‘Nashi’, is known for its moderation and hatred of hooliganism. To suppose that some local yobs (probably drunk) smashed windows in two sectarian buildings belonged to Nashi and were acting ‘on a directive from above’ is the same as supposing that the drunken yobs who swarm through every British town centre on Friday and Saturday nights (encouraged by Blair’s encouragement of all-night drinking at the behest of the alcohol lobby) smash church windows on orders from Gordon Brown! (Of course, Messrs Blair and Brown in their chauffeur-driven cars do not need to tread around the pavement vomit of these State-sponsored yobs on Monday mornings, as my daughter has to every Monday morning in London). Mr Bourdeaux, this is not honest journalism, this is simply cheap political propaganda a la Murdoch!
The nonsense continues, saying that no Russian bishop has criticised any aspect of Kremlin policy. In reality, the Church in Russia is constantly trying to influence the State and its policies, to introduce religious and cultural education into schools and military chaplains into the armed forces. Apparently, according to the Canon, the Russian Church has no right to bless the defensive operations of the Russian Army - though the Church of England can bless the offensive operations of British armed forces, as they rampage through Serbia, Afghanistan and Iraq, dropping bombs on Serbian Orthodox civilians at Easter, with ‘Happy Easter’ marked on them. (Of course Canon Bourdeaux does not point out that the British Army has chaplains, but the Russian does not – Church and State are separated). And he also finds it strange that the Russian Church gives thanks that Russian nuclear missiles have never had to be used! If only the Church of England would do the same!
The next nonsense concerns the defrocked priest Gleb Yakunin. Having been defrocked for breaking Church canons, he then joined one of the Ukrainian schismatic groups and is now part of an ‘Orthodox’ sect which marries homosexuals in Moscow. Typically, Canon Bourdeaux then goes on to defend the thief who stole billions from the Russian people, the now fortunately imprisoned Mikhail Khodorovsky. Could this be because the British establishment, of which Canon Bourdeaux is so obviously a paid part, shelters other similar millionaire thieves with Russian passports in London? Among them is one who quite openly advocates armed revolt against the democratically-elected Russian President, to the glee of certain elements in the British media. There is also at least one murderer, in London, whom the British government refuses to hand over to the justice system in Russia. If only the British government would hand over the man who bankrolled the Beslan massacre and also the murderer of the Muslim spy Litvinenko, who also lives in London, then we would see justice done.
Having analysed this piece of base Neo-Cold War polemic with all its untruths and distortions, it is with regret that we understand the error of Canon Bourdeaux. Like others of his persuasion, he simply does not understand that because in the Orthodox Church we actually believe in the Incarnation, we also believe that we have to influence the State. Hence our ideal of Holy Rus’ – a multinational and multilingual group of countries sanctified by the Church. A Church which does not actively struggle to influence and sanctify the State and the rest of the country is a Church which will die out - as a matter of fact rather like the Church of England is dying out. Either you have faith or else you do not.
And that is the Canon’s real tragedy, because if you do not believe in the struggle to influence and sanctify the State, then you will end up living under a secular State, having lost the battle to sanctify the world. Yet, according to his logic, that is precisely what the Canon wants – the spread of secularism and the secular State, including in Russia, which has only just got rid of a secular State. The essential problem here is that the Canon belongs to an organisation, founded nearly 500 years ago by a lustful and greedy King, who created it in order to give himself a divorce and grab a lot of property and land. It is an inherently secular and nationalist organisation. Indeed, according to the latest statistics, it is already only the second largest ‘Church’ in the UK, representing 1.5% of the population. For most of us it is clear that it is now coming to the end of its useful life. What use a 16th century local compromise in a 21st century global world?
Sadly, we must conclude that the gospel of Canon Bourdeaux is only the old gospel of cultural imperialism of the secular British establishment. Where was the Church of England, when the British establishment massacred its way through Ireland or set up the world’s first concentration camps in South Africa during the Boer War and committed the first genocide of the twentieth century there? As one commentator has put it, the Church of England has only made one change in its teaching in the last hundred years. In 1908 it was for fox-hunting and against sodomy, whereas in 2008 it is against fox-hunting and for sodomy.
Orthodox say no to secularisation a la Bourdeaux. It says: let us Christianise, not secularise, let us make our country holy, not secular. Let us now ‘bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance’…let us ‘also lay the axe unto the root of the trees’, for ‘every tree which not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire’…Let us throughly purge our floor and gather our wheat into the garner and ‘burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire’.
Canon Bourdeaux and I are on two trains heading in the opposite directions. I know which one I am on. Do you know which one you are on?
Priest Andrew Phillips
Feast of the Holy and Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John