RESISTANCE TO GLOBAL APOSTASY AND THE ORTHODOX CHURCHES
The direction of the contemporary world is surely clear to all. For centuries now we have been heading towards a unification of the world based on secular values. This secular unification is founded on the elimination and destruction of all traditional values, especially spiritual values. This is because spiritual values escape the conditioning and control of secular belief systems. This secular unification, in fact spiritual apostasy, is universal, for all traditional belief systems suffer from it. What are the organizations which struggle against this secular unification, attempting to resist its inroads?
POLITICAL AND NATIONAL RESISTANCE
Many point to power blocs which appear to be resisting this apostasy. Thus, some hold up as a model the European Union (EU). However, we should recognize that the EU is in fact an inherent part of this apostasy. The EU is itself resisted by small nations, such as Switzerland, Norway and Iceland as well as small minorities within all the EU member states. Founded as a reaction to two nationalist European Wars in the first half of the twentieth century, the EU is in fact manipulated by the same secular forces that wish to see secular world unification. In reality, the EU is merely one of the centralized building blocks of World Government and not at all a bloc destined to resist global secularism. It is but a stage in globalization, whatever a few of its more conservative members may illusorily believe.
Others point to another power bloc, which recently met in Cuba. This is the bloc of the so-called ‘Non-Aligned’ nations, issued from those states which during the Cold War of the second half of the twentieth century supported neither the United States, nor the Soviet Union. However, this bloc is in fact not particularly ‘Non-Aligned’. In many ways it appears rather to be simply ‘anti-American’, and that does not necessarily mean opposition to secular global unification. Moreover, various of the 'Non-Aligned' members have huge national sins on their consciences. Thus, China has the stigma of its fifty and more years of occupation of Tibet; India has the fact that it is a nuclear power, which only recently threatened nuclear Pakistan, sending shudders down the back of the world.
There are also various patriotic movements and parties in most countries of the world, which object strongly to the hegemony of one worldwide system, which is inevitably crushing all the nations which resist it. The problem here is that these movements and parties all tend to be tainted with nationalism. That is to say that they have members who are not only patriotic (meaning that they love their own countries), but also nationalistic (meaning that they hate other countries). Such xenophobia and hatred of other races does no credit to supposedly patriotic movements and is divisive rather than unitive. Thus, although an organization like the National Front in France contains some (rather naïve) patriotic elements, it is totally discredited by the overarching race hatred and violent bigotry of the majority of its leading members. These movements are not going to provide any convincing resistance to apostasy.
Fourthly, there are religious movements opposed to secular World Government. This is to be expected, since traditional faiths are the first victims of secularism. For instance, within Judaism there are Sephardim elements which reject the Zionist ideology behind the secular Israeli State. There are Hindu and Buddhist movements which reject secular Western ideology. Best known are the Muslim movements which preach jihad against Western secularism and what it calls 'the Great Satan', the United States. The problem with all these movements, and especially the Muslim one, is that they all veer to extreme aggression and often prefer hateful nationalistic violence against others rather than attempts to convince through peaceful argument and the example of love. Jihad convinces no-one except the pathologically and criminally sick. Here, it might be hoped that at least the Christian religion could set examples of resistance to apostasy without slipping into a downward spiral of hatred and violence, like the Muslim world.
Unfortunately, the two largest Christian denominations, Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, are actually the sources of globalist secularization. Catholicism led to the Protestant reaction to it and Protestantism led to the secular reaction to it. In other words, modern secularism could not have existed without the reaction to Protestantism, just as Protestantism could not have existed without the reaction to Catholicism. Thus, Catholicism gave birth to Protestantism and Protestantism to secularism. Each may be the illegitimate child of the other, but nevertheless the child. Therefore, although there certainly are individual elements within both Catholicism and Protestantism which resist global secularization, they are both institutionally compromised by their historic heritage. What can we say of the third part of Christianity, the Orthodox Church?
In the Orthodox Churches we have a world which, after decades of persecution, is now reviving. Nevertheless, it is still a small world, with perhaps only 250 million nominal members – less than one in twenty-five of the world population. Moreover, its active membership may well be under 10% of the nominal membership - perhaps 25 million, if that. On the other hand, the part of the world’s surface occupied by the Orthodox Faith, albeit nominally, is about one sixth of the globe and potentially it is very wealthy. Unfortunately, the Local Orthodox Churches are often divided by curiously outdated structures.
Thus, the four ancient Patriarchates of the Orthodox Church, centred in Istanbul (formerly Constantinople), Alexandria (in fact run from Athens), Damascus (officially Antioch) and Jerusalem (in fact run very much as a Greek colony) may well have as few as four million adherents altogether. Thus, Istanbul probably has fewer than two million adherents, mainly in North America (500,000), Australia and Western Europe, with perhaps less than 500 adherents in ‘Constantinople’ itself. The faithful of Alexandria, perhaps one million baptized, are nearly all Black Africans, especially in East and Central Africa, but their leaders are Greeks appointed from Athens. Damascus has faithful scattered around the Middle East, but also in the Americas and Australia. It may well have nearly one million nominal faithful. All these three Patriarchates have very weak monastic life. As a result, they have enormous problems with the recruitment of bishops. This has unhealthy consequences and leads to the usual scandals. The fourth Patriarchate, that of Jerusalem, has lost almost all of its faithful through emigration due to Israeli and Greek colonial-style oppression of the Palestinian people. The latter means sending out Greek-speaking clergy, often careerists, as was seen in the recent scandal there, to ‘staff’ the churches of Arab-speaking Palestinians. As a result, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem may today have less than twenty thousand faithful.
In reality, and for centuries now, the weight of the Orthodox Church lies to the north of these four ancient Patriarchates, in Eastern Europe and especially in Russia. Now that Communist persecution has been overcome, as was Tartar persecution some seven centuries before it, these Orthodox Patriarchates, with their great numbers, are reviving. There are hopes that with over 200 million nominal adherents, over fifty times more than the four ancient Patriarchates put together, they may be able to provide resistance to worldwide apostasy. Recent moves to establish economic and political ties between Russia, Bulgaria and Greece provide optimism, although the recent dispute between Russia and Georgia also casts doubt on such optimism.
Challenges to be met among the Local Orthodox Churches derive from the old-fashioned ecumenist compromises of the past, established by the Patriarchate of Constantinople. At the recent talks between the Orthodox Churches and Roman Catholicism in Belgrade, the Russian Bishop of Vienna and Budapest, Hilarion, rightly pointed out that it was absurd to consider the Patriarchate of Constantinople as a sort of ‘Orthodox Papacy’, as it was being presented by both the Vatican and Constantinople itself. He also quite rightly rejected the Roman Catholic concept of establishing doctrine by the votes of unrepresentative ecclesiastical bureaucrats. The war against Orthodox ecclesiology, started by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, when it recently and uncanonically took into its jurisdiction a bishop and a few dissident clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church in Great Britain, has done nothing to help Orthodox unity. Furthermore, these uncanonical acts have been supported by small Greek-oriented Churches such as the Local Churches of Cyprus and Albania. There is a danger here that some backward-looking elements in such small Local Orthodox Churches will impede the general resistance of the Orthodox world to apostasy through their disunity with the Orthodox majority.
What can be done? It is clear that such ecclesiastical bureaucrats, with their Vatican or secular doctorates, Roman Catholic calendar, dog collars, shaven hair and token beards, without any monastic background and unrepresentative of Orthodox Tradition, will not be able to stand up and resist secularization. It is time that they recognized that Constantinople fell in 1453. Surely, over half a millennium on, they are able to accept this reality! At present, they are actually encouraging secularization through their feebleness and general willingness to swim with the secular tide in an attempt to gain worldly prestige. It seems to us that authentic resistance to worldwide secularization will come above all from the recognition of present Orthodox realities, in monasteries, dioceses, parishes, families and individuals.
As regards monasteries, there is the shining example of Mt Athos, with its multinational ethos, summing up the best of the unity and diversity of the Orthodox world. Then there is the flourishing monastic life of Romania and Moldova, Russia, the Ukraine and Belarus, now also reviving in Serbia and Montenegro. As regards resistance to secularization from diocesan and parish life, examples can be seen all over the Orthodox world in all the Local Churches, wherever there are parishes facing the realities of modern life and resisting apostasy liturgically, in prayer and preaching. It is these dioceses and parishes that support the resistance to apostasy among families and individuals.
It is now becoming more and more necessary for all of these elements, whatever their nationality, to join together in a conscious effort to resist global secularization and apostasy from the Orthodox Christian Tradition. True, we do not know how much longer we can resist. The barbarians have long been within the gates. Nevertheless, the City has not yet fallen. It could yet be set free. We should not despair. With God all things are possible.
September/4 October 2006