James Jatras has attempted to define the nature and cause of anti-Orthodox sentiment among opinion-makers in the West in his February article “Pravoslavophobia.” There is certainly a degree of prejudice in the mundane sense of a bias based on ignorance, and this is compounded by the tendency of journalists and politicians to frame the complexities of life in a story line with simplistic good and evil subjects.
But I would not be so easy on folks. While they might be ignorant of the specific history and teachings of Orthodox Christians in foreign cultures, they don’t really need to have more knowledge. They are acting out of an intuition that tells them all they need to know. In other words, they don’t have to study Orthodoxy to understand that it is the enemy.
Why is this? It is because the very existence of something we might call Orthodoxy is not supposed to be. Humanity should have evolved beyond that point by now. The whole “modern” experiment, as it were, is a revolutionary revolt against monarchy and traditional institutions that used to represent Divine Rule in man’s mundane affairs. The whole purpose of the American experiment is to reject the old, sinful world, based on a doctrine of obedience to King and Church, and to replace it with a new world and a new man that is in charge of his own destiny and capable, one day, of eliminating sin, where the whole idea of culture is devoid of meaning.
While there has always been a healthy dose of skepticism toward such gnosticism by Americans of common sense, and by Protestants of the more Calvinistic variety, those times are gone. There is much less common sense these days, and most of the Calvinists have forgotten that sin ever existed. So we have less restraint than ever against the deformed souls of what some refer to as the “knowledge class.” They know there is a problem within themselves so they can’t stand to have cultures and societies exist which define their cultural destinies in spiritual terms. Not that all Orthodox are perfectly spiritual. It’s what Orthodoxy symbolizes that is the threat—something mystical that is beyond the grasp of the libidinous power-mongers who pass themselves off as enlightened. In the East, religious people are seen as crazy. They still live in the woods and eat bark in places like Mount Athos and in the forests of Russia. The leaders of those countries take counsel from “holy fools.” You can’t control people like that, and you can’t reason with them. Better to wipe them out, or at the very least, keep them at bay by supplying your proxies with arms and propaganda. Don’t believe for one minute that our leaders care about the Croats. They are uniting against a common enemy, and it’s the truth.
President, Rose Hill College
I have read with interest James Jatras’s article “Pravoslavophobia.” Very rarely do we have the opportunity to read or hear the view of the “significant other” of the European, or Christian world.
One of the historical events that set Western Christianity against Eastern Christendom was the Fourth Crusade. As the West likes to argue, if we sacked and destroyed, it was not because we were aggressive, destructive, conniving, and devious, but because the “other” had it coming. Philosophically, the West can get away with this specious argument, for if history is considered a part of divine occurrence, it is the “Higher power” that is in charge.
For the Orthodox, history is manmade; it has nothing to do with God. Knowledge is a human, biological viewing of reality (of our existence here on earth). The subject of knowledge is man, his existence and experience in this world. Recognition of the divine is not obtained through scientific knowledge. Comprehension of the divine is attained through our spiritual side. This is why the Orthodox are not antagonistic to science. We accept it as knowledge of the world, but it is not proof of God’s existence or His nonexistence. Only Western thought could culminate in Hegel’s proclamation that “God is dead.” For the Orthodox it was not a novelty, for we never looked for Him on earth.
These two philosophical strains stem from antiquity, from Aristotle, in the case of Western thought, and Plato, in the case of Eastern thought. Orthodoxy has its roots in the Platonic ideas of the Academy, and they flourished for a thousand years in the Byzantine world. Today, we hardly acknowledge it.
Europe has been destroying and persecuting two civilizations, while favoring and accepting the third. The Jewish and Orthodox civilizations are consistently being ostracized, while Europe is being Islamized. It is a paradox of our times, that we find the European civilization cutting its own limb off and replacing it with a foreign one. Without its Eastern limb, Europe will not be able to walk or run, nor will Europe’s descendants.
Western civilization has many things to be proud of, but let us not forget that it also gave birth to the Crusades, the conquests of the Americas, and the destruction of many native peoples and cultures. At home, it brought the Inquisition, the religious wars, only to declare God dead in the end. Atheism, communism, and fascism are all Western creations, and unsolicited exports.
They seem to be successful exports, because they fell upon ground that had lost its connection with the past, through wars, invasions, and constant turmoil. Still, the Byzantine thought and the Orthodox faith exist. It would be worthwhile to rediscover them, so that our civilization could be whole again.
—Dusica Savic Benghiat
Pacific Palisades, CA