Progressives Use the Terms “Dialogue” and “Fundamentalism” to Attack and Subvert Orthodox Tradition

American Orthodox Institute

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rod Dreher’s essay ‘Fundamentalism’ & ‘Dialogue’ (April 13, 2018) reprinted below examines the terms “fundamentalism” and “dialogue” and explains how progressives used them in other Christian communions to take over their organizations and subvert Christian teaching. The most obvious is the Episcopal Church but there are others.

We have seen this operating in Orthodox Circles as well. Back in 2014 Fr. Robert Arida wrote a turgid piece arguing for the homosexualization of the Orthodox Church. Outcry was swift including my response: Fr. Robert Arida: Why Don’t You Become Episcopalian? After my response was published I received phone calls from Fr. Arida’s former parishioners whom were pushed out because they objected to his pro-homosexual activism. He was never publicly reprimanded and his bishop remained silent. That’s not a good sign.

Progressives will attempt to silence the faithful, or worse, try to convince them that progressive values and Orthodox teachings are synonymous. They will pull two well worn tools out of their tool box: emotive language and public shaming. Emotive language is used to manipulate thought and public shaming is used to silence dissent. These self-styled elites want to enforce the moral norms that only they deem acceptable.

Much of the turmoil centers on homosexuality but keep this in mind: According to statistics from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), only about 1.7% of the population is homosexually active at any one time. Out of this 1.7%, 35% end up leaving the lifestyle. Ask any millennial today how many homosexuals exist and he will respond that probably 20% of the population is homosexual. He thinks this way because homosexuality is continually amplified in the media.

Of course the homosexual passion is not the problem here. Homosexual activism is. And homosexual activism seeks to conform Orthodox anthropology to the homosexual passion. It seeks to essentialize the passion, to see the passion as part of God’s design within His creation and assert that “God made me this way!” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Dreher writes that these tools were devastatingly effective. Good people were thrown overboard and the character and teachings of the communions changed. Yet the activist victories also unwittingly sounded the death knell for the communions that they took over. They did not expect their communions to die of course but some did and all the others are terminal. The same could happen to the Orthodox in America and Western Europe. Dreher warns:

There’s a very sophisticated game being played here. And quite a few honest, faithful Orthodox people are setting themselves up to be played. This fight has been late coming to the Orthodox Church, but it’s here, and those who wish for the Church to be faithful to what it knows to be true had better wise up to the tactics and the strategy of the progressives, and learn from the bitter experience of the small-o orthodox within Protestant churches and the Catholic Church. Some of us converts came into Orthodoxy not from Evangelicalism, but from more established churches that have been hollowed out to some degree by progressivism. We have seen this all before. We know how it ends.

The takeover of the Christian communions occurred because their leaders lost courage to stand for the things they once knew were true. They became vulnerable to the manipulations of the progressives who sought to retool the once venerable traditions into something more fashionable and self-serving. It ended up destroying those institutions. Our Orthodox Church in the West is not immune to the same manipulations and, God forbid, the same end result.

‘Fundamentalism’ & ‘Dialogue’

Source: The American Conservative. Reprinted with permission.

By Rod Dreher

Two of the most dodgy words in contemporary religious discourse are “fundamentalism” and “dialogue”. They don’t mean what they seem to mean; in fact, they are often used as a way to gain power.

To explain what I mean, consider that Marquette University, a Jesuit university, is holding a “Pride Prom” this weekend. When some outside the university angrily questioned what a Catholic university is doing sponsoring an LGBT dance, a university spokesman responded:

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Notice the rhetoric here. Stolarski is justifying a Catholic university holding a dance for LGBT people by claiming that the university is actually being faithful to Catholic teaching by so doing. It’s like something from the Ministry of Truth. But that’s Catholic higher education for you in a lot of places today. You’ll recall the recent incident at which an orthodox Catholic undergraduate at the Dominican-run Providence College was made into a pariah for publicly agreeing with what the Catholic Church teaches about marriage and sexuality.

How does a religious institution — a college, a church, and so forth — get to this point? It often starts with “dialogue”. Who could be against dialogue? Just talking about things, right?

The problem is that there’s dialogue, and then there’s dialogue. By this time, within churches, orthodox/conservative people should have learned that calls for “dialogue” are almost always a strategic move by heterodox/liberal people to establish a beachhead from which to dislodge and defeat orthodoxy.

It works like this:

Progressives propose a dialogue about the role of LGBTs in the church. That’s fine. It’s an important topic. But what is really being proposed is not a talk about “how can LGBTs live faithful to church teaching in this culture, and how can the rest of the church help them do so while integrating them more closely into the life of the church?” That would be an important talk to have, challenging to everybody, and faithful to church teaching. 

But again, that’s not what’s being proposed. The end game, from the progressive side, is to achieve the goal of having the progressive position normalized within the church or church organization — and ultimately to have it replace the orthodox belief. The game is over the first time the parties sit down together if the dialogue is framed in such a way that the orthodox belief is up for debate. To enter into dialogue with others in the church on those terms is to surrender in principle what cannot be surrendered.

The battle is mostly won at that point by progressives. It’s just a matter of time before their view becomes the new orthodoxy. Once they have power, they make their view the new orthodoxy, on the grounds that justice requires it. As Richard John Neuhaus once observed, wherever orthodoxy is optional, it will sooner or later be proscribed.

If someone undertook to do a history of how orthodox Catholic teaching about homosexuality became heterodoxy at the ostensibly Catholic Marquette and Providence College, they would surely find that it began years, even decades earlier, with calls for “dialogue.” Eventually you end up hosting Pride Proms and demonizing those Catholics who disagree.

In the Orthodox Church, there are a couple of Orthodox grad students agitating for the acceptance and normalization of homosexuality within the Orthodox Church. Their website’s name is — surprise! — Orthodoxy in Dialogue. To be clear, dialogue is no bad thing in and of itself. But in this case, the “dialogue” sought is not one that helps LGBT Orthodox live faithfully by church teaching, and helping non-LGBT Orthodox help them to do so with charity. The only acceptable end result of this “dialogue” will be to marginalize the orthodox Orthodox within Orthodox institutions, and to stigmatize them. By pursuing “dialogue” framed this way, they co-opt the orthodox into their own displacement and diminishment.

Sometimes the progressives let their masks slip. This happened recently on Orthodoxy In Dialogue when the site published a cri de coeur (“I Will Not Be Silenced”) by a gay European man who labels himself “Orthodox Provocateur”. This week, OID’s editors confessed: “We Made A Mistake”. Excerpt:

On February 10 we published Nik Jovcic-Sas’ “Orthodox Provocateur: I Will Not Be Silenced” in good faith. Mr. Jovcic-Sas is a young Serbian Orthodox man living in the UK who devotes considerable time, effort, and resources to LGBTQ activism in some of the historically Orthodox countries of Eastern Europe. He often partners in this endeavour with Moldovan seminarian Ion Andronache, a husband and father of three small children.

In an editorial note at the end of his article we explained our decision to publish in this way:

With the publication of this article Orthodoxy in Dialogue recognizes the need for a complementary two-pronged approach to questions of sexual and gender diversity in human life: the theological effort to understand its place in the divine image and likeness, and the activist effort to ensure that all of God’s children enjoy the safety to thrive in private and public life.

Today we were dismayed to find the author’s Facebook page, Orthodox Provocateur, promoting the so-called “Orthodox Calendar.” This annual production combines homoerotic soft porn with Orthodox icons, clerical vestments, liturgical objects, the interior of churches, etc.

In no way does Orthodoxy in Dialogue wish to be associated, directly or indirectly, with the perpetuation of this sort of blasphemy. Our position is to explore possibilities for the sanctification of same-sex love, not to promote the carnality of same-sex desire or to conflate sexual desire in its fallenness with sacred images.

Accordingly we have removed the content from Mr. Jovcic-Sas’ article.

Go to that Facebook page, and you’ll see images that can only be described as demonic. It’s where this stuff inevitably goes if you give it space within the church. I saw it over and over when I was writing about the Catholic sex abuse scandal. Remember “St. Sebastian’s Angels”?  Because so many of the “arguments” in this “dialogue” are not arguments at all, but rather emotivist appeals, like this gay OID editor’s impassioned apologia for his transgender son. Excerpt:

Do I have all the theological answers? Ha, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. My own “transition” as the father of a transgender child is a never-ending journey of heart and soul in which I sometimes feel that I haven’t even taken the first step. Much less do I feel equipped to expatiate theologically or philosophically on why some persons simply must transition in order to go on living.

Let the full force of that sink in: In order to go on living.

But I do know this. Our Lord, God, and Saviour Jesus Christ, during His earthly life, reserved His condemnation for the following: the “moral” who judged others; the religiously self-righteous; those who thanked God for making them better than other people (you know what you can do with your “There, but for the grace of God…”); those who turned prayer and worship into a capitalist venture; and those who ignored the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the homeless, the foreigner, the lonely, the convict, the sick. In short, everyone whom the religious establishment deems “non-normative” comes to us as He Himself in disguise.

Beloved Masters, Fathers, monastics, brothers, sisters, theologians, and religious thinkers in the Orthodox Church: Until you have met my son face to face, looked into his eyes as through a window into his heart and soul, witnessed his love for the least of Christ’s brethren, listened—truly listened—to the story of his life, his need to be loved and welcomed by you, his reasons for transitioning to save his own life, you have nothing of value, or legitimacy, or authenticity, to say to him.

That is extremely manipulative language — but in a culture where emotivism has replaced rationality, it’s highly effective. The problem here is that if emotivism is the standard (“Do I have all the theological answers? Ha, I wouldn’t even know where to begin”), the only barrier to accepting anything is disgust. There would have been a time when the idea that Marquette would have sponsored a dance for LGBT students would have struck many Catholics involved in the dialogue as shocking, even disgusting. It no longer does. There would have been a time when laying a gay rights rainbow flag over an altar in a Catholic Church would have shocked and disgusted Catholics. Maybe it still does, but it happens here and there (for example). The Orthodoxy In Dialogue people may have been genuinely shocked and disgusted by what Orthodox Provocateur posted — I cannot know their minds — but it is certainly the case that OID having promoted the words and thoughts of this freak hurts the credibility of OID with the kind of unsuspecting conservatives and moderates they hope to draw into “dialogue”.

Mark my words: if OID gains traction within Orthodox institutions, and among Orthodox elites, it is simply a matter of time before the blasphemy of Orthodox Provocateur becomes if not mainstreamed, then moved within the category of the tolerable. All the necessary emotivist cant will be deployed to justify it. “Dialogue” is a tactic to move the Overton window — the frame of tolerable discourse — to the progressive side. Eventually those who profess what the Orthodox Church teaches to be true will be demonized as heretics, as the Providence College undergraduate discovered.

Let me be clear: there is an important dialogue to be had within the Orthodox Church about LGBT issues. But if actual moral-theological orthodoxy is up for debate, the dialogue is a trap, period. Orthodoxy In Dialogue said last fall that it has taken an editorial position to publish frequently about homosexuality, arguing for its normalization and affirmation within the Orthodox Church. It says:

Orthodoxy in Dialogue promotes true dialogue, not an echo chamber.Dialogue presupposes that the voice of the Church and the mind of Christ can be truly discerned over time only when many voices have the freedom to express themselves without fear. Endless charges and counter-charges of heresy, apostasy, “liberalism,” “conservatism,” and equally endless calls for the excommunication of anyone and everyone who disagrees with us on any topic whatever—these serve no purpose but to tear to shreds the seamless garment of love that characterizes Christ’s true disciples, His Church and Body and Bride.

Thus we welcome articles that take positions opposite from the ones that we have already published. We have proactively solicited submissions from authors who we know disagree with our articles. Yet only one has graciously responded to our overtures; with him we are in the process of working on a joint project to be published in November or December. We invite others to follow suit.

I don’t know why others haven’t taken them up on the invitation, but I know why I wouldn’t: because to join this “dialogue” is to participate in a process that will ultimately attempt to legitimize heterodoxy, plain and simple. Theological truth on a subject that both Scripture and the Church fathers have spoken very clearly about will not be determined through some sort of Hegelian dialectic. Again, the right dialogue to have is on how all Orthodox Christians, gays and straight, can live out the Church’s authentic teaching, and help each other to live it out in charity. Anything else is a potential trap. If you don’t see how this process has worked to destabilize Mainline Protestant churches, and the Catholic Church, you’re blind.

I suppose that makes me a “fundamentalist.” Some Orthodox liberal recently denounced me as a former Evangelical, even though I have never been Evangelical. They have this mindset that any Orthodox convert who doesn’t believe in embracing the LGBT agenda within the Church simply has to be some sort of fundagelical yokel who can’t leave his hickish morality behind. The word “fundamentalist” has almost no stable meaning in common discourse, other than to designate religious people that one do not like. You’ll remember this week’s post in which we looked at sociologist George Yancey’s 2011 survey data, in which he polled philosophy professors to ask which category of person they would be unwilling to hire. Here’s what he found:

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Who is a “fundamentalist”? I doubt many, if any, of these surveyed profs could tell you what a Christian fundamentalist is, historically speaking. It’s one of those scare words that people like to use to marginalize and delegitimize conservative Christians they don’t like (the movement conservative version of this is to designate wobbly right-wingers as “RINOs”).

In the discourse of the respectable, nobody likes fundamentalists. If you can label their position as “fundamentalist,” then you don’t have to take them seriously. Within American Orthodoxy, one often sees liberal Orthodox who wish to take the church in a more modernist direction denouncing as “fundamentalist” other Orthodox who oppose them. It’s a slur that is often tied to criticizing Evangelical converts to Orthodoxy — as if their theological orthodoxy on sexuality is somehow foreign to Orthodoxy, even though they affirm what the Orthodox Church teaches!

So, there’s an academic Orthodox conference coming up:

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It will be interesting to read the papers this conference produces. In my limited experience in international Orthodoxy, it is true that there are some monks, bishops, and others, who have an extremely rigid interpretation of Orthodoxy, one that you might call fundamentalist, though again, I think the term has been so corrupted by political usage that it’s meaningless. The thing to watch out for is precisely that: the use of the term not to advance understanding, but rather to obscure it by labeling anti-modernist views within Orthodoxy as “fundamentalist”.

In an e-mail this morning, an Orthodox philosopher pointed to the Yancey findings and said:

These are facts worth bearing in mind when people sling around the term fundamentalist. It’s not just a derogatory term (like, say, stupid or backwards) — it’s a weapon that’s highly effective in stigmatizing people, especially in academic and professional settings.

There’s a very sophisticated game being played here. And quite a few honest, faithful Orthodox people are setting themselves up to be played. This fight has been late coming to the Orthodox Church, but it’s here, and those who wish for the Church to be faithful to what it knows to be true had better wise up to the tactics and the strategy of the progressives, and learn from the bitter experience of the small-o orthodox within Protestant churches and the Catholic Church. Some of us converts came into Orthodoxy not from Evangelicalism, but from more established churches that have been hollowed out to some degree by progressivism. We have seen this all before. We know how it ends.

Ask yourself: when has one of these “dialogues” ever resulted in church progressives abandoning their positions and agreeing with the orthodox? And ask yourself: where are the churches whose abandonment of orthodox teaching on sexuality has led to flourishing?

It has never happened. They don’t exist.

Comments

  1. I can testify and confirm that there is no actual “dialogue” of any significance that dares to challenge or contradict the “homosexuality is not a sin” dogma of Giacomo (Peter J.) Sanfilippo and other pro-LGBT activists who participate in the “Orthodoxy in Dialogue” facebook group.

    Giacomo (Same-Sex Love) Sanfilippo will immediately delete any posts that highlight: (1) the teaching from the Scriptures, the Saints, and the Fathers that mention homosexual conduct as sinful and (2) actual testimonies of former homosexual women and men who repented and were healed by Christ.

    Within minutes of having posted the link below in trying to show that Christ can help and heal those who struggle with these passions, Sanfilippo removed it. When I asked him why, Giacomo replied: “I delete bullshit that harms people. Anyone who wants to read that sort of crap knows where to find it.”

    Homosexuals Healed by Christ
    http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/blog/category/homosexuals-healed-by-christ/

    Apparently Giacomo Sanfilippo is afraid to face the first-hand testimonies of men and women who struggled with the same-sex attractions and were healed by the power of Christ. He’ll tolerate anything, except the reality that the Holy Spirit and Christ can actually heal broken men and women. Admitting that such grace and redemption exist and tens of thousands of Christians are healed and saved from this abomination, would shatter Sanfilippo’s entire distorted world-view.

    • cynthia curran :

      This is true, Orthodox alone with Catholics and mainline protestants now except same sex marriage. Only the evangelicals and Mormons don’t now. This is according to current polls on the subject.

  2. Michael Bauman :

    Why do people lose courage? For many the faith and even Jesus Himself are mere ideas. It is much easier to betray an idea than someone you know.
    Let’s face it Protestantism for all it’s talk about Jesus being one’s personal Savior, there is no way to actualize that. Roman’s depersonalize Him by placing the Pope in His place.

    Those who push for radical denial of the Truth within the Orthodox Church have already denied that Jesus is a person, fully God and fully man who is incarnate and whom we can know.. Not externally as a magic savior, but in a union of love.

    All that is required is repentantance. That is the same for all of us no matter our sin. Sexual sins are endemic today and manifest in innumerable ways.

    We opened the door to homosexualism by failing to respond with vigor to fornication, adultery, serial adultery and abortion and abuse.

    All sexual sins have the same root-loving the created thing more than the creator. Homosexual activity takes a step further by grounding pleasure in one’s own body. There is not even an other.

    To conquer any besetting sin requires ascetic discipline inculding abstinance. But today’s world finds that abhorent especially when it comes to sex.

    The ideal of always being able to sexually express oneself in any way at anytime is the philosophy. Yet that does not work so elaborate rules of consent are established and enforced even years later. “Love” becomes a matter of control and dominance.

    It is insane. In order to live such insanity, any semblance of reality must be attacked and destroyed. That is why homosexualists do not just leave. Those advancing the agenda know that the communion will be destroyed and die. They have always known. That is what they want.

    Dialog with the devil is not profitable. To be true to the faith one must understand the fundamental reality that humanity is contingent to the Incarnate Word of God, the true person who longs for us all to be in union with Him. That union is the source of real congugal love in marriage. That union is the only source of the fecundity of the creation. Not sex.

    Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!

    Nothing new. Of course, the homosexualists demand that we repent of our phobias, our bigotry and our hatred.

    Our bishops must respond with vigor. But the disease is far advanced once it becomes as obviously symptomatic. At some point only quarantine is effective in stopping it’s spread

    God save us!

  3. Besides Rod’s important book “The Benedict Option”, this post reminded me of Stanley’s Fish’s “dialogue” on dialogue with the RC priest and editor of First Things Richard John Neuhaus:

    https://www.firstthings.com/article/1996/02/001-why-we-cant-all-just-get-along

    and the follow up:

    https://www.firstthings.com/article/1996/02/003-stanley-fish-replies-to-richard-john-neuhaus

    Fish’s point is the philosophical/theological background to Rod’s central point. Even the otherwise orthodox and “conservative” Neuhaus was naive when it comes to this issue. In the Orthodox Church today (at least here in North America), this naivete seems to be the rule…

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