Why Protestants Cross the Tiber or Bosporus Part 2: Hidden Extras
The metaphor of courtship and marriage fits conversion well, as many of the attitudes and behaviors are similar. People may be attracted by looks, station in life, or other peripheral issues, but these will not sustain a marriage; after all, injury, disease, and age wreak havoc on externals. Converts may fall head-over-heals in love with liturgy/aesthetics or with kindnesses shown them, but must eventually reckon with people and behaviors illustrating the truth of the doctrine of total depravity. While there will always be those terminally naive folks who quixotically search for the nonexistent “perfect church” – like those who think that marriage is all champagne and fireworks – even the sober-minded and practical can lose sight of what truly matters. In marriage one exchanges the problems of singleness for the problems of having two sinners locked into a life-long covenant. Ecclesially, conversion means exchanging one set of problems for another; no problems is not an option. In this world there are no perfect people, marriages, or churches, and pretending otherwise is a set-up for failure; ultimately, though, some things are more important than others.
Embryo Parson, who blogs at theoldjamestownchurch.org, is a convert from Orthodoxy to Continuing Anglicanism, and wrote an article about both important doctrinal differences and those “extras” associated with the Eastern Orthodox Church. These include: rampant ethnocentrism; a virulent anti-Western bias; and a growing acceptance of the Liberal agenda, including LGBT issues (1). The Roman Catholic Church is no different here.
While I agree with him, especially on doctrinal matters, I offer a few tu quoques. I bring these up only because convert infatuation tends to blind one to the faults of the object of one’s affection and idealize her – not a good way to think and act in a very real and unideal world. When it comes to the extras, for every finger pointed at Catholics and Orthodox, they could point one back at Embryo Parson. I include this review to illustrate the point that, in the end, these hidden costs and problems are inescapable, universal, and irrelevant. That said, I will address the points in EP’s article.
As I mentioned in my article on Messianic Judaism, Vanilla American as an ethnicity is particularly evident to those who aren’t, and is not one free of racial/ethnic bigotry and American civic religion. I also mentioned the attitude rife in the conservative Reformed world: “if you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much;” similar attitudes can be found among Covenanters (Reformed Presbyterians, aka “Covies”). The Lutheran idea of diversity historically amounted to people from different German states and regions of Scandinavia; for Anglicans, the old adage “wogs begin at Calais” makes the same point. The difference between Catholics and Protestants vis-a-vis ethnocentrism may be more imagined than real, reflecting human nature more than a particular theology or culture.
A particular manifestation of ethnic bigotry which thrives in Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic circles is antisemitism of the most virulent sort (2). Even “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion,” a tract so obviously contrived that even Czar Nicholas II, who was no Judeophile, condemned it as a patent fraud, is still being published and distributed courtesy of the good offices of the Russian Orthodox Church. The ravings of Athonite monks (eg Elder Paisios (3)), saints (eg John Chrysostom (4), John of Kronstadt (5)), and recently Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus (6), seem to be giving the Russians a run for their money. Chrysostom’s animadversion towards Jews is still reflected in his liturgy, and hence is virtually fixed in the minds of the Orthodox faithful, whose forebears were enthusiastic participants in pogroms and other depredations against Eastern European Jewry (7). Not to be outdone, Roman rad-trads like SSPX, Rorate Caeli, Fish Eaters, and Most Holy Family Monastery still spew forth the old libels and stereotypes which helped create a climate ripe for the Holocaust. (8) As for “main line” Catholics (ie, those in communion with the pope), the culture that wrought centuries of bloodbaths, plundering, forced conversions, exiles, and humiliations, lingers on. An example is the growing support for Palestine and condemning Christian Zionism while ignoring Palestinian groups like Musalaha and Sabeel using Christianity for their own political ends – even as Palestinian Christians flee their own territories, Hamas and the Palestine Authority call for shariah law, and the church in Israel grows. This double standard makes poor camouflage for “respectable” antisemitism. (9). The Liberal churches are joining in the feeding frenzy under the guise of “social justice” (10).
Granted, Protestantism has no lack of bigots and not the cleanest past regarding the Jews, but the difference today is individual rather than systemic. For example, the LCMS has publicly repudiated Luther’s choleric “Concerning the Jews and Their Lies” as well as antisemitism in general (11). Thus antisemitism in the church is due to individual haters (eg “Holocaust Herman” Otten) rather than church positions or culture, but is there nonetheless (12). Explanations for this include lack of liturgical malediction, an history of missions to Jews, and a long history of Reformed tolerance (13).
Along with antisemitism comes its equally low-brow sibling, conspiracy theories, both sired by a mindset and culture averse to accepting responsibility for its own bad fortune. Not only are Jews and Western culture held responsible for all that is wrong in and with the Orthodox and Roman Catholic homelands, but also freemasonry with other secret societies and shadowy “dark forces.” The idea that a religious culture which has bred poverty, peasantry, and pogroms everywhere it has been expressed could possibly be the source of its own misery does not seem to have occurred to these people. The idea that godless immorality is a Western import is equally outrageous, considering the rates of abortion, drunkenness, and violence in said homelands.
Orthodox and Catholics could counter the anti-Western bigotry charge with the anything-not-American bigotry in many Evangelical circles as being equally parochial; if you disagree, you probably haven’t endured enough “Christian America” and “those people out there” sermons, or worse, pop-dispy prophecy-mongering. If it’s crackpot conspiracy theories you seek, the Christian Right abounds with them (14). As for Liberalism, the LCMS is rife with it, as illustrated by the support given to Liberal minister Matthew Becker (15). The Reformed and Anglicans are no better, as Continuing Anglicans still battle with Liberalism in the form of priestesses and the Reformed tolerate Darwinism in failing to discipline its members associated with BioLogos (16).
Although not covered by Embryo Parson, a favorite argument against Protestantism is its schismatic behavior, having many conflicting beliefs and denominations despite a shared claim of sola Scriptura. However, the number of equally schismatic and mutually hostile churches claiming to the the One True Church Founded by Christ is not insignificant (17), despite their shared commitment to Holy Tradition.
In marriage, after looks and ability begin their inevitable decline, commitment and character issues remain; ecclesially, after one’s infatuation with liturgy, aesthetics, and antiquarianism ends, what remains? Is there any better way to discriminate between Wittenberg, Geneva, Canterbury, and Edinburgh on one side, and Rome and Constantinople on the other, besides engaging in meaningless nyah-nyah tu quoques? DV this will be answered in the next post.
http://www.oldjamestownchurch.com/blog/2012/6/8/for-evangelicals-and-others-considering-eastern-orthodoxy.html. The article also discusses key theological issues, but those are without the scope of my post.
2. http://www.ocf.org/OrthodoxPage/reading/jewish_1.html. This is the first article in a series, which is well worth reading in toto even if I reject some of the author’s conclusions.
4. http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/webfm_send/622. See http://orthodoxinfo.com/phronema/antisemitism.aspx for a rebuttal of this notion; the argument that Chrysostom meant “Judaizers” when he wrote and said “Jews” was a subtlety lost on his audiences (and victims). It is more honest to just admit that even great men – including Luther – had flaws than to tap-dance around the obvious.
7. A noteworthy exception occurred in Nazi-occupied Bulgaria, where both King Boris III and Archbishop Stefan defied Hitler’s orders to deport Bulgarian Jewry to death camps. The two leaders werre assisted by Roman Catholic Msgr Angelo Roncalli, better known in history as Pope John XXIII
http://www.mostholyfamilymonastery.com/news/holocaust-hoax/#.Vexhu0r3arV res ipsa loquitur
http://roshpinaproject.com/tag/mitri-raheb/ read entire series of articles
http://www.catholicireland.net/distinguishing-antizionism-from-antisemitism/ – note the total lack of reference to Arab treatment of Jews; many of the Israelis most opposed to peace with Palestinians are Mizrahis ( “easterners;” ie residents of MENA) thrown out of their homes with no compensation; I recall no discussion on whether such Jews should be compensated by the Arab states from “limousine liberals” and “parlor Palestinians” in the West.
10. https://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/jesus-was-a-palestinian-the-return-of-christian-anti-semitism/ from a Liberal Jewish journal showing the shark turning in its entrails;
12. http://www.biblebelievers.org.au/holohoax.htm. Otten wrote many antisemitic diatribes which found ready support in such racist papers as The Spotlight and various White Supremacist papers and blogs
13. Mission work to Jews has always figured prominently among the Reformed, a notable examble being the Free Church of Scotland mission in Hungary under Rev John “Rabbi” Duncan, among whose convert were Alfred Edersheim and Adoph Saphir. Among Lutherans one of the brightest examples was Rev Hermann Strack, a professor of Hebrew and a student of Talmud. Emamples of tolerance shown to Jews include Jewish civil equality in New Amsterdam enforced by central authority in its revoking Peter Stuyvesant’s discriminatory laws; Jews permitted to return to England by Cromwell; general acceptance of Jews in Colonial America; Jews able to enter professions including American government service and military; even places named for Jews (eg Yulee County and Ft Myers, FL; Aaronsburg, PA)
14. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Christianity_conspiracy_theorists No church community has cornered the conspiracy theory market
15. http://steadfastlutherans.org/2015/03/lcms-liberals-write-an-open-letter-to-pr-gilbert/. In fine, Becker, who DG is now out of the LCMS, openly and in defiance of church teaching and his ministerial oath, publicly supported Liberal views such as priestesses; note the scandalous support of those who lack the integrity to leave the LCMS quietly.
16. BioLogos is a Liberal organization promoting theistic evolution, which is a position contrary to Reformed symbols (eg Westminster Confession of Faith) and subsequent rulings by the conservative Reformed churches in the US (eg Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America). Tim Keller, a rockstar pastor in the PCA, is a public supporter of BioLogos in open defiance of his church’s teaching; the synodical silence thereabout has been deafening.
17. Here’s a short list: Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Church of the East, sedevacantists, rad-trads, Old Calendarists. There are numerous non-canonical Catholic and Orthodox continuing bodies as well, and a number of Anglo-Catholic wannabees So much for the unifying influence of “Holy Tradition.”