At the Name of Jesus, every knee shall bow …
and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
—Phil. 2:10, 11
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord (Deut. 6:4). “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test (Deut. 6:16). Man is not the Lord. If you should choose to walk with man, you shall encounter an absolutely destructive force.
There are those today who seek to destroy the state, and with it, our Holy Church. They are of the Enemy.1 And there are those who walk with the Enemy2, no longer fearing God (Deut. 6:13), “attempting to lure man to willfully ignore God’s judgment.”3 The un-fearing serve “other gods, of the gods of the peoples who are round about you (Deut. 6:14).” The un-fearing are willing enablers of the Enemy.
To walk with the Enemy is to walk with a liar.4
On the other hand, some have been prescient of the present time—it’s coming, and its dangers. One such person is Rod Dreher, the author of The Benedict Option. Yet the nation’s senior Greek hierarch, who appreciates “the emergency of “Black Lives Matter,”5 states, “I am not for the so-called “Benedict Option,” a retreat from the world to some form of Christian “Hasidism” that seeks separation based on external forms.”6
Dreher’s response was classic—if not eviscerating.
Based on this familiar mischaracterization of my work, I would bet my 2021 tithe that the good archbishop has not read The Benedict Option, and is just going on what the liberal Greek Orthodox guys at Fordham told him about it after he arrived in the US in 2019. I would suggest that he read the book for himself. The situation in the Greek Orthodox Church in America is calamitous. Back in 2012, according to the GOA’s own research,7 90 percent of Americans with Greek roots are no longer in communion with the Orthodox Church.8
Indeed a simple search for Dreher’s summation of his book would be revealing to the archbishop and all who wish not to read the text. On YouTube—Rod Dreher: What is the Benedict Option?11 posted on January 22, 2020—the author succinctly articulates his vision.
I think that we Christians have a decision to make. Either we are going to continue to live in this post-Christian world where Christ, the Gospel narrative, is not how we understand ourselves collectively. If we continue to live in the world as if nothing were wrong, we’re at risk of losing our faith exactly as young Benedict thought he would if he stayed in Rome at the time. But if we take the Benedict option, if we choose to step outside and form communities in which we can be educated in our faith and not only educated, but disciples in the faith, then we might stand a chance of surviving.
What the Benedict Option is not is let’s head for the hills. Let’s live in monasteries. Monasteries are built for monks and nuns, not for laypeople. We are called to live in the world. But, if we’re going to live faithfully in the world, then we have to spend a certain amount of time away from that world, holding on to what we’ve been given, studying our tradition, praying, fasting, and building communal bonds; because, if we don’t, we’re not going to make it. That’s the radical choice we have to make now.
But just going along to get along and pretending that this thing might pass us by—it’s not going to happen. We have to act now if our children, grandchildren, and future generations are going to have a Christian faith.
Lastly, the reason that St. Benedict’s example is so important, Benedict, all he did, was set out to build monasteries [and] establish communities where vowed Christians could live in community and learn to serve God. He died in the year 547 [A.D.]. When he died, he’d left behind maybe 12-13 monasteries; what he could not have foreseen is what God did with his work. Over the next few centuries, the monastic movement spread like wildfire throughout Western Europe. Now, remember, Western Europe was lawless. It was a place of barbarian tribes, fighting, and chaos. But the Benedictines slowly, slowly moved across Western Europe building their communities, civilizing the place, cleaning things up, preaching the Gospel, and helping the local people to learn things about the art of living that they had forgotten when Rome collapsed. And they eventually laid the groundwork for the rebirth of civilization.
I think that that’s our task now... But what we can do is be faithful where God has planted us and create these small islands of light and order and the love of God and use that to build outward from there.
[End 7:40. A summary in less than three minutes!]
How can any true God-fearing bishop reject the preceding? But a non-God-fearing bishop, by his admission, does reject the preceding.
Is not a parish to be a “small island of light and order and love of God?” Are we not supposed to lay the foundation of our Orthodox Christian faith for our children, grandchildren, and future generations? Are we not supposed to catechize and welcome the tired and beleaguered into our faith? I believe the answer is yes to all of the above.
But for some hierarchs, it is about earthly power - “the eclipse of any reference to the transcendent reality in general, or God in particular. Human flourishing, moral life, and nature all come to be understood in a self-sufficient, “this-worldly,” naturalistic, immanent way.”12 This is, sadly, what has been seen and experienced in the past few years from the Greek diocesan, archdiocesan, and patriarchal realms of power. It gives rise to a “satanic optimism”—a temporal thirst for power that is shared by liberal capitalism with Communism.13 As manifested by their deeds, theology has become ideological conformity with the world, creating an intolerant climate to tradition, Holy Tradition, and the Truth.
It can be the only explanation for the denigration of the Holy Eucharist—the heart and embodiment of the Church—by the Greek communion with non-apostolic heretics in Ukraine to the unholy dispensing of the precious Body and Blood to non-Orthodox Christians in America.
Ideological conformity to this world is evident when
“The new Greek archbishop went to a Black Lives Matter march in Brooklyn recently. [While] one is certainly pleased that the Greek Orthodox primate stands up against police brutality and against racism, but as the ‘What We Believe’ page of the Black Lives Matter website indicates, the organization is directly opposed to some fundamental teachings of Orthodox Christianity”14 . . .
Yet the archbishop states
“I will continue to speak and to act in the ways that are consistent with the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the high office with which I have been entrusted by our Holy Mother Church.”15 [Emphasis added.]
Given his words and deeds, the archbishop thus stands with the BLM agenda.
We make space for transgender brothers and sisters to participate and lead.
We are self-reflexive and do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege and uplift Black trans folk, especially Black trans women who continue to be disproportionately impacted by trans-antagonistic violence.
We build a space that affirms Black women and is free from sexism, misogyny, and environments in which men are centered.
…We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.
We foster a queer-affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual (unless s/he or they disclose otherwise).16
I believe we now know where the archdiocese is taking its people. And it is doing so by trampling on the bones of its faithful across the centuries, becoming a part of the cancel culture—canceling our Holy Traditions, if not God—the transcendent reality.
Satanic optimism exists when bishops walk with the Enemy. Walking with the Enemy is to walk with a liar—and to lie. Walking with the Enemy also means it, the Enemy, will lie to its allies—and consume them.
We would do well to remember the biblical admonition.
You shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the peoples who are round about you; for the Lord your God in the midst of you is a jealous God; lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth (Deut. 6:14–15).
God is just, not kind.