Orthodox Nationalism: A Basis in Scripture and Sacred Tradition

January 5, 2015

Loving one’s nation and family has been an integral part of the Orthodox Church since the earliest days of the Faith. While all Orthodox Christians have a bond through Christ and are brothers and sisters in the spiritual sense, Orthodoxy has always understood the role of the nation and identity as part of the Church and the everyday lives of believers. It is not a paradox to believe that the only true homeland for Christians will be the new Jerusalem, after the Second Coming, while also having a love and dedication to the homeland and ethnic group to whom God made you a child of. The Russian Orthodox Church’s declaration on Church and Nation reaffirmed to Orthodox believers in the modern era that we have a moral obligation to caring for our extended family, our folk.

Faith, family and folk.

Faith, family and folk.

The declaration stated that “the Church unites in herself the universal with the national… Orthodox Christians, aware of being citizens of the heavenly homeland, should not forget about their earthly homeland… Christian patriotism may be expressed at the same time with regard to a nation as an ethnic community and as a community of its citizens. The Orthodox Christian is called to love his fatherland, which has a territorial dimension, and his brothers by blood who live everywhere in the world. This love is one of the ways of fulfilling God’s commandment of love to one’s neighbor which includes love to one’s family, fellow-tribesmen and fellow-citizens.”

Thus no matter what the heresy of Ameridoxy tells us, it is not just an option for Orthodox Christians to stand for their people and their nation, it is a sacred duty. While the misguided priests and bishops of Ameridoxy try to persecute those who are following Tradition and Orthodoxy as practiced everywhere else in the world, we must remember the wisdom of Saint John Chrysostom that we must “Be aware not to be corrupted from love of the heretics; for this reason do not accept any false belief (dogma) in the name of love.”

The importance of identity and following Tradition cannot be compromised simply to allow us to get along with those falling into the depths of heresy. The Orthodox world is standing on the firm foundation of Tradition while the American Church is falling quickly into the pit of modernity and as Orthodox Christians in America we must stand with the Church and the Truth, not with those who have fallen away from Tradition.

Patriarch Kirill and the bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church reaffirmed something that the Church has known since its beginning, while we are “one Holy catholic and Apostolic Church” we do not lose our identity when we become Christians.

Christians still have a responsibility to our immediate family and our extended family over those on the other side of the world. Scripture itself tells us in 1 Timothy 5:8 “But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” As Christians we have a duty to love, pray for, and care for the entire world, as Christ Himself did, but one’s responsibility starts at home, with your own family, your own people, and your own nation.

How hypocritical is it to say that you love your family and your nation if you do nothing to care for them and provide a stable and safe future for your own children? While White children in Appalachia go hungry at night, violent crime plagues the broken neighborhoods and schools of America’s streets, and the elderly go without medicine in lonely nursing homes how can we justify abandoning those in need of care, love, and ministry who are in our own backyards and instead focus on people far away as the cries of those in need who are our neighbors go unheeded? James 2:15-16 tells Christians “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily foodIf one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?

It is noble to desire to cure the problems of the entire world, but one’s responsibility starts at home with your own immediate family and your nation, which is defined by the Russian Orthodox Church as “an ethnic community and the aggregate citizens of a particular state. Relationships between church and nation should be viewed in the context of both meanings of this word.” A nation is a people, tied together by the same blood, customs, language and Faith. The Russian Church says that “the unity of the people of God was secured by their ethnic and linguistic community and their rootedness in a particular land, their fatherland.” To be an Orthodox nationalist you can see the themes of Faith, family, and folk going directly back to the Old Testament to the modern era.

God in the Old Testament instructed the Israelites to ensure that leadership for their nation would be drawn from their own folk. The organic hierarchy of the nation created both a blood and Faith tie between the people of Israel and their leadership, the king. Deuteronomy 17:15 says “be sure to appoint over you a king the Lord your God chooses. He must be from among your fellow Israelites. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not an Israelite.” The people must have a tie to one another and to those who would rule over them. The need for one to love the people and nation of his or her birth is not only in Scripture, spiritual leaders throughout Church history have reaffirmed the importance of this, one such voice for Tradition was Father Arseny, a priest who was imprisoned and tortured by the Russian communists told his spiritual children “One has to know and love his Fatherland.”

The very word nation in Greek is “ethnos” which is where we derive the word “ethnicity” from. Nations are organic expressions of a united folk where both blood and soil are a major part of the identity. Father Dumitru Stăniloae, one of the most respected spiritual voices of the 20th century not only in Romania but throughout the Orthodox world, said of ethnic identity “The affirmation of one’s own people [neam] does not mean the negation of other peoples.” You can love your own people and even be willing to fight on their behalf and still be entirely within the Sacred Tradition of the Orthodox Church.  St. Philaret of Moscow said to his flock before the men went off to battle “If you avoid dying for the honor and freedom of the Fatherland, you will die a criminal or a slave; die for the faith and the Fatherland and you will be granted life and a crown in heaven.”

Saint Jerome wrote in the fourth century that the Biblical definition of “brethren” in both the Old and the New Testament were not simply terms of civic unity, but a word to describe an ethnically based community and nation.  In Against Helvidius, Saint Jerome wrote that “How then, says Helvidius, do you make out that they were called the Lord’s brethren who were not his brethren? I will show how that is. Holy Scripture there are four kinds of brethren— by nature, race, kindred, love. . . . As to race, all Jews are called brethren of one another…Moreover they are called brethren by kindred who are of one family, that is πατρία, which corresponds to the Latin paternitas, because from a single root a numerous progeny proceeds.”

The Ancient Church understood that the Old Testament call to loyalty to one’s nation had not been done away with as many modern liberals attempt to argue. Metropolitan Nestor Vornicescu said that “Our Orthodox theology regards the national factor as belonging to the Divine Order and Will. Orthodox faith has thus identified itself with our consciousness as a people, the Church being above all, the Church of the Romanian nation, of all generations.” This statement promotes the understanding that national, and thus ethnic identity, is part of the organic hierarchy of priorities for Orthodox Christians and that supporting the nation is not just our will, but God’s will where the Church and Faith will always come first to an Orthodox Christian, but next comes ones tie to nation and ones people.

The Russian Orthodox Church declaration continues to tell believers that “The patriotism of the Orthodox Christian should be active. It is manifested when he defends his fatherland against an enemy, works for the good of the motherland, cares for the good order of people’s life through, among other things, participation in the affairs of government. The Christian is called to preserve and develop national culture and people’s self-awareness.” We are called not only to have an ethnic identity as a part of our Orthodox Faith, but we are also encouraged to be politically and socially active to advance the cause of the Church and of our national best interest.

In modern politics we see the intersection of blood and Faith with the current crisis in the Ukraine. Patriarch Kirill publicly prayed for peace and said “Our special prayer today is for the peoples of Russia and Ukraine, so that peace should reign in the hearts and minds of our brothers and sisters by blood and by faith, so that the ties that we have lost, and much-needed cooperation, should be restored.” The idea of shared ethnicity and shared Faith being an important part of modern geopolitics and Church affairs is regularly reaffirmed by Church leaders in Eastern Europe.

The work of Saint Tsar Nicholas II, Saint John of Kronstadt and countless other Russians Saints of the 20th century are a firm example as to how Church and nation can work in symphony with one another. Saint Tsar Nicholas II is the leader who produced tens of thousands of copies of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and had them distributed through the Orthodox Church to priests, bishops, and the citizenry. The Tsar had his secret police work to root out heretics, Bolsheviks, and other enemies of both the Church and State. Tsars for generations prior to Saint Nicholas II had adopted the motto of “Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and National Character” or “Pravoslavie, Samoderzhavie i Narodnost” to explain what defined Russia and what the Tsar as the father of the nation, was fighting to protect.

Saint Tsar Nicholas II worked with Church authorities such as Saint John of Kronstadt, considered by many to be the holiest Orthodox Christian of Russia during the entire 20th century, to create an organization known as the Black Hundreds. Funneling support from the Church, money from the Tsar and other government sources, and the drive and support of Russian Orthodox patriots from every social class, the Black Hundreds quickly grew to all areas of Russia and began producing multiple newspapers, social movements and rallies filled with hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic and faithful citizens. Meetings and speeches were often held in Orthodox churches either directly after service or during the week, almost always opening with a blessing being done by the local parish priest. Orthodoxy and Russian identity worked hand in hand to fight against the corrupting influences of Bolshevism, secularism and the values of the French Enlightenment.

Priests, icons and crosses leading a march of the Black Hundreds

Priests, icons and crosses leading a march of the Black Hundreds

The Black Hundreds were led by priests and bishops, with Saint John of Kronstadt as the spiritual father of the entire organization. The goal of the Black Hundreds was to use the Church and national politics to fight for spiritual revival of Traditional Orthodoxy and to stand as a political bulwark against the forces of modernity, heresy and Bolshevism.

While working to increase the faith of the Russian people in Orthodoxy, the Black Hundreds also focused on creating political movements to recruit candidates and bring the message of the movement to the masses. Fighting against the various democratic and communist movements, the Black Hundreds were willing to openly confront the enemies of the monarchy, the Church and of the Russian people in the streets.

In addition to this, the Black Hundreds with the blessing of Saint Nicholas II and the spiritual leaders of the movement put communist Jews into pogroms, to prevent their seditious activities against the crown and the Church. Saint John of Kronstadt originally condemned the putting of Jews into pogroms until he found out the violent anti-Christian activities and national subversion the Jews were doing which caused the need for the pogroms, he later apologized for rushing to condemnation of the patriots who put the Jews into the pogroms and actively supported the movement until the time of his death.

Saint John of Kronstadt enrolled as a member of the Black Hundreds by writing to its organizers in 1905 “In order to start the number of members of the Union, to seek to promote all legal means proper development of Russian statehood and the Russian nation on the basis of orthodoxy, unlimited autocracy and Russian nationalities – please enroll me as a kindred spirit. ” Saint John of Kronstadt was a spiritual adviser to many of the members of the Black Hundreds, spoke at many different events, marched alongside fellow clergy in the streets against liberalism, and eventually was elected as an honorary lifetime member of the organization due to his steadfast dedication to fighting for Faith, family and folk. This was of course in addition to his charity work, ministering to the sick, caring for the poor, and preaching of the Gospel. To stand for the Faith and for his nation was in symphony with his other duties as an Orthodox Christian, an all encompassing devotion to the entirety of the Christian message that was so strong that Saint John was often called a living Saint throughout his life.

Saint John of Kronstadt would suffer from a violent and bloody assassination attempt by Jews for his activity in the Black Hundreds and Saint Tsar Nicholas II would eventually lose his life for fighting for Faith and nation as a martyr during the Jewish led Bolshevik Revolution alongside with millions of devoted Orthodox Christian nationalists.

Saint Nikolai Velimirovich wrote in his famous work The Struggle for Faith that “In the name of this great and noble host of your distinguished ancestors, whose blood and spirit and faith you have inherited as a legitimate heir, in their name and not in my own name I ask you, my noble Serbian brother: is the vigil light of Faith still burning in your soul?…They want to break your bond with your parents, with your ancestors, with your glorious slava.” The Serbian Church reminds parishioners that “The Serbian Krsna Slava links, as a golden string, their past and their present, their ancestors and their descendants. Serbian people should never ignore their Krsna Slava because through it the Orthodox faith was preserved and they were held together through the centuries….Do not fail to keep this ancient and honorable Serbian Orthodox tradition and to pass it on to your children.”

The Serbian Church has always understood the role of ancestors and ethnic identity alongside the dogma of the Orthodox Faith when it comes to overall national identity. One of the most celebrated days of the Serbian Church, Krsna Slava, is based upon every family in Serbia honoring the patron Saint of the nation, the patron Saint of their family and honoring their ancestors who had maintained the Orthodox Faith before them. As a common Serbian folk expression states “Where there is a Slava, there is a Serb.” 

The tie to ones ancestors as an anchor to the Orthodox Faith is an organic expression of the Faith not only in Serbia, but throughout the Orthodox world. Through generations and centuries of oppression and occupation by foreign peoples the Orthodox Faith of the people and the ethnic identity both supported one another through the trials and tribulations that Serbia has gone through up until the current era.

A question often asked within the Church is on the question of marriage between different ethnic groups within the Church. While there is total spiritual equality between every Christian of any race, we see from a Biblical perspective that God believed in each nation retaining its identity and blood. The book of Tobit tells us in Tobit 4:13 that “So now, my son, love your brethren, and in your heart do not disdain your brethren and the sons and daughters of your people by refusing to take a wife for yourself from among them. For in pride there is ruin and great confusion; and in shiftlessness there is loss and great want, because shiftlessness is the mother of famine.” We are called to marry those within our own tribe, which given Biblical commandments to ensure that leadership and civil government is kept about members of the same tribe one can easily find ethno-nationalist commands from God throughout Scripture.

To be opposed to interracial marriage goes all the way back to Abraham who said in Genesis 24:3-4 that “I want you to swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.” Abraham wanted his son to marry within his own tribe, something that God never condemned but actually blessed with fruitful families and great gifts both materially and spiritually. While I would not argue that it is a sin per se to marry outside one’s nation, there are clear guidelines that the best form of marriage is among those of the same nation. In Israel the nation was told to get rid of the foreign wives among the nation and to marry within the nation of Israel. Ezra 10:3 states “So let’s make a promise to our God by which we divorce all of these foreign wives—as well as those born to them—in accordance with the counsel of our Lord and of those who tremble at our God’s command.”

Earlier in the book of Ezra in 9:2 we are told “They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness.” The government of Israel had a responsibility to maintain the national character of Israel, and both incest and interracial marriage was looked upon negatively by God for violating His plan for marriage and a stable society. The position of God on issues such as homosexuality, incest, bestiality and interracial marriages were all codified throughout the Old Testament.

The Old Testament laws were to be kept by all those who resided within the national boundaries of Israel as shown in Levitivus 18:26 “Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you.” The civil government of Israel was to enforce God’s laws but we see an important distinction in which those of the Israelites “own nation” are viewed separately from other races that happen to be residing within the boundaries of Israel.

God obviously drew a distinction between those who were Israelites, as kept by an ethnic lineage, and those who were merely citizens or resident of the land called Israel. Those of other nations were foreigners, regardless of civil status, because Israel was a civil institution, a Faith, and a people which maintained both the State and the Faith given to them by God.

The Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus wrote that  “For each nation has different customs and divergent laws and institutions, and should consolidate those things that are proper to it, and should form and develop out of the same nation the associations for the fusion of its life. For just as each animal mates with its own tribe, so it is right that each nation should marry and cohabit not with those of other race and tongue but of the same tribe and speech.” As the God given monarch of Byzantium we see that the Emperor understood that even in an empire of the same Faith that his people were marrying among their own nation, while sharing an imperial civic identity.

In the book The Orthodox Church: 455 Questions and Answers by Father Stanley Harakas he tells modern Orthodox Christians that “God does not encourage racially mixed marriages, then I believe we are not in disagreement. I feel I made it very clear that the Church does not feel such marriages are desirable, for many different reasons, many of which are practical and have to do with the chance of success for such marriages. In addition, we should also add that the Church holds that races and nations were created by God. Consequently,the total intermarriage would destroy the races which God created. The Church has never advocated or encouraged racially mixed marriages.” The idea of maintaining the diversity that God created is found in the Old Testament, New Testament, Church Tradition and among modern clergy.

The diversity found in Heaven of different nations and tongues shows that even among the same racial group our unique identities will be maintained. Europeans will be worshiping the throne of Christ in English, German, Russian, Greek and a host of other languages, standing besides Africans praising the Almighty in Somali, Berber, Amharic, Oromo, Swahili and so on. Diversity is a God given gift to humanity because each nation and people has a unique way of worshiping the Creator and expressing the essence of God. To destroy bio-diversity is to destroy the unique peoples and civilizations that God created upon the Earth. If we are called to be proper stewards of the Earth and all creation, why would we not also be stewards of the nations that God made us citizens of?

One of the pet projects of liberals and globalists both in the Church and in secular society is pushing for mass immigration and demographic displacement of various nations, primarily in the modern age of Europeans from our national homelands. This is in direct contradiction to Proverbs 22:28 that says “Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your ancestors.” We are not to displace those around us from there home that God has given them for in Deuteronomy 27:17 Scripture tells us “Cursed is anyone who moves their neighbor’s boundary stone.” We are to respect the land and visions that were established by our ancestors, which originates from God dividing the Earth between different nations. 

Land however is not simply up for grabs by whoever claims it, national boundaries are given to us by God as the place of habitation for each unique national group. Acts 17:26-27 tells us that God made “all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us.

Every nation was given land to call their own and a unique culture in which to experience and eventually find God, reaffirming that in Heaven we will find every people at the throne of Christ. To disrupt the national boundaries of a people is to disrupt the process of them reaching out and finding God. Like a parent stopping a child from sticking a fork in a light socket God as our Heavenly parent did his best to separate each nation in the place best suited for that people to find Him and thus find salvation.

The fact that we retain both our gender and our ethnic identity in Heaven is found later in the book of Revelation 7:9 where John tells us that he saw “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands.”

The verse that is commonly trotted from Scripture, often out of context, is Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Obviously gender still exists within Christianity because the Orthodox Church does not ordain women to be either priests or bishops. While spiritually equal, gender still exists and directly impacts the day to day life of the Church.

If the interpretation given by Ameridoxy of this verse in Galatians is that race does not exist any longer, then obviously we should begin ordaining women and performing homosexual marriages. How could a homosexual relationship not be blessed by the Church if there is no gender? Obviously gender still exists and gender roles and differences are maintained by Church Tradition, beyond this we find Scripture in both the Old and the New Testament reaffirming God’s standard on a whole host of issues including marriage, homosexuality, who can hold the priesthood, and also ethnic identity, much to the chagrin of modernists.

Saint Paul makes it clear that one does not have to surrender his ethnic identity to become a Christian by saying in Romans 9:3 that “For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” While a Christian, Saint Paul has a special love and fondness for those of the same race, Christ Himself felt a kinship towards the Israelites to whom He shared ethnic kindship. The Russian Orthodox Church declaration on Church and Nation states that “The Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the Divine Founder of the Church, had no shelter on earth and pointed that the teaching He brought was not local or national in nature. Nevertheless, He identified Himself with the people to whom He belonged by birth. Talking to the Samaritan woman, He stressed His belonging to the Jewish nation.” If both Saint Paul and Christ Himself had a special tie to the nation to which they were born, why would all Christians not be allowed this?

As Christians we are all united in Christ, we have spiritual equality before the throne and should be treated with dignity and respect by one another but God still retains the identity He gave us at birth. This sentiment was reaffirmed by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh when he told reporters that “The second thing is that we must remember that every nationality, every ethnic group, has something to contribute to each other group in terms of knowledge of God, the experience of God, the way in which this experience has been expressed throughout the centuries. So we must be able to possess our national heritage, our spirituality, and share it, because it is the sum total of the parts that makes Orthodoxy.” We all must not forget that the home for all Christians is going to be the spiritual Jerusalem that is proclaimed in prophecy and Scripture, but this does not discount the importance of national identity.

When looking at the push in the Church to support mass immigration and a Christianity without ethnic identity, it is all rooted in the post-Enlightenment secular thinkers and the push towards globalism. Metropolitan Ioannis of St. Petersburg and Ladoga warned of this situation when he said that “alien peoples and creeds were determined to put to death our moral and religious way of life.” This globalism seeks to destroy anything that makes a people unique and turn us into a one world system. This push towards a one world government is the foundation of the coming of the anti-Christ has been foretold by Orthodox Saints since the beginning of the Church.

Saint Paisios of Mount Athos told Orthodox Christians to be on the watch for globalism and that “Ecumenism, common markets, a one-world government, a single made-to-order religion.. is the plan of these devils.” With globalism comes the destruction of nations and an attack upon the Church, to support globalism is to turn one’s back upon God and rebel against His plan for how humanity should live. To give up one’s Traditions and identity is to lose an anchor that keeps a people grounded in the Faith. Patriarch Kirill said that “We know, including from the lessons of our own history, that a people that has lost its historical benchmarks, that has renounced the continuity of generations, is easily converted into an object of social and ideological experiments. And the cost of such experiments is too high.” While communism was the anti-Christ ideology of the 20th century, globalism which ushers in the destruction of national identity and folkish ties is the anti-Christ dogma of the 21st century.

At the highest levels of Orthodox theological thinkers in the world the concept of opposing globalization and mondialism is normal and approved of by clergy and Church authorities. Mondialism is the breakdown of national and cultural identity and a move towards a one world government and culture, with no respect for ethnic, religious or social ties or historical values. The St. Petersburg Theological Academy in May 2001 released a document on globalism that stated The ideology of globalization is in opposition to the Christian world outlook and incompatible to it; it takes root and is propagandized in the secular society and the Church through the efforts of the world elite and it expresses its interests. Globalization becomes an embodiment of the utopian idea of mondialism about creation of a unitary, supranational and rigidly controlled community on Earth.” 

As one evaluates the Scriptural and Traditional view of nationhood, as a group that shares blood, culture and Faith, it must be concluded that the modernist interpretation of race and nation does not come from Sacred Tradition or the Bible, it comes from spiritual cowardice in the face of modernity. While millions of Orthodox Christians were willing to die for the purity of the Faith in the gulags and torture chambers of the NKVD, the Ottomans, and countless despotic regimes, it seems that in American many of the Church leadership have fallen away from the Truth to instead find a comfortable position at the table of the globalists.

The Truth has been maintained in the Orthodox world but the American Church is facing a crisis both of identity and of courage. Those in positions of spiritual authority falling away from the Truth has been happening throughout Church history, Saint John Chrysostom himself said the “The road to Hell is paved with the skulls of erring priests, with bishops as their signposts.” No matter how many voices of Ameridoxy tell lies about the role of nation in the Christian life we as believers must do exactly as Saint Paul told us in 2nd Thessalonians to “stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.” We as Orthodox Christians are called to spread the Faith to all the nations, but at the end of the day we are told to be citizens of our own nation and to first help our families. Having a loyalty to Faith, family and folk is as Orthodox as icons, no matter what the modernists say.

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