In a recent 700-word statement by the governing body of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, the Holy Synod has petitioned the country’s government to “stop admitting foreign refugees.” It noted that “it has compassion for those already in the country but that accepting more refugees from the North Africa and Middle East could put at risk the existence of Bulgaria as a state and as a people.” It also went on to call the influx of refugees “a wave which has acquired all the signs of an invasion.” The statement signed by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church Patriarch Neofit, said that in recent months the question had been repeatedly asked of what its position was on the refugee problem; the Church said, “it was obliged to think in terms of scripture, God’s commandments and the context of history, meaning having regard to the implications of events and how they would affect the long-time Orthodox people, the flock that our Lord Jesus Christ has entrusted to our care.” This in turn raised the issue of whether the flow of refugees, if it continued in the current extent, “would change the existing ethnic balance in our fatherland Bulgaria.”
Many Orthodox Christians raised in the American melting pot wish to impose upon Orthodoxy an internationalist anthropology that claims Humanity is so completely one that distinctions such as ethnicity and race do not exist, or if they do exist are absolutely insignificant, and are just social constructs with no theological significance. God intended for organic Nations to exist as part of His creation, as well as to continue into eternity and are not just the by products of chance. It is also a sin for one to wish, let alone endeavor, to see Organic Nations come to an end or be snuffed out in any way whether through Hot Genocide (Physical violence) or the more popular Cool Genocide (Encouraged mass emigration and interbreeding).
Many today claim Ethno-Nationalism equals the heretical opinion of Ethno-Phyletism. I’m arguing that Ethno-Nationalism is not the same as Phyletism, that Phyletism is being misrepresented by those who want to see nationalism in all its forms destroyed, and identify those whom I firmly believe to be in error regarding this important issue. The great Romanian theologian Father Dumitru Staniloae was unknown to many and also a fervent nationalist. He wrote on this topic more than once throughout his life and never retracted anything he said on the subject. One article that I will be referring to is Orthodoxy and Nationalism.
Not all nationalisms are good. In fact we have seen throughout human history that unhealthy nationalisms have brought much suffering to the world. And when Father Dumitru posed the question, “Can nationalism be bad” his answer was, “It could be, if it presents itself as something vicious, petty, without heights and purity of feeling and thought.” I believe that in this statement we find the true essence of what Ethno-Phyletism really is about. However, one cannot say that Ethno-Phyletism is the same thing as a healthy Nationalism (Ethno-Patriatism) and preferential love for ones own people or the desire to preserve and defend them against enemies who would destroy them.
There is more than one way to destroy a nation. There is the outright wholesale slaughter of a people through hot genocide and then there is that which takes place through mass immigration and miscegenation (Cool genocide). Both have as their end result the annihilation of a race or nation of people. The Orthodox Church has never promoted this.
As Father Stanly Harakas wrote in his book 455 questions and answers about the Orthodox Church,
“I feel I made it very clear that the Church does not feel such marriages (inter-racial) 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 article “Orthodoxy and Ethnicity” from the booklet Orthodox Tradition put out by the Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies states: “As for the Church’s condemnation of phyletism, it is not directed at nationalism ….. Rather it addresses the notion that only one single nationality or race, over and above all others, will be saved.” But that said there is a healthy nationalism, one that cannot be but from God himself, a nationalism that is so closely related to the command to honor thy Father and Mother that the Moscow Patriarchate in it’s Basis of the Social Concept of The Russian Orthodox Church stated that,
“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.”
We must go back to the primordial Creation story, of how God made the plants, animals and man in his pre-lapsarian condition. Father Staniloae says, “God first created at the beginning, Adam and Eve. But within themselves all the nations were potentially contained.” In this statement Father Staniloae demonstrates the universality of human nature as well as the idea of organic nations. It is worth noting that Genesis 1:24 states an important principle in God’s creative plan, “And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.”
The opinion that different races come from separate ancestors, unrelated (Polygenism) has to be explicitly condemned. All men that have ever lived, no matter what country or race, have a shared common human nature, and are both harmed by the sin of Adam, as well as redeemed through Christ’s redemptive economy. But we cannot stop at this point and say, that Human nature is an abstract generic thing without particulars.
You cannot removed the individual or national characteristics from an individual or a nation in order to let the human aspect be pure. That would destroy very humanity itself. The national or the individual is the human itself which necessarily has a certain quality. A human without quality, cannot exist. In other words God intended for nations to exist before the fall as much as after the fall and even wills them into eternity. Some would assert that races and nations came about as a result of the Fall. This Father Dumitru denies when he asks, “Is a specific nationality a distortion of that which is human, a decay of the human being?” He answers by saying “Sin or evil is of another form than unity or diversity. It is a distortion, a disfigurement of the thing given, of the existence produced by another Power.” As I mentioned earlier Father Staniloae makes the point that nations will exist into eternity, he says, “I believe that God does not want to cancel out any of the national variety created by Him, or historical geography, but wants to transfigure, to exalt, to change the face. As God wants to unite people in one, He also did not want a single nation. Therefore I enjoy reading these wonderful words of Revelation, chapter 21, verse 25-26: “And the gates will not be shut by day, for night shall not be there. And the kings of the earth will bring into it the glory and honor of the nations “; So every nation in the next life will bring honor and glory and beauty. The beauty of Orthodoxy is that it promotes nations.
Now, where may you ask does Father Staniloaoe find the theological justification to say what he says about God intending the existence of specific races and ethnicities of men? He draws heavily from the theology of St. Maximos the Confessor. Maximus developed more than any writer before him the idea that the Word, the Logos, made all things by means of certain logoi (“words,” “reasons,” or “principles”) that come from Him. These logoi are the ideas and wills of God by which He creates everything and imparts unto everything its unique characteristics. The act of creation itself is the differentiation of the logoi which become multiple in creation while remaining one and simple in the divine Logos (Christ).
When God wills someone or something into existence, such as the logos of Paul, it is “spoken,” by God, and Paul comes to be. The logos of Paul has three aspects. (1) It is the cause of his existence, for prior to God saying, “fiat Paul,” there is literally, ontologically, no Paul to speak of. (2) It is the principle of Paul’s being, or the definition of who he is according to nature–not merely a generic human being, but this particular boy we call Paul. And (3) it also includes the divine intention or purpose for which God created Paul, his role in the divine plan and his ultimate salvation and union with God. So, Fr. Staniloaoe’s assertion is that nations, as can plainly be seen from his above statements and in the case of individuals, are made by means of God’s logoi, ie. part of predetermined will of Almighty God. As was also echoed by the late Metropolitan Vitaly of the Russian Church Abroad when he stated, “There is no man without a nation or tribe, nor is there a religion without a nation, just as there is no nation without a religion. These two phenomena are mutually dependent and cannot be separated either in time or in composition.”
In echoing the thought of Father Staniloae, Romanian theologian Father Dumitru Popescu goes on to say in an interview, “God created the world as a unity in diversity. Therefore, from the Orthodox point of view, the universal is not given a place over and above the particular, but it is side by side with it, because this universe is given the power of the Holy Spirit which is designed in Christ and the Church to transfigure all peoples and places. Patristic theology says that the Holy Spirit is everywhere present and entire in each part so as to intergrate the universal and particular.
Therefore, from the Orthodox viewpoint, world unity, like the unity of the Church, can only be a catholic community that affirms the identity of every people and every culture. It is not a closed identity, but open to all for mutual enrichment. Every people can make a specific contribution, which is for the benefit of others. And we think this is one concept of a community that can demonstrate the specific value of each nation, and a beneficial cooperation between them.” In his work Church and State, Father Popescu postulates that Orthodox social thought could be drawn from a model offered by Trinitarian theology. The dynamic vision of the unity and transcendence of the Trinity would represent the medium for dialogue between Orthodoxy and contemporary society.
In reflecting on the thought of Popescu, Romanian theological student A. Ionescu says: “In the patristic theology the particular is part of the universal without losing its identity. This aspect is emphasized in the cosmological theology of St. Athanasius and St. Maximus the Confessor:
“The One Reason (Logos)” is many “, and the many reasons (logoi) are one “(St Maximus) The cosmos retains the character of an icon made in the image of the Trinity, who possesses It’s rationality (in a sense).The Trinity is one in being but at the same time three in persons. After this model the Church possesses universality and at the same time particular specifics. Thus there is one universal Orthodox Church comprised of several national Orthodox Churches. The national churches are not some different entities within the universal, but are precisely the many manifestations of the universal, the universal couldn’t exist in concrete, as universal in itself, but only in the particular.”
Father Dumitru Staniloae was, by no means, a fringe theologian, but was a true representative of the “Canonical” Orthodox Church. I must mention that the Romanian Patriarchal Holy Synod itself condemned anti-nationalism as it is expressed by Masonry when it wrote, “Freemasonry fights against the natural law, willed by God, that mankind is composed of nations “-Point seven of the Romanian Church anti-freemasonry anathema (1937) ”
In conclusion, we must revere organic nations because of what they are: part of God’s unfolding of creation that will not terminate in the eschaton, but rather will continue unto the ages of ages as all nations stand before the throne of God praising him forever. St. John the Theologian prophesied in the book of the Apocalypse,
“And He showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.”