Saturday, December 11, 2021

Orthodox America Has a Cultural Marxist Problem

Martyrdom of Archbishop Joachim of Nizhny Novgorod - he was crucified by the Communists upside down, on the Royal Doors of the Cathedral in Sebastopol in 1920

Dr. Aram G. Sarkisian recently wrote an article for the misnamed website “Public Orthodoxy” (which promotes pretty much everything except Orthodoxy) entitled “Orthodox America Has a Lost Cause Problem,” which was written in response to the launch of the Ludwell Orthodox Fellowship website, which is a website dedicated to the spread of the Orthodox Faith in the South, and also to discussing those aspects of Southern culture which are good, conducive to living an Orthodox life, and worth preserving. Apparently, Dr. Sarkisian thinks that this is not only a threat to the Orthodox Church (which is a Church he is not a member of, being an Armenian Monophysite), but also a threat to our democracy. 

Social Justice Warrior Hypocrisy

Dr. Sarkisian, like many contemporary “social justice” advocates, congratulates himself that 156 years after slavery was banned in the United States, he too is opposed to slavery; and that 57 years after the passage of the Civil Right Act, he too thinks black people should be treated equally. Such virtue signaling is popular these days because it gives people the false sense of being virtuous, and also, so they hope, gives them the appearance of being virtuous. But to be truly morally virtuous, one has to take actions that actually cost them something. Such virtue signaling costs nothing, any more than does coming out against wife-beating or foot-binding. 

But let us, for the moment, leave behind the moral questions of the past, and talk about some of the moral questions of the present. In American universities today, symbols of the Confederacy are railed against, and even statues of our founding fathers are no longer considered to be acceptable. However, Marxist symbols are chic, and Marxist ideology is regularly and openly promoted. And yet there is no ideology in the history of the human race that has produced more bloodshed and misery than Marxism – nor one that even comes close. Marxists are the moral superiors of no one, and those who enable them with their silence or complicity are not much better. 

Communist China is ruled by one the most brutal and bloody regimes of any nation in history. They intentionally starved and murdered tens of millions of their own people (some estimates go as high as 100 million), they have brutal concentration camps, which are up and running even as we speak, they are engaged in an ongoing genocide against the Uyghurs, and have only been slightly less severe in their treatment of Tibetans, only because Buddhists tend to be less violent in their resistance than Muslims. And much of what Communist China exports is produced by actual slave labor, or in near slave labor conditions. Apple products are produced in factories with conditions that are so bad that they had to put nets under the windows of the upper floors of their buildings to prevent workers from jumping to their deaths – so instead of improving conditions, so that workers wouldn’t want to kill themselves rather than to go on living, they simply made sure they couldn’t easily kill themselves, so that they would be forced to continue working in such conditions... so that social justice warriors in the west could get their latest iPhones at a reasonable price. But since Communist China has purchased a great deal of influence in academia, the media, and the government, criticizing their ongoing atrocities might actually cost someone who wants to be a career academic.

I scrolled through Dr. Sarkisian’s Twitter and Facebook feeds to see what kind of issues he thinks are important enough to comment on, and he is pro-abortion, supports Planned Parenthood – the #1 organization in the world that kills babies for money – and he thinks Biden should pack the Supreme Court to ensure that unfettered abortion remains the law of the land. He supports gay marriage, and the “LGBTQIA” agenda. He supports critical race theory – as he also does in his Public Orthodoxy essay – and CRT is rooted in Marxist theory. I found no expression of concern about slave labor or genocide in Communist China, nor the slaughter of Christians in Nigeria. No concern is expressed about the human trafficking that is allowed free passage across our border with Mexico, or the sexual slavery in the United States that it supplies with fresh victims. In short, Dr. Sarkisian does not take any public positions that would be out of fashion with the leftists that now dominate American academia. I would be interested in hearing of any position on any issue that he has taken that actually involved any personal cost or risk to his career. Perhaps he has, but if he has, one has to look pretty hard to find it.

Tossing Around Labels 

Most of his comments about the Ludwell Orthodox Fellowship have very little to do with anything actually posted on the website. He engages in guilt by association, by artificially linking this website with white supremacists (whom I have written extensively against) and the “January 6th insurrection,” (which after nearly a year, no one has been charged with insurrection, treason, or any other charge that an actual insurrection would have resulted in), by mentioning a priest who happened to be at the rally, but who took no part in anything illegal, and who also has no connection to the Ludwell Orthodox Fellowship. He finds it odd that this website dedicated to promoting the Orthodox Faith in the South would be named after the first convert to Orthodoxy in America, who also happened to be a Southerner. I find it odd that he would find that odd. Philip Ludwell III happens to be a cousin of mine, whom I am related to by multiple family connections, and he was the first person to bring Orthodoxy to the South, and so is therefore a perfect person to name this fellowship after.

He pointed out an article written by Rebecca Dillingham (on her own blog) that complained about the “deification” of Martin Luther King jr., in contrast with the attempts to erase the memory of Stonewall Jackson. I personally have no problem with celebrating the good things that MLK helped to accomplish, but we do know that there are FBI recordings of him participating in a rape, and so there are actual reasons one might have for being concerned about the degree to which he is held up as a hero, and if we are going to cancel historical figures in whom we can find any flaws, this certainly seems like a pretty big one. Stonewall Jackson was a man of his times, whose views on race would not coincide with those most of us hold today (though the same could be said of almost everyone of that time period), but he was a military genius, a man of courage, and he actually did care about black people. He taught a black Sunday school class (which taught children how to read and write -- not just about the faith) and supplied its needs out of his own pocket, and out of that Sunday School class came  four black churches, and several Black clergymen, who held him in high regard. Booker T. Washington wrote in 1910: 

"The first white people in America, certainly the first in the South to exhibit their interest in the reaching of the Negro and saving his soul through the medium of the Sunday-school were Robert E. Lee and 'Stonewall Jackson.' ... Where Robert E. Lee and 'Stonewall’ Jackson have led in the redemption of the Negro through the Sunday-school, the rest of us can afford to follow.”

Dr. Sarkisian freely tosses around the label of "white supremacist," but he ought to back up such claims with actual evidence that this is the case, rather than by begging the question, and assuming that any sympathy with Southern history makes one a racist. Such things are serious charges, and when they are made without any real basis, those who make them are violating the commandment against bearing false witness against your neighbor. 

Knee-Jerk Responses to Anything Southern

I suspect much of Dr. Sarkisian’s reaction to this website is a knee-jerk response that assumes when we are speaking of Southern culture, that we are speaking exclusively of white Southern culture, despite the fact that one of the articles he linked to is part of a series highlighting saints that are connected to the primary populations of the South, which include British, Western European, and African saints. As a matter of fact, when I think about the deeply religious culture of the South, some of the primary examples that come to my mind are the many pious Southern black co-workers I worked with over the 27 years that I worked for the State of Texas. Most of my co-workers were black females, and most of my supervisors over those years were also black females, and while I am sure that they often voted differently than I did, when we spoke about what was right or wrong, I generally felt a stronger kinship with them, then I did with most of my less religious white co-workers. Obviously, none of those people were Orthodox Christians, but there are many things about their culture and faith that would help them to connect to it more easily.

When I first began working for the State of Texas, I was part of a training group for six months that consisted of about eight black women, two white women, one black man, and one Hispanic man, and myself. We were also trained by a team of three black women. I remember one day when we were eating lunch together, we somehow got on the topic of abortion, and it was me and the eight black women, against the two liberal white women, with the other two men staying out of it. Over the years that I worked for the State of Texas, I discovered that black people generally are far more socially conservative than most white people, at least in the urban context that I have lived and worked in. This was also evident in California which had a constitutional amendment on the ballot to ban same-sex marriage. Had only white people voted, the amendment would not have passed. It was Blacks and Hispanics that swung that vote. Here in Houston, when they had an ordinance that would have allowed men who think they are women to use women's restrooms, the ordinance was voted down... and this is in a city where white people are about a third of the population. It was black and Hispanic Churches that led the push to overturn this ordinance, and it was voted down by an overwhelming majority of voters.

The South has long been portrayed as either the swarthy villain of American history, or a place filled with rubes and buffoons. If you hear a Southern accent in a film, you can usually be sure that the person is either evil, or the object of the film's ridicule. Christians are often treated the same way, and if you have a Southerner and a Christian, they are the ultimate "other," being members of two of the few groups of people we are still allowed to mock, ridicule, and hate. 

The Lost Cause, the Righteous Cause, or Complex Causes?

The Ludwell Orthodox Fellowship was not established to defend the Confederacy, but rather to focus on what is good, true, and beautiful in Southern culture, and to highlight how these things can help us to continue to grow the Orthodox Church in this region. However, if the “Lost Cause” is a myth, it is certainly not more so than the myth of the "Righteous Cause" – the claim that the North fought the war to free black people from slavery – because nothing could be further from the truth. But after more than a million people died, and many more were maimed and scarred for life during the course of the war, it made many feel better to believe it was true

In Lincoln’s first inaugural address he advocated for a constitutional amendment (the Corwin amendment, which many scholars think he was actually the author of) which would have protected slavery forever, and made it impossible ever to amend the Constitution to give Congress authority over slavery. 

“I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution, which amendment, however, I have not seen, has passed Congress, to the effect that the federal government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service. To avoid misconstruction of what I have said, I depart from my purpose not to speak of particular amendments, so far as to say that holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable” (First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861, Washington, D.C.).

I have had an above average interest in history all of my life, and yet I don't recall this amendment being discussed in any treatment of the Civil War that I had come across until just a few years ago, and when I have discussed this topic with many others, I have found that people generally have never heard of this. It is far easier to run with the cartoon version of history that the North were the good guys, who invaded the South to set black people free, Lincoln was the saint who led them, and that Southerners were fighting only to thwart this righteous crusade -- but this was the most important speech Lincoln had ever given up to this point in his life, and he was offering to keep slavery in place forever, if only the South would not secede from the Union. T. S. Eliot observed that mankind can take just so much reality. Better to run with the myth of the Great Emancipator than to face the loss of a million lives merely to avoid a negotiated division of the Union.

The US Congress also passed a nearly unanimous resolution on July 25, 1861, which stated that the war was being fought only to preserve the Union, and not to end slavery.

Aside from the desire to preserve the Union, the North was also concerned about the loss of tariffs, which at that time was the primary means of support for the federal government, and the bulk of those tariffs came from Southern ports. They were concerned about losing control of the Mississippi river, which was vital to northern and midwestern trade, even though the Confederacy had given assurances that they would allow for the free navigation of the Mississippi. And in the beginning, there was concern that the Confederacy might snowball, and that even northern and western states might join it.

If the original seven Confederate States were only concerned with protecting slavery, Lincoln's offer to protect slavery forever with an irrevocable amendment should have ended the entire matter, but it did not because it was not the only issue. It is true that in the articles of secession in these seven states, slavery was cited as an issue, along with abolitionist terrorism, and a failure on the part of northern states to abide by the Constitution, which required that they extradite those involved in John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, so that they could be tried for the crime. John Brown was attempting to spark a Haitian style slave revolt that had the potential to engulf the South in a bloodbath. If you were a white person living in the South at that time, you did not have to be a defender of slavery to be concerned with that kind of a solution to the problem. And the fact that many in the North celebrated John Brown as a hero caused real concern among Southerners for what the future would hold under a Republican administration. For more on that, see the lecture “What we have to Expect," Harper's Ferry: Abolitionism, Extradition, and Secession” by Jonathan White.

Some may mention that Southerners were complaining that they were not being allowed to take their slaves into western territories. Had these seven states been allowed to secede, the territories would no longer have been an issue. Furthermore, the fugitive slave act would no longer have applied to them, and like it or not, this act was called for by the Constitution as it was originally framed. The fugitive slave act did amount to a government subsidy of slavery, and this subsidy being removed would have made being a slave owner a lot less profitable and sped up the process of slavery eventually coming to an end. This is in fact how slavery was peacefully ended in Brazil. Some states ended slavery. Slaves from neighboring states would escape to those states. This led to more states ending slavery, until finally it was ended completely.

It should also be noted that secession does not cause war. Trying to forcefully prevent it does, but secession itself is not an act of war. When Britain signed the peace treaty that ended the Revolutionary War, they actually made peace with each of the 13 colonies, not with a single entity called "the United States." When it was decided to scrap the Articles of Confederation, the new Constitution was set to go into effect if only 9 of the 13 states ratified it, and it would have only been in effect for those that ratified it. The other states would have been independent. The right of secession was explicitly asserted in the acts ratifying the Constitution in Virginia and in New York. New England states often threatened secession in the years after the Constitution was ratified, and so it was understood to be an option available to the states. The EU has not gone to war with the UK over Brexit. There was not a war when the various states of the Soviet Union seceded from it. And so even if we grant that the original seven states did secede over slavery alone, there was nothing in the Constitution which prevented them from doing so, nor was it a reason for there to be a war rather than a negotiated separation.

It is also incorrect to assume that those who did want to maintain slavery in the South all supported secession, or that all who supported secession wanted to maintain slavery. There were many slave owners who correctly believed that slavery was far safer in the Union, than in the proposed Confederacy. Sam Houston, who was a slave owner and a staunch Unionist, as the governor of the state of Texas did everything he could to prevent, or at least to stall secession. He even accurately predicted the outcome of the war. However, like many in the South who had opposed secession, he began to support the Confederate war effort when Lincoln called for troops to invade the South without consulting Congress and in defiance of the ruling of President James Buchanan and his attorney general that the central government had no constitutional authority to use the army to force a sovereign state back in the Union. This is also why the next four Southern states seceded. Virginia, for example, had voted against secession, and those opposing secession were led by no less than Jubal Early, who later became a Confederate general, and is often credited with being the father of the “Lost Cause.” But in the face of Lincoln’s call for troops to invade the seceding states, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas reversed their earlier decision and voted to secede. Like President Buchanan, they believed Lincoln’s invasion was unconstitutional. They do not present protecting slavery as their reason for secession.

Prior to the actual invasion, many Southerners continued to support the Union, but most (though certainly not all) switched sides when they were faced with the conduct of Union troops on their soil. One such example is Jack Hinson, who was a slave owner from Tennessee, who had even hosted Grant at his home at one point early in the war. One day his sons were out hunting, and a patrol of Union cavalry came along, assumed that they were “bushwhackers,” shot them, beheaded them, and mounted their heads on the posts of Jack Hinson’s gate. Hinson kept his calm. He freed all of his slaves, because he actually was concerned about their welfare, provided them with a share of his land, had a specially designed sniper rifle made, and then went on a one-man war against the Union Army.

It is a serious mistake to assume that slavery was something the South chose or was solely responsible for. At the time of the American Revolution, slavery was legal in every colony. The colony of Georgia had outlawed slavery, but this was overruled by the King, because the slave trade was very lucrative to the Crown. Other southern colonies had petitioned the Crown to stop the slave trade, because there were growing concerns about the risk of having such a sizeable population of slaves. In the original draft of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson had proposed to cite the importation of slaves to America as one of the grievances against England:

“he [the King] has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it's most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither.”

Slavery is a result of the Fall, however, it has been a reality throughout human history, even up to the present day, because man is still fallen. Almost every human society has had slavery in one form or another. It was always a bad thing, but it was often a less bad option when the alternatives were slaughtering captured enemies or turning them loose so that they could come back and slaughter you. The African slave trade would have been impossible without the Africans who ran it. Only a small portion of the slaves exported from Africa ended up in North America, and slavery as it existed in the United States was certainly not the worst place such slaves ended up. For most of human history, slavery was accepted as a fact of life. For more information, see the Just Thinking Podcast, Episode 63 "Slavery Reparations" (which begins by citing some horrible examples of abuse from Slave Narratives in the South, but goes on to talk about the bigger picture of slavery and the African slave trade). Also, listen to this recorded account of George Johnson, who was one of Jefferson Davis' former slaves.

After independence, gradual emancipation began to be enacted in the North, and it was moving towards the South. About half of the blacks in Maryland were already free at the time of the Civil War, and Virginia had been heading in the same direction. Much of this was due to the industrial revolution, which was likewise making its way south. The slave trade was almost entirely run by New Englanders, and this was without a doubt one of the most inhumane aspects of slavery. It was banned in 1808, but even so, no voice was raised in the North on behalf of emancipation until the 1830s, and that only by a few highly vocal abolitionists. But much of the wealth in the North had been built upon the slave trade, and much of it continued to be based on the exploitation of slave produced goods. So slavery was a national problem, not just a southern problem. But there was never any serious effort on the part of the North to advance a workable plan for emancipation. The model that should have been followed was that of Great Britain, which ended slavery peacefully, and by sharing the costs of doing so as a nation. Had there been a serious proposal along those lines, had the South rejected it, and had the North threatened to invade for the purpose of ending slavery, then there would actually be a basis to the claims that the invasion was justified.

With the exception of a very small minority even among the Abolitionists, slavery was not opposed out of concern for the welfare of black people. Slavery was simply used as a bludgeon against the South, which had been politically dominant, but with the addition of new states in the West, was no longer so. Most Northern states had laws which prevented free black people from settling there. Lincoln’s Illinois, for example, with his approval, prohibited free blacks from entering the state:

“The general assembly shall, at its first session under the amended constitution, pass such laws as will effectually prohibit free persons of color from immigrating to and settling in this state; and to effectually prevent the owners of slaves from bringing them into this state for the purpose of setting them free” (Article 14 of the Constitution of Illinois, which was ratified in 1848). 

It seems to me, that if you really opposed slavery, you would be happy to have slave owners bring slaves to your state for the purpose of setting them free. 

Many abolitionists in the North believed that if black people were emancipated, they would be pushed to the margins of society, and wither away. And this is because that is how emancipation generally happened in the North when those states ended slavery. Ralph Waldo Emerson, for example wrote:

“The dark man, the black man declines, it will happen by and by that the black man will only be destined for museums like the Dodo” (The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. William H. Gillman, et al. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, Belknap Press (1960-92), 3:286., Qtd in Joanne Pope Melish, Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and “Race” in New England, 1780-1860, (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000) p. 218).

There is no moral merit in people who held such views. They opposed slavery because it conflicted with their economic and political interests and because they did not want to live with blacks, slave or free. For more, see Anti-Slavery and Northern Racism and Anti-Slavery, Secession and New England Cultural Imperialism, by Donald Livingston, as well as Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and “Race” in New England, 1780-1860, by Joanne Pope Melish.

Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation intended to use emancipation as a threat, which he hoped would cause at least parts of the South to surrender before it went into effect. It also had the potential for sparking slave revolts in the South – though interestingly, this did not happen, though many farms had only white old men, women, and children left to defend against such revolts. However, at the Hampton Roads peace conference in February of 1865, Lincoln said that if the South ended the war, he would allow slavery to continue for decades longer, even after this proclamation.

We see how emancipation was used first as a threat, and then as a punishment for the South – without any mention of the welfare of black people – in one of Gen. William T. Sherman’s letters during the war:

“Three years ago, by a little reflection and patience, they could have had a hundred years of peace and prosperity, but they preferred war; very well. Last year they could have saved their slaves, but now it is too late. All the powers of earth cannot restore to them their slaves, any more than their dead grandfathers. Next year their lands will be taken, for in war we can take them, and rightfully, too, and in another year they may beg in vain for their lives. A people who will persevere in war beyond a certain limit ought to know the consequences. Many, many peoples with less pertinacity have been wiped out of national existence” (Letter to Major R.M. Sawyer, January 1864).

If Napoleon had issued an emancipation proclamation in Russia, when his invasion was failing to achieve the goals he originally had in mind when he launched it, his proclamation would not have made that war about ending serfdom. The emancipation of slaves in the South was only raised as an issue because the North was not winning the war on the battlefield, and there was the serious prospect of Britain and France intervening to help the South. The Emancipation Proclamation failed to induce the South to surrender, and it failed to inspire slave revolts, but it did succeed in preventing foreign intervention. So it was useful for winning the war. The South likewise was moving towards emancipation as a war measure. It was moving slower, however, only because it was a lot easier to proclaim someone else’s slaves to be free, than it was to come up with a workable plan to do it yourself, when you had to live with the consequences of it. The North never considered the consequences of emancipation. Consequently, slavery was ended in pretty much the worst possible way. Slaves were set free, but in the context of a devastated South, and with very little provision made for the former slaves, or for anyone else. For more information see the book "Sick from Freedom: African-American Illness and Suffering during the Civil War and Reconstruction," by Jim Downs (Oxford University Press, 2015).

So the Union was not waging a righteous crusade for selfless motives. Neither side consisted of angels, but Northerners were not more virtuous than Southerners. People don't choose the place or time of their birth. Northerners who didn't want to be around black people and spoke openly of their extinction as a race were not morally superior, simply because they were born in a region that was less conducive to the kind of agriculture that made slavery profitable and not in a region where the industrial revolution developed more slowly. The causes of the war were complicated, and while ending slavery was one good thing that came out the war, it was done in such a horrible way that it condemned most freedmen to a life of extreme poverty, in the midst of a region that had been devastated.

It should also be noted that the Union Army adopted a policy of making war on the civilian population of the South, and that this was a departure from the norms of warfare that had existed in the Christian west up to that time. There is a direct line from Sherman's march to the sea and his laying waste to South Carolina, and Sheridan's scorched earth devastation of the Shenandoah Valley, to the horrors of the First and Second World Wars, and our government dropping atomic bombs on Japan. Making war in this manner is effective, but the world is certainly not a better place as a result.

Everyone is free to come to their own conclusions on questions of history, but given the evidence I have seen, my conclusions seem reasonable to me. I would also add that I think one benefit of debunking the Righteous Cause myth would be that perhaps Americans would be more inclined to be skeptical, the next time our government tries to talk us into a war by painting one side as evil, and our motives as only unselfish and noble.

Reconstruction, Segregation, and Racial Violence

When you hear about Reconstruction, you might be tempted to think that this was sort of an earlier version of the Marshall Plan, but it was not. There was no effort to aid the South to rebuild, or even to prevent starvation. Rather, Southerners were subjected to punitive taxes that they were generally in no position to pay. Also, instead of encouraging racial harmony, radical Republicans sought to use freed Blacks as a means of keeping political power. Southern states which had helped to ratify the 13th Amendment, which ended slavery after the war, were then declared to be no longer states at all, but parts of military districts. The 14th Amendment granted black men the right to vote, while taking the right to vote away from the vast majority of Southern men who had supported the Confederacy during the war. Emancipation would have been a difficult transition to manage under the best of circumstances, but this made it far worse than necessary.

Dr. Sarkisian mentions Jim Crow laws but fails to mention that Jim Crow laws actually began in the North and were only adopted in the South in the late 19th century, as those who had grown up in the antebellum period passed from power, and the New South movement began to gain dominance, which was part of the Progressive movement. They wanted the South to be more like the North, and so adopted the Northern way of handling race relations. Granted, the North repealed these laws before they were ended in the South, but segregation did not end in the North when legal segregation ended. Today, cities like Chicago are still far more segregated than most Southern cities. For more information, see the book "The Strange Career of Jim Crow," by C. Vann Woodward (Oxford University Press, 1955).

The Houston area, where I live, is one of the most integrated metro areas in the United States. Just this past weekend a neighbor we had known since we moved to our neighborhood in 1995 passed away, unexpectedly. She was half Mexican and half German. Her husband is part Japanese and Caucasian. My wife (who is from the deep south of China) and I went over to comfort him and found him sitting on the bed of his pickup truck, while he was waiting for the coroner to arrive, and he was already being comforted by a black woman who lives next door, and a Mexican woman who lives across the street. This was a sad occasion, but this kind of interaction is fairly typical.

As for extrajudicial racial terror, I am sure Dr. Sarkisian is not unaware of the fact that this has also not been a unique feature of the South. In the century following the Civil War, there were many parts of the US outside of the South where there were very few black people, and so the fact that there was less violence there was not due to any excess of virtue on the part of the people there. Alexis de Tocqueville noted in his antebellum book Democracy in America, that hatred of black people was far more pronounced in those areas where there had never been slavery, than it was in those areas where it existed. During Reconstruction there was a lot of extrajudicial violence, because in some places you had what amounted to a low-grade guerrilla war, and there were paramilitary elements on both sides. Blacks who voted Democrat were often targeted by those who supported Republicans, and Blacks who supported Republicans were often targeted by those who supported Democrats. But these kinds of groups were fairly effectively squashed. The KKK was “reborn” with the first full length motion picture “The Birth of a Nation,” which had a huge cultural impact, and inspired many people to want to reestablish such organizations. These groups came to the South too, but they were actually more popular in the North and Midwest, and their ideology was more based on New England Know Nothingism, than on anything particularly Southern. For example, they were staunchly anti-Catholic, and antisemitic, while the Confederacy had many prominent Roman Catholics and Jews (including a Jewish Secretary of State), and the largest Jewish military cemetery outside of Israel in the world is a Jewish Confederate cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. Indiana was actually controlled at one time by the KKK. When the KKK marched through Washington, D.C. in 1925, they were holding American flags, not Confederate flags. Racial violence is horrible. The South certainly went through a period where this was a big problem, and as a result of this, along with the crushing poverty which persisted after the Civil War, between World War I and 1970, there was a big migration of black people out of the South, resulting in only 52% of the black population remaining in the South at its lowest point. It should also be noted, however, that there was a big migration of white people out of the South during the same period, and for the same economic reasons (my father's family being among them). Since the 1970’s, the trend in black migration has been reversing, and with ever increasing momentum. Obviously, we are not suggesting that everything about the South or Southern history is good, or that there are no problems that remain, but these were not uniquely Southern problems. And these are problems that are generally things of the past in the South.

And to leave no room for misunderstanding -- any group that espouses racial hatred is evil. Any group that encourages violence against people based on their race, religion, or their political views is evil. And that goes for the KKK, Neo-Nazis, Antifa, the Black Panthers, those who promote Critical Race Theory, or any other similar groups or ideologies.

Is Dixie Racist?

Black people in the South have generally not been in favor of removing Southern symbols from public spaces. They have not historically been offended by the word “Dixie,” or even the song “Dixie.” I remember my 5th Grade teacher, who was a black woman, leading our class in singing Dixie, and no one found it odd. Ella Fitzgerald produced the song “Strictly from Dixie,” in which she proudly identified herself as being from there. There is a black Gospel group that is fairly well known, called “The Dixie Hummingbirds.” The Dukes of Hazard was a popular TV show that regularly featured a car known as "the General Lee," which played Dixie every time they beeped their horn, and had a big Confederate flag on it, and black people were not generally offended by it, and enjoyed watching it in very large numbers. I don't think we should allow Cultural Marxists to continue to dictate what we can say, or what we can think, and Dixie is not racist just because they say so. It is simply a term of endearment for the region, and the song is simply a song about loving it, and there is nothing wrong with that. 

Going South

I’m not at all sure why Dr. Sarkisian finds the prospect of St. Vladimir Seminary moving to the South problematic. It is a growing part of the country, and clearly the center of gravity in Orthodox America is shifting from the Northeast to the South. Churches in the North are often closing, while Churches in the South are growing and multiplying. When I was a relatively new convert, and returned to live in Texas in 1992, there was only one ROCOR parish in the state, and there were not more than a handful of parishes in the Houston area. Now there are nine ROCOR parishes in Texas, and more than 20 parishes in the greater Houston area.

It is not racist to notice that New York is a very expensive state to live in, with very burdensome regulations. It is not racist to prefer small government, low taxes, and an affordable cost of living. I am glad that I live in a state that now has a constitutional ban on any state or local official shutting down worship services, for any reason. We have relatively low crime, and most of the people are nice. And that is why so many people are moving here. I just hope that they keep in mind why they are moving here, and don't vote for people who want to recreate the problems that they are fleeing from.

It is not the contention of anyone associated with the Ludwell Orthodox Fellowship that Orthodoxy is only suited for those in red states, or for any particular ethnic group. But we live here, and we want to see it spread here. The suggestion that we are giving a safe harbor to white supremacy is a lie. I have written and preached fairly extensively against racism. I suspect my parish is in the higher percentile when it comes to the ratio of “people of color” (several of whom are my family members) to white people. I am happy to see that there are groups that are trying to specifically reach black people with the faith. I do what I can to do that myself too, along with anyone else whom I can reach. I don’t think skin color is especially important. For the Church, there are only two races: the fallen race of Adam, and the Christian race. But culture is important, and it is important that people have a sense of rootedness. Rootless people are what Marxists try to create, so that they can mold them into what they think they ought to be. People with roots have the ability to resist.

There are reasons why the South is generally more religious than the rest of the country. It is true that this is being lost in some areas, partly due to people from outside of the South moving here, and partly because of the general cultural rot. There is a trend away from more conservative theology and practice in many non-Orthodox denominations too -- but that is one of the reasons why Orthodoxy is growing, because people who feel like their church has abandoned them are open to Orthodoxy now in a way that they would not have been 20 or 30 years ago.

Cultural Marxism and Critical Race Theory

I am aware that people on the left try to argue that Cultural Marxism is just a conspiracy theory, but this is simply not true. Cultural Marxism comes out of the work of several Marxist philosophers who began to realize that Marx's theory that the proletariat would eventually rise and overthrow their societies and establish Communism was not panning out. They came to realize that even the poor identified with the cultural institutions that supported the established order, and so they began to work on ways to separate people from their loyalty to these institutions. Critical Race Theory is but one expression of Critical Theory. Critical Theory generally seeks to analyze what it studies in terms of Marxist theories, but instead of focusing on economic issues primarily, they focus on issues of race, or gender, and then seek to identify who the oppressors are, and who are the oppressed in any given context, and to interpret their subject matter in ways that liberate the oppressed. It promotes activist scholarship, that throws off any effort at objectivity, in favor of an approach that advocates for certain groups and agendas favored by the radical left. For more information, see the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, s.v. Critical Theory; In Our Time (from BBC4): S12/16 The Frankfurt School (Jan 14 2010); and Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity -- and Why this Harms Everybody, by Helen Pluckrose & James Lindsay (Pitchstone Publishing, 2020).

Marxist theories are not developed for nothing. Marxist theories are designed to bring about Marxism. Marxism is inherently coercive, and its history in actual practice shows that it is not just wrong -- it is evil. It's not just that it doesn't work – it's that it results in death and misery on a massive scale. It ostensibly is designed to bring about liberation, but in actual practice it brings about slavery of the mind and body. It attempts to destroy human society as it actually is, and to replace it with one based on an inhuman ideology. 

Dr. Sarkisian mocks parents who do not want their children taught Critical Race Theory, but CRT is not designed to bring about racial harmony. CRT is designed to stoke racial animosity, and to use it as a wedge to overthrow the system we have, in favor of the system that they want to replace it with. I suppose that there may be a lot of ignorant people who promote CRT without realizing its actual purpose, but you don't have to look very hard to discover who developed it, and why. CRT is not against racism -- it is racism. It teaches some children to feel virtuous because of their status as victims because of their race, and it teaches other children to feel ashamed because of their status as "oppressors" because of their race. We should teach history, but we should do so accurately and with balance, and we should focus on things that bring us together, rather than on things that divide us. We should be encouraging reconciliation. We should be teaching our children about real virtue and inspiring them to strive to be virtuous in reality, rather than to virtue signal, and then bask in fake warm fuzzy feelings. No society is perfect, but instead of trying to burn it all down, because there are flaws, we should work on the flaws. Marxists don't want to fix the problems – they want to intensify the problems, in order to impose their evil ideology on everyone else.

I think few would suggest that we should teach Mexican students that their culture is evil, because their ancestors practiced slavery, and engaged in human sacrifice. Few would say to Arabs that their ancestors were evil because their ancestors practiced slavery (and some still do). Few would say that West African children should be taught that their tribal culture is evil, because their ancestors sold other West Africans into slavery. In each of those cases we would think it perfectly legitimate for them to celebrate the good things their ancestors did, and the good things in the culture. Why should Americans in general, or Southerners in particular be treated any differently? Teaching people to hate their culture or to hate their ancestors is evil. We are taught to honor our parents, but that obligation doesn't stop at the immediate generation of ancestors prior to our own. That doesn't mean that we don't talk about bad things from the past, but we shouldn't fixate only on the bad things, and ignore all the good things either.

I am married to someone who was born during the cultural revolution in China. Her mother had to be raised by relatives, because the Communist murdered most of her family, because her father was guilty of being a successful merchant. My father-in-law was nearly worked to death as part of a forced labor policy -- which was slavery, but one of the worst examples of it the world has seen. He was malnourished, witnessed horrible summary executions, and he was only released from forced labor because he was at the point of death. Fortunately, my mother-in-law felt sorry for him, and nursed him back to health. Mao intentionally starved millions of his own people, because a terrorized population is a more compliant population. My wife's family had relatives who had made it to Hong Kong, and somehow, they were allowed to go to Hong Kong to join them, and then, not long before I met her in High School, they were able to immigrate to the US. 

Should China ever free itself from Communist control, future generations will not only lament the massive costs in human lives and suffering the Communists have inflicted on them, but they will bemoan what was lost to their history, and culture. They will condemn those who senselessly burned historical texts, and destroyed countless works of art, monuments, and historical buildings, because they did not comport to Marxist ideology. Were there things in Chinese culture that needed to be fixed? Yes. Were there many abuses throughout Chinese history? Yes. However, Chinese civilization is one of the great treasures of the world, and you don't burn it all down, simply to fix some problems... you work on the problems, while embracing the good. We should learn from their mistakes, rather than following down the same road.

Since becoming Orthodox, I have gotten to know many other people who experienced Marxism in real life rather than just in theory, and have heard many similarly horrible stories of life in the hands of Marxist utopians. I have never met anyone who actually experienced Marxism that would recommend it, but unfortunately for us, academics love utopian theories, and don't care that they have never accomplished anything good in the real world.

I don't know whether Dr. Sarkisian is a true believer in Marxism, or if he is merely willing to go along with it for the ride because in American academia today it helps one to fit in. But promoting an evil ideology is evil, whether you are doing it out of cowardice, or doing it out of conviction. Among the Orthodox in America, many of those whose parents or grandparents suffered at the hands of Marxists have apparently not been taught about how evil it is. We need to educate our people and be on guard against this growing problem -- which is a real danger and "threat to the integrity of democracy in the United States, and also to the moral integrity of the Orthodox jurisdictions found in this country."

See also Part II: What Happens When "Scholars" Fail to Address Arguments and Evidence Presented to Them

For more information see: 

Sermon: Cultural Marxism (November 26, 2018)

Sermon: Burning Down the House (June 7, 2020)