Orthodox Survival Course, Class 46: Russia and the End of the World, Part B – Monarchism and Nationalism

Listen to the podcast of this talk at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/osc-46

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Introduction – Apology for a Sidetrack

This section of our course, Faith Comes First, is supposed to focus on ecclesiological issues, especially the errors called Ecumenism and Sergianism, the apostasy of the historical Orthodox hierarchies in the 20th and 21st centuries, and the task of discerning where the True Church is in our times, with a view to our being in it and finding our salvation. Two classes ago, we dealt briefly with the history of Ecumenism in the 20th century, chiefly in reference to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and its leadership in the apostasy, but not without reference to specific Ecumenistic teachings and actions on the part of the various official hierarchies. Last week, we began our discussion of the Russian Church in the 20th century, and I spent a lot of time giving background, especially on the saints of the second millennium in Russia, ending with St. John of Kronstadt. Besides St. John’s spiritual character and theological traditionalism, I also referred to his hardcore positions on nationalism and monarchism. These are two subjects that properly belong to our later sections on Family and Society, but since I brought them up, and since they may be controversial (I have already received questions about it), I would like to say a few things about these topics right now. So today we are going to have two excursus (side-trips), on Monarchism and Nationalism.

By the way, I apologize (in both senses) for my getting carried away last time in talking about St. John of Kronstadt’s and New Hieromartyr Vladimir’s positions on monarchism. I apologize in the American sense of “Forgive me if my emotion or strong expression offended you”; I certainly have a way to go in acquiring the discretion to use just the right words to convey truth without getting aggressive. But I also apologize in the original sense, that is, to make a reasoned defense. I must defend my freedom to speak on controversial issues prior to becoming a passionless elder, which probably won’t happen until my final illness and deathbed (I hope). If I – or any sincere truth-seeker and truth-teller – get emotional or say rough things, that’s a lot better than cowardly silence, which is the problem today: The incensive power has been neutered, and men on the right side of life-and-death issues are shamed into silence by effeminate whiners who claim to be offended by hyperbole or rough language. So anyone out there who was offended by my quoting St. Vladimir the New Hieromartyr of Kiev saying that only a monarchist could be a good priest: If you happen to be a liberal democratic priest listening to my talk somewhere out there, I assure you that I do have charitable thoughts about you, and I don’t blame you or say I know that you, in our real life situation in 2019, are a bad priest. I ascribe your position on political theory to ignorance, not malice, until you prove otherwise.

It’s important to remember that you cannot isolate Orthodoxy as purely a theological position or Church membership as something divorced from the rest of one’s life. Orthodoxy does not only have a theology – Orthodoxy is concerned with the whole man, and therefore also with anthropology, domestic life, sociology, politics, and all the rest. There is no subject that is essential to understanding man’s life in this world that is foreign to the Church’s concerns, because She was founded by Christ to save people as they are, not people in the abstract. When people say, “The Church should not get involved in politics (or the arts or education or the family or medicine, or anything else besides having beautiful rituals and constructing magnificent church buildings),” what they really mean is that Satan should rule in man’s life, not Christ. There is no “value-neutral” position on how men live their lives: You are either with Christ or you are against Him. There is an Orthodox way of looking at everything.

As I have said before, “politics” is not a dirty word. It means something very specific, which is the science and art of arranging life in the greater community beyond the family hearth, which is essential to a truly human life. Aristotle calls it the highest level of ethical philosophy, because it incorporates all of the ethical wisdom involving smaller units – the individual, the family, and the clan – and brings it all together in a comprehensive vision, just as architecture is the queen of the visual arts, because it incorporates all of them in a microcosmic ensemble. Of course, God Who loves mankind would be interested in how man arranges his life, and God’s Church would have a position on this. This should not surprise or offend anyone, especially an Orthodox Christian.

So, since I wandered into these topics last time and probably aroused a little controversy, today we will put our chronology of the Russian Church in the 20th century on hold and make two excursus into these sparky topics of monarchism and nationalism. They are not inapplicable, of course, to our understanding of the spiritual meaning of the Church’s history in recent times, and what we learn to today will help us understand the ecclesiological issues we are dealing with. We will, of course, get back to the specific ecclesiological topics of Ecumenism and Sergianism, because that’s the focus of the current section of our course.

Excursus A – Monarchism

A) Theological Aspect – We did a course on this at St. Irene based on Vladimir Moss’s study, Politics from Cain to Constantine (See Appendix below). Link to book:


i. God is King

ii. The nation is part of the great hierarchy of being.

iii. The monarch is an image and representative of divine authority

iii. Biblical precedent

iv. historical precedent

(Q: Does monarchism justify the full-blown papal ideology? A: No, because of the latter’s tendency to chiliasm. BTW, Fr. Fahey’s books are great, except for the papism – See Fr. Denis Fahey, The Mystical Body of Christ in the Modern World and The Mystical Body of Christ and the Reorganization of Society).

B) Historical role in protecting the nation

i. Dr. M.R. Johnson on monarchy’s restraining oligarchy. See his articles in rusjournal.org, Also see Michael Hudson’s book on debt and monarchy vs. oligarchy: And Forgive Them Their Debts Very relevant to today!

ii. King is living embodiment of national tradition. He is free to protect and rule, unlike politicians, who are controlled by financial elites.

C) Monarchism and America: Can you have an Orthodox republic?

i. Aristotle’s model: Theoretically there are three forms of good government.

Good Form Bad Form

Monarchy Tyranny

Aristocracy Oligarchy

Democracy Ochlocracy

A true king will die for his subjects, as a father dies for his family. A true aristocrat is born and bred to cultivate virtues (he is aristos – excellent, virtuous) and lives for the service of the nation. Example of corrupt aristocracy – Masonic and liberal Russian aristocracy who brought about the 1917 February Revolution. See Moss cc. 32 and 33 of The Rise and Fall of the Russian Autocracy, http://www.orthodoxchristianbooks.com/downloads/591_THE_RISE_AND_FALL_OF_THE_RUSSIAN_AUTOCRACY.pdf

ii. Examples of successful republics: limited size, homogeneity, aristocracy

iii. Problem of republic’s natural tendency to commercialism; the bourgeois culture and its inherent incompatibility with the Gospel. See Christopher Dawson’s “Catholicism and the Bourgeois Mind” in Dynamics of World History (ISI Books, 2007). Tendency of commercial elites to cosmopolitanism (see below!) and therefore disloyalty to nation. Tie of money is unnatural and encourages vice. (Fathers say that avarice is the only completely unnatural vice. Aquinas: In a society where the commercial dominates, the growth of vice is inevitable.) Ties of blood, soil, religion, and culture are natural and encourage virtue.

iv. America

a. Founders’ intention: Aristocratic and peaceful republic of one race and one religion based on virtue and learning. In the early republic only 5% of the population voted (hat tip to MRJ) – free male heads of household who owned property, paid taxes, and were not on public assistance. That they were literate was a given. Importance of yeomanry and small farms.

b. Today’s reality: Multicultural empire owned by anti-Christian and anti-white oligarchs, based on vice and ignorance.

c. The Orthodox monarchist living under this regime obeys the laws that do not conflict with God’s law, but does not adopt the reigning ideology.

Excursus B – Nationalism

A) Matthew 28 – μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη : Make disciples of all nations. Discipleship as encompassing the whole of life. The nation as a natural unit of spiritual identity. Actual church history: National churches in one form or another, whether within empires or in national polities.

B) Patriotism and nationalism – two aspects of love of one’s own, each reflecting the masculine and feminine principles respectively. Patria – the fatherland, the homeland . Natio – the people sharing the same birth. The patriot’s motto is non sibi sed suis.

C) Distortions – militarism, xenophobia (real xenophobia), etc. False accusations of xenophobia, “fascism,” etc.

D) Opposed to patriotism and nationalism: Cosmopolitanism. See Metropolitan Philaret (St. Philaret of New York), in On the Law of God, chapter on “Family and Society; Patriotism.” https://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/law_of_god.htm#n23

E) What is my “nation” if I am in America or another non-Orthodox country?

i. Ancient Western nations had an Orthodox history and saints.

ii. America has a real history, and there are real Americans.

iii. But the Real America is dead or almost. Need to form small, tight-knit communities of Faith and shared culture.

iv. What culture? > Romanitas

Appendix: Summary of our Course on Cain to Constantine by V. Moss

Orthodox Political Theory

A Study of Politics from Cain to Constantine, by Vladimir Moss

Listen to podcast of the first lecture at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/politics1

Final Class – Summary


We began this mini-course in response to the turmoil in current political life. It is essential that Orthodox Christians look beyond the chaos of contemporary life and understand the timeless truths that our Faith teaches, including truths about political authority and the organization of society.

Our vocation in the current situation is to rise above political passions and witness to the timeless truths of the Faith, in order to help our neighbors.

I. The nature of legitimate authority:

A. All legitimate authority derives from above, from God, and not from below (thepeople”). This is extremely important to remember in light of our country’s political philosophy being so influenced by the 18th century idea of the “sovereign will of the people.”

B. We see right from the beginning, in Genesis, that God established earthly authority in the persons of Adam and his consort, Eve, as possessing a delegated authority over creation.

1. Adam, as head of his family, is the prototype for all earthly rulers.

2. We see here, then, that godly authority derives from God, and is hierarchical, patriarchal, and familial.

II. False Models of Authority

A. The pagan god-king

i. arose after the corruption of the human race

ii. not only is all civic and priestly authority vested in one man, but he is worshipped as a god or The God.

iii. invariably involved with human (usually infant) sacrifice and immoral sexuality, connected to demonically distorted ideas of fertility and material success

B. The Utopias of the Philosophers

i. Plato and Aristotle had many important insights, but ultimately their vision was flawed because of incomplete understanding of human nature, the reality of sin, and, of course, their lack of knowledge of the true God.

ii. Their valuable insights, however, still shed light and can be incorporated into an Orthodox Philosophy of Politics. Examples include Plato’s Allegory of the Cave as an illustration of the need to be ruled not by the most rich or powerful but by the most wise, and his theory of the Tripartite Powers of the Soul; as well as Aristotle’s explanation of three forms of legitimate government (monarchy, aristocracy, and politeia [res publica]) and their corresponding corruptions (tyranny, oligarchy, and mob-rule).

III. True Models of Authority

A. Sacred Kingship in the Old Testament Church

i. Key figure is David, who was called by God precisely because of his personal holiness. He is the archetypal image of the Good King.

ii. The sacerdotal and kingly powers are separate.

iii. The king is not God, and his rule is not arbitrary, but bound by the law of God.

iv. The king protects the Old Testament Church structure (the temple, the priests, etc.), and they are loyal subjects of the king, not rivals to the king.

B. Sacred Kingship in the New Testament Church

i. Key figure is St. Constantine. ii., iii, and iv above are all present.

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