“A Fate Worse Than Death”

My jovial father was much older than I was. Forty-one years older, to be exact. He had had polio like FDR (only in his left leg), and although he didn’t have a very high opinion of FDR, just like FDR he never complained about his polio. He would just joke about his “gimpy leg”. He was a junior naval officer with a gimpie leg. How he ever got the sea legs to command the depth charge crew on the USS Charette, I’ll never know in this life because he’s long gone.

USS Charette

Perhaps not great in the average estimation, my father was great to me, because I didn’t have too many other fathers to compare him to. I only had the one. Dad had some faults, but one fault he didn’t have was fear. At least he didn’t display it. What was there left to fear when you had survived the Depression and the War? So, when one of his sons complained about being told he had to do something that he didn’t want to do, Dad would needle him. “Oh, I know. It’s a fate worse than death!” He would say that in jest, just to put our protestations into perspective.

Seriously, though. Is there a fate worse than death? We Christians know that it’s a fate worse than death to be separated from God’s love for an eternity. That’s a fate worse than death – at least that is what we are taught from the pulpit. What is the Orthodox concept of hell? Being cast into an eternal lake of fire isn’t our concept of hell. That’s the Western concept of eternal punishment. The Orthodox concept is totally different. Hell is to encounter the love of God and to find that love totally alien to us. If we can’t bear to be exposed to the love of God, it “scares us to death”.

Three of the greatest political leaders of the 1980s were Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II. Together they stared down the communist ghost of the waning Soviet Union. John Paul II was more than the Catholics’ pope; he was the world’s pope. He would travel all over the globe. When he went to his native Poland, thousands upon thousands would greet him. The pope would stand up to the microphone and tell his fellow Poles, his fellow Catholics, “Do not be afraid!” Some cynics probably thought, “Right. We’re trapped here under the communist jackboot, and you tell us not to fear?”

John Paul II in Poland

The pope sounded like the Savior himself. “Fear not,” Jesus would say to his disciples, especially after his resurrection. Paraphrasing now: “It is I. Touch me if you don’t believe me. I am back and I will never leave you or forsake you.” Nobody had ever come back from the grave. Not only had Jesus come back, but he came back in strength. Who WOULDN’T follow a man like that, even to death and the grave? The apostles must have been riveted. No wonder all but one of them submitted himself to martyrdom, the last to exile. Seeing before their very eyes the man who had conquered death by dying and coming back to life again, they remembered that he had told them that he was Resurrection and Life itself.

There is indeed a fate worse than death. It is to live in FEAR. Our present fear is the fear of Covid-19. Fear that we may catch Covid and get deathly ill and die, or that someone in our family may die from it. Some have, others may. That we may lose our job, as many have. That we may get thrown out onto the street. That our nation will succumb to evil political forces, as it appears to be. Or only that the precarious balance of our daily lives will be thrown off kilter, as if any of our lives will ever be the same again.

Afraid of catching the virus, we hesitate to go to church. After all, attendance is optional, isn’t it? Afraid of the liability, even the suggestion of liability should an attendee catch the bug, some metropolises and parish councils have taken preposterous measures for “everyone’s safety”. Well, alright. Their intentions were good. At least we hope that they were good.

But, such extreme fastidiousness have had the opposite effect. They’ve only exacerbated the fear. Instead of encouraging our parishioners to partake of the bread of life, we have put obstacles in their way. We’ve made it harder for them to approach the chalice and receive the very thing that they need more than anything else at this time! Where is the “safety” in that?

The bread of life; the cup of salvation

There are a lot of weak brethren out there. Here’s an example. There is a young woman who comes to church toward the end of the Liturgy. She furtively approaches the chalice to receive communion, mask on until the last moment. When she returns to her pew in front of me, she nervously touches her husband’s muscular hand. He has lost his job but seems stalwart. She clutches his fingers, then lets go, then clutches them again. Her eyes dart this way and that. She was always a bit high-strung, but now she appears to be downright neurotic. Poor woman. God love her. At least she had the courage to come to church.

God forgive me if this sounds presumptuous, and it certainly is not meant to condemn. I can only write out of intuition. In any case, that is the sort of fear that is worse than death. To live day in day out in such trepidation of a virus that you can’t see, and of the ripple effect of the illness that it can cause, and the disruption that it brings to one’s life – THAT is a fate worse than death. After living like that, it may even be a comfort to simply die and rest forever.

But, no. There is no need for that kind of fear. None at all. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27) Those are the words spoken several times and for eternity by our beloved Savior, Christ the Lord of all. None of us can grasp the flood of courage that comes from simply trusting him and believing those words from the depths of one’s heart. The greatest man who ever lived said it, and since he still lives, that settles it. “Don’t be afraid,” the pope said forty years ago. “Peace be unto all,” chants the priest during the Divine Liturgy. They speak for Christ.

“My Lord and my God!”

There is an older woman at church. For medical reasons, she cannot take the vaccination as the state demands, so her employer has let her go. Two of her adult children in the same household have lost their jobs for the same genetic reason. What cruel employers would do that to their staffs? She said to me, weeping, “I don’t care. I’ll take my chances with Covid. I’m trusting in God. I’ll trust him to the end.” Now, that’s courage. Not a courage spoken out of bravado, but one spoken through tears. Courage spoken from the depths of a Christian faith tried and true.

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” (I John 1:18) Let’s lay down our fears, take up courage, and with a bold abandon, approach our Lord’s throne to find help in this time of great need.

Glimpses of Holiness

There he stood before the cathedral’s altar, vested properly, slowly intoning the words of the Eucharist. Quietly glowing with the joy of the Lord, the bishop bent forward slightly, in rapt attention as he handled the precious elements. Such is proper for a man when he approaches the Divine. The young acolyte, a foreigner, knelt to the side, looking on. He was not new to worship, but never had he been so close to such a precious holiness.

Priest beginning traditional low mass

What had the youth done to deserve this brief glimpse into the world beyond man? It was as if Holiness itself had infused this elder who stood there humbly before God’s altar, whispering the words that he had said every morning throughout a long ministry. But, there was nothing routine about this moment of grace. It was as if this ordinary weekday Eucharist were the bishop’s first liturgy, his only liturgy. Time had stopped, eternity had dawned. Each word read to God at the altar was fresh, filled with an ineffable joy. What had the young acolyte done to qualify as a witness to this moment?

Christ, our high priest

Nothing but to show up. He was in the presence of a rare man of God. The bishop had survived the ravages of the War, like so many Japanese of his ill-fated generation. He never spoke of the unspeakable horror that had been visited upon his aggressor nation, arguably the just desserts for a whole country that had been possessed by a demon and turned wild. The body politic had gone raving mad. Duly humbled, it was now devastated. Their cities were scorched. Those who survived had nothing left. Even those who had money had nothing because there was nothing to buy.

Typical Japanese city firebombed during WWII

There was another man of that generation who later became a priest. He had been taken prisoner by the Soviets just weeks before the unconditional surrender. The captors took countless Japanese soldiers and cast them into brutal gulags. The young acolyte’s father-in-law was one who had survived such unspeakable mistreatment. Months became years for them. Many did not survive. This other soldier who made it through prayed in the prison camp in freezing Siberia. The prayer has been heard before: “Lord, if you help me to make it through this hell, I’ll dedicate the rest of my life to you.” Many forget their heartfelt promise to God once they’ve been liberated, but this soldier did not. When he returned home, he went off to seminary and became a priest. It was this priest who was assigned to guide the young man before he himself went off to the same seminary in Kyoto a generation later.

The elder priest would stand before the wooden altar in the country parish intoning the familiar words of the Eucharistic prayer. The literary Japanese flowed trippingly from his tongue. He sounded like a grandfather, almost like a woman, as he elegantly read through the service, each word precise yet familiar, every step impeccably choreographed through long-practiced custom. Timeless dignity due the Divine who was being addressed, this day like every Lord’s day.

Christ: He who offers and is offered.

What had the hopeful seminarian done to deserve this other glimpse into holiness? He didn’t deserve it. None of it. He scoffed at it. He was full of ambition. Ignore that falderal, he said to himself. He was going to make changes in the Church where changes needed to be made. Oh, the arrogance of inexperienced youth! The stupidity of a young foreigner who had never known the devastation of war! Who was too proud to watch quietly and learn from his betters. If only he had stopped to listen and not been so anxious to disrupt. Proud youth from the victor nation, yet not so unlike the architects of that awful war.

Those rare moments of grace, those glimpses into holiness are now a generation past. Rarely recalled, they’ve been mostly ignored throughout a life of preoccupations. Both the bishop and the priest are gone. Their memories are fading in their successors’ minds, busy as they are with the hustle of everyday church life. The once-young acolyte and later priest is now old himself, far removed from the scene. He has time to recall fondly the moments when a bishop and a priest had touched the Divine and he was there to witness it. To touch it himself. What had the young man done to deserve such privilege? He shudders to even think of it.

A Pilgrimage Unmasked

St. Matthew Orthodox Church in Torrance, California is an Antiochian parish that follows the Byzantine Rite. Now, the music of the Byzantine Rite is an acquired taste for those of us who have a Western ear. That’s just about everybody, except for the few who may have grown up in the Byzantine Rite. Those of you who know what a blackboard is will remember the sound of fingernails scratching across a blackboard. Your reflex reaction is to shout, “Oh, stop it!” That’s what you want to say when the Byzantine Rite is done badly. But, when it’s done well, my oh my, it’s heavenly! At St. Matthew, they do it rite…I mean right. I was one of the happy congregants who was treated to the chanting of a young lady who had spent her earliest years in Damascus, Syria. She led the chanters one morning and presented a solo communion hymn that gave me chicken skin. (That’s “goose bumps” for you non-Hawaiians.)

St. Matthew Orthodox Church, Torrance, California

What a glorious “gift of music” that was and what a friendly bunch of people the people were at St. Matthew! For the record, there were no restrictions of a Covid nature at this parish. As a matter of fact, there were more women wearing scarves than there were people wearing masks. Many more.

The drive north through appropriately-named Bakersfield, where it’s as hot as an oven, was long and dry. Thank goodness for air-conditioned vehicles. After a night in Fresno, I drove up to Dunlap in the eastern foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Even at that higher elevation, it was pretty darned warm. None of the sisters was masked at Holy Theotokos the Life-giving Spring, but all of them were gracious. I counted fifteen young women, most of them Americans, as far as I could tell. They sang the vespers service like angels – literally. Too bad all of their singing, and that of the Korean priest, was done in inscrutable Greek. The monastery is one of the 19 that was built by Fr. Ephraim of Arizona. Opulent is the word I would use to describe it. You can see for yourself. The men’s monastery in Florence, Arizona is just as opulent.

The Monastery of the Holy Theotokos, the Life-giving Spring

Next on my ever-evolving itinerary was the ROCOR Cathedral of the Holy Virgin the Joy of All who Sorrow in San Francisco. This is where the relics of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco are laid in a glass bier for all to venerate. I read the account of the saint’s heroic pastoral care for the White Russian refugees in Shanghai during the Japanese assault on the great city and later during the approaching threat of Mao Tse Tung’s (Mao Zedong’s) communist revolutionaries. St. John was able to negotiate the evacuation of his large flock, not all Christians, to the typhoon- swept Philippine isle of Tubabao, and later to Australia and the United States. Some of his spiritual descendants are still connected to the cathedral were his relics lie.

Cathedral Shrine of St. John Maximovitch of Shanghai and San Francisco

Next, a dear Christian lady welcomed me to Santa Rosa, further up the coast, to worship at her parish. The OCA Church of St. Seraphim of Sarov is the quintessential Orthodox temple, a domed structure in cruciform. The masterful frescoes painted by the rector’s matushka invite the worshipper to revel in the communion of the saints in heaven. Here for vespers and next day for the liturgy, this visit was a real treat. The choir is strong, the bells are glorious, and the preaching is robust. Who could ask for more? Out of caution here everyone wore a mask, except when he or she had a spoken part in the services.

St. Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church, Santa Rosa, California

The northern regions of California and the southern part of Oregon were smoky and hot, but the air cleared as I pushed onward. It was a delight to drive through the evergreen forests of Washington with tall trees that stretched upward toward a clear sky. The top point of my pilgrimage was the Holy Monastery of Christ, Our All Merciful God and Saviour – quite a mouthful. It’s on Vashon Island in Puget Sound (or the Salish Sea) in Washington State. Say “Washington” to an Easterner like me and I immediately think of our nation’s capital, D.C., so it’s less confusing to add the “State” bit. With our modern Global Positioning System, it’s easy to find the ferry port at Point Defiance in Tacoma for the short hop across the bay to Vashon Island.

This is where Abbot Tryphon and Fr. Paul procured several acres of land back in the late 1980s to build a monastery. Unlike the Greeks, the ROCOR Russians have to work on a tight budget, so the small buildings are modest but tastefully done. I spent three night here, waking up for prayer at six in the morning. At the beginning of September, the days were warm and the nights were chilly. The leaves on some of the saplings were already turning red and yellow, a signal that autumn was in the air. The five monks were very down-to-earth, so I felt right at home at the monastery. Nobody wore a mask at any time. Abbot Tryphon is a tall man with white hair and a deep voice, but a wry sense of humor. He had an immediate answer to the burning question that had sparked my pilgrimage. I am weighing his response with the opinions of the other people that I spoke with along the way. I am also doing my own mental “compare and contrast” with the Orthodox parish of which I am a steward and officer. All this to seek a normative way of Orthodox life within a Church that is fraught with challenges from the pandemic and the modernist mentality that has come to light during this crisis.

Holy Monastery of Christ, the All-Merciful Savior, Vashon Island, Washington

On my way back to Los Angeles, I spent a couple of nights in Portland, Oregon. Again, this Easterner still thinks of Portland, Maine when he hears the name “Portland”. I don’t know about Seattle, but there is no sign of the riots that happened last summer near the center of Portland. Two of the parishioners at St. Nicholas OCA parish said they live downtown, so they had a ringside seat for the youthful festivities in 2020, care of Black Lives Matter and Antifa. What fun it must have been for that elderly couple! (I’m being facetious). I was there at St. Nicholas for Saturday Vespers and Sunday’s Liturgy. Everyone wore masks at St. Nicholas, but some removed theirs for their spoken and sung parts of the services. The choir was strong and the acoustics of the squared-off wooden building complemented the singing.

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Portland, Oregon, with permanent baptismal font in narthex.

Now I’m back in Hawai’i. Poor me! There are two canonical Orthodox parishes on O’ahu: one in Honolulu and the other on the flip side of the Ko’olau Range in the town of Kailua. The ROCOR parish in Kailua is the one blessed with the myrrh-streaming icon of the Theotokos of Iveron, and it is from it/her that the parish bears its name. They bought a Protestant church building there recently and have done an incredible job of making it into an Orthodox temple. Some wear masks out of caution or courtesy, but most don’t and no one seems to object.

The myrrh-streaming icon at the eponymous Holy Theotokos of Iveron parish in Kailua, Hawai’i

It is at my own GOARCH parish of Saints Constantine and Helen where the public health restrictions seem to be the tightest. There are so many hoops that one needs to jump through simply to worship there that it must be discouraging to visitors who come such a long way on vacation. We’re still registering people online beforehand, but walk-ins are welcome. Temperatures are taken, questions about Covid exposure are asked, plexiglass shields are up and social distancing is practiced. Of course, everyone wears a mask at all times. Attendance is down out of an inordinate fear of the Delta variant, a fear reinforced by our governor and mayor’s hyper-cautiousness. In order to get to Hawai’i by plane, you have to show proof of vaccination or a negative test result. The same goes for eating in a restaurant once your on the island. Now is not a good time to visit Hawai’i and worship at my parish. Sadly.

Saints Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Pacific, Honolulu, Hawai’i

It’s Later Than You Think

James Jattres’ remarks delivered to the Ron Paul Institute Student Seminar, September 3, 2021

I accepted the invitation to speak with you today only with great trepidation. This was for at least three reasons.

The first is that, both for self-protection in an increasingly unfree country and my growing sense that nothing I or anyone else can say will make much difference in averting the horrors I believe are coming our way, I had ceased my public writing and speaking life, such as it was. I reluctantly have made an exception to that less than momentous recusal but plan to resume it at the end of today.

Secondly, I was loath to contaminate the naturally ebullient optimism of youth with my crotchety Boomer pessimism. At your age you should feel that the world is, if not quite your oyster, at least pregnant with possibilities. How do I tell you that, in the layman’s terms, your lives will probably suck? At least in the near future. But there is hope. I will return to that.

Thirdly, I thought it would be derelict of me not to provide you with some sage, old graybeard advice of a practical nature. If I were in your shoes today, what would I do, specifically, to try to make a positive contribution to the world around me? How best to serve God and my neighbor? To make my country and the world a better place? And to do it in relative safety, in a modest degree of economic sustainability, perhaps even comfort? To marry, start a family, and see your offspring rise in peace and prosperity?
This last is most daunting, because the world has changed so much, in such a short time, and the pace of change is accelerating. Back in the olden days of yore, in my case the late 1970s, when I entered government service, that was an honorable thing to do. (Allow me to note that there are some who still spotlessly preserve that honor, such as The – literally – Honorable Thomas Massie, who will address us today. But such examples are rare sightings nowadays. In the institution in which he serves, you could probably count them on one hand, and you might not need your thumb.)
But I digress. When I started out, I did so consciously following in the footsteps of my father, a career Air Force officer and fighter pilot, and my father in law, a career agent in the old Immigration and Naturalization Service. After law school and a bit of flirting with the FBI and CIA, I ended up at the State Department, as a commissioned Foreign Service Officer.

My first assignment was as a Consular Officer in the border city of Tijuana, Baja California, just across from San Diego. The usual duties: jails, hospitals, stolen planes and cars, but mostly visas. With respect to immigrant visas, virtually all the applicants were already living illegally in the US and in most cases receiving various forms of public assistance. In principle, they should have been denied resident alien status under Section 212(a)(15), “likely to become a public charge,” but in practice they couldn’t be denied for receipt of any plethora of benefits – Food Stamps, WIC, Aid to Families with Democratic Children, Medicaid, SSI, etc. etc. — unless it was actually called W-E-L-F-A-R-E, and sometimes not even then. Earlier this year the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. issued a statement lauding the final dropping of the pretense (“Public Charge Rule Is Dead: Hurrah!!” – two exclamation points, seriously…). Lesson: permeable borders and a welfare state are not a good match.

My next assignment was in Washington in the Office of Soviet Union Affairs, a/k/a “the Soviet Desk.” This was at the beginning of the Reagan Administration, but, naïve young fellow that I was, I was shocked – shocked!—to find out that there were hardly any actual anti-communists in the whole Department, not just at the Desk. Not so much communist sympathizers, mind you, just blasé about ideas and ideology, generally accepting of a kind of a mushy FDR/LBJ liberalism tending toward social democracy – in short, like most of the rest of the bureaucracy. Sure, the Soviet version of those values was annoying, but what do you expect from Russians? (It was no surprise that a bureaucracy that was mildly sympathetic to Moscow when it was run by communists – just New Dealers in a hurry – became implacably hostile once the red flag was lowered from the Kremlin.) I remember once when some initiative or other was being floated past the White House, a colleague asked the Desk director, “Do you think the president will go for this?” The Director replied, only partly in jest: “He’s a political appointee. He’ll do what he’s told.” Lesson: at least in foreign policy and national security, forget elections: the permanent bureaucracy rules.

Eventually I left the State Department to work for many years in the Republican leadership of the US Senate. My job was to prepare papers on upcoming legislation (with a partisan spin) and on topics of interest to GOP Senators and staff: the conflicts in Central America, Mozambique, Angola, Grenada; sanctions on South Africa; POWs left behind in Southeast Asia (despite the sanctimonious flying of all those black flags, “You Are Not Forgotten,” they were indeed abandoned, care largely of two Senators with experience in Vietnam); the First Gulf War; the Somalia fiasco; the breakups of the USSR and Yugoslavia; Clinton’s Haiti invasion (“Operation Uphold Democracy” – really!); 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan; and – worst of all – the US military intervention in the Balkans, first in Bosnia, then in Kosovo. The lesson you know already: a lie will travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its running shoes, the first casualty of war is truth – you know the drill.

Likewise, it’s hard to work on Capitol Hill without coming to see what a bazaar it is. (Well, bizarre too, but also a bazaar, a souk, a flea market.) While the bipartisan leadership has not yet taken up the helpful suggestion from the Babylon Bee that barcodes be affixed to legislators’ foreheads so that interested persons and organizations can conveniently scan prices and self-checkout, they have provided a helpful guide to what are called “Congressional Member Organizations (CMOs),” also called coalitions, study groups, task forces, or working groups. Memberships in many but not all CMOs serve as virtual barcodes for potential (mostly legal) campaign donors, including contributions from ethnic compatriots who are US citizens, or at least are supposed to be, funneled to “friends of” this or that foreign country: like the “Argentina Caucus, Armenian Issues Caucus, Azerbaijan Caucus, Bangladesh Caucus, Bosnia Caucus, Brazil Caucus, Cambodia Caucus,…” – you get the idea, all the way to Uzbekistan and Venezuela (what, no Zimbabwe?), with at least four caucuses just for Israel. (Some might say the whole Congress is pretty much an “Israel Caucus,” but that’s a whole ‘nother topic… ) Perhaps it’s the legislative counterpart to the infamous “clientitis” at the State Department, where – as we used to say, “there is no ‘US Interests Section’” – and where diplomats come to see themselves as much or more as advocates for the countries they deal with than for the US. (We also liked to say there could never be a coup in the US overthrowing the Constitutional order because there’s no American Embassy in Washington. I guess we got that one wrong…)

Like many people, I greeted the end of communism in the USSR and the Soviet bloc with a sense of hope. No more need for an ever-growing, ever-more invasive national security surveillance state! A peace dividend! Finally, back to a sane pre-1914 international order! But of course all of the malign trends we had seen during the Cold War, far from decreasing, increased as the – what do you want to call it, the Deep State, the Borg, the Blob, the Swamp, the MICIMATT (Ray McGovern’s Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-Media-Academia-Think-Tank complex) – saw its chance to achieve total global domination – to rule the world — “benevolent global hegemony,” in perpetuity, as neocon gurus William Kristol and Robert Kagan christened it in 1996. Lesson: folks who think night and day about nothing but achieving power, money, and influence tend to get them.

A little slow on the draw, I remember when my seven and a half watt cranial light bulb finally sputtered into illumination. In 1992, I was attending a briefing of the International Republican Institute (IRI), one of the quasi-governmental entities set up to promote – get this! – “democracy” in the 1980s, regarding the recent election in Albania. An IRI staffer who had been working on the ground in that country proudly related how they had helped secure a victory for the Democratic Party over its rival, the former communists rebranded the Socialist Party, for a paltry eight million bucks. Even better, they managed to do it even though – it was clear to everyone, and the staffer was explicit on this point – the Socialists had more public support than the Democrats did! During Q&A, simple fellow that I was, I asked: “But if the Socialists were more popular than the Democrats, wouldn’t the democratic outcome have been a win for the Socialists?” Oh, no no no, you silly boy, you! You see, the Democratic Party has democratic principles, so their win, even though fewer people support them, is the democratic result. It then struck me that we had gone through the looking glass, that words didn’t mean anymore what normal people meant by them.
Well, that was then, this is now. Let’s get something very clear. Back in my day, yes there was corruption, yes there was influence-peddling, yes there was contempt for truth and common decency. But these were debasements within what could still be argued was a structure built on a Constitution and the rule of law. That is, something existed, though as with all human affairs, it was only as good as the people operating within that something. One could still, with a straight face, contend that if the good guys win, if wise policies prevail – audit the Fed, cut taxes, stop our interventionist foreign policy, ban abortion, legalize dope, whatever you want – there was enough integrity to the something to allow for such improvements. We were still living in a normal moral universe, where virtue and vice contended for dominance. We were still living in America.

We really can’t say that anymore. It’s not just that laws and the Constitution are violated – when were they not? – but that they now have almost no relevance to the nation, or perhaps former nation, we have become. When I say nation, I mean the core, founding American ethnos characterized by European ancestry, by the English language, and by the Christian religion, mostly Protestant. The constitutional order established by the Founding Fathers – you know, those racist, gun-toting transphobes in knee britches and powdered wigs – for themselves and their posterity is a secondary epiphenomenon, the ethos of the founding ethnos, their folkways and values. You know, all that quaint Anglo-Saxon due process, habeas corpus, presumption of innocence, limited powers stuff. The primary phenomenon, without which the erstwhile constitutional order would not have existed in the first place, from which it derived its values, principles, and structure, is the ethnos. That is what is under attack, even more than the order itself, which in my opinion is effectively gone.

And it’s come with astonishing speed.

It is difficult to look back on the events of the annus horribilis of 2020—and to anticipate worse to come—without a foreboding that the world is nearing some sort of crescendo. The Gnostic tendency described by Eric Voegelin, in his landmark 1952 book The New Science of Politics – hey, don’t immanentize the eschaton, bro’! — and fitfully growing year by year, decade by decade, century by century, seems to have achieved an unprecedented and decisive degree of domination in a few short months, and not just in America. It is increasingly difficult to see any signpost of restraint, much less of restoration.

Perhaps this crescendo will be similar to earlier ones: collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the Islamic conquest of the Eastern Empire, the East-West Great Schism and the Crusades, the neopagan humanism of the Renaissance, the religious strife of the Reformation, the misnamed Enlightenment with its malign offspring Revolution and “Progress,” the world wars and totalitarianisms of the modern era. Yet with each seeming turn of the wheel, with each ebb and flow between disorder and partial re-stabilization, the net linear advance of Gnosticism is undeniable.

Even a cursory search of the internet yields multiple references to the congealing omnipresence of powerful actors in every sphere of life to implement a program called the “Great Reset.” Released in May 2020 by Prince Charles of the United Kingdom and Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum (commonly known as Davos, after its meeting place in Switzerland), the Great Reset takes its cue from the “Covid-19 crisis, and the political, economic and social disruptions it has caused” as—no, not as a misfortune, not a calamity—but as “a unique window of opportunity [emphasis added] to shape the recovery,” informed by the insights of “global stakeholders” in “determining the future state of global relations, the direction of national economies, the priorities of societies [really, what doesn’t come under the heading of “the priorities of societies”?], the nature of business models and the management of a global commons” in order to “build a new social contract that honors the dignity of every human being,” summed up in the ubiquitous slogan “Build Back Better.” The initiative’s list of Partners (“global stakeholders”) reads like a Who’s Who of the most powerful international corporations.

While the provenance, natural or artificial, of the viral disease that served as the justification—or pretext—for this “unique opportunity” may remain forever in the shadows (except perhaps to the small group of cognoscenti who feel they are guiding the process) the primary manifestation of the crisis is all too public: a relentless incitement of paralyzing and irrational fear—of a malady that has an almost universal survival rate for anyone not in a handful of comorbidity categories. The very success of this terror campaign is a testament to the extent to which post-modern and (mostly) post-Christian society has reached the point of deeming physical death, though inevitable, as the worst possible fate, to be avoided at all costs. Imposed via diktat by the very government and corporate entities force-feeding the scare propaganda, the costs—in the form of lockdowns (heretofore a term relevant exclusively to prisons), travel bans, compulsory masking, denial of opportunity to earn a living, “distance learning” in place of education, “virtual” social interactions, mass transfer of assets from the middle class and small enterprises to a rentier elite, and the prospect of an unavoidable, and perhaps a mandatory, biometric “passport” as proof of vaccination—continue to rise.

No less dismaying is the propensity of many people, perhaps most, to go along with all this, running the gamut from sullen submission to loving embrace of their shackles and enthusiastic willingness to force others’ compliance. What explains this? Fear of reprisal, fear of being thought of as a crank or “conspiracy theorist,” terminal law-abidingness, a misplaced virtue of charity regarding others’ intentions, naïve trust in “authority,” “experts,” “science” and claims of necessity to keep us and others “safe”? Or even worse, a sense of joining the worthy elites in their domination of lesser, insufficiently obedient and “caring” mortals? A totalitarian mindset is not solely an elite phenomenon.

In any case, these measures and their justifications, though constantly changing and often contradictory, are all the more obligatory. Taken together they have all the appearance of a controlled demolition of all established human interactions in anticipation of their replacement by something we are assured by our betters will be an improvement. The contours of the “new normal” in the post-American America hurtling in our direction have already become so familiar as to need little elaboration:
▪ A proletarianized middle class eager to exchange freedom for security and minimal support in the form of “relief”—no, not relief from governments’ destruction of their livelihoods, but from the fearsome virus, leading to “universal basic income” (i.e., the dole in place of self-support), profligate production of fiat money (which unavoidably means inflation and destruction of whatever assets a shrinking middle class might have left), and moves toward a cashless society: in a word, serfdom. “You will own nothing, and you will be happy.” You will eat bugs, and you will enjoy them;
▪ Elevated levels of substance abuse, mental and emotional illness, social alienation and isolation, domestic abuse, suicide, immune deficiency, and other morbidities caused not by the illness but by measures imposed supposedly to save lives but probably taking a higher toll than the disease itself, to which we can now add whatever the real toll of the vaccines might be;

▪ Immunization (with repetition ad infinitum via “boosters” required in light of “mutations” like the “Delta variant” and the expected future appearances of new plagues), if not legally required at least will be so universally demanded by ostensibly private business (notwithstanding real concerns about the vaccines’ safety, efficacy, and long-term effects, including infertility and problems associated with genetic modification) that it amounts to a license for basic living—we offer a pinch of incense before the genius of “science,” a false savior, a fake Caesar, required in order to be allowed to buy or sell, work, go to school, travel, etc. As a seamless, global regime of “vaccine apartheid” becomes inescapable, with every human being, whether small or great, rich or poor, bond or free, threatened with pariah status for refusing the injection of a substance of unknown safety (numbers of those suffering serious adverse consequences are suppressed), effectiveness (as new “variants” arise even many who have gotten jabbed get sick), and morality (how attenuated exactly are the aborted fetal cell lines used in development?), the enforcement mechanisms are becoming clearer as well: mandatory carrying of a scannable “health status” record on smart phones, QR app facilitating the precise location and activities of every human being on the planet every second of their lives. (So much for your HIPAA “privacy.”) It’s hard to avoid the suspicion that that was perhaps a goal of the entire pandemic response in the first place;

▪ Further blurring of the lines between Big Government, Big Finance, Big Pharma, Big Data, etc., amounting to corporate state capture (“Faucism”);

▪ Travel limits on law-abiding people (but not for illegal migrants), not for the purpose of restoring sovereign state boundaries (which would be deplorably nationalist – just ask Viktor Orbán!) but for what amounts to herd control and monitoring;

▪ Not directly based on supposed anti-virus measures but closely tracking with them, joint government and corporate promulgation of socially destructive, historically counterfeit ideologies (“intersectionality,” LGBTQI+, feminism, multiculturalism, “critical race theory” (a/k/a, hate whitey), suppression of “populism” in the name of “democracy”) with principal targeting of children subject to sexualization and predation by those expressing what were once quaintly known as abnormal appetites and identities. (This of course has become a key component of the US and European global “human rights” and “democracy” promotion; evidently cultural imperialism and neocolonialism are just fine and dandy when sufficiently Woke. Maybe you’ve seen that meme, with the fierce skull-masked fighter with an American flag: “Until I am out of ammo or out of blood, I will fight for homosexuality in Botswana!”) These “values” in turn accelerate longstanding trends towards infertility and demographic collapse (decline in marriage, family formation, and childbearing) pointing to population reduction and replacement via post-human society, transhumanism, and bio-engineering; and not least —

▪ Replacement of “real” reality based on physical proximity with other people with virtual or augmented (i.e., fake) reality, combined with universal surveillance via artificial intelligence, 5G and blockchain technology, facial recognition, and biological tagging, backed up by omnipresent social credit, cancel culture, and digital censorship penalties. Replacement of the real universe with a virtual “metaverse.”
In sum, what could not be implemented over decades solely by fear of climate change and “rising oceans” is now being swiftly achieved via fear of a submicroscopic infectious agent. No one should doubt that the old, pre-2020 world is forever gone.

This brave new world, my young friends, is your world. This is not something that is going to get fixed by the next election, or any election, by a new political party or movement, or by a convention of the states to write new Constitutional language for our Executive, Legislative, and Judicial authorities to ignore or pervert like they do the current language.
(Let me also mention in passing one of my pet peeves: while government at all levels bears a YUGE responsibility for all this, most of it is being carried out by private corporations. This leads some free market advocates to shrug their shoulders: “weeeell, they’re private businesses, they’re within their rights.” I say: bunk. To start with, corporations are inherently creatures of the state. They wouldn’t even exist were it not for legislation making them under the law “persons” – though they have neither body to be kicked nor soul to be damned. Given the incestuous “partnership” between government and the corporatocracy, the distinction is increasingly academic.)

Much of what I have described centers on the United States. To note that is not to be unduly parochial any more than would have been noting Russia’s centrality to an earlier Gnostic outbreak a century ago. Given our country’s global dominance in virtually every field of human endeavor—politics, military, finance, economy, science, medicine, media, popular culture, etc.—in the wake of the collapse of the earlier communist eruption (and before that, of national socialism), it is to be expected that this global crisis would begin, and perhaps will end, in the United States.

There is a remarkable congruence, though not an exact identity, between the divisions in American society pitting those who accept the therapeutic narrative on the virus and supposed countermeasures against those who reject them, and between those who accept and reject the violent “social justice” campaign championed by groups like Black Lives Matter and Antifa (themselves sponsored by the government and corporate establishment), culminating in a contested presidential election that half the electorate believes was the result of fraud. The conclusion that the US Constitution and the rule of law, which have been declining for many years, may have in fact reached a terminal point is reluctantly dawning on tens of millions of ordinary, generally apolitical Americans. Not only are we more divided than at any time since 1861-1865, we are even more aliens, indeed enemies, to one another than were Northerners and Southerners back then in terms of fundamental questions of who we are, what man is, Who God is, and how we should order our lives and our country. In 1861 they worshipped the same God, read the same Bible, honored the same Founding Fathers, claimed fidelity to the same Constitution. In today’s America, like in the rest of the Woke Woke West, we can’t even agree on our pronouns.

The term “cold” civil war, a war that might possibly turn “hot,” has become a commonplace in American discourse. That should not come as a surprise when we remember how the Red Gnostic seizure of power in Russia, to which many draw parallels to America today, didn’t triumph without bloodily overcoming ferocious popular resistance. The rising tide of Rainbow Gnosticism in America now, whether it succeeds or fails, may turn out to be just as destructive. Let’s remember too that, if you credit the William Strauss and Neil Howe “Fourth Turning” cycle, we are only about halfway through a crisis that will totally transform this country, assuming there’s a country left at all by the end of it.

Finally, “wars and rumors of war” may not be confined to the United States. As the dysgenic impacts of the virus scare affect other countries to a greater or lesser degree, so America’s growing instability must have its international reverberations. Afghanistan is a bellwether. Suggestions have been made that overextension abroad and internal crises may force the United States, willy-nilly, to withdraw from the program of global hegemony launched after the demise of the USSR, with a multipolar world finally emerging. That could happen, but it’s not likely, at least not smoothly. Despite the Kabul kick in the teeth, realism is still a scarce commodity among Washington’s nomenklatura, where the penalties for strategic failure are few but rewards for aggression are great. As we will see, the Afghan humiliation will have little consequence for those culpable. While American “humanitarian intervention,” “democracy promotion,” and “regime change” have been to little advantage but much harm to the supposed beneficiaries (Haiti, Serbia, Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, etc.) the tangible benefits are clearly visible in the form of the “McMansions” around the Washington Beltway, which still sprout like mushrooms after heavy rains. As America continues down the road of confrontation with Russia, and increasingly with China, the prospect of the first major global conflict, now well overdue, since the Long War of 1914-1945 grows. A self-interested, arrogant, ignorant, and spiritually and intellectually stunted leadership class caught in a Thucydides Trap (a declining power confronted by a rising opponent or opponents) may well be tempted to launch a war to eliminate the “threat” if it feels victory may be in reach today but might not be tomorrow. To call such a prospect apocalyptic is not hyperbole.

In the end, my young friends, the impact any one of us can expect to have in the face of world-historic trends before which the fates of nations and empires fly like leaves in the autumn winds is vanishingly small. Already baked into the cake will be, I believe, hardships for you that we’ve become accustomed to think only happen to “other people” in “other countries” far away, not seen here since the Revolution and the Civil War, or maybe in isolated instances during the Great Depression: financial and economic disruption and, in some places, especially in urban areas, collapse; supply chains, utilities, and other aspects of basic infrastructure ceasing to function (what happens in major cities when food deliveries stop for a week?), even widespread hunger; rising levels of violence, both criminality and civil strife. These will be combined, paradoxically, with the remaining organs of authority, however discredited, desperately cracking down on the enemy within – no, not on murderers, robbers, and rapists, but on “science deniers,” “religious fanatics,” “haters,” “conspiracy theorists,” “insurrectionists,” “gun nuts,” “American Taliban,” “purveyors of “medical misinformation,” and, of course, “racists,” “sexists,” “homophobes,” and so forth. It’s the late Samuel Francis’ “anarcho-tyranny” nightmare come to life with a vengeance.

As I say, I think your ability to impact the “big picture” regarding any of this is slim to none. Even our ability to discern the signs of the times in an era of pervasive Gnostic deceit abetted by technologies unimaginable just a few years ago is limited.

Nevertheless, for what it is worth, I put before you three practical tasks for your consideration.

Firstly, be vigilant against deception, in a day when assuredly evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. Admittedly, this is a tough one, given the ever-present lying that surrounds us and the suppression of dissent. Try to sift truth from falsehood but don’t become obsessed because, in many cases, you won’t be able to be sure anyway. Focus most on what’s proximate to you and on the people most important to you. It sounds terrible, I know, because everyone who’s denoted as an “expert” or an “authority” isn’t necessarily unreliable, but that’s a good starting assumption. Be skeptical – about everyone. In communist countries, this was the norm: listen to what the establishment media say, to foreign sources if you can access them, and to anti-establishment dissidents (then it was samizdat, now it’s internet “conspiracy theorists” – but don’t get sucked in by Trojan Horses like the infamous Q.): then triangulate and take your best guess. There may be a cost. As Solzhenitsyn said, “He who chooses the lie as his principle inevitably chooses violence as his method.”

Secondly, as stewards of every worldly charge placed on us by God and by other people—as fathers and mothers, as husbands and wives, as sons and daughters, as neighbors, as students, as workers, as citizens, as patriots—we must prudently care for those to whom we have a duty within the limited power and wisdom allotted to us. Start with yourselves. Be as self-sufficient as possible. Get involved in your community; that leftist slogan is actually a good one: think globally, act locally. Befriend your neighbors. Learn a real skill – electricity, plumbing, carpentry. Farm! DON’T go to law school, for goodness’ sake. Get in shape. Eat and sleep right. Have plenty of the essentials: food, fuel, gold, ammunition. Learn to shoot. Limit computer and phone time. Cultivate healthy personal relationships – real ones, not virtual ones. Marry young, have kids – especially women, don’t get seduced by all that “career” nonsense. Read old books. Cultivate virtue. Go to church.
Simply being what used to be considered normal and leading a productive life is becoming the most revolutionary act one can perform. With that in mind, find the strength to be revolutionaries indeed!

You’ve seen the meme: Hard times create strong men; Strong men create good times; Good times create weak men; Weak men create hard times. Well, take it from the weakling generation that brought them to you: the hard times, they is a-coming. But they won’t last forever. If you live through them – and some of you will not – we’ll see what possibilities, as of now literally unimaginable, might then exist. But you will need to be personally fit to take advantage of them. You will also need to be part of some kind of sustainable community of likeminded people.

Third, for those of you who are believers, particularly Christians, we must pray without ceasing, firm in faith that, through whatever hardships may lie ahead, even the very hairs of our head are all numbered, and the final triumph of Truth is never in doubt.

Thank you, and good luck. You’re going to need it.


Copyright © 2021 by RonPaul Institute. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit and a live link are given.

What to Do?

I have recently returned from a long trip east to the West Coast. I guess you could call it a pilgrimage. One purpose of the trip was to get some rest and relaxation from the ennui of my life in Hawai’i. That’s not a joke. Ennui can set in no matter how swell your everyday paradise is. Go ahead; call me spoiled. However, the more pressing purpose of the pilgrimage was to find an answer to one nagging question. That is this:

Is it time for me to leave my parish in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese?

My travels took me from Los Angeles to the Puget Sound and back again. About 2500 miles of driving through the desert – also known as the Central Valley of California – through the “smoky mountains” of No. Cal. and Oregon to the clear cool skies of Washington. My purpose was to ask the question and listen to the opinions of various laypeople and clergymen, both secular and cloistered, at various parishes and monasteries of several jurisdictions.

All Merciful Saviour Monastery, Vashon Island, Washington

I didn’t get a straight answer. By that I mean that not everyone who opined had the same opinion. I boiled down the answers to four, from which I will have to choose one:

  • The Phanariot hierarchs are pursuing holy goals, so stay loyal to them;
  • Stay where you are and let God deal with the errors of the hierarchs;
  • As a layman, you’re free to come and go, so leave for the sake of your own conscience;
  • Leave because its the right thing to do.

Isn’t it wonderful that there is so much freedom of choice for the Orthodox layman? At the same time, isn’t it baffling that there is so much freedom of choice for the Orthodox layman? It would be easier if I had received one unequivocal answer and an easy way to walk it. As it is, I know that I’ll have to make my own decision – and soon, because I hope to do it before the end of the year. I’m in a position of responsibility at my parish, so I don’t want to fly by night and leave the others in the lurch. Timing is an important factor for all concerned.

The Phanariot hierarchs don’t appear to be pursuing holy goals at all. Patriarch Bartholomew’s meddling in Ukraine’s political and religious affairs is unconscionable. That bothered me more than a little until Abp. Elpidophoros’ recent antics took center stage. I was born an Episcopalian and was ordained an Anglican priest, so the commemorative Liturgy that Elpidophoros served at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church on Manhattan caused me severe consternation. The fact that our archbishop entered under the rainbow flag on a day during Pride Month and celebrated the Mysteries at that particular unOrthodox parish church bothered me no end. And he later returned to St. Bart’s for a grip and grin with their rector-bishop just to confirm his ecumenist interest in cavorting with the heretic.

St. Nick’s, New York

(And then there’s the BIG QUESTION regarding the $100,000,000 price tag on little St. Nicholas Shrine at the World Trade Center. Where did all of that money go, eh? And why hasn’t the little structure been completed…after 20 whole years?)

Back to Elpi’s Pride Month circus. It’s been three months since that day. As far as I can tell, the archbishop has not walked back his abominable act of treachery. Nor has there been a “great and holy council” to defrock the patriarch. Will God ever deal with the hierarchs? Dunno. So, it’s getting close to the time when I feel that I need to act for my own sake.

St. Bart’s, ground zero for the queering of Manhattan, during Pride Month

Back in 1994, I felt compelled to leave the Episcopal Church. No, it would be more accurate to say that I was forced to leave the Episcopal Church because I respectfully declined to accept the ordination of women, the marriage and ordination of homosexuals, and the abortion of the unborn. The “Church of What’s Happening Now”, aka the Episcopal Church, was embracing all three novelties. The diocese wrote me a letter saying that unless I renounced my “rigid views” – their words – they would not accept the transfer of my canonical residence. So I left, shaking the Hawaiian beach sand off my slippahs. It broke my heart to leave the Church of my ancestors, but it opened my eyes to the unsettling certainty that the world had worked its way into the Church that I so loved. Prof. Robert Arakaki has written about the “revolution within the form” in a previous blog posting. In 1994, the Episcopal Church was in the vanguard of the revolution. He and I will likely touch again on the topic as it concerns the Orthodox Church in the coming days.

And now, the same revolution appears to be happening by stealth in the Greek Archdiocese. The signs are everywhere, not just in the actions of the patriarch and the archbishop. Let me offer an example. There is a well-married, yet unbaptized, unchrismated parishioner in my parish who has been given a “blessing” to receive the Holy Gifts. What’s up with that? The camel got its nose under the tent half a century ago when the Church blessed the marriage, even though one of the spouses was a cradle Orthodox and should have been directed to marry someone within the Church. Now the other spouse is able to collect $200 without passing “Go”.

Who is that masked woman? Kim Kardashian’s latest contribution to avant garde fashion.

Loose on sacramental controls, our parish has been strict on the protocols to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Sign up, mask up, take your temperature, answer the questions, follow the usher, maintain social distance. All of these directives have been followed to a “T” for the last year. But, on the other hand, there is no call for regular confession, adherence to the discipline of fasting, or frequent and timely attendance at the Liturgy. Is mine an Orthodox parish, or an agency of the local government, or a Greek social club? Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.

Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.”  Matthew 23:24

On my pilgrimage, I was counseled that it is imperative that I consult my spiritual father and stay where I am or find a parish where I can continue to work out my own salvation. That’s the most salient of issues here. Fortunately for me, our island is small. There is another parish not too far away to which I can repair for spiritual sustenance, if need be.

Well, thank you for allowing me to use you, dear reader, as a sounding board. I would appreciate hearing your opinion before I make my decision. Leave a comment below, if you are so inclined.