Why? Who says that it is? Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) does. Who is SPLC? SPLC (a total misnomer) according to their website is an American nonprofit civil rights organization “dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society.” SPLC “is internationally known for tracking and exposing the activities of hate groups.” And who is their most recent target among such hate groups? The Orthodox Church!
Yes indeed! Their quarterly “Intelligence Report” (Winter 2014, No. 156) dedicates six pages (18-23) to their newest “discovery.” 1 So, do we care what they say about the Orthodox Church? Yes, we do, because they advise law enforcement agencies, intelligence agencies and even the U.S. army, exposing the activities of “hate groups and other extremists” to them, to the media and to the public at large.
Should the Church do something about that? Yes. I think that to target the entire Orthodox Church as a hate group, as the article’s author Jon Phillips purports, is biased, inaccurate and preposterous, and constitutes an affront to all Orthodox people worldwide. The groups we joined include “neo-Nazis, Klansmen, white nationalists, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, black separatists, border vigilantes and others.” In doing so SPLC maligns a group that suffers persecution and oppression from extremist groups and even governments in several countries. SPLC is the latest group that targets the Orthodox Church in our own country.
The Orthodox Church has nothing to do with Matthew Heimbach and his likes, that the article highlights. Witness the fact that they have been excommunicated. The article-writer attempts to make a connection between radical individuals who have converted to the Orthodox Faith without mentioning that the preponderance of converts consists in highly educated persons. To state that there is a belief that “the Orthodox Church is a natural haven for white nationalism” is grossly inaccurate and provocative. The Orthodox Church, as the facts themselves reveal, embraces people of all races, colors and languages. Traditionalism, radicalism, nationalism, ethnocentrism and all the other –isms find no place in the Orthodox Church. These “converts” were and remain far from the true faith they have not understood—just like SPLC has not.
The Orthodox Church is not associated with any fascist ideologies and white nationalism, neither does it lend support to such groups that may exist in its periphery but are not part of it. The intimation that Orthodoxy is an ally of Golden Dawn, the extreme fascist political party in Greece, and of other racist and extremist groups is preposterous and unfounded, no matter how hard SPLC tries. SPLC thinks it has found an easy target in the Bishop of Piraeus, Metropolitan Seraphim, because of certain anti-Zionist statements he made in 2010 and of some other comments made more recently opposing a new “anti-racist” law that was finally passed in Greece in 2014. According to his statements, and those of many others, the law “abolishes freedom of expression” and mandates “legal protection of homosexual orientation, which is a perversion of the human nature and physiology.” All true Orthodox Christians stand behind these statements.
Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus
SPLC targeted Metropolitan Seraphim (although, as their webpage states, they don’t list individuals) for another reason: he made the unpardonable sin to attack Zionism. SPLC makes the same mistake as many others do, especially the Zionists themselves, equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. In fairness, they should include in their list such bodies as the World Council of Churches (including many member churches), states (and I don’t mean Iran and Korea, but Russia and others), and even Jewish movements as the Naturei Karta International (Jews United Against Zionism), True Torah Jews Against Zionism and many Hasidic Jews, and other groups, such as the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and other secular Jewish organizations, as well as anyone who supports the Palestinians.
Huffington Post has in the past (9/10/2009) criticized SPLC for hounding conservative individuals and organizations, like the American Family Association, which is termed by them as a “hate group” for defending marriage and for being critical of homosexuality. Another influential Christian group targeted by SPLC is Family Research Council, established in 1983 by Dr. James Dobson. Thus, instead of monitoring hate groups SPLC has itself become one. The New American calls SPLC “paranoid,” “detached from reality” and “an extremist anti-Christian hate group” that demonizes conservative Christians.” Its reports are called “discredited propaganda.” The Washington Post ran an article Nov. 26, 2010, SPLC: The wolf who cried ‘hate.’ The Catholic League described the leader of SPLC as “a man in search of people and institutions to hate.” Well, although the FBI has not dumped SPLC as hate crimes resource (as it was erroneously reported in the media), it should have done so. It seems its two founders have found a niche to enrich themselves. Their nonprofit had nearly $300 million in assets in 2013, raising over $42 million a year in revenue, with its top two leaders paid over $300,000 each.
I think that as long as SPLC finds enough supporters to finance its quarterly “Intelligence Reports,” they will look hard to present mainstream entities as fringe movements. They will stream together unrelated bits and pieces of acts and statements of stray individuals and insignificant groups to make a tapestry that has no shape or form. In the instance of Metropolitan Seraphim, as in many others, they went beyond bounds monitoring and exposing the activities of a high ranking clergyman of the Greek Orthodox Church, who is highly respected for his erudition, eloquence and correctness of faith, and calumniate the entire Orthodox Church, not only “throughout the United States” (as their purported area of “intelligence” is) but globally.
One wonders: How much does SPLC really know the Orthodox Church? Anyone who attacks Metropolitan Seraphim and even more so St. John of Kronstadt, whom it calls “controversial for his involvement with the Black Hundreds,” is moved not by knowledge or love of justice, but by pure hate and ignorance. Saying that the Orthodox Church is “a natural home for far-right ideology” and that it has a problem…with fascism, racism and nationalism” is contentious. Sure, even the perfect Church has imperfect members—even racist. But this should not give license to SPLC or anyone else to go on a witch-hunting expedition against “the Church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15) that alone can change the world.