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The two-pronged attack on Orthodoxy and Russia

As US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin prepare to meet in Helsinki, all eyes are on what generally are regarded as the “usual” political issues that divide the world’s two foremost military powers: Ukraine, Syria, sanctions, claims of election interference, and so forth.

Jim Jatras

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This reflects the near-universal but erroneous view that this current, second Cold War against Russia is not ideological, as opposed to the first Cold War that pitted atheistic Soviet communism against America’s “in God we trust” capitalism. (Leave aside whether “capitalism,” an anarchosocialist term popularized by Marxists, is the proper description of contemporary neoliberal corporatism.)

No, we are told, the current Washington-Moscow standoff is a turf war, nothing more. Unlike the 1945-1991 rivalry it “lacks an ideological dimension” beyond the authoritarian determination to elevate “the Russian state, ruled by him and his clan.”

Such a view totally dismisses the fact that following the demise of communism as a global power bloc there has been an eerie spiritual role reversal between East and West. While it’s true that during original Cold War the nonreligious ruling cliques in Washington and Moscow held basically compatible progressive values, ordinary Christian Americans (mainly Protestants, with a large number of Roman Catholics) perceived communism as a murderous, godless machine of oppression (think of the Knights of Columbus’ campaign to insert “under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance).

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Conversely, today it is western elites who rely upon an ideological imperative of “democracy” and “human rights” promotion to justify a materialist global empire and endless wars, much like the old Soviet nomenklatura depended on Marxism-Leninism both as a working methodology and as a justification for their prerogatives and privileges,. In that regard, promotion of nihilist, post-Christian morality – especially in sexual matters – has become a major item in the West’s toolkit.

This has a special importance with regard to Russia, where under Putin the Orthodox Church has largely resumed its pre-1917 role as the moral anchor of society. This elicits not only political opposition but a genuine and heartfelt hatred from the postmodern elites of an increasingly post-Christian West, not only for Putin personally and Russia generally but against the Russian Orthodox Church – and by extension against Orthodox Christianity itself.

This antipathy has many facets, too many to be detailed at one time in this short space. But for now it is sufficient to note two current attacks, both of them arising from within Orthodoxy itself, though no doubt with outside encouragement. One such attack relates to ecclesiastical structures and is overtly political. The other is in the moral sphere and seeks to inject into Orthodoxy the moral decay that has undermined so much of western Christianity.

The first, overtly political attack aims to split Ukraine from the main body of the Russian Orthodox Church under the authority of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. The post-Maidan authorities in Kiev, namely Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and the Verkhovna Rada (parliament), have asked Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople (Istanbul) to issue a Tomos of autocephaly to the self-styled “Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate” led by former Metropolitan Filaret (Denysenko).

In such case, the Ukrainian authorities declare that the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is an autonomous part of the Russian Orthodox Church under the authority of Metropolitan Onufry, would be forbidden to call itself “Ukrainian” would regarded as a representative of an “aggressor” power. Issuance of a Tomos would also set the stage for the government’s forcible seizure of churches and monasteries from Metropolitan Onufry’s canonical Church and handing them over to the state-approved schismatic body, with the world-renowned Kiev Pechersk (Caves) Lavra and the Holy Dormition Pochayiv Lavra in west Ukraine the most prominent likely targets.

For their part, Ukrainian officials state their chances of getting the Tomos are virtually certain, but so far public signals from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew have been mixed. Recently, it was announced by pro-Moscow observers that the Ecumenical Patriarch had turned down Poroshenko’s request after a visit of bishops from the Moscow-affiliated Ukrainian Church. Other reports, however, indicate that Constantinople considers it an open question whether the areas now constituting Ukraine were ever permanently transferred to Moscow’s jurisdiction in the first place – which one voice, “Orthodoxy in Dialogue” (to which we shall return below), cheered as “taking Moscow down a peg”.

Viewed from western countries, where ecclesiastical matters have long ceased to have life-and-death political consequences, the Ukrainian church situation may seem archaic, even bizarre, especially taking place in a part of the world that not too long ago was under the domination of militant secularists. Be that as it may, the current Ukraine crisis fits into a dismal pattern of powers hostile to Orthodoxy attempting to create new church bodies to serve their political purposes. The most notorious of these were the purported creation of a “Croatian Orthodox Church” in 1942 under the genocidal regime of Ustaša dictator Ante Pavelić as a cover for the genocide of Orthodox Serbs in the so-called “Independent State of Croatia,” and the so-called “Renovationist Church” formed in early Soviet Russia during the most murderous period of communist anti-religious persecution.

At stake today is not only the peace of Ukraine – where violence over state-imposed church transfers is a real concern – but peace within the Orthodox world as a whole. While the honor accorded the Ecumenical Patriarch in Orthodoxy doesn’t remotely approximate that of the Pope of Rome within his confession, as the bishop of the former imperial capital and once-foremost city in Christendom he speaks with great honor and authority. On the other hand, the flock of the Church of Russia under the Patriarchate of Moscow as currently structured (including Ukraine) constitutes an absolute majority of the world’s Orthodox Christians.

An incautious move could trigger a major rupture, not just in Ukraine but worldwide, with the constituent national churches forced to take sides. For his part, Patriarch Irinej of the Serbian Orthodox Church has spoken strongly against the Kiev authorities and their aspiring autonomous church: “Anyone who helps the Ukrainian schismatics is an enemy not only of the Russian Church and the Russian world, but also of all Orthodox Slavic nations and the entire Orthodox world.”

Shifting now from the structural to the moral sphere, recently there appeared on the excellent websites Fort-Russ and Pravmir a commentary, “ORTHODOXY, CAPITALISM, AND “THE WEST”: IS ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY STUCK IN THE PAST?” by Nathaniel Wood, identified as a scholar of Orthodox theology and political theology and associate director of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center of Fordham University. The piece opens with an unobjectionable observation mainly relating to economic issues:

‘Orthodox political theology has often been strongly communitarian, skeptical of rationalist legal order, and reliant on the benevolence of autocratic rule. In… Russia, for instance, the influential Slavophile movement of the 19th century praised the Russian peasant commune as the highest expression of Orthodox social principles and even made it a basis for their model of the Church (the notion of sobornost’). The Slavophiles’ ideal Orthodox society was not only explicitly anti-capitalist, going as far as to ground all property ownership in social obligation, but was critical of the “rationalist” culture of legal relations standing behind the Western capitalist order, even to the point of investing all political authority in the autocrat out of fear that a society based on legal rights was antithetical to Orthodoxy.’

In addressing Mr. Wood’s comment on economics, Professor Jonathan Chaves of George Washington University, observes as an Orthodox Christian:

‘It is perfectly possible and respectable to be a Christian conservative and unhappy with “Plutocracy.” Plutocracy is the conglomeration or aggregation of small businesses into vast multinational corporations. In the 1920’s G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, both devout Roman Catholics, founded a tint party, the Distributist Party. Distributism said, “No” to Socialism, recognizing that private property is a foundation-stone of Liberty; and “No” to Plutocracy, realizing that it led to vast entities aggregating power to themselves. They said “Yes” to private, small business. And so must we all. If this discussion takes place only within the Orthodox Church, it will remain a tempest in a teapot. Let us link arms with those in agreement on the specific issues we can agree on.’

So far so good.  It’s one thing to question whether Orthodox Christians should uncritically accept the neoliberal global order and its corporatist economic and financial system (“capitalism”). Neither Scripture, nor the Canons of the Ecumenical and Regional Synods, nor the Church Fathers had much specific to say about this system simply because it didn’t exist in their day. Neither did socialism, for that matter.

But it’s quite another thing to redefine, under the guise of scholarship, moral principles that far precede the modern era and are central to Christian anthropology. Today, as noted above, those principles are under threat in increasingly godless Western Europe and North America. Moreover, in a manner reminiscent of the 20th century Bolshevik assault on Christianity (including the so-called “Renovationist” church), the West has made moral aggression against the socially conservative countries of formerly communist Europe a key element of its foreign policy. (See my “The West’s Quest to ‘Save the World Through Degeneracy’.”)

It is clear that such a redefinition of Christian morality, not economics, is the real deliverable in Mr. Wood’s essay and of the Fordham program he represents. Moreover, Russia is the particular target. The following is from website of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center of Fordham University (emphasis added):

‘Fellow co-director Aristotle Papanikolaou, Ph.D., professor of theology and the Archbishop Demetrios Chair in Orthodox Theology and Culture, said the Russian Orthodox Church has been trying to redefine human rights language in such a way that allows them to uphold “traditional values” for the last decade. This understanding of human rights doesn’t protect a band like Pussy Riot from protesting in a Church, or art that’s deemed blasphemous, and it’s consistent with laws that ban gay marriage and homosexual “propaganda.”

‘“Normally people would say, that’s a violation of human rights, and some Orthodox Christians want to say ‘No it’s not. We have our own particular interpretation of human rights, and we are justified in doing that because the West’s concept of human rights is biased and anti-Christian,” he said. “Our project hopes to offer a more nuanced understanding of Orthodox Christianity’s relation to human rights language than the diametrical opposition proposed by certain Orthodox Christians, especially in the post-communist context.”

‘Papanikolaou further noted that the Russian government also uses the language of human rights and the defense of religious freedom to justify its ongoing military intervention in Syria.’

So, “a more nuanced understanding of Orthodox Christianity’s relation to human rights language” doesn’t have a problem with blasphemous antics in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral (lovingly rebuilt after being blown up by the Bolsheviks)? With sacrilegious “art” (which in the west is often subsidized with believers’ tax money)? With indoctrinating innocent young children in alternative sexual morality (for example, in several US cities “Drag Queen Story Hour”)? With marriage not restricted to one man and one woman? With western-supported head-choppers seeking to kill, enslave, or uproot the Christians of Syria, and have been prevented from doing so mainly through Russia’s heroic intervention in that country?

Also, as an Orthodox Christian of Greek origin myself, I can’t help but notice more than a whiff of Hellenic intellectual and academic arrogance in the way mainly Greek principals of the Fordham project formulate their criticisms of the Russian Church’s positions. (Similarly, it is important to bear in mind that if the Ukrainian schism spreads further, the fault lines will partly though far from entirely split between Russians and Greeks, with disastrous results.) Rather than a case of the Russian Church’s seeking to ‘redefine human rights language in such a way that allows them to uphold “traditional values”’ it is quite clear that it is the Fordham academics who are themselves seeking to redefine authentic Orthodox Christian traditional values (without the quotation marks) as stated forthrightly, clearly, and faithfully in the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church (which link, to give Mr. Wood credit, he did include in his posting).

Sadly, the Fordham program is not alone in cutting-edge Orthodox academia. Another effort, “Orthodoxy in Dialogue,” cited above with respect to the Ukrainian crisis, displays the same agenda, including demanding that Orthodox clergy advocate open borders in the US on a par with opposing abortionbeing Orthodox and “genderqueer,” explaining the finer points of “intersex” vs. “transgender” (and faulting the esteemed Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou for ignoring the priceless “contributions that empirical sciences have made to our understanding of sexual and gender variance in human nature”), trashing respected American Orthodox Christian voices like Fr. John Whiteford and Rod Dreher, and – well you get the idea.

What is perhaps most tragic is that while ever-growing numbers of western Christians, lapsed Christians, and non-Christians are attracted to the Holy Orthodox Church precisely because they perceive Her, correctly, to be the Ark of Salvation that – with the powerful global support of the Russian state – does not change course with the gales and storms of a tempestuous and darkening world, revisionist Orthodox scholars would have us trim our sails to match the course of some western confessions that are increasingly rendered Christian in name only, if that. It is counsel we dare not heed.

Submitted by author, via Strategic Culture

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Possible terror attack at California mall thwarted by anti-jihad activist

Angry Muslim women and a shady Muslim man’s carefully-placed backpack were all part of the terrorism scene at the LA shopping mall on July 7.

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Los Cerritos Center, Los Angeles. Photo: losangeles.cbslocal.com

The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Office and the Los Cerritos Shopping Center are hush hush for now. It’s not yet clear if it was an attempted terror attack or just a dry run, but what is clear enough is that an observant anti-jihad activist thwarted the plans of some ill-intentioned Muslims on Saturday, July 7.

According to Big League Politics, Steve Amundson, the founder of the Counter Jihad Coalition (CJC), trained to detect security threats, noticed several alarming clues that led him to believe a terror attack was underway.

The last straw was when an angry Muslim carefully placed his backpack under the CJC’s table outside the Los Cerritos Shopping Center and walked away, later refusing to retrieve it.

Amundson was on the street that day with a pastor colleague, passing out literature about Islam and the threat it poses to America and other Western nations. An unidentified Muslim man wearing a backpack approached the pastor and began furiously arguing with him.

“Before leaving the table, Amundson says he witnessed the Muslim man strategically place his backpack underneath the CJC booth and walk away,” Laura Loomer writes for Big League Politics.

Amundson asked the pastor if he knew the Muslim man. When he said no, Amundson immediately reported the incident to mall security.

Loomer lays out the events and “red flags” leading up to mall security being called:

The events that unfolded next are shocking, and quite disturbing. Amundson told Big League Politics that after he alerted mall security, they approached the man and asked him if the backpack was his. The man said the backpack did belong to him, but he then refused to retrieve his backpack that he had placed underneath the CJC booth before walking away.

After a discussion with security, the Muslim man walked away with security, and security carefully took the backpack.

Over the past six months that Amundson and his colleagues have been tabling, he has experienced an increase in physical attacks against himself and his booth. For this reason, Amundson says he and his colleagues are trained to detect security threats and what they call “red flags”. While passing out literature on Saturday, Amundson says he witnessed and documented several red flags at the Los Cerritos Shopping Center.

The first red flag occurred when two Muslim men inside the mall began snapping pictures of the CJC booth and making phone calls shortly after. Amundson witnessed this and recognized it as “red flag one.”

bigleaguepolitics.com

The second red flag occurred when two Muslim women approached the booth and began cursing at the CJC’s booth operators, calling them liars. Mall security observed the hostile interaction and began speaking to the two women. It was at that moment when the two Muslim women distracted security that a white haired Muslim male walked over to the booth and slid his backpack under that table.

Mall security has thus far declined to confirm if the Muslim man was arrested or if the bomb squad had been called. Thus, it remains unclear if this was a dry run or the real deal.

The report continues:

Amundson’s experience at the shopping center is disturbing and concerning for many reasons, primarily because it appears as though the mall security and Sheriff’s Office are actively working to keep the public and Amundson in the dark about what appears to be a dry run of a jihadi attack. What happened to Amundson at the shopping center is a very serious incident the needs to be further investigated and disclosed to the public to ensure that people are aware of the threat that is clearly present within their own community.

Amundson applied to have another CJC booth at the same mall on July 21, which mall security rejected, citing safety concerns: “While we understand your organization’s right to engage in free speech subject to reasonable time, place and manner rules, we must consider the safety of the Center’s patrons.”

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Maria Butina, her crime: A love of the NRA and being Russian (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 61.

Alex Christoforou

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has communicated to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Russian national Maria Butina must be set free and allowed to return to Russia, after she was arrested by US officials on dubious spy charges.

Lavrov said that the US should immediately release the Russian gun activist, who is being held in the US on espionage charges, after a phone conversation with his US counterpart.

Lavrov called the charges levied against Butina “fabricated.”

In his conversation with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday, “Lavrov stressed that the actions of the US authorities that arrested Russian citizen Butina on fabricated charges are unacceptable.”

In an official statement the Russian Foreign Ministry called for her “immediate release.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the oddly timed, out of the blue arrest of Maria Butina, who is being held by US authorities for what they claim to be a violation of the FARA act.

In reality Maria Butina’s crime is much more troubling than simply failing to register as a foreign agent.

Maria made the double mistake of being in the United States of America as a Russian citizens who loves guns, at a time when racism and bigotry against Russians and NRA supporters is surpassing McCarthyite levels.

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Via RT

The Foreign minister raised the issue during phone conversations that were made at the request of the US and aimed at “further normalization of the US-Russian relations” following the summit between the US President Donald Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. Lavrov and Pompeo also discussed the process of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, as well as the situation in Syria.

The 29-year-old Russian student and a gun activist was arrested in the US about a week ago and charged with acting as a foreign agent without registering her activities with the authorities. Butina has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

On July 16, a DC Federal Court rejected Butina’s bail plea and ordered her to be placed in custody pending trial over fears that she could flee or contact Russian intelligence officials. Her lawyer says the trial is being politicized and Russian embassy staff were only allowed to visit her in jail on Thursday.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has called Butina’s arrest politically motivated, adding that it could have been aimed at disrupting the Helsinki summit between Putin and Trump. On Thursday, the ministry also launched a campaign hashtagged #FreeMariaButina on Twitter to raise awareness of her case.

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Ugly breakup at FBI: Lisa Page throws ex-lover, Peter Strzok, under the bus (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 60.

Alex Christoforou

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While Peter Strzok’s testimony put a face on the deceptive and secretive Deep State, GOP lawmakers who were present at Lisa Page’s closed-door deposition said they learned a lot of new information from the ex-FBI lawyer, and ex-lover of Peter Strzok.

Lisa Page confirmed to GOP lawmakers that the text messages sent between her and her lover Strzok “meant exactly what they said,” contrary to Strzok’s testimony.

According to The Gateway Pundit, one damning text message in particular sent from Strzok on May 19th, 2017, just two days after Robert Mueller was appointed Special Counsel, intrigued investigators and the public alike.

“There’s no big there there,” Strzok texted.

According to investigative reporter, John Solomon, Lisa Page confirmed that text from Peter Strzok did indeed refer to the Trump-Russia case.

Strzok knew it was a nothing-burger yet he forged ahead.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou, RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle, and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss how Peter Strzok’s testimony has undoubtedly contradicted Lisa Page’s cooperative deposition, as the ex-FBI lawyer is preparing to save herself, while throwing her ex-lover under the bus.

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Via The Epoch Times

Representatives John Ratcliffe and Louie Gohmert of Texas recently shared their observations of the closed-door testimony of former high-ranking FBI lawyer Lisa Page, which concluded on July 16.

One of the major questions regarding the testimony was whether it would match the one given by FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok.

But while Ratcliffe said he found a mismatch, Gohmert wouldn’t go so far.

Page and Strzok played major roles in the investigations on both 2016 presidential candidates: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia. During the same period, Page and Strzok had an affair and exchanged thousands of text messages expressing a strong bias against Trump and in favor of Clinton.

“When I questioned Lisa Page on Friday about the anti-Trump text messages that were sent between herself and Peter Strzok, there were significant differences in her testimony and Strzok’s as it relates to what she thought some of these text messages meant,” Ratcliffe said in a July 16 tweet, shortly before the second round of questioning.

“Page gave us new information that Strzok either wouldn’t or couldn’t, confirming some of the concerns we had about these investigations and the people involved in running them,” he wrote.

On July 17, Ratcliffe expanded on his further statements about Page’s testimony. Radcliffe told Fox News…

“There are differences in their testimony.”

“In many cases, she admits that the text messages mean exactly what they say, as opposed to agent Strzok, who thinks that we’ve all misinterpreted his own words on any text message that might be negative.”

Via The Epoch Times

In one of the texts, Strzok vowed to “stop” Trump from becoming president. In another, the two discussed having an “insurance policy” in the “unlikely” event that Trump would win the election.

Strzok, who gave a closed-door testimony on June 27 and a public one on July 12, said the first message meant he and the American people would stop Trump. The second, he said previously, meant he wanted to pursue the Russia investigation aggressively, in case Trump won.

GOP lawmakers were furious with Strzok’s attitude and unwillingness to answer questions. In a scathing monologue, Gohmert even linked Strzok’s credibility to the fact that he was unfaithful to his wife.

President Donald Trump repeatedly called Strzok’s testimony a “disgrace.”

The lawmakers said Page was comparatively more cooperative.

“There were times the FBI lawyers would be reaching to the button to mute her comment, and she would answer before they could mute her comment,” Gohmert told Fox News.

He said Page didn’t contradict Strzok “so much,” but “has given us insights into who was involved in what.”

“I think she’ll be a good witness,” he said.

Page ditched her first testimony appointment on July 11, prompting GOP lawmakers to threaten her with contempt of Congress. She then agreed to appear on July 13, which gave her the opportunity to review Strzok’s public testimony before giving hers.

The lawmakers are probing the FBI’s and Justice Department’s decisions before the election, suspecting they were influenced by political considerations.

Texts between Strzok and Page suggest that the FBI initiated an offensive counterintelligence operation against the Trump campaign as early as December 2015.

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