When I first wrote about the growing popularity of Eastern Orthodox Christianity among those on the far-right for Religion Dispatches in November of last year, I was regularly told that Matthew Heimbach’s excommunication from the Orthodox Church was the end of the problem. They told me that in making connections between the so-called alt-right and Orthodoxy I was overreacting.
But last week, there was Heimbach, at the center of those organizing the “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville—and marching, as Inga Leonova writes at Fordham’s Public Orthodoxy, while “waving ‘Orthodoxy or Death’ banners.”
The events of the past week make it shockingly clear that with reference to the growing threat of white nationalist groups, overreacting may not be the problem. I feel this especially because I spent the week before the events in Charlottesville researching the converts whom Orthodox Christianity and white supremacy share.
My guide into this world was Tim (who asked that I not use his real name). Tim inquired on Facebook if I had written the article referenced above and I said yes, expecting the same apologia I had received before. Instead, I was introduced to dossier of evidence that suggests that the “nationalist problem” is far from contained and presents a serious, ongoing challenge for American Orthodoxy.
While the Neo-Nazis and Neo-Confederates may be relatively few in number, there is increasing evidence that Orthodoxy has become an integral part of the ideological and recruitment apparatus within some segments of the white supremacist movement. Importantly, these ideas and the converts to them are being tolerated, and frequently exploited, by much more powerful voices. This growing attachment to Eastern Orthodox Christianity among a segment of white nationalists has serious implications for more mainstream currents in contemporary Orthodox life.
From the minute he first spoke, I couldn’t help but think…