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Our Lady of the Alt-Right: Catholic Traditionalism, Russian Orthodoxy, & the Theology of Nationalism

Thursday Lecture Series, Supernatural

dateApril 19, 2018 timeThursday, 12:15pm EDT location The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room, Columbia University
  • Christopher Florio
  • Audience open exclusively to Columbia faculty, students, and invited guests
  • All others interested in attending, please email SOF/Heyman at [email protected].
Two people holding a sign that reads "Russians are our Christian brothers"

Full Title: Our Lady of the Alt-Right: Catholic Traditionalism, Russian Orthodoxy, and the Theology of White Nationalism

Within the toxic brew of ideologies and interests fueling white supremacist nationalism, observers have detected the ominous persistence of neo-Confederate infatuation with Catholic traditionalism and, increasingly, its eastern variant, Russian Orthodoxy. In publications and through privately funded ideological centers, the Old Right and the Southern Agrarian tradition were kept alive during the 1980s and 1990s for those conservatives underwhelmed by the fusion of American Catholics and evangelicals in the New Christian Right. These rock-ribbed traditionalists saw in the GOP of the Reagan years and the 1994 Contract with America not the triumph of conservatism but “the increasing secularism, hedonism, and carnal and material self-indulgence of the dominant culture.” The Republican Party, these paleoconservatives believed, had capitulated to a soft and shallow version of family values, trading the substance of a robust Anglo-Saxon-Celtic political and cultural tradition for the shadow of a telegenic frenzy about sexy movies and prayer in the schools. The enduring romance between a certain strain of Catholic traditionalism and the white supremacist attachment to its vision of the Old South today reaches wider audiences in the form of on-line communities and a renewed movement for the “Church Militant.” Perhaps even more startling has been the rise of Eastern Orthodoxy as the home church of white nationalism in the U.S. as well as around the world. Periodically, the status of the Orthodox Communion has come into vogue as the uncorrupted church—the “Third Rome,” as Russians call Moscow, to which the true faith retreated while Western Christianity succumbed to Roman domination, Enlightenment corruption, and eventually to the liberalization of Vatican II. With Pope Francis widely perceived on the Right as the first gay communist pope, and with international awareness of the robust anti-gay, anti-feminist, and pro-white agendas of Orthodox flag-wavers like Vladimir Putin and Greece’s Golden Dawn, Russian Orthodoxy is growing in the U.S., albeit sometimes in the shadows of the institutional church. Through a network of institutions, publications, conferences, and political action, then, Confederate romanticism joins right-wing Catholic anti-modernism and Russian traditionalism to offer spiritual succor to a new “nationalist international” in the age of Trump.