Bad News from Bloomington
Bigotry is usually subtle. It creeps up on us (on all of us), and sometimes we’re not even aware it’s in there until something brings it out.
But there are times when bigotry is not subtle. There are times when it is extreme. This week, we in the Orthodox Christian community in the United States got word that a young man who was chrismated (that is, initiated into Orthodoxy from another branch of Christianity) in Bloomington, Indiana on the Saturday before Easter/Pascha had proudly posted a photograph of himself to facebook apparently beating a gay man with a Russian cross. This man has been vocal about his views, calls himself a neo-Nazi, has been on Nightline discussing his ideas, and has been blessed by David Duke as Duke’s natural successor.
The priest who chrismated this young man claims that he had no idea of his full views. One may or may not find this credible. I think it’s mostly a form of PR; given that the priest has access to the young man’s facebook page, the priest could not have been totally unconscious unless he was trying very, very hard not to notice certain things. At this point, the parish is working on damage control, and most people are not that good at damage control.
Most of what there is to say about this has already been said better than I ever could by Maria McDowell, Inga Leonova, and others (follow the links; these are well worth the read). As an Orthodox Christian, it’s important for me to be upfront about the darkness that hides (and has always hidden) in our parishes. I also think it’s important for everyone to acknowledge that the more violent and virulent, less everyday forms of bigotry are always among us, and that it is always dangerous to dismiss it as merely the work of a few crackpots. We have a moral obligation to speak. We have seen it over and over, in every country, among every people: our silence is dangerous. Our silence can be deadly.