by Fr. John Whiteford
One could make a career of responding to all of the nonsense that “Public Orthodoxy” spews on a regular basis.
Recently, Ashley Purpura has made the unlikely argument that the services of the Church somehow promote gender fluidity, in her [dare I presume her binary gender?] article: “Beyond the Binary: Hymnographic Constructions of Orthodox Gender,”which begins with the manifestly ridiculous assertion:
“Much like gender itself, Orthodox understandings of gender span a spectrum of diverse views.”
Of course, anyone with any concern for the truth who actually knows anything about the Orthodox Church knows that this is not even slightly true. There is not the most microbial fragment of a basis for such an absurd claim. Not even the remotest hint of such a microbial fragment….
But how does this presumably intelligent and educated woman come to make such a baseless statement? One has to be extremely mal-educated to ignore all of the evidence to the contrary of her thesis.
To provide the thinest of a veneer of something like evidence, she argues that there are hymns that celebrate the bravery and endurance of certain women martyrs that speak of their “manly” courage. And so we have to assume that Orthodox monks, who for the most part are the authors of such hymns, secretly wished to promote gender fluidity.
What other evidence does she cite? Well, in our hymns, male chanters sometimes read hymns that speak in the voice of women characters. For example, at the feast of the Annunciation, at the canon, there is a dialogue between the Archangel Gabriel and the the Virgin Mary, and so the fact that a man would read this canon is somehow an example of “gender-bending.” By this logic, no one could ever read the Bible aloud without falling into “gender-bending” at some point, since they will inevitably speak words that were spoken by members of the opposite sex.
And so we are supposed to conclude that centuries before anyone ever knew that gender-bending was a thing, the hymns of the Church expressed a widely diverse perspective on gender, and embraced the notion that gender is “fluid”
But then Ms. Purpura asks how it is that the hymns of the Church could embrace gender fluidity when “so much elsewhere in the tradition… reinforces gender expression exclusively along an essentialized binary”. Of course the simple solution to this concocted problem is to come to the reasonable, and historically defensible conclusion that Ms. Purpura’s starting premise is nonsense, and then no such problem exists.
But the most perplexing question here is how it is possible for someone who is educated and intelligent to come to a conclusion that is so obviously lacking in any actual basis in history or evidence? Well, if we look at her bio at Purdue University, we find the answer. There we find that she
“…reevaluates Byzantine constructions of ecclesiastical hierarchy in light of critical theory….”
What does that mean? That means she uses a Marxist approach on the material she studies. See the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Critical Theory: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/critical-theory/
Critical Theory seeks to analyze what it studies in terms of Marxist theories of class struggle, and to identify who the oppressors are, and who are the oppressed in any given context, and to interpret their subject matter in ways that liberate the oppressed. So you see, Ms. Purpura most likely does not really believe that centuries of Orthodox monks have been promoting ideas of gender fluidity, but the LGBTQWXYZ community today is (in her view) “oppressed” by “”cisgendered” Orthodox, and so if she can “reinterpret” Orthodox hymnody in a way that helps to liberate the oppressed, it doesn’t really matter what the actual truth is, it only matters that the oppressed are liberated from their oppressors.
And all of this is designed simply to overturn the existing order, in order to pave the way for something new. Never mind that the history of Marxism, when put into practice has resulted in the worst slaughter and misery the human race has ever seen. Truth doesn’t matter, because, they hope that just maybe… despite all human experience up until now, the next attempts at a Marxist utopia will work in practice as well as its devotees think it works in theory.
One has to wonder, at what point does Archbishop Demetrios in particular and the Greek Archdiocese in general, become bothered by their close association with the so-called “Orthodox Christian Studies Center” at Fordham University, which so consistently promotes the LGBTQWXYZ agenda, not to mention pretty much everything else they publish contrary to actual Orthodox Christian teaching.
Update: In the fuller version of the article, which is referenced at the end, and found here:
We find the following statement which crosses the line into outright blasphemy:
“Despite stemming from a Byzantine tradition that sanctifies a literary corpus of transvestite or andromimetic nuns, homoerotic mystical imagery, and a patristic tradition of resolving gender division on the path to salvation, present-day Orthodox Christianity through its official and public hierarchical channels maintains a gender binary and the cisgender performance of that binary as normative and spiritually necessary” (p. 528).
When she speaks of “transvestite or andromimetic nuns” she is referring to nuns like St. Theodora of Alexandria, who was a married woman who fell into adultery, and in repentance decided to become a nun, but because she feared that he husband would find her, chose to dress as a man and go to a monastery, where her husband would never think to look. She was later falsely accused of having fathered an illegitimate child, and she did not defend herself, endured the shame, and raised the child herself. Her innocence was only discovered at her death (see her life for more). Such examples are unusual, but exceptional cases due to circumstances, and the Church commemorates her as a woman, not as a man, and certainly not as a gender fluid person of some other non-binary category. To use such examples to promote the acceptance of homosexuality or transsexualism is ridiculous.
The suggestion that the services are full of homoerotic imagery is both perverse and blasphemous. The farthest thing from the minds of the hymnographers of the Church would have been anything remotely supportive of the homosexual or gender-queer agenda.