There are isolated individuals on the fringes of Church life. These marginal figures are either on the left side – the illusory optimists, the absurdly unrealistic, the deluded and exalted, who believe in Origen’s heretical salvation for all, for everything is wonderful and Christ is All-Merciful only – or on the right side – the merciless pessimists, the depressed despairers, the doom-laden and gloom-mongering, who seem to believe in the Apocalypse more than in the Second Coming of Christ, as salvation according to them is virtually impossible, for Christ is a strict and ruthless Judge only.
On the left side we find three interlinked groups:
1. The Careerists and Corrupt (in the Russian Church these are usually called Sergianists)
These dangerous people are obsessed with money, luxury, papal-like power (that makes them pro-Catholic), prestige and their own personal appearance. In the Russian Church, they can be recognized because they often have a cult of the late Patriarch Sergius. Their scandals involve money and/or sex (usually not the heterosexual sort, though the defrocked Metr Filaret of Kiev is an exception to this). Thus, simony and/or perversion are their chief domains.
2. The Modernists and Ecumenists (in the Russian Church these are usually called Renovationists)
These are obsessed with being as Western, and therefore as Russophobic, as possible. They hate Tsar Nicholas II and also Vladimir Putin and admire the EU and the US. Westernization used to mean protestantizing themselves, but now it means adopting politically correct secularism, including LGBT, an aping of the West, which is the result of their primitive, Third World inferiority complex, which in turn is the result of their lack of the independent Orthodox Faith.
3. The Intellectuals
With an over-developed intellect, but undeveloped faith, these are often so cynical that they run the risk of losing their already weak faith altogether. They may also suffer from sexual obsessions, as several of them are homosexuals. Some are involved with gossip and scandal-mongering on blogs and fora, which further develops their cynical attitudes and weakens their faith. They stain their own souls and the souls of others through their spiritual impurity.
On the right side we also find three interlinked groups:
1. The Pharisees
These include loveless monastics, or rather pseudo-monastics, whose religion is not Love, but that of the typicon, canons and ceaseless and needless rules that make the Faith into a mere religion. They call themselves traditionalists, but in fact they do not follow the Tradition because the Tradition is the continual inspiration of the Holy Spirit all down the centuries. These suffer from the temptations of sectarianism and judgementalism. This is pride.
2. The Nationalists
These follow an ideology which reduces the Faith to mere provincial folklore, with no international relevance. In Russia such nationalists can even defend Stalin. They are marked by profound theological and historical ignorance and narrow-minded bigotry, which means that they revert to a Protestant-like fundamentalism and literalism in their views. They have no real interest in Church culture or Church services and are very insecure and anti-intellectual.
3. The Pietists
These are sentimentalists, disincarnate and impractical dreamers, philosophers but also often strict moralizers. They like to group around gurus, mistakenly calling them ‘spiritual fathers’, ‘startsy’ and even ‘saints’, aping them like clones and condemning all others outside their cult. Like the Pharisees, their temptation is sectarian. Their spiritual disease is ‘prelest’, that is, spiritual delusion, which is merely vulgar pride in an elegant, philosophers’ envelope.
These six fringe groups, careerists, modernists, intellectuals, and their parallels, pharisees, nationalists and pietists, are those who make of Faith and the Church of God a mere religion, a mere manmade institution, a cult. They confuse the means and externals, services, canons, rituals, church buildings, knowledge, with the ends and internals, which is salvation, meaning the salvation of the human soul from evil, from all that is not Love. Such groups have always existed, under different names and under different guises, they are all part of fallen human nature.
The balance between all these fringes is among the masses, in the mainstream of the Church, which by definition is not to be found on the fringes and margins, but in the Church. This balance is to be found in traditional monasteries and good parishes, founded on loving and solid families. Good and true, loyal and faithful to Christ through the Tradition, those in the mainstream include bishops and monastics, pastors and people. All for them is built on love. For if a patriarch lacks love for his bishops, the bishops will lack love for their priests and the priests will lack love for the people.