I have a confession to make: I get lost down Internet rabbit holes too often for my own good. As I skimmed Google News earlier, I came across a story from the L.A. Times detailing the violence which broke out today in Sacramento between members of the self-proclaimed Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP) and anti-Nazi/white supremacist protesters. As I made my way to the end of the story, I couldn’t help but notice that TWP is headed up by one Matthew Heimbach, a young darling of sorts to white-nationalist types and an apparent Eastern Orthodox Christian. As some may recall, Heimback caused quite the stir back in 2014 when he was received into the Antiochian Othodox Church and then proceeded to beat up someone up during Bright Week while holding a large Byzantine cross. The priest who chrismated Heimbach quickly denounced the latter’s views and stated that Heimbach had to undergo a period of penance if he wanted back into the Orthodox fold. Though details are sketchy, he appears that Heimbach is still a practicing Orthodox Christian — in an Old-Calendarist jurisdiction. (Only in America folks…)
Now, let me be clear that the TWP appears to have no direct links to any canonical body of the Orthodox Church nor are its positions Orthodox (or Orthodox-informed) in any distinct manner. As a review of the Party’s official platform reveals, TWP is more or less a strange conflation of libertarianism, nationalism, racism, and (secular) traditionalism. Like many “alt-right” movements, its primary aspirations are animated by a fear of “anti-white racism” without actually doing much to clarify who counts as “white.” The term “European-American” is used in various places on the website, albeit without a working definition. For instance, does man who immigrated from Mexico to the United States legally get to call himself a “European” because — more likely than not — he has Spanish ancestry? Are Italians and Greeks disqualified from being “Europeans” because of the heavy mixture of Middle-Eastern blood in their veins? And what of the Slavic peoples of Eastern Europe? Are they “white” or are they something else? Is Russia “European”? What about Georgia? And beyond all of these queries, does it even matter to the TWP that the race idea is a rather late invention in human history and certainly not one with any deep “traditionalist” roots.
With respect to TWP’s economic agenda, well, it’s a confused mixture of libertarian-inspired anti-statist rhetoric and top-down economic interventionism. For instance, TWP supports managed trade, subsidies for purchasing homes (and perhaps other forms of real property), regulated health care, and environmental strictures — all the while eschewing the dreaded “state.” None of this is to say that all of TWP’s agenda items are bad. In fact, several of its economic policy positions are fully supported by the social teaching of both the Catholic and Orthodox communions. However, it is the racialist bent of the TWP, particularly as it comes to immigration and “non-whites” already living in America, which renders it toxic. How someone professing to be an Orthodox Christian can endorse such an outlook reveals the extent to which liberal ideology and the Enlightenment idea of “nationality” corrupts what should be patently obvious.
Judging by the aforementioned L.A. Times story, it doesn’t appear that the TWP is a particularly strong movement, but I expect more groups like this to begin popping up in the coming years as various forms of nationalism gain traction in the face of a growing global terrorist threat. In the U.S., the fracturing of the Republican Party will no doubt bring the weirdos out of the woodwork and folks who were once too ashamed to air their personal views in public will begin rallying fellow mouth-breathers to their raving-mad causes. I expect that certain pockets of traditional Catholics and Orthodox will be tempted to go along with one or more of these groups, largely out of a misguided hope that they can present a clearer way forward through the fog of liberalism than any mainstream political party currently offers. That would be a mistake, not only because race-based politics should be anathema to any right-believing Christian, but because our own respective communions have already plotted a way ahead which is divorced neither from the Gospel nor common sense.