Jay Dyer and the "Psy Op" to Subvert Orthodox Christianity in America
The radicalization of American converts and the impending schism of post-COVID Orthodoxy
Editorial note: the use of “psy op” in the title is a play off of what Dyer frequently accuses others of. It is not meant that the author believes there is a conspiracy or psy op from Dyer and company. :D
I didn’t want to write about this topic; I wasn’t planning on writing about topic. But the last few days have proven it to be a necessity, because it is indicative of a larger issue facing the Orthodox Church today.
In order to provide the necessary context, though, I am obliged to detail the development of cultural changes as well as speak about myself more than I please. The result is going to be both long and revealing. So bear with me.
Theoria: Orthodox Christian Faith and Culture is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
When I graduated from seminary in 2019, I returned to a world far different than the one I left three years prior. Political polarization was at an all-time high; college administrations bent the knee to the demands of unstable student rioters; intellectual “elites” caved to the pressure of the woke mob; and the media fully embraced the system of gender self-identification.
I was not alone in my observations.
A NEW GENERATION: COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS AS TRUTH
In 2019, Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff published a detailed study of cultural changes on college campuses entitled, The Coddling of the American Mind. Picking up where Allan Bloom left off in his 1987 book, The Closing of the American Mind, Haidt and Lukianoff summarize the sociological turn with what they call the Three Great Untruths:
The Untruth of Fragility: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.
The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning: Always trust your feelings.
The Untruth of Us Versus Them: life is a battle between good and evil people.
When Greg initially encountered these budding social doctrines on the college campus in 2013–2014, he recognized in them an uncanny similarity to a series of well-documented cognitive distortions.See, years earlier, Greg was at the end of his rope; he was ready to end it all. But instead, he enrolled in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)—a proven technique developed by Aaron Beck in the mid-twentieth century. Cognitive distortions is the name Beck gave to patterns of thinking that he observed causing interpersonal and intrapersonal dissonance—like overgeneralization, jumping to conclusions, all-or-nothing thinking, and so on. The goal of CBT is to intentionally deconstruct unhelpful patterns of thinking and develop new neural pathways to transform how one sees and thinks about the self, others, and the world. Fortunately for Greg (and many, many others) dealing with these cognitive distortions through CBT changed his life. So imagine his concern when he began to see widespread acceptance and litigation enforcement of cognitive distortions.
Although one could argue that the western world has been on the road to perdition for quite some time, Jon and Greg could not help but wonder what had changed to cause this rapid acceleration of Untruth on college campuses specifically. They found their answer in intergenerational difference expert Jean Twenge. In her 2017 book, iGen, Twenge demonstrates that the concurrent rise of depression, technology, and social media, specifically, is not coincidental. Twenge notes that the generation of kids born after 1995, which she calls iGen (now: gen-z), is generally less rebellious (less casual sex, taking less risks, etc.) than the classic 1980s teenager but also far more depressed.
Jon and Greg summarize:
Twenge shows that iGen suffers from far higher rates of anxiety and depression than did Millennials at the same age—and higher rates of suicide…[and yet] members of iGen are ‘obsessed with safety.’
It is not primarily physical safety that iGen is concerned with, though; it is emotional safety. The development of this complex can be traced back to the obsession over physical safety of children in the 1970s and 1980s. As the authors point out, keeping kids safe is a good thing. But as a result of an overcorrection that peaked in the mid-90s – which included an unhealthy focus on emotional safety – kids would grow up without developing the independence and resilience necessary to be functional members of society.
What is an unhealthy focus on emotional safety?
For the answer to this question, Jon and Greg cite Nick Haslam’s 2016 book, Concept Creep: Psychology’s Expanding Concepts of Harm and Pathology, in Haslam notes that, over time, the definition of words such as “trauma” change from objective to subjective reality. The focus on keeping children safe from kidnappers and bullies shifted from an objective physical event (e.g., a kidnapping, a punch in the face) to a subjective emotional experience (e.g., I don’t feel safe, he hurt my feelings).Eventually, the word "violence" underwent a similar change: from objective physical abuse to the phrase "words are violence," emanating unabashedly from the 2009 Hate Crimes Bill and culminating in the idea that people who calmly disagree with transgender ideology are comitting violence against a minority community. It doesn't take much to connect this with the oft-repeated, nonsensical woke comeback: "why do you want me to die? Why do you want me to not exist?"
Somewhere amid all this madness, the Orthodox Church began seeing an enormous uptick in American inquirers. And then COVID happened.
ENTER: CULTURE WARS
To say that COVID further polarized the political divide would be an understatement; to pass by in silence the divide that this also exasperated in Orthodoxy would be a mistake. But first, more context:
Sometime between 2017–2018, seemingly every ambitious Orthodox convert, clergy, and monastic decided that they needed to start a YouTube Channel. Enter: the Orthodox YouTuber. This was not something that had been done before.
MY HISTORY WITH YOUTUBE, SEMINARY, ORDINATION – AND MY FAMILY
I have a long history with YouTube. So when I noticed, in 2015, that there was not much available with respect to Orthodoxy, I received a blessing to use my professional skills (videography, editing, animating) to develop a YouTube channel dedicated to spreading established tenets of the Orthodox Faith. I called this channel, Theoria. At the time, there were only a handful a poorly produced videos, some 90s-looking archdiocesan content, Theoria, and Steve Christoforou with y2am (Be the Bee).
For my first project, I traveled to Baltimore to film a series of videos with Frederica Mathewes-Green entitled, Welcome to the Orthodox Church. The series was produced 2015–2016 and ended up being 34 videos long. Early 2016, I traveled to see Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon in Chicago – and likewise produced a few videos with him. By fall 2016, I was enrolled in seminary. Close proximity allowed Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick and I to develop a friendship – and produce a series of one-off videos such as What is the Orthodox Church?, 5 Misconceptions about the Orthodox Church, and 5 Differences Between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. As I continued in my studies, though, I would produce less and less: from 30–40 videos the first full year (2015–2016) to 7 videos in 2017, 2 videos in 2018 (3 if you include the video I made with Steve and Fr. Andrew but posted to y2am: 4 Tips for Being an Orthodox Christian Online), and 0 videos in 2019.
2018–2019 was a hell of a year. I mean that literally. It was hell.
Two weeks before the start of my final semester for my M.Div. degree, my wife was hospitalized. The doctors did not think she was going to make it out alive. And neither did I. But she did. Barely. She was bed-bound the rest of my last semester – and I was caught in the middle of freelance work, finishing school, managing her symptoms, medication, medical visits, and taking care of our four children. I am forever grateful for the seminary working with me during this process – allowing me to listen to recordings of class in the evenings instead of attend, when necessary.
By the time of graduation, my wife could get around but was still not well. And the mystery of the illness had not been solved. Not knowing what the future would bring, I declined ordination from Archbishop Michael of New York and New Jersey when he presented me with a few rector positions to choose from, and moved, together with my wife and four children, back to the midwest where our parents and other family could help, if need be, moving forward. But my wife didn’t have any more debilitating health issues for a while…
In late 2020 it was suggested that I reach out to the late Archbishop Paul (OCA, Midwest) to let him know who I was and that I was local to the midwest (I was not OCA). He was excited to hear where I was and had mentioned starting a mission – and he tonsured me a reader. Around this same time, I decided I wanted to also continue the online ministry of Theoria – but I did not have the money to self-fund travel so I could film the Orthodox priests and teachers I wanted to feature. So it was suggested that I get in front of the camera with the hopes of building a community that could, eventually, be self-sustainable and fund what I actually wanted to do: travel to cover Orthodoxy – and speak to Orthodox teachers and clergy – around the world. I contacted both Abp. Michael, as a friend and mentor, and Abp. Paul. Both blessed the endeavor.
Theoria: Orthodox Christian Faith and Culture is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
BACK TO THE MISSION:
My wife, children, and I began holding reader services, with a handful of other Orthodox in the area at a local Catholic private school that allowed us to use their facilities free of charge. Although it was a strange time (because of COVID) it was an exciting one. But not long after we began consistent services and community get togethers, my wife fell ill again.
At that point, I was juggling the mission, my freelance work as a videographer, my acceptance into a D.Phil. program in Cambridge, UK (distance), and the various challenges of fatherhood. And I continued to juggle these until I couldn’t.
The first thing I voluntarily dropped was the PhD work; I had only written the outline for my dissertation for approval, so it was an easy choice. In 2021, I requested to stop the mission. The archbishop and the dean both suggested that we put it on pause – but not stop it. I agreed. After traveling all over the midwest, to specialist after specialist, my wife was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia (POTS, with potential Mass Cell Activation), and a Chiari Malformation. She was put on medication to control the symptoms. Discovering that the issues are genetic, she had our oldest daughter – who showed signs of EDS and POTS – tested. She was confirmed with the same diagnoses (minus the Chiari) and put in leg braces.
Eventually, we restarted the mission with great success (30 people meeting consistently, Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sunday mornings). Archbishop Paul called me to set a date for my ordination to the diaconate and then, a month later, to the priesthood. But then the unexpected happened. The young priest of the OCA parish to us (the parish that was helping sponsor our mission) died. Meanwhile, my wife’s symptoms continued to get worse, even on the medication, and we discovered that our youngest was having seizures in the evenings (later diagnosed with epilepsy – also I should add, years earlier my oldest and third child were diagnosed with autism. There was a lot going on). This is when Archbishop Paul called me and asked me to move and take over that parish. And again, I declined, requested to stop the mission (which we did), and continued to do my best to take care of my family. Four or five months later, Archbishop Paul fell asleep in the Lord.
THE BEGINNING OF YOUTUBE DRAMA: ORTHODOX “IN FIGHTING”?
This context is all important to the greater narrative because, as time progressed and I continued to create YouTube content and eventually begin publicly pushing back on Fr. Peter Heers and Orthodox Ethos, I would have detractors suggest that it is quite suspicious that I have an M.Div. from an Orthodox seminary, am married, and am not ordained.
As I ventured down the dark path of “YouTuber,” I made mistakes: such as making a YouTube short hastily, and somewhat dramatically, criticizing OE and Abp. LUKE of Jordanville (since removed). I likewise conflated the original intention of Theoria (a catechetical resource) with my own research interests (with edgier videos pushing back on internet orthodoxy and transgenderism together with vlog style videos, silly videos, etc.) and began posting them. Although I believe that this work is important, it was pointed out to me by Fr. Andrew Damick and others that Theoria should not be “culture war” content – but catechetical. It was hard to hear but I listened. And removed that content and placed it on a secondary YouTube channel called WholesomeHenri. I did the same with my Theoria twitter account – where I was outspoken – and deleted all the previous tweets. And I began to use the WholesomeHenri twitter account for my “spicy” cultural takes.
THE JAY DYER DRAMA (2023:
Three days ago, on Saint Patrick’s Day (March 17, 2023), I witnessed an exchanged between an Orthodox Christian priest and Jay Dyer. Now, if you don’t know who Jay Dyer is, you’re not alone. I had heard his name here and there but never really cared to engage in any of the drama that (I heard) surrounded him as a YouTube commentator. I still do not care to engage. But on March 17th, March 18th, and March 19th, (and now March 20th), I did.
Allow me to explain.
Fr. David Galloway, a student at Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, recently gave a talk in which he noted that 97% of Antiochian and OCA clergy that he surveyed would not recommend content from Jay Dyer, Orthodox Ethos, The Wheel, Orthodoxy in Dialogue, or Public Orthodoxy, as they produce serious pastoral issues in the parish.
I do not know the details but somehow Jay caught wind of Fr. David’s talk and began engaging with him on twitter which produced the following exchange:
I thought Fr. David was quite charitable. So I decided to share his posts. I did so summarizing his statistics and saying I agree that Dyer is talented. But not long after posting this, I began to receive texts from friends with screenshots of Jay’s twitter timeline (he had blocked me on twitter before I ever spoke to or about him – but we will get to that). He responded to Fr. David thusly:
Jay then began to claim that “this” (aka the “attacks” against him and/or the “OCgAy” event as he called it) was a coordinated effort between Cabe (me) and others.
This is where I decided to dig in. Dyer had slandered me before. I ignored it. Then he slandered me again. I ignored it. And again. But as I began to notice a pattern of false information being shared and touted as “truth” by Dyer (by this, I mean slander against individuals such as Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick, Fr. David Galloway, Archbishop Benjamin, and the entire OCA, generally) I decided to call him out:
What exactly did Jay claim about me that was slander? For that we will have to go back to December 6, 2022. See, I had posted an article warning people about Fr. Peter Heers and Orthodox Ethos in November of 2022. This article was a slightly edited excerpt from a document I wrote (2021) about Heers out of concern for what I see online (discord, reddit, elsewhere). I shared my concerns and document via email with a few bishops (as they are not chronically online or in these chat groups like most of today’s youth) and friends. But I didn’t publish it anywhere.
Until November of 2022.
In November of 2022, I began to see an upsurge in concern over Heers and Orthodox Ethos (OE). A coterie of individuals independently observing OE’s online behavior, such as telling inquirers to find a different priest or not listen to their bishop if x, y, or z, started to wonder if this was Heer’s attempt to sow the seeds of schism. As a result, I decided to post a portion of what I had previously written, as a caution to such inquirers. As I suspected, posting this article publicly and under my name brought with it a multitude of difficulties, the least of which was online slander. It actually contributed to a fallout with the parish my family was attending at the time (which I later reflected on in a thread on twitter). This is important to note here because of the recent slander of Jay who said I was “kicked out” of my parish. That’s not what happened. The priest and I had a few disagreements (one of them being Heers, another being the fact that he was not visiting his parishioners in the hospital, or following up with parishioners who have not been coming to Church – for what it’s worth, I called this “pastoral malpractice”).
Nonetheless, a few weeks pass and we show up at church one Sunday morning to a normal-enough liturgy. But after liturgy was not normal. Right after the “Our Father” at coffee hour, the priest got right in my face and began yelling at me. He said things like, “If you don’t like it here then you can leave and not come back.” My calm response was: “you and I can disagree on certain things and my family and I can still come to Church…because it’s the mysteries we are coming for…” at which point he told me, “No. We can’t. You have to take it all [here insinuating: ‘everything I think’] or none of it!”
The short story is: my family decided to never go back to that parish.
It was not just the priest that disagreed with me about Heers, though. Before the event above (where the priest yelled at me: 2023/01/01) one of my friends in that parish visited me at my house to discuss my then-recent article on Fr. Peter. We had a conversation in which I detailed why I thought it was important to push back against Heers’ version of Orthodoxy; I explained to him that such rigorism often leads to despair – and can lead to spiritual and physical death (suicide). He disagreed but we agreed to disagree and parted cordially.
A few weeks later, on Saint Nicholas’ feast day (December 6, 2022), this came across my twitter feed:
I was heartbroken. So I reposted it with an entreaty for prayers for the soul of Zachariah. Over the course of the day, I received – from various people that saw my post asking for prayers – other information that greatly disturbed me. Just a month prior to committing suicide, Zach posted on Facebook that he was giving up on becoming Orthodox because he isn’t perfect and he can’t be perfect enough to be baptized.
Who was telling this catechumen that he had to be perfect to receive baptism? I posted again, commenting that this needed to be looked into because it was NOT right:
The response was 50/50 or maybe 90/10. Hundreds of people agreed. This was not okay. But the most vocal of the online voices (as typical) were those who decided to galvanize this tweet against me to claim that I was using the suicide of a catechumen to “virtue signal” and build social capital or further my “agenda” to “attack a priest (Heers).” (I did not think Heers was his spiritual father or priest – Heers doesn’t have a bishop so he doesn’t have parishioners.) I was surprised by the backlash. That’s not what I meant at all. But cancel culture grasps at straws.
Here I want to note that suicide is ultimately the choice of the individual – and indicative of many warring internal feelings and emotions. While no one but the individual is “responsible” for the act, it is important for clergy to recognize the signs and attempt to intervene when necessary. And certainly not to add more to the mental/emotional burden.
I wasn’t happy that my tweet was taken this way. It grated on my nerves throughout the day. And I even began to argue with one of Zach’s friends, accusing him of not being there for him. And I immediately regretted it. I apologized. And we made up. I regained composure and mentioned that I was concerned that what Zach was focussed on in Orthodoxy (per his Facebook page) was the exact thing that is being socially pushed by a bunch of online Orthodox content creators. And to my surprise, his friend agreed:
Obsession with the end times, the anti-Christ, the mark of the beast… things I all laid out as concerns for Fr. Peter Heers and company… as aspects of the sectarian mindset.
This was a pattern that I had seen over and over again. There is even a specific parish where this has happened multiple times (catechumen suicide). Likewise, others shared their personal (similar) experience online (both before and after, spurred on by these posts about Zach):
November 16, 2022 (This is not Zach, but someone else):
December 14, 2022:
Elsewhere on Reddit the following conversation broke out:
(Read the full post here).
There is much more of this kind of thing floating around the internet… It’s a clear pattern indicative of something that is happening in Orthodoxy. And it’s not because a certain minority of people are trying to subvert the Church. All arrows point to sacramental rigorism – the kind that the so-called “Genuine” Orthodox Church practices which has likewise led to similar results.
The issue itself was and is important to me. But I was distraught by the social interpretation of my post (even if from just a minority of loud mouths on twitter). So I decided to publicly apologize. And then I deleted all of the tweets on my account. That’s when I separated Theoria (catechetical resource) from WholesomeHenri (personal, general).
Unsurprisingly, though, a number of these accounts that accused me of using a suicide to continue my agenda were those of Jay Dyer, David Ehran, and others of their ilk:
This was the first time (to my knowledge) that Jay Dyer had tweeted about me. In the same string, he continued by suggesting that I was “allied with Fordham” and intent on “subverting Orthodoxy:”
I honestly found this laughable. Anyone who knows Fr. Andrew Damick or I would immediately brush off such a critique. Fordham, if you don’t know, is the institutional home of “Public Orthodoxy” which is engaged in promoting LGBTQ+ lifestyle acceptance in the Church. If Jay (or others) had done even a modicum of research, he would see that I have been speaking about LGBT issues for the last 10+ years – and have been published as doing so. Not to mention this is the exact topic of my book, which states that Christian anthropology precludes the possibility that a man can be a woman or vice versa. According to Jay, though, I am a subversive psy op plant intent on taking down him and Traditional Orthodoxy:
And to top it off, he calls me “skittles” (his preferred phrase for calling someone gay):
Although amusing, I figured it was not worth responding to. So I didn’t. A month later, Dyer continues his slander claiming that I was involved in a campaign to get him excommunicated. He then posts a link to a video stream he made three years prior which supposedly “refutes” Fr. Andrew Damick and myself.
A month after that (2023/02/27), I retweeted a screenshot photo that someone posted saying that their priest advised they stay away from Jay Dyer, Orthodox Ethos, and Fr. Josiah Trenham, saying this was “good advice.” This was the first time I ever spoke about Jay publicly. I later deleted the post because people continued to ask me about Fr. Josiah Trenham, who was a casualty of the post. I clarified that I was mainly retweeting with respect to Heers but, per twitter, people continued to inquire. I got tired of responding and deleted the tweet. But not before Dyer saw it:
A few weeks later, Dyer retweets a post by David Ehran (of Patristic Faith website – which I don’t recommend in case anyone is wondering :D) stating that “normiedox gays see a man commit suicide be like ‘UHM WHO WAS HIS SPIRITUAL FATHERS I BET HE’S THE REASON THIS MAN ENDED HIS LIFE.”
Note that this was 2023/03/10 – over three months after I had deleted all the tweets on Theoria. And during which time I did not mention Zach again…
David Ehran tweeted from a separate account saying “Ben Cabe is most likely on Golitzin’s payroll and is his operative.” What’s funny is that I’ve never actually spoken to or had any communication with Abp. Golitzin. But this kind of behavior is part-and-parcel of Jay Dyer and crew: to suspect that anyone opposing them is conspiring to take them down. This includes Archbishops, the CIA, the FBI, and on and on and on.
Six days after Ehran posted his tweet about “gay normiedox” (2023/03/17), Fr. David Galloway made his comments to Jay on Twitter and then brown bag holding undesirable contents hit the fan. I successfully redirected the ire against Fr. David Galloway (current student) to myself. Dyer began tweeting about me nonstop, which I found funny. For a man supposedly trained in philosophy, he certainly relies heavily on ad hominem (encouraging his flock of internet sleuths to do the same). So much for Plato’s rules for dialogue.
(This is just a small sample of the creativity of Dyers crew :D).
The next three days continued in like manner. I leaned into Jay’s insults by including them in my twitter bio, called out Jay’s insults and slander, and clarified my intentions where able.
Elsewhere, others were beginning to speak out as well. But anytime anyone disagreed with Dyer, he immediately blocked them on Twitter, choosing to live in his insulated echo-chamber rather than listen to the gentlest criticism (which is what started this: Fr. David’s incredibly charitable explanation to Jay).
What’s interesting is that within the group of individuals dogpiling me and others speaking out against Jay, sacramental rigorism reared its head:
Notice how this mimics donatism. Which is exactly what I drew out in my article Rebaptism: Patristic Consensus or Innovation? – if you haven’t received baptism in the Orthodox Church…but only Chrismation…then you’re not Orthodox. I should not have to draw out the extensive problems with this way of thinking…
Others claimed I was using Dyer as an excuse to dismiss Heers:
But then something strange happened yesterday. Jay unblocked me and publicly challenged me to a debate. I mentioned that I have nothing to debate; my main concern is how he uses smear campaigns to discredit people that disagree with him – campaigns based on complete slander but that caters to his audience’s predispositions (like calling me a liberal or pro-LGBT, etc). But I felt hopeful. Jay and I were actually in dialogue (sort of) for the first time. And to me that was progress.
Notice how the invitation is to debate. Following which he asks how my assignment is going from Archbishop Benjamin. When I say I do not know him he claims “didn’t say you did.” But wait… didn’t he just accuse me of having an assignment from him?
This points to an other issue which I will call, nonsense talk. This is a tactic used by the woke mob all the time (specifically Judith Butler, who basically founded modern gender theory). It’s talk past or talking around the person in front of you.
So I clarify:
After this conversation he blocked me again. But not before he responded to several tweets publicly. He claimed I was unwilling to debate. Either he (or one of his fans) called me a chicken (I can’t remember who but that’s beside the point). And he and I engaged in the following tweet exchange.
Here, Jay comments that he is not a spiritual father and does not give spiritual advice. This, however, is not true as you can clearly see. He is constantly giving advice that falls within the domain of the spiritual – specifically with his recent campaign against the OCA.
The reason behind his campaign, though, became clear to me late in the day yesterday after our interactions. Apparently, Fr. Peter Heers and Fr. Zechariah Lynch are associated with Jay Dyer (I did not know this until yesterday).
Apparently, I wrote against what I thought to be a serious Orthodox theological error in pretense to score points with Archbishop Benjamin (even though I already told him I do not know him and he claimed that he “didn’t say I did”).
Fr. Zechariah Lynch (OCA Clergyman, also on Patristic Faith, InklessPen) and I have a history (as you can see in the tweet above). He was the author of a slanderous article about me in which he claimed I was subverting Orthodoxy with my modernist agenda. I ignored it. In his article, he included screenshots of my then-community outreach website (associated with the mission we were starting) Saint Brigid’s. The screenshots showed that we don’t care if someone identifies as gay or trans – and that they are welcome to come hang out with us (Tuesdays was outreach night: board games, coffee, tea, etc. The goal: allow members of the broader community to interact with Orthodox Christians, become friends, and develop relationships so that a door would be open to talk to them in a way that they may be able to receive the message… you know, basic human being interpersonal relation stuff).
At any rate, after I posted my article about Heers (Nov. 2022), Lynch posted his article again, this time on the Patristic Faith website. That’s when I decided to post my research concerning Saint Paisios and the Protestant Eschatology of Heers and Lynch et. al., as Lynch had somehow gotten his hands on a copy of my research and “responded to it” (albeit poorly) in the same slanderous article a year prior.
When I learned of their association with Jay (just yesterday) the broader narrative made sense. Let me explain.
I recently had a run in on twitter with Dn. Ananias (Erik) Sorem. He posted that an Orthodox hieromonk is on the highway to hell because he converted to Catholicism. (Again, sacramental rigorism. Mormon-style stuff: if you leave, you’re going to hell no matter what!). Dn. Ananias speculated in the comments that the CIA got to him.
What’s funny is that I know this hieromonk. I had dinner with him after he converted. I just wanted to hear his story (you know, basic human being interpersonal stuff). And he told it. As someone that knows him personally I commented that he was not “turned” by the CIA and that to suggest such – or even think such – was ridiculous. I likewise continued to note that this behavior is indicative of paranoia and delusion, if not serious mental illness (of which I’m told Dn. Ananias was “miraculously cured by God” so he doesn’t have to take his medication anymore…)
Dn. Ananias blocked me immediately.
I thought this was strange so I did some searching and discovered that he was the founder of the Patristic Faith website. I also found that he recently moved to Montana to pursue a vision of an Orthodox utopia. With this in mind, he started a “Montanica” conference (now “Montanika”).
Technically, he is an OCA clergyman (under the OCA Romanians) – and moved without a proper transfer (from what I have been told). He tried to attach himself to a mission there in Montana and began holding meetings with the parishioners… behind the prevailing priests back. I do not know exactly what happened but it got ugly. And Archbishop Benjamin had to fly out to deal with him. Fr. Alexander Rental did as well. But Dn. Ananias ran from Church discipline and began serving at the Serbian parish – resorting to his bishop (which I can only assume is +NATHANAEL of the Romanians) who he claimed publicly, in his discord server, was “protecting him.”
I can only assume the “letters” from the “parishioners in Helena” are from individuals Dn. Ananias successfully “turned.” I don’t like using language like that, but this plays into a broader issue: the OCA Clergy that was running the mission started to notice something strange. The parishioners stopped tithing. At the exact same time, Fr. Russel in Butte, MT (Serbian Parish where Dn. Ananias serves) noticed that their tithes were going up…
There is a LOT more to the Montana story (for Bishops reading who are equipped to deal with this, contact me for names and sources to corroborate some major issues with Dn. Ananias and Jay Dyer specifically; and please forgive me for posting this publicly instead of sending directly to you. But I believe that this must be the catalyst for change…), including Fr. Andrew Moore’s move there from Missouri for the same reasons as Dn. Ananias (although officially the story is his wife got a job there). Recently, he posted on the Orthodox-version-of-a-tabloid website, Monomahkos, a series of complaints against the hierarchs concerning their new clergy guidelines (which Jay has been tweeting nonstop). Why? Because these guidelines were created to prevent exactly what Fr. Peter Heers, Fr. Zechariah Lynch, and Dn. Ananias have done. Which is start an online presence or ministry and radicalize people with their specific version of Orthodoxy.
It is not healthy.
And there is a LOT more to say: about the Montana situation, about Dn. Ananias, Fr. Andrew Moore, Fr. Zechariah Lynch, Fr. Peter Heers, Jay Dyer, et. al. But now is not the time. Perhaps the Assembly of Bishops will finally deal with the situation and the rest will not have to come out.
The point, however, that I am making is that there is a group of individuals that are radicalizing young Orthodox converts (young men, specifically), encouraging them toward sacramental rigorism, global conspiracies, and end-times speculation while mobilizing them against individuals that have successfully thwarted their plans (Abp. Benjamin; Abp. Golitzin, when he spoke out about Heers a few years ago; me when I spoke out about Heers, etc.). This is the reason for Jay Dyer’s recent slander and attack on the OCA.
Are these men wrong in everything they say? Absolutely not. I’ve heard that these men have produced work that has been spiritually helpful. However, many of the laity are not equipped to sift the wheat from the chaff. And the chaff here being propagated can produce serious spiritual and physical danger…
Certainly the OCAs silence on the COVID situation has not helped them. And this is one point that Jay and company continue to hit home – albeit somewhat indelicately. As I’ve stated elsewhere, I believe the OCA synod did the best they could do at the time. But it would be good for the people for them to release another statement. From what little I know about synodal proceedings, though, it isn’t as easy as just “releasing a statement.”
The issue is, COVID should not be dividing us… the fact that it is points, yet again, to sacramental rigorism. But spirituality is not magic. This is something that sacramental rigorism cannot understand. It cannot parse magical thinking from spiritual life. To make a case that using different spoons is sacrilegious is nonsense – the spoon wasn’t even used for communion until the 9th/10th century); likewise the idea that wearing a mask in church, not kissing the icons, and so on. Is it important to venerate the icons? Of course. But is it a hill to produce schism over? Be careful how you answer.
And no. It’s not “indicative of a modernist agenda” or a “CIA plant” or a “liberalization” of the Church. The ENTIRE WORLD was thrust into an unprecedented situation. And everyone did their best to cope with what was happening.
THERE IS A PATTERN:
I should note that the OCA clergy here implicated (Lynch, Sorem, Moore) are all clergy that have been disciplined or attempted to be disciplined by Archbishop Benjamin and the Diocese of the West… Likewise, Heers is a clergyman that no bishop will receive into his diocese (the reason for his bishoplessness since 2018).
There is a pattern here.
There is a pattern of disgruntled clergy moving against their hierarchs…
There is a pattern of these same priests being vocal about their complaints to mobilize others against their hierarchs… and hierarchs generally.
There is a pattern of ad hominem and blatant slander – a tactic used to ruin the reputation of those that disagree.
There is a pattern of discrediting their detractors by calling them “ecumenist” and “modernist”…
There is a pattern of the sectarian mindset…
There is a pattern of paranoia bordering delusions…
There. Is. A. Pattern.
THE YOUNG MEN ARE DYING SPIRITUALLY AND PHYSICALLY
Just to be clear: I’m not exactly Mr. Golden Boy in the OCA either. I wrote a private document last year and sent it to the bishops and metropolitan explaining some concerns I had with one of the institutions. It was a very revealing document. I don’t think they liked it very much, though. Who wants to hear that there’s a problem with something they take pride in anyway? I don’t blame them. From what I was told by an insider, though, it was being said within those circles that I “made up” everything. This is categorically untrue (I drew exclusively from first hand sources: but these sources were too afraid to speak up, as many of them are clergy or hold positions and could be disciplined for doing so). Yet I wound up not publishing it because I did not want to create public scandal. It wasn’t worth it.
I’m sharing this to say that yes, there are problems. No one is naive enough to think that a divine-human institution will be bereft of any issue. But those heavily criticizing it, which includes the aforementioned far right (Heers, Dyer, Lynch) and far left (Public Orthodoxy, Orthodoxy in Dialogue, etc.), are often conflating things, missing key pieces, and for Dyer at least, sharing completely false information about the people he is attempting to “call out.”
And that hits another point: the OCgAy event, as Dyer called it, was within the diocese of Archbishop Michael Dahulich (NY and NJ). I know Archbishop Michael. He is a good man. And although I haven’t spoken to him in a few years, I am certain that his standing on this issue has not changed. He later confirmed with a parishioner that asked (and then posted to twitter): he did not know about the event and did not approve of it.
Does this mean Abp. Michael should publicly shame the priest? No. That’s not how pastoral care works. The bishops do not post reasons for suspension or defrocking for this exact reason. It’s not really our business.
I know. So what makes this my business?
The predominating view of Dyer, Heers, Lynch, and the cadre of YouTubers together with their poorly produced YouTube videos and articles, has been to ignore them and their content and not comment on it.
But that has not worked.
And it will not work.
Because the generation that we are now serving is far different than any other generation in history. They are being sold cognitive distortions, delusions, paranoia that they are already prone to – and they are eating it up. They are caught somewhere between the woke nonsense and far right supremacy. And they are confused. They are hurting. They need direction. DIRECT direction. They need an alternate voice.
The “utopia” promised by sacramental rigorism and the conspiracy-leaning Orthodox content creators is in fact no place. It is imaginary. It does not exist. It has never existed. A cursory glance at history will demonstrate this. Yet, this same rigorism, taken to its logical end, requires far more of the young catechumen than they can give in many cases. The young men falling for all of this nonsense have the abyss of nihilism on their left and the false promises of hedonism on their right. They know that the narrow path is difficult. And when they find the Church, they are up for the challenge. This often pushes them, at least in the beginning stages, toward the more rigorist end of the spectrum. But when reality hits – when they fail, when their life falls apart, when they are broken – rigorism becomes yet another pharisaical burden that they can no longer carry. And as the case with many young men, they despair. And in some cases, they despair unto death.
This is why I am speaking up.
The vision of Orthodoxy being sold to these young men and women is not a vision based in reality; it is not based in pastoral theology; it is not based in love. It is based in fear: fear of how society is encroaching on the Church, how its hierarchs are “liberal,” how faithful Christians are receiving a “precursor” to the “mark of the beast” via the vaccination… What happened to Christ? Where is Christ?
This article is too long. It will likely be hard to follow – as it has been stream of consciousnesss. But I believe in light of everything that is going on… in light of Jay Dyer’s slander – and forthcoming slander of me which will likely take place on one of his lengthy YouTube streams… in light of the fact that we have an Orthodoxy that is divided… and being divided by poorly defined, catch-all accusations of “ecumenism,” “liberal,” “modernist,” and the like… The danger of not speaking out has surpassed the concern of speaking out and drawing more attention to these figures.
Your flock is listening to them.
Your flock is watching them.
And if these content creators are turning them against you…against the hierarchs…against the canonical Orthodox Church.
It’s only a matter of time.
IF YOU THINK ANY OF THIS IS IMPORTANT: SHARE. SHARE. SHARE.
If you think it is important for this to be addressed. Sound the alarm. Share this article far and wide. I have done my part. Now you need to do yours.
5/11/2023: Someone who used to be in Jay Dyer, Dn. Ananias Erik Sorem, and David Tehran’s inner circle recently spoke out. Find the article here:
I fully expect to be the subject of more slander because of this article. If you have any questions please reach out to me directly and I will do my best to address them.
Theoria: Orthodox Christian Faith and Culture is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Here I am concluding with a list of individuals that are engaged in this behavior:
Jay Dyer, David Ehran, David Patrick Harry (Church of the Eternal Logos), Fr. Peter Heers (Orthodox Ethos), Dn. Ananias Sorem (Patristic Faith), Fr. Zechariah Lynch (InklessBlog, Patristic Faith), Fr. Andrew Moore, et. al. And anyone associated with these individuals or their websites – even if they are not complicit in delusion, by being a part of these websites they show a lack of discernment.
The Coddling of the American Mind, p. 4.
Ibid, p. 9.
Ibid, p. 30.
This is the result of what Jon and Greg call Concept Creep (Ibid, p. 25). They point to the book by Nick Haslam to explain: Concept Creep: Psychology’s Expanding Concepts of Harm and Pathology (2016).
This is not referring to emotional abuse, which is real. (E.g., gaslighting, narcissist abuse, etc.)
To be clear, I have not heard the talk. This is what I gathered from the discussion I witnessed between Jay and Fr. David on twitter. From what another twitter user said, it was only a sample size of 30 priests. I do not know if this is true or not. But that’s beside the point.