Five years ago, I would estimate that most of my readers knew nothing about Orthodox Christianity, but now many know the basics, and some have become catechumens, and several have been baptized as I have become baptized. This is not at all my doing but God using the internet to select men and women to be part of a growing Orthodox community online that is bringing souls to His Church at an intensity and speed that is unmatched in modern times.
The internet zeitgeist
After I graduated from college, I forged a connection with the internet zeitgeist. I was already entrenched into the underground pickup artist community before it went viral with the 2005 release of Neil Strauss’ book The Game. Sensing that pickup would compose just one part of a secular masculine identity, I was involved in the red pill wave that established a materialistic lifestyle around the sin of fornication. I was an early adopter in the travel-to-meet-women phenomenon, whereby I provided a bustling message board community whose content acted as scripture for men to sow their oats abroad. I was an early Trump supporter who encouraged the connection between masculinity and conservative politics. I say these things not to boast, for being a son of worldly things that are disconnected from God is nothing to be proud of, but to show my credentials that I can identify the cultural winds, and that I don’t believe in the fallacy that a group is popular or expanding just because I’m a part of it.
Many men can describe to you the feeling of being part of the PUA community in the early 2000s. It was exciting, transgressive, and free of commerciality. You would read an internet posting by an anonymous PUA online and then try it out on a woman in public. Carnal pleasure and egotistical satisfaction were promised and—for many secular men—abundantly granted. The PUA community eventually became part of the larger red pill movement that offered a complete though flawed system on everything. Many writers of Return Of Kings get nostalgic about the period between 2013 and 2016, how we were part of something “special.” In some respects, we were unwittingly shaping the culture by drawing in a wide audience: PUAs and feminists, conservatives and liberals, atheists and Christians. The energy was palpable and spilled offline. The most masculine men in the world were ready to act and battle with the world, but we had no worthy cause to fight for, so the energy was used up in fornication or online battles criticizing feminists. Our ideas were good enough for a rootless lifestyle, but not our lives, and eventually we had nothing more to say. The “manosphere” hit a dead end and died to purely commercial interests that stopped creating new ideas, descending into abject vulgarity while ignoring the fact that men have souls.
The last dissident movement
In May 2021, after I was received into ROCOR, I went shopping for a parish. I attended the Liturgy of a ROCOR church in the DC area. I expected the experience to be somewhat like my old Armenian church of mostly nice old ladies who offered me delicious baked goods, but what I found instead were Christians of all ages, single and married, who were zealous like me. The young men talked not about sports but Byzantine Church history. The married men talked not about housing prices but the exegesis of the day’s Bible reading. They knew of many Orthodox figures I knew, had been on pilgrimage to the monasteries I had visited, and were active on the internet in some capacity, spreading the Gospel through a constellation of creative means. It took me a few weeks of attending this parish, and observing how church life was connecting to the online Orthodox community, to realize what was happening: Orthodox Christianity was going viral, not due to a craving of worldly gain or pleasures like other internet movements but the desire to save souls. I believe God is far along in blessing a temporary wave of internet activity that will bring a huge number of people to Orthodoxy within the next five years.
Orthodoxy does not believe in the Protestant concept of “revival.” The Church has never faded away or gone into darkness. What you are seeing instead is a noticeable uptick in the calling of those who God deems ready to serve Him in a way that they were not capable before. If God called me at the height of my pickup artist phase, when I believed women were God, I would not have answered. If God called me at the height of my red pill phase with Return Of Kings, when I believed masculinity and its chemical analogue—testosterone—were God, I would not have answered. Even when God did call me in 2019, I still wasn’t ready for Orthodoxy, and needed two additional years in an almost-Orthodox Church to finally receive the faith in full. I’m not the only one who has taken the long road. God does not give us what we cannot handle, and one of the reasons we can handle it now is because the world has become so depraved and corrupt that the truth of Orthodoxy is obvious on its face, or at least much easier to accept, whereas in the past we were able to fulfill our sinful desires while deluded and blind to the obvious evil we were participating in.
It is a bit of a secular clichÃ© to want to be part of something that you would die for. Many are dying, literally and spiritually, for Black Lives Matter, coronavirus vaccines, homosexuality (AIDS), and so on, but dying in this world is explicitly what Orthodox Christianity calls for. Every other cause is counterfeit, every other temporal attainment is not worth moving your finger for once entering a blessed state of grace. There is ultimately no reward in secular movements and ideologies, only apostasy, personal destruction, and eternal death. All other internet dissident movements that have faded away, from the manosphere to the alt-right, were really proving grounds to select for men who would use the technology of the internet to bring souls to God’s Church for a last push of evangelizing until the fast-approaching time when we can no longer speak the truth online. Those who are in the “Orthosphere” today, the unwitting internet evangelists of an ancient faith, from the anonymous Twitter accounts to the big-name YouTubers, are part of the last dissident movement. My years of internet involvement have led to this, because this is where it all ends. The Cross is where all our lives end.
A funnel to salvation
God has harnessed the internet, a tool that I’d argue is predominantly used for evil, to bring those who crave the Truth to Him. Orthodox Christians have begun producing content that is getting the attention of the secular mob and those in other Churches. They are learning about Orthodoxy at a measured pace until God enlightens them to take the next step by buying a book on Orthodoxy, watching recorded sermons, or wading through theological debates. And then they find a local parish. The priests and deacons take over and then they get baptized. It’s clearly a funnel to salvation, and judging by the emails I receive that share how God is using me to act as a person’s first exposure to Orthodoxy, I am happy to fulfill a role within this funnel as ordained by God, as many hundreds of other Orthodox who are active online are also part of this funnel, waving people in like a parking attendant before the start of a large stadium event. Our evangelism is not knocking on doors or yelling at people on the street but speaking to hearts that God already reached at the exact time He knew best. God calls, the person answers, and then we come in to help, not deliberately or through an organized plan, but accidentally through the gifts of writing, speaking, visual artistry, debating, and community-organizing, all in an aspirational tone of consideration, patience, and humility. This is what the Orthosphere is doing, with a growing love and energy that far surpasses my involvement in previous secular movements.
If I were to arbitrarily pick a date when the Orthosphere became real to me, even though it had been subsisting for some time, it would be June 12, 2021, the date of the Trad Forum speaking conference organized by Orthodox politician Michael Sisco. It was an implicit Orthodox event that revealed to me the desire of Orthodox Christians to express their faith not just in the Church but outside it. Attendees met multiple Orthodox content creators like Luke Kendrat and Michael Witcoff. Nearly everyone else knew of Jay Dyer and is on his Discord. They know Father Josiah Trenham and Father Spyridon Bailey. They know of all the popular internet blogs and podcasts. They know of the Orthodox anon accounts on Twitter and Gab. The ratio of content producers to consumers is the highest out of any other community I’ve been involved in—it seems that everyone is trying to do their part. Today these men are Ortho memelords; tomorrow they will be fathers, deacons, priests, monks, and maybe even bishops.
There may be skepticism to my pronouncement that God has allowed Orthodoxy to go viral, especially since the word “viral” is often used to refer to something that is a flash in the pan, but through this word I refer not to the endurance of the Orthodox faith, which will be eternal, but to the sudden and effective internet evangelism that won’t last forever. My experience is that the power of any internet-based movement is most easily seen in a rearview mirror. When I was in the pickup artist community, I had no idea it would become as large as it did, and even when Return Of Kings was getting many millions of page views a month, I could not anticipate the impact it would have on the culture. The only reason I know the Orthosphere has arrived is my experience with those past groups and feeling today a level of effectiveness and vigor than I thought impossible within an internet movement.
Excited to serve God
Men and women are excited to be Orthodox Christians, want to share that excitement outside of Sunday, want to meet other Orthodox Christians, and want Orthodoxy to be the sole way of how they live their lives, as Christ demanded. And if you’re thinking that similar aspects of the Orthosphere are present with Protestants and Catholics, consider that the Orthodox Christian population in America is less than 2%, and the vast majority of those are Greek and Russian boomers who barely know how to use a smartphone. I estimate that fewer than 5,000 Orthodox Christians are steering the Christian conversation online within a country of over 320 million people, in a way that will result in innumerable conversions. The Orthodox I know don’t spend much time consuming the content of the heterodox, but the heterodox seem to be growing consumers of Orthodox content, and I believe that is because God is working on their hearts in a way that will eventually lead them on the firm path of eternal salvation as guided by the Church. For so few people to have this sort of influence is evidence in itself that God’s hand is at work. The best ideas and minds are increasingly connected to Orthodoxy and everyone has begun to look at the Orthodox to see what they’re saying and doing.
Secularized internet movements that stay outside of the Orthosphere will get left behind. Their movements will muddle in half-truths, infighting, egomania, grifting, and infiltration, while those connected to Orthodoxy will evangelize and create ideas that apply our unconquerable faith to the modern world. What happened to men’s rights groups? They faded away because they did not offer the full truth of women. What happened to MGTOW? They remain in stagnant YouTube ghettos because they denied the reality that men want to marry women and have children. What happened to the alt-right? They were abandoned by their leaders and collapsed because they made a false god of race, descending into paganism. The same will apply to those who deny Orthodoxy, and at the very least an explicit Trinitarian faith (e.g., America First has a disproportionately high Orthodox representation). Dead-end dissident movements will remain fringe and attract those who want to believe in lies to better enable the achievement of sin. They will no longer be the main force offering a counter-narrative to the establishment culture. They will not be part of the conversation that gathers souls to God’s Church.
I speculate that God is reaping the harvest of those who clearly see the fallen state of this world and desire Lord Jesus Christ to lead them to true life through His Church, and this harvest can only be reaped in times of troubles like we are in. He will baptize those who want to be baptized, and he will allow His children to use the internet, a tool that has caused massive carnage to the culture, to create strong online and offline local communities that will offer strength and support when the real persecution begins. Satan has already noticed what I have noticed. He will start to direct his minions against the Orthosphere very soon, and even if we have to go underground, we will never be alone. For a faith that is 2,000 years old, the fight for it will only get more intense, and I’m thankful that for the first time in my life, I’m a part of something that is true, right, and worth dying for.
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