Monday, April 28, 2008

Russia tries to turn back the clock on the Reformation

In this day and age, it is uncommon to hear about Christians persecuting other Christians. The Popes tend to talk about reconciliation rather than confrontation, ecumenical movements seek to minimize even honest doctrinal differences, and the major clash of religions discussed in most places is between Islam and Christianity.

But in Russia, it appears the prosecution of Christians by Christians is going strong, as Vladamir Putin's government looks to use the power of religion to strengthen the power of the state.

There was a time after the fall of Communism when small Protestant congregations blossomed here in southwestern Russia, when a church was almost as easy to set up as a general store. Today, this industrial region has become emblematic of the suppression of religious freedom under President Vladimir V. Putin.

Just as the government has tightened control over political life, so, too, has it intruded in matters of faith. The Kremlin’s surrogates in many areas have turned the Russian Orthodox Church into a de facto official religion, warding off other Christian denominations that seem to offer the most significant competition for worshipers. They have all but banned proselytizing by Protestants and discouraged Protestant worship through a variety of harassing measures, according to dozens of interviews with government officials and religious leaders across Russia.
How many times will Russia repeat the totalitarian cycle? America looks to "export freedom" to the Middle East, we need to remember that even in Europe freedom is not an irresistible march toward victory.


shadowmom1 said...

This is so sad for the Christians there, but a sure sign that the church is about to grow and grow stronger, which is what happens in times of persecution.

Sean said...

I find it odd how easily the Orthodox are simply giving in to this - granted they are on the positive side of the power. They did this with the Communist as well. I don't know, it just seems odd to me.

CRCHAIR said...

I guess the Russian Orthodox church figures they survived the Communists so they can survive anything.

One missionary group whom our church works with is developing a pastor training video curriculum that can fit in a briefcase and is being translated into 8 languages including Russian. It will allow good biblical training to be brought to areas where currently that is hard to find.

Ward said...

This is actually not new at all. This was ramping up in '98 when I was there for the first time. It has a lot to do with why most churches are now sending small teams to lead and direct initial work and then leaving only a small American presence on the ground. This is what has happened with the Wesleyans. We have the seminary there which has a tiny American contingent to teach the Russian pastors, who then do all the work outside in the community. They lead the church and all the efforts.

As for the Orthodox church, not only do they accept it, but they have been one of the driving powers behind the crackdown. They see the protestant churches as interlopers invading with a faulty view of Christianity. Remember, Roman Catholics see Protestants as wayward brothers in a post Vatican II world. But we used to be apostate in their eyes. Well, the Orthodox church considers the Roman Catholic to be apostate. So imagine how much they dislike Protestants who are an even further apostasy to the Church.

Also, one other factor that the news will never get into because of the subtleties. Cults. Jehovah's Witness and Mormon churches popped up like crazy after the fall of the USSR and the results have been disastrous. They play a large role in the bitterness against Protestant churches in Russia too.

Nomad said...

I am always impressed with the depth of experience we have here at Mod-Blog. I had forgotten about Ward's experience with Missions in Russia.