By Editorial Staff
Published February 1, 1994
By Sergei Zavgorodny
Editor’s preface: A decree passed by the Russian Parliament last summer restricts activities of western ministries in Russia. Yeltsin, though opposing the Supreme Council, did not veto this decree. The law is now valid, yet only arbitrarily enforced. The following article is a scenario of what could take place. A totalitarian system could be bred in Russia – not by atheistic communism – but by the Russian Orthodox Church working hand in hand with tyrants as she did in the time of the czars. Americans are implored by the staff of the Russian language Forerunner, Predvestnik, to pray for the reformation of Russia that religious liberty, which is a part of Yeltsin’s proposed constitution, will take hold of this great nation.
KIEV, Ukraine (FR) – Of all the republics of the former Soviet Union, Russia being its successor has remained not only economically and politically the strongest state, but also a kind of “pacesetter” in democratic reformation. Any law ratified by the Russian government inevitably evokes a response in other republics. The deep crisis of the Russian legislature makes the situation more complicated. How should one consider decrees and laws ratified by the Parliament that has been dissolved? The more so, as many of them are contrary to standards of international law signed by Russian officials.
One instance of the kind is an amendment of the 14th article of Russia’s law “On Religious Freedom” that was ratified on July 14, 1993 after a long and difficult discussion at the Supreme Council (Soviet) of the Russian Federation. Debates flared up that polarized the parliament into extreme positions. Resolute opponents, as well as most ardent supporters of the amendment, well understood that this step would mean a turn from the straight path of reforming the totalitarian system to narrow and dirty ways of bureaucratic pettifoggery and willfulness. But “the interests of the state” that masked a violation of the law turned out have more value – after all, which parliamentarian desires to be put forward for public view as a person not concerned about the interests of the state?
So what is the ratified amendment all about? According to the new version of the law, a person that does not possess a Russian citizenship has no right to be involved in activities of religion, missions, publicity and propaganda in Russia. Other activities, such as acts of charity, will be permitted by an authorized committee that will give exclusive permission for particular activities. Documents to regulate a work of the committee must be prepared by the Russian government. According to the amendment, any activity that is to be permitted must correspond to “the interests of the State” and “the harmony of the society.” What kind of “harmony” this must be so that religious activities may meet “the interests of the State” is not known. It might only be clear to those registered religious organizations which are now applying for the right to participate in activities in Russia.
Before voting, copies of a letter by the Russian Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow and Entire Russia Alexiy II were distributed among parliamentarians. It read: “On behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church to which most Russians belong, I testify that the suggested updates and additions fully meet the hopes and necessities of the Orthodox clergy and lay people.”
The patriarch expressed the hope that the parliament would decide to “put in order the activities of foreign religious organizations in Russia,” and stated that “a person’s choice between a religion must not be imposed from outside.”
Thus the head of the Russian Orthodox Church made it clear that they desire to gain a dominate position among other denominations which would be sealed by law, in spite of the fact that over one-third of all Christians (about 15 percent of the population) are not Russian Orthodox and people professing other religions make up about 10 percent of the population of the country.
The Russian Orthodox Church appears to want to cut the ground out from under the feet of her competitors. It becomes still more obvious as militant “defenders of the Orthodox faith” expressed their delight in having the amendment ratified by explicit and artless words. For example, when speaking on the Hour of Parliament TV program, the Chief of the Foreign Policy Department of the Russian Orthodox Church, metropolitan Cyril stated that the activities of Catholic and Protestant denominations should have been restricted a long time ago and that the law should have dealt even more strongly with these other religious groups.
What some frivolous politicians and zealots of the Orthodox Church were calling for in their speeches and sermons is a reality now. All activities of foreign missionary organizations are legally banned. All denominations other than the Russian Orthodox Church may encounter difficulties in their activities. The only exception to this, ironically, is Islam. Muslim clergy supported the legislators in ratifying the new decree. The reason for this is a slowdown of Islam’s spread and a great work being promoted by Protestant churches in Middle Asia, most of them begun by various foreign ministries and churches. The Islamic sects of Russia, unlike the Russian Orthodox Church which has branched out internationally and trains ministers intensively, traditionally rests on internal religious structures.
All denominations that closely collaborate with foreign missionaries are going to have considerable difficulties in making contacts. For example, the Roman Catholic Church of Russia, being led from the Vatican, is not able to receive ordained ministers from abroad. This is a hindrance since there are very few seminaries in Russia which train Catholic priests.
Protestantism in Russia, which is traditionally oriented toward ministries abroad, will have a difficult time. Most Protestant churches (especially young ones) may simply expire when no help comes from sister churches in the West. In today’s difficult economy, churches are not virtually able to meet their financial needs by themselves because of inflation and a falling standard of living. Most church members receive financial aid from their churches. This type of charity would soon fade. It would become impossible to free leaders from being otherwise employed. This would restrict the amount of ministry time of a pastor. In addition, many Christians are working in offices created by foreign ministries and churches, which gives them an opportunity to give more time to the work of ministry. Closing these offices would force workers to seek employment elsewhere.
Most Protestant churches conduct evangelism together with representatives of sister churches in the West, who provide cars, musical instruments and management skill. Of course, an absence of this kind of aid will not bring the work of the Church to an end, but will considerably hinder them. The most detrimental factor would be the lack of experienced people from the West who would help with organizing both technical and spiritual aspects of these activities.
Christian literature is also in a rather complex situation. Now the Orthodox Church actually possesses a monopoly on the printing of “must” literature – New Testaments and Bibles. And most of such literature came to Protestant churches from abroad or was printed by foreign missionaries in Russia. The one significant exception is the Protestant Publishing House, an indigenous organization in Moscow run by Baptist businessmen and pastors. But one publishing house will not be able to supply all of Russia with needed Christian literature. For example, one of the largest ministries that specialized in printing and distributing Christian literature (and especially New Testaments), Terry Law Ministries, which has printed and distributed millions of pieces of Christian literature free of charge in the former USSR, now has no chance to print in Moscow as it used to in the past. Obviously, Belorus and Ukraine will become the main publishing centers soon, which will cause an expenditure on shipping to remote parts of Russia to rise.
And yet the most serious problem Protestant churches will have to encounter is that a great many churches which have been started with the aid of western ministries will have no chance to invite pastors and teachers of sister churches. This may breed various kinds of heretical teachings and delusion.
Among other religions, Judaism, which also depends on aid from Jewish communities in the West, has been injured the most. Virtually all ministers in synagogues are foreign citizens.
Of course, the attempt of any church to fence her flock off from various false teachings and heresies is understandable and good. But when a rivalry between certain denominations becomes more like an attempted genocide, being accomplished by the laws of the state, the situation becomes graver. In spite of the fact that the amendment was intended to restrict activities that could damage people physically and mentally, almost nothing has been done in this area. Rather, the state has begun to view harmless religious groups as cruel cults, such as Hasidism and an American Baptist preacher who had come to help with teaching ministers of local churches. Yet the amendment offers no resistance to national religious cults which are genuinely harmful to the health and mentality of the population, such as the “White Brethren.” (See related article on page .)
Denominations other than the Russian Orthodox Church are at the mercy of an army of bureaucratic officials who have an officially given right “to punish or grant pardon.” And the Orthodox Church will surely exert pressure on their decisions. Censorship will probably appear in mass media under a vague formula of “the interests of the State and the harmony of the society.” Then it would be only one more step towards the persecution of those who belong to rival denominations, which would undoubtedly increase the number of emigrants from Russia.
Thus Russia, with her parliament as a mouthpiece, indirectly proclaimed the Orthodox Church as the established religion, which is to officially replace the teachings of Marx and Lenin. As a Moscow journalist put it: “Russia is not a secular state anymore.” When a state violates its separate status sealed by its constitution and, contrary to the law, marks out a particular denomination, most common as it is, not only liberty of conscience, but also every right and freedom of man is in jeopardy.
This is the time for the alarm to be sounded. If the West wants to help Russia and other states with their economies, then it must sure they are willing to maintain democracy. Otherwise it may breed another totalitarian system.
Totalitarian trends are usually seen in countries that suffer from economic and political instability. People try to unify everything in the hope that it will bring stability. But this will not help; when freedoms are violated, government must be opposed and protested against. As a partner and assistant, the West must explain this to the former USSR.
Editor’s postscript: Since the Russian language Forerunner is an indigenous publication published in Kiev, Ukraine, now an independent nation, the Russian law has little bearing on their activities. However, we urge you to pray for continued freedom for the printed word to go forth from Ukraine.
Forerunner - Home » The Forerunner Newspaper » Russia, Ukraine and former USSR
Your comments are welcome!
Download the Free Study Guide!
God’s Law and Society powerfully presents a comprehensive worldview based upon the ethical system found in the Law of God.
Speakers include: R.J. Rushdoony, George Grant, Howard Phillips, R.C. Sproul Jr., Ken Gentry, Gary DeMar, Jay Grimstead, Steven Schlissel, Andrew Sandlin, Eric Holmberg, and more!
Sixteen Christian leaders and scholars answer some of the most common questions and misconceptions related to this volatile issue:
1. Are we under Law or under Grace?
2. Does the Old Testament Law apply today?
3. Can we legislate morality?
4. What are the biblical foundations of government?
5. Was America founded as a Christian nation?
6. What about the separation of Church and State?
7. Is neutrality a myth?
8. What about non-Christians and the Law of God?
9. Would there be “freedom” in a Christian republic?
10. What would a “Christian America” look like?
Perfect for group instruction as well as personal Bible study.
Ten parts, over four hours of instruction!
Running Time: 240 minutes
Watch over 60 on-line video interviews from God’s Law and Society.
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
“When the lives of the unborn are snuffed out, they often feel pain, pain that is long and agonizing.” – President Ronald Reagan to National Religious Broadcasters Convention, January 1981
Ronald Reagan became convinced of this as a result of watching The Silent Scream – a movie he considered so powerful and convicting that he screened it at the White House.
The modern technology of real-time ultrasound now reveals the actual responses of a 12-week old fetus to being aborted. As the unborn child attempts to escape the abortionist’s suction curette, her motions can be seen to become desperately agitated and her heart rate doubles. Her mouth opens – as if to scream – but no sound can come out. Her scream doesn’t have to remain silent, however … not if you will become her voice. This newly re-mastered version features eight language tracks and two bonus videos.
“… a high technology “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” arousing public opinion just as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 antislavery novel ignited the abolitionist movement.” – Sen. Gordon Humphrey, Time Magazine
Languages: English, Spanish, French, South Korean, Chinese, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese
Running Time: 28 minutes
$17.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
With “preaching to the lost” being such a basic foundation of Christianity, why do many in the church seem to be apathetic on this issue of preaching in highways and byways of towns and cities?
Is it biblical to stand in the public places of the world and proclaim the gospel, regardless if people want to hear it or not?
Does the Bible really call church pastors, leaders and evangelists to proclaim the gospel in the public square as part of obedience to the Great Commission, or is public preaching something that is outdated and not applicable for our day and age?
These any many other questions are answered in this documentary.
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Who is the Real Jesus?
Ever since the dawn of modern rationalism, skeptics have sought to use textual criticism, archeology and historical reconstructions to uncover the “historical Jesus” — a wise teacher who said many wonderful things, but fulfilled no prophecies, performed no miracles and certainly did not rise from the dead in triumph over sin.
Over the past 100 years, however, startling discoveries in biblical archeology and scholarship have all but vanquished the faulty assumptions of these doubting modernists. Regrettably, these discoveries have often been ignored by the skeptics as well as by the popular media. As a result, the liberal view still holds sway in universities and impacts the culture and even much of the church.
The Real Jesus explodes the myths of these critics and the movies, books and television programs that have popularized their views. Presented in ten parts — perfect for individual, family and classroom study — viewers will be challenged to go deeper in their knowledge of Christ in order to be able to defend their faith and present the truth to a skeptical modern world – that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Jesus of history — “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is the real Jesus.
Speakers include: George Grant, Ted Baehr, Stephen Mansfield, Raymond Ortlund, Phil Kayser, David Lutzweiler, Jay Grimstead, J.P. Holding, and Eric Holmberg.
Ten parts, over two hours of instruction!
Running Time: 130 minutes
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
High Quality Paperback — 200 pages
A Reasonable Response to Christian Postmodernism
Includes a response to the book Christian Jihad by Colonel V. Doner
The title of this book is a misnomer. In reality, I am not trying to get anyone to shut up, but rather to provoke a discussion. This book is a warning about the philosophy of “Christian postmodernism” and the threat that it poses not only to Christian orthodoxy, but to the peace and prosperity our culture as well. The purpose is to equip the reader with some basic principles that can be used to refute their arguments.
Part 1 is a response to some of the recent writings by Frank Schaeffer, the son of the late Francis Schaeffer. This was originally written as a defense against Frank’s attacks on pro-life street activism – a movement that his father helped bring into being through his books, A Christian Manifesto, How Should We Then Live? and Whatever Happened to the Human Race? These works have impacted literally hundreds of thousands of Christian activists.
Part 2 is a response to Colonel Doner and his book, Christian Jihad: Neo-Fundamentalists and the Polarization of America. Doner was one of the key architects of the Christian Right that emerged in the 1980s, who now represents the disillusionment and defection many Christian activists experienced in the 1990s and 2000s. There is still great hope for America to be reformed according to biblical principles. As a new generation is emerging, it is important to recognize the mistakes that Christian activists have made in the past even while holding to a vision for the future.
$14.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)