Stalin’s five-year-plan for atheism

Eighty years ago on this day, May 22, 1932, Josef Stalin began his program to eliminate the very memory of the name of God in the Soviet Union within 5 years.  The following account of Stalin’s “atheistic five-year plan” is from a Russian site and is clumsily translated into English, so I’ll edit it slightly:

On Tuesday, there will be 80 years since the Soviet government issued a decree on “atheistic five-year plan.”

Stalin set a goal: the name of God should be forgotten on the territory of the whole country [by] May 1, 1937, the article posted by the Foma website says.

Over 5 million militant atheists were living in the country then. Anti-religious universities – special educational establishments for training people for decisive attack against religion – were organized.

According to the plan on religion liquidation, all churches and prayer houses should have been closed [in] 1932-1933, all religious traditions implanted by literature and family [in] 1933-1934.   It was planned that the country, and firstly, youth would be grasped by total anti-religious propaganda [in] 1934-1935; the last clerics were to be eliminated [in]1935-1936; the very memory about God should have been disappeared from life to 1937.

However, the 1937 census in which  a question about religion was included on Stalin’s instruction puzzled Bolsheviks: 84% of 30 million illiterate USSR citizens aged over 16 said they were believers; the same was reported by 45% of 68.5 million literate citizens.

via Interfax-Religion.

HT:  John Couretas and Joe Carter

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Pete

    Perhaps the missing beatitude – “Blessed are the illiterate…”

  • Pete

    Perhaps the missing beatitude – “Blessed are the illiterate…”

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    And yet, Marxism has failed in Russia. But God is still prevalent, and from what I understand there are some good Christian churches flourishing over there.

    Marx, Nietzsche, Freud-they have all hated God, and yet have been unable to eradicate Him. They are truly fools who have said in their hearts “There is no God.”

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    And yet, Marxism has failed in Russia. But God is still prevalent, and from what I understand there are some good Christian churches flourishing over there.

    Marx, Nietzsche, Freud-they have all hated God, and yet have been unable to eradicate Him. They are truly fools who have said in their hearts “There is no God.”

  • Pete

    While I’m not advocating his approach, it would seem that Stalin’s policies are a better “church growth” strategy than are the stylistic concessions to the culture that Dr. Veith points out in his “American Idol” post today. Just sayin’.

  • Pete

    While I’m not advocating his approach, it would seem that Stalin’s policies are a better “church growth” strategy than are the stylistic concessions to the culture that Dr. Veith points out in his “American Idol” post today. Just sayin’.

  • Michael B.

    The systems set up in the Soviet Union and modern day North Korea are not naturalistic atheism– the states ruler is god. And I’m not using the word “god” in the ultra generic sense where “money” can be a god. The ruler of the states is no ordinary man. In North Korea, there is a belief in an afterlife where Kim Jong-il will be able to punish people.

    Secondly, not only is there a supernatural aspect to these men, you also see one of the hallmarks of religion, in that namely you have an idea or doctrine that you’re not allowed to criticize without punishment.

  • Michael B.

    The systems set up in the Soviet Union and modern day North Korea are not naturalistic atheism– the states ruler is god. And I’m not using the word “god” in the ultra generic sense where “money” can be a god. The ruler of the states is no ordinary man. In North Korea, there is a belief in an afterlife where Kim Jong-il will be able to punish people.

    Secondly, not only is there a supernatural aspect to these men, you also see one of the hallmarks of religion, in that namely you have an idea or doctrine that you’re not allowed to criticize without punishment.

  • DNeuendorf

    Josef who?

  • DNeuendorf

    Josef who?

  • Bob

    J. Dean +1

  • Bob

    J. Dean +1

  • P.C.

    Heaven and earth (and Stalin) will pass away, but my words will never pass away (Matthew 24:35).

  • P.C.

    Heaven and earth (and Stalin) will pass away, but my words will never pass away (Matthew 24:35).

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Michael B. (@4), can you provide some evidence of your assertion that, in the former USSR and modern North Korea, their rulers were literally understood to be gods? I’m passingly familiar with North Korea’s Juche philosophy, but have never heard anything like what you claim about their beliefs regarding the afterlife.

    …one of the hallmarks of religion, in that namely you have an idea or doctrine that you’re not allowed to criticize without punishment.

    What makes you think that’s limited just to religion? I can think of several areligious contexts in which people are expected to toe the party line, and fear speaking their minds for fear of being chastised (or worse). Seems like a fairly human phenomenon, really. Perhaps you only see it in religion because that’s typically what you come here to bash?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Michael B. (@4), can you provide some evidence of your assertion that, in the former USSR and modern North Korea, their rulers were literally understood to be gods? I’m passingly familiar with North Korea’s Juche philosophy, but have never heard anything like what you claim about their beliefs regarding the afterlife.

    …one of the hallmarks of religion, in that namely you have an idea or doctrine that you’re not allowed to criticize without punishment.

    What makes you think that’s limited just to religion? I can think of several areligious contexts in which people are expected to toe the party line, and fear speaking their minds for fear of being chastised (or worse). Seems like a fairly human phenomenon, really. Perhaps you only see it in religion because that’s typically what you come here to bash?

  • Grace

    Joseph Stalin

    “Trotsky criticized the cult of personality built around Stalin. It reached new levels during World War II, with Stalin’s name included in the new Soviet national anthem. Stalin became the focus of literature, poetry, music, paintings and film that exhibited fawning devotion. He was sometimes credited with almost god-like qualities, including the suggestion that he single-handedly won the Second World War.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Stalin

  • Grace

    Joseph Stalin

    “Trotsky criticized the cult of personality built around Stalin. It reached new levels during World War II, with Stalin’s name included in the new Soviet national anthem. Stalin became the focus of literature, poetry, music, paintings and film that exhibited fawning devotion. He was sometimes credited with almost god-like qualities, including the suggestion that he single-handedly won the Second World War.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Stalin

  • #4 Kitty

    A similar policy seems to have had much greater success in East Germany where 46% percent of the population claim to be atheist.

  • #4 Kitty

    A similar policy seems to have had much greater success in East Germany where 46% percent of the population claim to be atheist.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Grace (@9), if that was in response to me (@8), it’s inadequate. For one, it’s an unsubstantiated claim; for two, it’s voiced in weasel words (“sometimes”, passive voice, “credited” by whom?); for three, “almost god-like” isn’t the same as actually believing he was literally a god. My question remains.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Grace (@9), if that was in response to me (@8), it’s inadequate. For one, it’s an unsubstantiated claim; for two, it’s voiced in weasel words (“sometimes”, passive voice, “credited” by whom?); for three, “almost god-like” isn’t the same as actually believing he was literally a god. My question remains.

  • Grace

    tODD,

    Your claim is unsubstantiated. “Weasel” ?

    Another site, where it clearly makes nearly the same statements, regarding Joseph Stalin.

    “Stalin’s name was included in the new Soviet national anthem. He became the focus of literature, poetry, music, paintings and film, exhibiting fawning devotion and crediting Stalin with almost god-like qualities and suggesting he single-handedly won the Second World War. It is debatable however, as to how much Stalin himself encouraged the cult surrounding him.

    In a 1956 speech, Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin’s actions: “It is impermissible and foreign to the spirit of Marxism-Leninism to elevate one person, to transform him into a superman possessing supernatural characteristics akin to those of a god.”

    http://russiapedia.rt.com/prominent-russians/leaders/joseph-stalin/

  • Grace

    tODD,

    Your claim is unsubstantiated. “Weasel” ?

    Another site, where it clearly makes nearly the same statements, regarding Joseph Stalin.

    “Stalin’s name was included in the new Soviet national anthem. He became the focus of literature, poetry, music, paintings and film, exhibiting fawning devotion and crediting Stalin with almost god-like qualities and suggesting he single-handedly won the Second World War. It is debatable however, as to how much Stalin himself encouraged the cult surrounding him.

    In a 1956 speech, Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin’s actions: “It is impermissible and foreign to the spirit of Marxism-Leninism to elevate one person, to transform him into a superman possessing supernatural characteristics akin to those of a god.”

    http://russiapedia.rt.com/prominent-russians/leaders/joseph-stalin/

  • Grace

    tODD,

    Because you don’t agree with another commenter, doesn’t mean what they post is all wrong, because you say so.

    Prove yourself right for a change.

  • Grace

    tODD,

    Because you don’t agree with another commenter, doesn’t mean what they post is all wrong, because you say so.

    Prove yourself right for a change.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Grace, I don’t know why you’re insinuating yourself in this, but I’m just going to have to ignore you, as I find your contributions to be less than useful. Think of that what you will.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Grace, I don’t know why you’re insinuating yourself in this, but I’m just going to have to ignore you, as I find your contributions to be less than useful. Think of that what you will.

  • Grace

    FROM tODD:

    “I’m just going to have to ignore you, as I find your contributions to be less than useful.”

    What a relief – PROMISE?

  • Grace

    FROM tODD:

    “I’m just going to have to ignore you, as I find your contributions to be less than useful.”

    What a relief – PROMISE?

  • Reanne

    Not a smart move from any political leader! Clearly those in leadership positions need religion as a way to control the masses. It has been used very effectively in this regard for thousands of years. Just toss out a couple of key phrases like “the meek shall inherit the earth”, or “blessed are the poor in spirit” and you can quickly quell a rebellion.

  • Reanne

    Not a smart move from any political leader! Clearly those in leadership positions need religion as a way to control the masses. It has been used very effectively in this regard for thousands of years. Just toss out a couple of key phrases like “the meek shall inherit the earth”, or “blessed are the poor in spirit” and you can quickly quell a rebellion.

  • George A. Marquart

    Before my actual comments, I need to write a few words about why I think I may have something meaningful to say about the Soviet Union, Russia, and the Church.

    Although I was baptized and grew up a Lutheran, from age 4, when my mother remarried, I grew up in a large Russian family. My mother herself was born in Russia, though a descendent of German farmers, which is how I came to be a Lutheran. Twice, before I was nine years old, we fled from the Soviets. Within this large Russian family, or related to it, there were a number of well-known members of the Russian Orthodox clergy – among them Rev. John Meyendorff, Rev. Alexander Schmemann, and Archbishop Vasiliy Rodzianko. Naturally, in part because of my mother, brother, and I being Lutheranx, I was witness to many discussions about religion as I grew up.

    At some point, because I speak Russian, know its history and literature, I got a job in the Soviet Union. For two different employers, I spent 10 years living in the Soviet Union and later Russia, before, between and after those terms, I made more trips there than I can remember. During all of that time, the condition of the church was at the top of my areas of interest.

    Probably one of the most important lessons I learned during all of those years is that few things in Russia are as they appear to foreigners. The basic reason for that is found in a saying attributed both to the Talmud and Anaïs Nin, “We do not see things as they are. We see them as we are.”

    For any number of reasons, Russians are so different from the way we are that we cannot understand them, nor can they us.

    All of this as prelude to the terrible tragedy which began in Russia with the Bolshevik Revolution and peaked in 1937 during that part of Stalin’s rule known as “The Terror.” At the same time, from the point of view of a Lutheran looking at hundreds of years of the history of the Russian Orthodox Church, I cannot help but come to the conclusion that it is a stretch to call this church, or at least its leadership (whether the Patriarchy or the Holy Synod), Christian.

    Even today, the famous “watch” incident recently in the news clearly confirms that the Patriarch is a liar. During the nineties in Moscow, before he became Patriarch, we called him “Tabak Kiril”, because he was able to enrich both the church and himself to the tune of millions by importing duty free alcohol and cigarettes with the permission of the Russian government.

    Therefore, to me the persecution of the church under Stalin is not merely the tragedy of thousands of priests being killed and placed in the Gulag (as were millions of people totally unrelated to the church), but it is an Apocalyptic event, spoken of in Revelation 13, “2 And the beast that I saw was like a leopard, its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And the dragon gave it his power and his throne and great authority. 3 One of its heads seemed to have received a death-blow, but its mortal wound had been healed. In amazement the whole earth followed the beast. 4 They worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” 5 The beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months.”

    No, I do not plan to predict the end of the world, and I do not exclude the possibility that I may be wrong about the application of this text. It may apply to a number of events in history. I do know that even Solzhenitsyn put these words into the mouth of one of his characters in “August 1914”, “but you know that the soul of the Russian people has never been Christian.”

    Why do I write all of this? Because right now the Lutheran Church is growing in Russia; other Christian denominations are as well. In this process, we should not regard the Patriarchy of Moscow as an ally in the work of God’s Kingdom. We should beware of them, because they intend to be the only church in Russian that people call Christian.

    Space does not permit more elaboration.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • George A. Marquart

    Before my actual comments, I need to write a few words about why I think I may have something meaningful to say about the Soviet Union, Russia, and the Church.

    Although I was baptized and grew up a Lutheran, from age 4, when my mother remarried, I grew up in a large Russian family. My mother herself was born in Russia, though a descendent of German farmers, which is how I came to be a Lutheran. Twice, before I was nine years old, we fled from the Soviets. Within this large Russian family, or related to it, there were a number of well-known members of the Russian Orthodox clergy – among them Rev. John Meyendorff, Rev. Alexander Schmemann, and Archbishop Vasiliy Rodzianko. Naturally, in part because of my mother, brother, and I being Lutheranx, I was witness to many discussions about religion as I grew up.

    At some point, because I speak Russian, know its history and literature, I got a job in the Soviet Union. For two different employers, I spent 10 years living in the Soviet Union and later Russia, before, between and after those terms, I made more trips there than I can remember. During all of that time, the condition of the church was at the top of my areas of interest.

    Probably one of the most important lessons I learned during all of those years is that few things in Russia are as they appear to foreigners. The basic reason for that is found in a saying attributed both to the Talmud and Anaïs Nin, “We do not see things as they are. We see them as we are.”

    For any number of reasons, Russians are so different from the way we are that we cannot understand them, nor can they us.

    All of this as prelude to the terrible tragedy which began in Russia with the Bolshevik Revolution and peaked in 1937 during that part of Stalin’s rule known as “The Terror.” At the same time, from the point of view of a Lutheran looking at hundreds of years of the history of the Russian Orthodox Church, I cannot help but come to the conclusion that it is a stretch to call this church, or at least its leadership (whether the Patriarchy or the Holy Synod), Christian.

    Even today, the famous “watch” incident recently in the news clearly confirms that the Patriarch is a liar. During the nineties in Moscow, before he became Patriarch, we called him “Tabak Kiril”, because he was able to enrich both the church and himself to the tune of millions by importing duty free alcohol and cigarettes with the permission of the Russian government.

    Therefore, to me the persecution of the church under Stalin is not merely the tragedy of thousands of priests being killed and placed in the Gulag (as were millions of people totally unrelated to the church), but it is an Apocalyptic event, spoken of in Revelation 13, “2 And the beast that I saw was like a leopard, its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And the dragon gave it his power and his throne and great authority. 3 One of its heads seemed to have received a death-blow, but its mortal wound had been healed. In amazement the whole earth followed the beast. 4 They worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” 5 The beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months.”

    No, I do not plan to predict the end of the world, and I do not exclude the possibility that I may be wrong about the application of this text. It may apply to a number of events in history. I do know that even Solzhenitsyn put these words into the mouth of one of his characters in “August 1914”, “but you know that the soul of the Russian people has never been Christian.”

    Why do I write all of this? Because right now the Lutheran Church is growing in Russia; other Christian denominations are as well. In this process, we should not regard the Patriarchy of Moscow as an ally in the work of God’s Kingdom. We should beware of them, because they intend to be the only church in Russian that people call Christian.

    Space does not permit more elaboration.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    George, I didn’t realize! Thanks for giving us your fascinating background.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    George, I didn’t realize! Thanks for giving us your fascinating background.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Reanne, this is the Marxist reading of religion, exactly what Stalin believed! Give him a little credit. He was trying to liberate the masses. That he had to enslave them to liberate them is just a paradox.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Reanne, this is the Marxist reading of religion, exactly what Stalin believed! Give him a little credit. He was trying to liberate the masses. That he had to enslave them to liberate them is just a paradox.

  • Grace

    George @ 17

    I wish you would write more about your life in Russia, those things which we are not privy to.

    One of my very close relatives married a Russian man. Even their sons are very different from the rest of the family.

    I have almost all of Alexander Solzhenitsyn books – I did not read two or three of them. I have always been interested in him, and his life.

  • Grace

    George @ 17

    I wish you would write more about your life in Russia, those things which we are not privy to.

    One of my very close relatives married a Russian man. Even their sons are very different from the rest of the family.

    I have almost all of Alexander Solzhenitsyn books – I did not read two or three of them. I have always been interested in him, and his life.

  • Michael B.

    @Todd@8

    Todd, let me address both of your questions. First, on the idea of people like Stalin and Kim Jong-il being regarded as gods. By “god”, I mean a superhuman who rules over everyone than an all-powerful entity. In the Christian and Muslim faiths, the god is all-powerful, but in other faiths there are gods with much less power. In my post, I was thinking along the lines of a Caesar or pharaoh and not a Yahweh or an Allah. So they are certainly not all-powerful, but they aren’t just a normal human being, like a Reagan or Obama. During Kim Jong-Il’s life, many thought he had special powers, like the ability to control the weather. (Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag, Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-01104-7.) When Kim Jong-Il died, many North Koreans reported supernatural phenomenon. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-16341113). (http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/1105742–supernatural-feats-signalled-kim-jong-il-s-death) Grace also brought up the idea of the cult of personality, which definitely puts god-like attributes on its leaders.

    In regard to your second question, you point out that it is very common in human contexts to expect people to “toe the party line”. I completely agree. I’d love to share some stories about office politics sometimes. But here is the main question: “What happens when you refuse to toe the party line?” Is it dirty looks? Maybe getting fired? Well if you criticized the government in Soviet Russia, you were sent to the Gulag. You criticize Islam in many Islamic Countries, you could be imprisoned or killed, and in the afterlife, you are told about how you will be tortured in hell. So it’s not exactly the same.

  • Michael B.

    @Todd@8

    Todd, let me address both of your questions. First, on the idea of people like Stalin and Kim Jong-il being regarded as gods. By “god”, I mean a superhuman who rules over everyone than an all-powerful entity. In the Christian and Muslim faiths, the god is all-powerful, but in other faiths there are gods with much less power. In my post, I was thinking along the lines of a Caesar or pharaoh and not a Yahweh or an Allah. So they are certainly not all-powerful, but they aren’t just a normal human being, like a Reagan or Obama. During Kim Jong-Il’s life, many thought he had special powers, like the ability to control the weather. (Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag, Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-01104-7.) When Kim Jong-Il died, many North Koreans reported supernatural phenomenon. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-16341113). (http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/1105742–supernatural-feats-signalled-kim-jong-il-s-death) Grace also brought up the idea of the cult of personality, which definitely puts god-like attributes on its leaders.

    In regard to your second question, you point out that it is very common in human contexts to expect people to “toe the party line”. I completely agree. I’d love to share some stories about office politics sometimes. But here is the main question: “What happens when you refuse to toe the party line?” Is it dirty looks? Maybe getting fired? Well if you criticized the government in Soviet Russia, you were sent to the Gulag. You criticize Islam in many Islamic Countries, you could be imprisoned or killed, and in the afterlife, you are told about how you will be tortured in hell. So it’s not exactly the same.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Michael B. (@21), you specifically claimed (@4) that:

    In North Korea, there is a belief in an afterlife where Kim Jong-il will be able to punish people.

    That goes just a wee bit beyond a mere “superhuman”, don’t you think? Again, I see nothing in the Juche philosophy that points to this idea. Where do you get it from? Can you please substantiate this claim of yours?

    Also, you said that “When Kim Jong-Il died, many North Koreans reported supernatural phenomenon,” but the link you provided only mentions these reports as coming from the state-run Korean Central News Agency, not from the people. In other words, from a propaganda machine.

    Whatever. As to your other point, duh, organizations can only enforce line-toeing to the degree that they exercise power over you. In your office, the worst that can happen is you get fired. As a citizen, the worst that can happen is you get jailed forever or executed. That doesn’t change the fact that this phenomenon isn’t in any way exclusive to religion, except to the degree that you wish it to be.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Michael B. (@21), you specifically claimed (@4) that:

    In North Korea, there is a belief in an afterlife where Kim Jong-il will be able to punish people.

    That goes just a wee bit beyond a mere “superhuman”, don’t you think? Again, I see nothing in the Juche philosophy that points to this idea. Where do you get it from? Can you please substantiate this claim of yours?

    Also, you said that “When Kim Jong-Il died, many North Koreans reported supernatural phenomenon,” but the link you provided only mentions these reports as coming from the state-run Korean Central News Agency, not from the people. In other words, from a propaganda machine.

    Whatever. As to your other point, duh, organizations can only enforce line-toeing to the degree that they exercise power over you. In your office, the worst that can happen is you get fired. As a citizen, the worst that can happen is you get jailed forever or executed. That doesn’t change the fact that this phenomenon isn’t in any way exclusive to religion, except to the degree that you wish it to be.

  • George A. Marquart

    Dr. Veith @ 18. Thank you for the kind comment. I was reluctant to do this soul bearing, but I did it to possibly lend some authority to my words, though I am the first to recognize the problem with the ad hominem argument.

    My concern, as I mentioned, is to point out that the Russian Orthodox Church has been an apostate church, because of its failure to spread the Gospel among its people, for hundreds of years. We look at those pious babushkas with lit candles and think, “Oh what a humble, spiritual church.”

    The other thing is that I am very mindful of how the behavior of the Church in a country affects its history, and that, I believe is our Lord’s doing, because He rules history for the sake of His Bride. This idea came to me “in a flash of sunlight”, as T. S. Eliot put it, during a service about 40 years ago, when the Pastor read this text from the Prophet Amos, Chapter 8, “11 The time is surely coming, says the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. 12 They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.”

    The German church, similarly to the Russian one, defaulted on the Gospel around the time that Germany became a nation. The anti-Semitism of Hitler’s time, which saw very little resistance from the Church, was rampant throughout much of the 19th century. I don’t think the Church did much to counter it.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

    Grace @20. Thank you for your comment. Russia, its history, its people, its literature and its tragedy are sort of my hobby.

    But I did not want to imply that all Russians are “bad.” On many occasions I experienced selfless kindness from Russians who were complete strangers. Most of them were poorer than you can imagine, but they were willing to give much out of their poverty. What I am really saying, and I don’t want anyone accusing me of a “Theology of Glory,” is that one can notice the effect the Gospel has had on the values of a society (even though this is not the point of the Gospel, but a wonderful by-product) in which the Gospel has had free course for some years. For instance, this country could not have survived so long if it were not for fundamental honesty, honor, and selflessness among our people. In Russia, because thievery is the great national sport, every aspect of society has to be circumscribed by a law, and everyone knows that their survival is dependent on avoiding the law. And yes, as I see the values in our society eroding, I dread the consequences.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • George A. Marquart

    Dr. Veith @ 18. Thank you for the kind comment. I was reluctant to do this soul bearing, but I did it to possibly lend some authority to my words, though I am the first to recognize the problem with the ad hominem argument.

    My concern, as I mentioned, is to point out that the Russian Orthodox Church has been an apostate church, because of its failure to spread the Gospel among its people, for hundreds of years. We look at those pious babushkas with lit candles and think, “Oh what a humble, spiritual church.”

    The other thing is that I am very mindful of how the behavior of the Church in a country affects its history, and that, I believe is our Lord’s doing, because He rules history for the sake of His Bride. This idea came to me “in a flash of sunlight”, as T. S. Eliot put it, during a service about 40 years ago, when the Pastor read this text from the Prophet Amos, Chapter 8, “11 The time is surely coming, says the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. 12 They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.”

    The German church, similarly to the Russian one, defaulted on the Gospel around the time that Germany became a nation. The anti-Semitism of Hitler’s time, which saw very little resistance from the Church, was rampant throughout much of the 19th century. I don’t think the Church did much to counter it.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

    Grace @20. Thank you for your comment. Russia, its history, its people, its literature and its tragedy are sort of my hobby.

    But I did not want to imply that all Russians are “bad.” On many occasions I experienced selfless kindness from Russians who were complete strangers. Most of them were poorer than you can imagine, but they were willing to give much out of their poverty. What I am really saying, and I don’t want anyone accusing me of a “Theology of Glory,” is that one can notice the effect the Gospel has had on the values of a society (even though this is not the point of the Gospel, but a wonderful by-product) in which the Gospel has had free course for some years. For instance, this country could not have survived so long if it were not for fundamental honesty, honor, and selflessness among our people. In Russia, because thievery is the great national sport, every aspect of society has to be circumscribed by a law, and everyone knows that their survival is dependent on avoiding the law. And yes, as I see the values in our society eroding, I dread the consequences.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • Grace

    George @ 23

    We, my husband and I would love to have a conversation, an evening with you. I have studied Solzhenitsyn for years. I have observed those who are from Russia in our country. They are so different from everyone else, YET, my fascination has never wained.

    There is a Russian family who lives down the street (without husbands) but live very well. The mother, and what appears to be her sister of a woman who has two children, exhibt a lifestyle unlike anyone else. She like my husband and I, love to garden, and have a high regard for family and children (her daughter has two children whom she cares for) They are always respectful, greeting us, take EXCELLENT care of two grandchildren.

    You’ve sparked a renewed interest, in a people of whom I have always wanted to know more of. Perhaps you will share more stories, I would be delighted!

    God’s blessing to you – Grace

  • Grace

    George @ 23

    We, my husband and I would love to have a conversation, an evening with you. I have studied Solzhenitsyn for years. I have observed those who are from Russia in our country. They are so different from everyone else, YET, my fascination has never wained.

    There is a Russian family who lives down the street (without husbands) but live very well. The mother, and what appears to be her sister of a woman who has two children, exhibt a lifestyle unlike anyone else. She like my husband and I, love to garden, and have a high regard for family and children (her daughter has two children whom she cares for) They are always respectful, greeting us, take EXCELLENT care of two grandchildren.

    You’ve sparked a renewed interest, in a people of whom I have always wanted to know more of. Perhaps you will share more stories, I would be delighted!

    God’s blessing to you – Grace

  • Grace

    George – Sorry…. I repeated myself regarding the children.

  • Grace

    George – Sorry…. I repeated myself regarding the children.

  • Michael e

    “Russian Orthodox Church has been an apostate church, because of its failure to spread the Gospel among its people, for hundreds of years”
    I think this statement is patently false, otherwise hundreds of thousands of monks, nuns, bishops, priets, and lay people wouldn’t have given up their lives either in martyrdom or in prison camps during Stalin’s reign. If they didn’t really care about Christ or really knew the Gospel, they wouldn’t have bothered suffering and in many cases dying for Him IN DROVES. Who suffers for a cause they only vaguely understand or merely follow out of habit? You will know a a tree by its fruit, and if Russia hasn’t produced the most martyrs in the 20th century than any other country, it’s definitely near the top.

    Not excusing this, but I think one reason people weren’t explicitly taught the faith was because there was no competition in most of Russia. Protestants in western europe had to contend with Catholicism and each other, so it was more important that people were grounded in what they believe so they don’t switch over when they move to a nearby village that belonged to a different church or when the governent switched religions or whatever. I think this explains why Ukraine was different from the rest of Russia, where serfs were educated way before the rest of the Russian empire because the clergy wanted to keep them from becoming Catholic.

    my two cents.

  • Michael e

    “Russian Orthodox Church has been an apostate church, because of its failure to spread the Gospel among its people, for hundreds of years”
    I think this statement is patently false, otherwise hundreds of thousands of monks, nuns, bishops, priets, and lay people wouldn’t have given up their lives either in martyrdom or in prison camps during Stalin’s reign. If they didn’t really care about Christ or really knew the Gospel, they wouldn’t have bothered suffering and in many cases dying for Him IN DROVES. Who suffers for a cause they only vaguely understand or merely follow out of habit? You will know a a tree by its fruit, and if Russia hasn’t produced the most martyrs in the 20th century than any other country, it’s definitely near the top.

    Not excusing this, but I think one reason people weren’t explicitly taught the faith was because there was no competition in most of Russia. Protestants in western europe had to contend with Catholicism and each other, so it was more important that people were grounded in what they believe so they don’t switch over when they move to a nearby village that belonged to a different church or when the governent switched religions or whatever. I think this explains why Ukraine was different from the rest of Russia, where serfs were educated way before the rest of the Russian empire because the clergy wanted to keep them from becoming Catholic.

    my two cents.

  • Michael B.

    @Todd

    After I wrote that post, I wish I had used the term “supernatural” or “superhuman” instead of “god”. I think you’re getting way to caught up on the debate of how much supernatural power he has, verses the fact that people believe he has it. You cited me for posting a link from their state-run media, which as you state is problematic. I agree with you somewhat–it’s like posting a link to Fox News. But since there isn’t much in the way of a free press there, it’s kind of the best you’re going to get.

    Concerning the second part, the power that these agencies has is no coincidence — it’s power that they themselves seized. Thomas Jefferson could have sought this kind of power in government if he wanted. Even as a father, there is power I haven’t seized. I could move to some remote location and put extreme measures on what my kids are allowed to read and greatly limit their interaction with other kids. I could tell them that if they don’t believe in the same way I do, they will burn in hell. This is downright child abuse. But it’s power that I could have if I wanted it.

  • Michael B.

    @Todd

    After I wrote that post, I wish I had used the term “supernatural” or “superhuman” instead of “god”. I think you’re getting way to caught up on the debate of how much supernatural power he has, verses the fact that people believe he has it. You cited me for posting a link from their state-run media, which as you state is problematic. I agree with you somewhat–it’s like posting a link to Fox News. But since there isn’t much in the way of a free press there, it’s kind of the best you’re going to get.

    Concerning the second part, the power that these agencies has is no coincidence — it’s power that they themselves seized. Thomas Jefferson could have sought this kind of power in government if he wanted. Even as a father, there is power I haven’t seized. I could move to some remote location and put extreme measures on what my kids are allowed to read and greatly limit their interaction with other kids. I could tell them that if they don’t believe in the same way I do, they will burn in hell. This is downright child abuse. But it’s power that I could have if I wanted it.

  • George A. Marquart

    Michael e @26. Those who gave up their lives, whether people related to the church or laypeople, had no choice in the matter. They did not “give up their lives;” their lives were taken from them. A martyr is a witness – according to Roman practice, one who has been given an opportunity to recant his faith, but has refused to do so. The niceties of real justice were not part of the Soviet killing machine. One of the most frequent themes in Solzhenitsyn’s writings is about people who were convinced that their arrest was a big mistake, and that they would be released after they would prove their innocence. Innocence, or even guilt, had nothing to do with it.

    There certainly were Christians in Russia since the end of the tenth century, but my point is that it was not because of the efforts of the hierarchy of the church, but in spite of it, because the Spirit “blows where it chooses.” By the end of the Romanov Empire, the Russian Orthodox Church was one of the richest entities in Russia, while most of the people lived in abject poverty. Not that it is the Church’s primary role to look after the poor, but it is certainly second to proclaiming the Gospel (Gal. 2:10).

    Almost all of my Russian relatives, with the notable exclusion of Fr. Meyendorff and Fr. Schmemann, had no understanding of the Gospel. Any kind of certainty about one’s salvation was considered a serious sin, not to speak of salvation by grace through faith. It is in this environment that I first heard the argument that goes, “then you can just sit back on your couch and do nothing.” In my opinion, the worst sin of the Russian Orthodox Church is that it did not proclaim the Gospel as it should. Instead, it spent much of its energy acquiring power and wealth, and demanding absolute obedience from the people both to the church and to the Czar, “the Anointed of God.” The Gospel was not very useful for that. The liturgy became a rite, rather than a living witness to the Gospel.

    As to competition, first the Holy Spirit is not a capitalist, so He does not rely on competition. Secondly, there was competition. I will never forget my mother’s response to my question, “In what language were your services held?” Remember, she was a Lutheran living in Russia. “In German, of course!” Those good Saxon Lutherans did not take their calling seriously either. To them the church was just an extension of their society, which they guarded against all comers.

    It is a great tragedy, but one which I do not think of with judgment. Every evil act in the Bible is recorded so that we can know just how evil people are. But if our Savior Himself said (John 12:47), “…I came not to judge the world, but to save the world”, what right do I have to judge? My sole purpose is to point out that if we neglect to proclaim the Gospel, bad things are sure to follow., because it is only through the Gospel that people are made into new creatures who have “the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor. 2:16)

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • George A. Marquart

    Michael e @26. Those who gave up their lives, whether people related to the church or laypeople, had no choice in the matter. They did not “give up their lives;” their lives were taken from them. A martyr is a witness – according to Roman practice, one who has been given an opportunity to recant his faith, but has refused to do so. The niceties of real justice were not part of the Soviet killing machine. One of the most frequent themes in Solzhenitsyn’s writings is about people who were convinced that their arrest was a big mistake, and that they would be released after they would prove their innocence. Innocence, or even guilt, had nothing to do with it.

    There certainly were Christians in Russia since the end of the tenth century, but my point is that it was not because of the efforts of the hierarchy of the church, but in spite of it, because the Spirit “blows where it chooses.” By the end of the Romanov Empire, the Russian Orthodox Church was one of the richest entities in Russia, while most of the people lived in abject poverty. Not that it is the Church’s primary role to look after the poor, but it is certainly second to proclaiming the Gospel (Gal. 2:10).

    Almost all of my Russian relatives, with the notable exclusion of Fr. Meyendorff and Fr. Schmemann, had no understanding of the Gospel. Any kind of certainty about one’s salvation was considered a serious sin, not to speak of salvation by grace through faith. It is in this environment that I first heard the argument that goes, “then you can just sit back on your couch and do nothing.” In my opinion, the worst sin of the Russian Orthodox Church is that it did not proclaim the Gospel as it should. Instead, it spent much of its energy acquiring power and wealth, and demanding absolute obedience from the people both to the church and to the Czar, “the Anointed of God.” The Gospel was not very useful for that. The liturgy became a rite, rather than a living witness to the Gospel.

    As to competition, first the Holy Spirit is not a capitalist, so He does not rely on competition. Secondly, there was competition. I will never forget my mother’s response to my question, “In what language were your services held?” Remember, she was a Lutheran living in Russia. “In German, of course!” Those good Saxon Lutherans did not take their calling seriously either. To them the church was just an extension of their society, which they guarded against all comers.

    It is a great tragedy, but one which I do not think of with judgment. Every evil act in the Bible is recorded so that we can know just how evil people are. But if our Savior Himself said (John 12:47), “…I came not to judge the world, but to save the world”, what right do I have to judge? My sole purpose is to point out that if we neglect to proclaim the Gospel, bad things are sure to follow., because it is only through the Gospel that people are made into new creatures who have “the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor. 2:16)

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • George A. Marquart

    Grace @24.

    Thanks for the invitation. In what part of the country are you located? My phone number is in the San Diego White Pages.

    You might be interested in reading the diary of Fr. Schmemann, particularly those parts that cover his long relationship with Solzhenitsyn. I believe some of it can be found on line, but it is also available in hard copy.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • George A. Marquart

    Grace @24.

    Thanks for the invitation. In what part of the country are you located? My phone number is in the San Diego White Pages.

    You might be interested in reading the diary of Fr. Schmemann, particularly those parts that cover his long relationship with Solzhenitsyn. I believe some of it can be found on line, but it is also available in hard copy.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • Grace

    George A. Marquart @29

    We live in Southern CA, not to far from San Diego.

    “You might be interested in reading the diary of Fr. Schmemann, particularly those parts that cover his long relationship with Solzhenitsyn.” – - Thank you, I am interested. I will try and obtain a copy.

    God bless you.

  • Grace

    George A. Marquart @29

    We live in Southern CA, not to far from San Diego.

    “You might be interested in reading the diary of Fr. Schmemann, particularly those parts that cover his long relationship with Solzhenitsyn.” – - Thank you, I am interested. I will try and obtain a copy.

    God bless you.