Making Visible The Kingdom Through Convergence

Who’s ‘godless’ now? Russia says it’s ‘U.S.

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There are moments and events of great significance where culture state and church collide.  Often, we neglect or overlook cultural context, the backstory, or history that has preceded the event. The first example that comes to mind is the Protestant Reformation. Success of the Reformation had as much to do with the political climate in Germany and the cultural identity of its primary instigator and the context in which he was formed (and of course that oft overlooked innovation when discussing the Reformation – the printing press).
Under the Czar the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) played a crucial role in maintaining the hegemony of the state.  The ROC was very necessary to help maintain stability and order. The ROC taught that the Czar was God’s hand on the earth. Indeed, it was the czar who heard directly from God On behalf of the people. It was the Czar to whom you owed your affection and love. I can’t help but see the similarity between the relationship between Czar and the ROC and now Putin’s newfound piety and connection with the ROC.  Few world leaders are as astute as Putin when it comes to reading and using popular sentiment for gain.

Now, I don’t doubt the sincerity or conviction of the ROC and agree that we in the West have spiritually disarmed our nations and ourselves. These are men of God and defenders of the faith crying out to their countrymen to turn back from the abyss.  Yet, at the same time I find myself as a Western Protestant (who may also be considered Catholic) in the crosshairs of the ROC and Putin.

“Western values, from liberalism to the recognition of the rights of sexual minorities, from Catholicism and Protestantism to comfortable jails for murderers, provoke in us suspicion, astonishment and alienation,” Yevgeny Bazhanov, rector of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s diplomatic academy, wrote in a recent essay.”

Apparently being Protestant or treating those with different values systems with respect and humanity provokes suspicion and quite possibly hostility.  It would seem to me that “liberalism” means the church making Christ visible by extending mercy to those in need and offering reconciliation an restoration to the spiritually wounded.

Patriarch Kirill has honored the group’s leader, openly anti-Semitic monarchist Leonid Simonovich, for his services to the Orthodox Church. The Banner Bearers, who dress in black paramilitary uniforms festooned with skulls, regularly confront gay and liberal activists on the streets of Moscow.”

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While one could label Leonid Simonovich a contemporary Slavophile – those Russian Intellectuals of the 19th century who wanted to move forward by looking back to those things that were particularly Russian…I think he’s just another version of a Pharisees or Sadducees.  Reading about these Banner Bearers reminds of the scene where the crowd threw down the woman caught in adultery at the feet of Jesus.

We tend to have this view in the West that all nations should follow the same path towards Western Democracy.  It’s one of our assumed values that Western Democracy in the highest form of societal evolution.  We can’t wrap our minds around the possibility that not everyone craves Western Democracy.  Russians love strong leaders.  There was a very paternal connection between the people and their Czar.  Stalin attempted to cultivate the same paternal relationship.  Despite the past 100 years of revolution and change Russia is still conservative and traditional, because what’s 100 years really in scope of history?  Sadly, we sadly have such a short historical memory…it would seem Putin and the ROC do not.

Here’s the painful reality.  Mr. Putin and Patriarch Kirill are right.  Our nation IS morally bankrupt.  In the name of tolerance and the dream of being inclusive we allow nearly any and everything a place at the table.  We lurch ever closer to meaninglessness and irrelevance as the Church because we’ve decided it’s more important to look like the culture, sound like the culture, and indeed to be as indistinguishable from the culture as possible in the hopes of “reaching” more people.  In reality all it seems that we’ve reached is a dead end.

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