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The orthodox church’s involvement in Russian politics (The Infidel 2015-05-25)

Religion was frowned on but not outlawed in
the Soviet Union, and since the dissolution of the Soviet Empire, a surprising 31% to
72% of Russians again identify with the Orthodox Church. There are also still a number of Orthodox
Christians in the Ukraine, which finds itself divided among those who want to remain separate
from Russian and those who see themselves more as Russians than Ukrainians. This sets the stage for trouble within the
church as well since some see Russian military involvement in the area as an act of liberation,
and others see it as an act of repression if not aggression. Vladimir Zaytsev, a priest from the Urals
city of Yekaterinburg, is one of the former and was filmed blessing a group of 50 Russian
troops headed off to the conflict, telling them, “Fight against the fascist scum,”
referring to the Ukrainian military that they would potentially be going up against. Given the church’s history with Soviet repression,
it stands to reason that they might favor the Ukrainian government’s desire for independence,
and in fact, some have accused the church of collusion along those lines; but the church’s
leader, Patriarch Kirill, has taken a conciliatory stance with respect to the government of Vladimir
Putin, while still stopping short of supporting the pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine. For now, Vladimir Zaytsev has been suspended
from his post pending further considerations. In another story that displays the confused
state of affairs between the Russian government and the newly invigorated Russian Orthodox
Church, the Russian population, according to Pew Research, has made a remarkable return
to affiliations with the church even though many Russians are not particularly religious,
having been raised in an environment that discourages all religious activities without
actually outlawing them. Now, with the government of Vladimir Putin
wanting a return to traditional values, the Russian Orthodox Church has become a natural
ally. The only problem is that when it comes to micro managing local affairs it might be
said that “the Devil is in the details.” The church, seeing that the Kremlin relies
on it to move church members in one direction or another, is now unafraid to speak its own
preferences on issues as well. Increasingly, church officials are standing up against local
government officials, who not that many years ago would have been loyal to the Communist
Party and would have had, by far, the upper hand. Now, when it comes to activities that might
be seen by the church as encouraging undesirable behavior such as alcoholism, they are making
their views openly known. Such conflicts have erupted, for example,
over variations on Wagnerian operas depicting Christ in a sacrilegious manner, or even the
planning for a rock concert that the church thought might lead to drunken behavior. More and more the church is viewed by some
as an extension of the heavy hand of the Kremlin, as seen a couple of years ago when members
of the feminist oriented rock band Pussy Riot were arrested for an anti-Putin protest held
in Moscow’s Christ the Savior cathedral. Some analysts speculate that what might be
called an unholy alliance between church and state is apt to backfire. The question has circulated for years and
been answered in a variety of ways: “Should a Christian attend a same-sex wedding?”
The answer most often given by serious theologians is that obviously they should, giving examples
of Jesus interacting with sinners in several places in the bible such as the well-known
admonition: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” It is easy enough to simply skip a wedding
when the couple are people that you don’t know very well. But what if they are relatives,
or even close relatives? In a recent call-in show run by Family Research
Council President Tony Perkins, such passive advice was interrupted by a caller quite forcefully
putting forth the proposition that the right thing for a Christian to do would be to attend
the wedding specifically to object to it when the traditional question at the end was asked:
“Is there anyone present who can say why this couple should not be joined together
in holy matrimony,” or some variation on theme. The caller was interrupted at that point as
Perkins attempted to steer the show back to a less confrontational point of view, stating
that as an ordained minister, he would refuse to perform such a ceremony, but attending
one would be another matter. The reality is that most modern wedding ceremonies
diverge in many ways from traditional services, such as taking out the opportunity for anyone
to object or any suggestion that one partner should unconditionally obey the other. Now
that the more disruptive approach is out there, it will be interesting to see if anyone attempts
it, with or without the question being asked in the first place.

Otis Rodgers



  1. Ivy Shoots Posted on May 26, 2015 at 12:56 am

    Good job. Pussy Riot rules.

  2. Popa Dorin Posted on May 5, 2016 at 4:11 am

    they really don't understand the role that religion plays in modern russian politics. It is really different from what it was during USSR