Now, Religion in the News, a report and comment on religious trends and events being covered by the media. This week’s item is from World Magazine, September 3, 2005, with the headline: “Russian Orthodox Church Starts Smear Campaign Against Christian Denominations.” The following are excerpts. Krasnodar, Russia. “When graduate student Dema Belozerov took a late night study break from his Russian literature assignment and turned on the television in his Krasnodar apartment, he was aghast to see a documentary disparaging evangelicals. The program reported the Adventist Church in Krasnodar was printing Satanic Bibles and using human blood for ink, he told World. They also alleged that the church commits a dozen ritual murders each year. Designed to sway public opinion against the evangelical community, the television programs are making an impact. Local officials evicted Grace Community Church with 40 members from a cultural center building where they had worshipped for years. Church leaders say they have been unable to rent facilities anywhere in Krasnodar for Sunday worship services since the documentaries. The half-hour television messages broadcast throughout Russia are the latest attempt by the Russian Orthodox Church to create fear and disgust toward evangelicals. What began as a campaign of dis-information has grown into full-fledged harassment and persecution. The media crusade prompted authorities in the Krasnodar region to deny Protestant churches access to hospitals, prisons, orphanages, and army units for meetings, all places where they were previously welcomed. The Russian Orthodox Church considers all alternative forms of Christianity a threat to its religious authority and to its claim as state church. Encroachment into Russia by other Christian denominations is a particularly sensitive subject for leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church since coming out of its own period of persecution. These leaders also recite the mantra that evangelicals are a distasteful and perverted form of Western religion.”
Tom: Dave, what is it with religion, and what are these guys doing? Are they sitting around thinking, “What kind of lies can we make up to get this false religion out,” as though the end justified the means. Now, in the last segment we had another problem with religion, and I’m sure some people who listening to us are saying, “What is going on here?” But earlier you were talking about Sunnis and Shi’ites. So Sunnis go into Shi’ite mosques, blowing themselves up along with whoever they can take with them, and supposedly they get into paradise.
Dave: Not according to the Shi’ites that they blow up, but according to the Sunnis who send them in there.
Tom: Right, and then the Shi’ites strap bombs on themselves, go into Sunni mosques, blow them up, and they get into paradise. Now, Dave, you’d think, What goes on in paradise? You’ve got Sunnis and Shi’ites there…I mean, I’m not trying to be funny here, I’m just pointing out the absurdity in the name of God, in the name of Allah, in the name of religion, these people have no problem with doing the most immoral, atrocious acts. It’s unbelievable!
Dave: Well, it’s murder, but I’m sorry, that is Islam. They’re following the footsteps of Muhammad. Now, there weren’t Shi’ites and Sunnis in his day, but they each claim to be following him.
Tom: Well, what about the Russian Orthodox here?
Dave: Well, Tom, I’ve spent some time in Russia, been in there a few times - in the Iron Curtain days, mostly - and I’ve visited the headquarters of the headquarters of the Russian Orthodox Church a couple hours outside of Moscow. I’ve talked with the monks and with the priests there. This is not a Christian church. They’ve got all kinds of icons and so forth. In fact, in the early days - and you can visit the Orthodox churches, the one right there on Red Square for example - there’s no huge gathering places for crowds of people; these were mainly for the elite, for the rulers and so forth. They were not for the peasants, and down through the centuries, long before the Communist Revolution, the Orthodox Church was killing evangelical Christians. They hate evangelical Christians. It’s a matter of power and money, and they want control, and they are trying to force out evangelicals.
And yet, Tom, we have evangelical leaders from the West who come there to preach and they get cooperation (this is in Moscow, you know) from the Russian Orthodox Church, and they get a stadium and they preach, and they think so many people are getting saved and coming forward and so forth. And I remember on one occasion, at least, the booklet that was being handed out about a Russian Orthodox priest who supposedly was a born-again Christian. It was not what they thought it said, but it was opposing the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the name of this famous Orthodox priest.
We have a friend, Tom (do you know her?), she was my interpreter in Russia, and when she got saved - she was a Communist and the pioneers wore the red scarf, and so forth - when she got saved she went to her grandmother, elderly grandmother, who, all through Communist days had faithfully gone to the church. She knew what icons to kiss and in what order, but when she tried to give her the gospel, her grandmother couldn’t fathom it at all, and finally said to her, “I don’t understand why that boy had to die on that cross.” She was so filled with false ideas from the Orthodox Church that her granddaughter could not get her to understand the gospel. This is Orthodoxy!
Tom: Dave, another irony here, just as we mentioned about Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims, we have evangelicals in this country through a movement called the “emerging church,” and they are opting for all of these things. We have examples in evangelical Christianity where many have left the church to join the Orthodox Church! Now, this is really insane. It is just unbelievable.
Dave: Tom, just very quickly, what is the difference between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Church? Very little! They do not follow the pope; they have their patriarchs. Their priests can marry, not their monks; but they worship Mary - if anything, even more so than the Catholics. And I would say that if possible, it’s even more demonic than the Catholic Church, and you can get a good glimpse of that when you go to Israel and you see the Orthodox priests there. But the worst part of it is Tom, these are the enemies of the gospel, and they are barring the door to heaven. I talked with these monks and priests there at the headquarters - “Yes, Jesus is the door, but Jesus is the door at the top of a long stairway, and you’ve got to climb up there all by yourself before you finally get to Jesus, who is the door.” And, Tom, it is a works religion, and it denies the gospel completely.