In the first two installments of this series on Russia and Islam we have seen that the reasons why neither the modern European civilizational model nor the traditional Orthodox faith can, at this point in time, provide a viable and positive source of ideological or spiritual inspiration for post-Soviet Russia. While in the past three hundred years the ideologically dominant philosophical and political paradigm has been the “Westernizing” one, the absolute disasters which inevitably resulted from any “liberals” coming to power in Russia (Kerensky, Eltsin), combined with the West’s betrayal of all its promises made to Gorbachev (NATO would not move East) has finally resulted in a collapse of this model. The vast majority of Russians today would agree on the following basic ideas:
a) The West is no friend to Russia, never was, never will be, and the only way to deal with it is from a position of strength.
b) Russia needs a strong government lead by a strong leader.
c) Russian “liberals” (in the modern Russian use of the word) are a small degenerate group of US-worshiping intellectuals who hate Russia.
d) Russia has to be a “social state” and the “pure” capitalist model is both morally wrong and fundamentally unsustainable, as shown by the current financial crisis.
e) The democratic system is a fraud used by the rich for their own interests.
So far so good, but what is the alternative?
Historically, there used to be a traditionalist model which said that Russia needed to be an Christian Orthodox country, where the highest secular power needed to be vested in a Tsar, whose power must be kept in check by a powerful and autonomous Church, and where the people’s will would be expressed in a Zemskii Sobor, a “Council of the Land”, something like a Parliament with a primarily consultative function. This idea was expressed by philosophers and writers such as Khomiakov, Tikhomirov, Rozanov, Solonevich, Iliin, Solzhenitsyn, Ogurtsov and many others.
With many caveats and disclaimers, I would say that this would be the Russian Orthodox version of the type of regime we see today in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Not a theocracy, of course, but a regime in which the fundamental structure, nature, function and goal of the state is to uphold spiritual values. A regime with a strong democratic component, but whose popular will can, when needed, be vetoed by the highest spiritual authorities. I would call such a system a “directed democracy”, in which the tactical decisions are left to the will of the majority of the people, but whose strategic direction is set and cannot be replaced by another one.
The big difference between Russia and Iran is that in Iran the Islamic model is clearly fully endorsed by a strong majority of the population. In contrast, in Russia even most nominally Orthodox Christians would have great reservations about attempting to establish such a “Orthodox Republic”. Its hard to come by any credible figure, but my personal gut feeling is that no more than 10% of Russians would feel comfortable with such a proposition. In other words, the idea of the establishment of an “Orthodox Republic” would probably be opposed by 90% of the people.
I personally deplore this state of affairs, if only because this is the model which I believe would be best for Russia, but politics being the science of the possible, it makes no sense to stubbornly latch on an impossibility.
Then what? What are the other options?
The currently “visible” choice of political parties is both reflective of the main currents in society and, at the same time, rather misleading. Let’s look at what these parties are:
1) “United Russia”. Putin’s party. I would describe it as moderately patriotic (but not nationalistic), definitely committed to a strong Russia, “social” in economic terms, “independent” in international relations.
2) The “Liberal Democratic Party of Russia”. Lead by Vladimir Zhironovski, it is vehemently anti-Communist and anti-Soviet, nationalistic in a buffoon-like manner, also “social” in economic terms, plain crazy in international relations.
3) The Communist Party of Russia. Lead by Gennadii Ziuganov, this is a pathetically reactionary party which openly claims to be the successor of the former CPSU, it is lead by a “boar” like politician who could be sitting right next to Brezhnev or Chernenko. It has no real vision, except for nostalgia for the USSR.
4) “Just Russia”. Lead by Sergei Mironov, a former paratrooper turned Social-Democrat, it is a moderately “left center” version of “United Russia”, its a ‘nice’ party which will never make any real difference.
5) All the pro-US parties which could no even make it into the Duma, and whose protests and demonstrations rapidly fizzled out. They are fundamentally irrelevant.
What does all this mean in reality?
There is only one party in Russia – the “United Russia” party of Putin and Medvedev. Both the Liberal Democrats and the Communists are just here to provide a safety valve function for the unhappy. While these parties do absorb a big chunk of the people who oppose Putin and United Russia, in the Duma these parties always end up voting with the Kremlin. This is also pretty much true for “Just Russia” which is so small anyway, that it does not really matter. The other useful function of the Liberal Democrats and the Communist, is that it keeps the “crazies” away from the Kremlin. The hysterical nationalists and the nostalgic Communists are absorbed by these two parties and that makes them instantly irrelevant.
I feel that it is important to stress here that there are smart, well educated and articulate nationalists and communists who do NOT belong to the Liberal Democratic or Communist parties. I am thinking of nationalists like Dmitri Rogozin (who is currently the Deputy Premier of Russian Government in charge of defense and space industry) or Stalinists such as Nikolai Starikov (the head of the Union of Citizens of Russia). Frankly, smart people say away from these two parties.
The reality is that there is only one game in town: United Russia and its non-party “All-Russia People’s Front”, created by Putin as a political movement for new ideas. Everything else is pretty much a way of making the system look “democratic” and legitimate.
Let’s sum it all up.
Russia is a multi-ethnic country which currently lack any kind of unifying ideology or spirituality, lead by a single group of people whose ideology can be summed up by mix or pragmatism, patriotism, modern socialism, and multilateralism in international relations. Most importantly,
Modern Russia is neither the Imperial Russia of pre-1917 nor is it the Soviet Union and it would be fundamentally wrong the seek parallels in the past to understand the current nature of the relationship of Russia and Islam.
This is a big temptation, into which the vast majority of western observers always falls: to seek parallels between current events and past events. While it is true that an understanding of the past if often the key to the understanding of the present, in the case of Russia and Islam this is not an appropriate approach. For example, to compare the wars in Chechnia under Eltsin and then Putin, to the way Stalin dealt with Chechens or to the way Russia invaded the Caucasus under Alexander I can only fundamentally mislead, bring to wholly inapplicable parallels, and result in deeply mistaken conclusions.
Modern Russia does not have a clear definition of itself. Lacking that type of definition, it is unable to articulate some kind of consensual view on what Islam means for Russia.
Some Russians see in Islam a very dangerous enemy, others see Islam as a natural ally. This is all made even more complicated by the fact that Islam itself is hardly a unified phenomenon and that each time we think of Islam we need to be specific on what type and even what aspect of Islam we are talking about.
For Russia, Islam represents a mix of risks and opportunities in many aspects, including spiritual, political, social, economic, historical and geostrategic aspects. To be fully understood, the topic of “Russia and Islam” needs to be looked at in each and every one of these aspects and what we will see then is that there are different “currents” inside Russia who very much disagree with each other on whether Islam is a risk or an opportunity in every single one of these aspects. So rather than to speak of “risks and opportunities”, I will refer to the spiritual, political, social, economic, historical and geostrategic “challenges” which Islam represents for Russia. This will be the topic of the next installment.
Continuing in a way the discussion you were having with Wikispooks: I think that the Allies were a little bit less worse than the Nazis. At least the Allies were not racists who wanted to wipe off peoples, like Jews and Slavish, and the US let its former enemies to rise as world powers again, at least economically. The US, by the way, gained a huge moral capital in Europe after WWII, by helping rebuild these countries, allowing them to have moderately sovereign regimes (France was even allowed to leave NATO in the 60’s), and defending them against Communism.
Had the US done the same with Russia in the 90’s, perhaps Yeltsin’s reforms could have been successful and Russia now would be fully integrated with NATO and other North Atlantic structures. But post-cold war hybris made the US dream of partitioning Russia just like Yugoslavia, supported many groups which sought the destruction of the Russian state, and didn’t keep any of the commitments made to the late Soviet Union. But in the end it was good, because this didn’t prevent Russia from remaining unified and even recovering from its multiple crisis (political, economical, social, demographic), and allowed for a fully sovereign country commited with the anti-imperial cause. It is amazing how the imperial plans against Russia backfired completely.
@Carlo:I think that the Allies were a little bit less worse than the Nazis. At least the Allies were not racists who wanted to wipe off peoples
Here I would respectfully disagree. By the time WWII started the Anglos had committed a crime previously unheard off in human history: a continent-wide genocide (a “poly-genocide”? or maybe a “mega-genocide”?) which wiped off something in the range of 99% of native Americans. They also deported 12 million Africans to enslave those who would survive the trip. Add to this the vicious colonization of India, the Opium Wars against China, the brutal colonization of Africa, etc. and I think that the Western Allies were every bit as bad as the Nazis. I would put the Soviets on par with the Nazis, but not worse and definitely not worse than the Anglos. The French, by the way, where hardly noble either, but being on the decline since 1789 they did not have the means for grand atrocities like the British.
US, by the way, gained a huge moral capital in Europe after WWII, by helping rebuild these countries
Yes, but they also created a market to dump the already bloated US dollar. They also did that in Russia in 1991, by the way. This type of “aid” is really aimed at propping up the dollar, thereby insuring the US hegemony over the “assisted” region.
My 2cts. Cheers!
You are right. I had considered just WWII examples, but looking at a broader picture in other conflicts then yes, the Anglos were no less bad.
This series is of great interest to me, because Fr. Andrew Phillips has been predicting for some time, that Orthodox in Western Countries will soon have to go to Russia to escape atheist persecution. His latest post is here:
Although I am safe here Down Under (for the time being), I take his warnings very seriously.
Would Russia be a safe haven for other Orthodox if that were to come to pass?
@Michael:Would Russia be a safe haven for other Orthodox if that were to come to pass?
Frankly, no. And the reason for this pessimistic outlook on my part is that I consider that at least for the time being and the foreseeable future Russia is only “Orthodox” in an external, almost deceptive, way. This did not have to happen, but unfortunately it did. I had high hopes for a positive evolution in Russia all throughout 1991-2001, but with the tragic lapse of most of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad finalized in the 2007 act of union with the Moscow Patriarchate, the last strong factor which could have “pulled” the MP towards some meaningful reforms disappeared.
While a part of the former ROCA did remain steadfast in its confession of faith and witness (the one currently headed by Metropolitan Agafangel), it is simply too small to influence the events in Russia. As for the part of the ROCA which joined the MP, it was immediately incorporated, assimilated, and turned into a foreign franchise of the MP, with no individual characteristic. This is an immense tragedy which has had absolutely dramatic consequences for tens of thousands of faithful, and it is also a tragedy for Russia.
Still, I cannot “give up” on Russia completely. I still believe that it is possible that, at the 11th hour, the Russian people will realize that their hierarchy is a fraud and that they need to turn their eyes to those small remnants of the once huge Church which have kept the fullness of the tradition and faith which “which the Lord gave, was preached by the Apostles, and was preserved by the Fathers” (Saint Athanasios) and “which has been believed everywhere, always and by all” (Saint Vincent).
Sadly, judging by his website, Father Andrew seemed to have followed the larger part of the ROCA, lead by Archbishop Mark and Metropolitan Lavrus, into their lapse into the Moscow Patriarchate. Hence his hope for a “geographical solution”.
Personally, I believe that, just as in the times of Emperor Diocletian or Julian the Apostate, the only “safe heaven” is a spiritual one: the Theandric Body of Christ, His Church.
@Michael: one more point. What has taken place in Russia is, by the way, fully in line with Orthodox eschatology and it should come at no surprise to anybody. Yes, Russian saints *did* predict a final rebirth of Russia before the End Times, but they always made that prediction contingent upon a deep *repentance* of the Russian people, and that has not happened, far from it. One of the most strident strains of current Russian nationalism is the one which says that all of Russian history was good: the Empire was good, the Soviet era was good too. This is just about the polar opposite of the kind of national repentance so many Orthodox saints did advocate for the Russian nation.
The other huge problem for the Moscow Patriarchate is that it is sill involved in the so-called “Ecumenical Movement”, a pan heresy from the traditional patristic point of view. Can you imagine the Orthodox of the first centuries joining a joint movement with Arians, Nestorians, Monophyletes and Iconoclasts?! Can you imagine Saint Photios or Saint Cyprian agreeing to sign a document like the Balamand Declaration?
The closer you look, the more it becomes clear that neither the Orthodoxis nor the Orthopraxis of the MP is genuine, and as long as this does not change, Russia will not be fundamentally different from any other post-Christian society, alas.
RE: Fr. Andrew:
He agrees with ALL the criticisms you have just raised. His position (wishful thinking, perhaps?) is that ROCOR still continues to have a beneficial influence upon the MP, even from within, that Patriarch Kyrill is learning some hard and necessary lessons “on the job” and that there is still hope.
See this Q&A exchange:
On the other hand, he is very clear, that Russia’s repentance is far from complete. He further says, that the only thing which stands between the world and the Apocalypse, is the repentance of Russia, that the West can no longer repent of itself. I agree.
One last thing. Fr. Andrew travels to Russia several times per year. Our local Russian priest, Fr. Vladimir Boikov, also goes back once or twice per year, and reports to all of us locals what he sees. Both of them say the same thing – namely, that there is repentance, that Russia is heading in the right direction, not the wrong one, but that societal repentance is glacially slow, and that Russia could still be overwhelmed (yet again) if it does not get its spiritual act together far more rapidly than it is doing.
Have you been back there recently? I have never visited, so I can only rely upon the word of those who speak Russian and have visited regularly.
@Michael:ROCOR still continues to have a beneficial influence upon the MP
Yes, that was exactly the argument used by Met. Lavrus, Archb. Mark, and all the others in the years preceding the union. And then, when Pat. Alexei died the MP elected Kirill, by far the worst possible candidate. To me this was the final nail into a coffin of naive delusion of some about what was taking place in the MP (though I personally never had any doubts at all, I knew the MP all too well). By that logic, Orthodox Christians should accept a union with Rome in order to have a “beneficial influence” upon the Papacy. This argument reveals a basic misunderstanding of Orthodox ecclesiology which says *EXACTLY* the opposite: the faithful should wall themselves off from those infected by the bacterium of sergianism, innovation, new caledarism and ecuminism at least until that time when a Church Council can settle the matter. Besides, the MP is an illegitimate hierarch which came to power SOLELY by the guns of the Soviet secret police, how can somebody raised in the Church which glorified the New Martyrs of Russia accept such a hierarchy?!
One can be either with the New Martyrs or with those who murdered them.
there is repentance, that Russia is heading in the right direction
Not so sure about repentence, but there is no doubt in my mind that Russia si heading in the right direction with the notable and glaring exception of the MP which is every bit as arrogant, self-righteous and false as it always was. The Russian society is slowly healing IN SPITE of the MP, not thanks to it.
Have you been back there recently?
Nope, I simply cannot afford the costs of such a trip. But I assure you that I have many, close and deep ties to what is happening there.
@Michael: ROCOR still continues to have a beneficial influence upon the MP
One more thing. Did you ever consider that the argument above is fundamentally a Sergianist one? What did Met. Sergius say? That by his actions he was “saving the Church”. In contrast, there is a stichera in the Service to the New Martyrs which says (I translate from memory):
It is not man which saves the Church
And there is no point in seeking an agreement with Her enemies
But it is the Church which saves man, by the power of Christ,
As your spiritual exploit has shown
The Fathers NEVER taught that there is a need to exercise a “positive influence” upon the lapsed, the schismatic or the heretic. Quite to the contrary, they clearly told us to withdraw from communion with such groups.
“Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” (Matt 18:15-17)
“A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” (Titus 3:10).
The New Martyrs, the Apostles, the Fathers and even Christ Himself all tell us the same thing and that one shall have no communion with the lapsed.
Again, the Church does not need salvation. We – humans – do.
Okay, I’ll ask this.
Given that the MP has already glorified the New Martyrs, and that they have officially condemned Sergianism (although leaving Sergius himself to the judgment of God), what else does the MP need to do, to show repentance?
ROCOR listed several things the MP had to do, to demonstrate repentance, before signing the merger. To my understanding, all these things were done. (If that is false, correct me!).
Were these things insufficient in your mind? If so, then what else is needed? Please be specific, not general.
The reason I am pressing this point, is that I am very familiar with the schismatic, sectarian mindset. I grew up in Texas, the buckle of the Southern Baptist Bible-belt. You cannot imagine how many flavors of Baptist there are.
The sectarian thinks that there must be a “perfect” church out there somewhere. When the sectarian cannot find the “perfect” church, he conducts Salem-style witch hunts. The sectarian also, fundamentally, does not think that repentance is possible. “Once lapsed, always lapsed.” No matter how much repentance other parties show, it is never, ever good enough. No matter what the “other” does, it is always wrong, and if the “other” does nothing, it is still wrong. The goal of the sectarian is not save the lost. The goal of the sectarian is to be in schism, period. In other words, it is egocentric, Pharisaical behavior.
As I have said, I have seen this all of my life, and I am beginning to wonder if the same is true of you.
So, please dispel my suspicions in this regard. Please give an enumerated (or bullet-point) list of exactly what the MP must do, to establish legitimacy in your eyes. If your answer is “they can never be legitimate, no matter what they do,” then I will have to end this conversation. If you do not believe that repentance is possible, then you are a Manichaean or a Gnostic, not a Christian.
@Michael: is that I am very familiar with the schismatic, sectarian mindset. I grew up in Texas, the buckle of the Southern Baptist Bible-belt. You cannot imagine how many flavors of Baptist there are.
Ok. this is indeed an absolutely crucial point. The mindset. The correct mindset is indeed needed to assess the nature of the challenge posed by the MP. So let me begin by a very simple point:
There is no need to reinvent the wheel. The mindset every single Orthodox Christian should try to acquire is the mindset of the Fathers, the phronema ton pateron. Our criterion of truth, of orthodoxy, is that which was handed down to us from the Fathers and the question we need to ask is basic: in its two thousand years of history, how did the Church deal with the lapsed, the schismatic or the heretic?
Let us, for argument’s sake, consider that the MP is not an illegal structure and that it did not develop its own, Sergianst, ecclesiology. Let’s say that “all” we have to deal with is a group of lapsed people. The practice of the Church has always been to establish the modalities of the reception back of these lapsed depending on the nature of their lapse. What is requiered from them is a) a repentence for the lapse and b) a submission to the judgement of the clergy receiving them back into the Church.
Let’s compare that with what the MP has done.
The MP has, indeed glorified the New Martyrs, but with two very important features: they ADDED the names of Sergianist clergymen who were murdered by the Soviets and the WITHDREW the names of Saint Joseph of Petrograd and his followers. In the former case, they GLORIFIED the lapsed and in the latter, they denied the glorification of the martyrs.
The MP *never* accepted that its hiearchy had no other legitimacy than the guns of the Soviet secret police. In fact, for years they denied the legicimacy of the Josephites, the Catacomb Church and the ROCA. Only at the moment of the union did they reverse their previous stance that the ROCA was a schismatic ecclesial body.
Now if raising these topics reminds you of a sectarian mind set and a Salem-style which hunts, then I would suggest go right back to the study of Church history to see whether you can make that ad hominem stick to Saint Basil the Great, Saint Cyprian of Carthage or to Saint Maximos the Confessor.
Let’s take the latter’s example.
When he was interrogated by the monophyletes he was asked:
“So then, you alone will be saved, and all others will perish?” (they accused him of the same thing you are suspecting me off: a sectarian mindset)
“When the people in Babylon worshipped the golden idol, the Three Holy Youths condemned no one. Their concern was not for the doings of others, but that they themselves should not fall away from piety. When Daniel was cast into the lion’s den, he did not condemn those who, obeying Darius, failed to worship God, but kept in mind his own duty. He preferred to die rather than sin against conscience and transgress God’s law. God forbid that I should judge anyone or say that I alone will be saved! Nevertheless, I would rather die than violate my conscience by betraying the Orthodox faith in any particular.
Then they told him a lie – that Rome had also joined the heretics and that he would be left alone. To which he replied:
“The whole world may enter into communion with the Patriarch, but I will not. The Apostle Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit anathematizes even angels who preach a new Gospel, that is, introduce novel teaching.”
Now you tell me, is this the spirit of Baptist sectarianism or the spirit of the Fathers?
to be continued…
The sectarian also, fundamentally, does not think that repentance is possible. “Once lapsed, always lapsed.”
Did I ever say that? Why would you put such a straw man argument to me? You accuse me of Donatism solely because I speak the truth about the nature of the MP? Did I not say that for years I hoped for a positive change in Russia? I even wrote that I still held hope that at the 11th hour the Russian people would realize that they are led by false pastors! Does that sound like a Novationist or Donatist person speaking?
I believe you when you say that you are familiar with the Southern Baptism sectarian mindset. Please forgive me for saying so, but what I question is your familiarity with the PATRISTIC mindset.
I was born in the ROCA, and my spiritual father was a ROCA Archbishop, and I dare say that there is nothing Baptist or sectarian about refusing to “overlook” the fundamentally hypocritical nature of the pseudo-glorification of the New Martyrs by the MP, there is nothing Baptism or sectarian about pointing out that the MP is still deeply enmeshed in the Ecumenical dialog and that such matters are hardly some kind of insistance for a “perfect” church out there somewhere.
You write: The goal of the sectarian is not save the lost. To which I will reply how will you ever save the lost unless you tell him/them the truth. How does *joining* the lost in a union encourage him/them to mend their ways?
You write:The goal of the sectarian is to be in schism, period. In other words, it is egocentric, Pharisaical behavior. As I have said, I have seen this all of my life, and I am beginning to wonder if the same is true of you.
What could I have possibly written here which would lead you to such suspicions? Does this blog strke you as advocating schisms?! How can I be egocentric and pharisaical when I write in an *anonymous* blog, trying to remove my real person as far as I can and only stick to issues. I have been writing this blog for seven years now (since 2007) with the sole purpose of discussing the truth, whatever that truth may be, with others who also seek such a true and honest dialog. And I never, ever, said that repentance is impossible. And yet you conclude with:If you do not believe that repentance is possible, then you are a Manichaean or a Gnostic, not a Christian.
Makes me wonder what in the world you were smoking while reading my posts…
to be continued…
… continuation and end:
Anyway, you demand, ultimatum style (lest I be accused by you of not being a Christian), that I enumerate what the MP must do to “establish legicimacy”, and you even demand that I do that in a bullet style.
Michael, I don’t like that bullying tone one bit. I have never been rude to you and I don’t see why you would get this privilege. So you will forgive me if I chose my own format of reply.
The MP needs to decide for itself which master it serves, Christ our Lord or the Kremlin. In the former case. it must renounce its current justification and even glorification of Sergianists and Sergianism, and admit that the true Russian Orthodox Church was with Saint Joseph, the Catacombs and the Church in Exile. It must wholly renounce and denonce the Ecumenical dialog and once it has done so, it must ask to be received back into the Church by those who did not lapse but instead where martyred. That, Michael, is Orthodox ecclesiology 101.
Now if having read all my comments in this thread you want to come back and accuse me of being a schismatic, a Baptist, a Manichean, Donatist, Novatian, a Gnostic or God only knows what else – feel free. But this is the last time I am willing to reply to ad hominem insinuations and straw man accusations. This might surprize you, but this blog is not about me. So let’s keep it this way.
Very informative read, thank you.
” . . . Orthodox ecclesiology which says *EXACTLY* the opposite: the faithful should wall themselves off from those infected by the bacterium of sergianism, innovation, new caledarism and ecuminism at least until that time when a Church Council can settle the matter. . . .”
Saker, with apologies, (this is your place, after all) this is not what Orthodox ecclesiology says in its entirety, but it is what some Orthodox opinion does say. We do not have infallibility in our Church – we have good hearted people who use their minds to question and understand, whether it be our own faith or that of others – as you do so well with Islam. There are many branches of Islam also, and we can leave it to God to decide among them. I suspect each will be found to have a part of the great Truth we all strive to come close to.
Don’t wall yourself off! That is the very problem affecting Russia at present, stemming from having been taken advantage of by the neocon, neoliberal plague that is affecting us all! Russians are, as you say, taking matters into their own hands, and well they should, hurrah for them. They are building their state out of their own heritage – something we all must do. We are one world. The West must ‘hold fast to what is good’ in its heritage also! Part of what is good is to eschew imperialism of any kind – Christ said ‘my kingdom is not of this world’ facing Pilate and that is the all-important role of Orthodoxy, to be with Christ, not with the world, not as any kind of political mechanism for the state, because that is fraught with peril and only causes disaffection when the peoples are peoples of many faiths. God is not mocked by this; he is vindicated! Scripture is vindicated!
Render unto the leaders of this world what belongs to them, and to God what belongs to him, knowing that all worldly leaders lead only with his permission. We do not pontificate, we Orthodox. We seek God in Christ, and our church leaders know that he is the authority, not they. (And if the people don’t shout the ‘axios’ – they can’t lead us.)
I rather think Putin understands this; his forbearance is inspiring. As you say, the church leadership in Russia may not. It will be hard for them to rebuild the necessary spiritual leadership after so many traumatic years of repression – faith, humility, and love is the way.
I think it is one area in which Orthodoxy in America in its various manifestations of genuine love and devotion to Christ can remind the Russian faithful of what they have had stolen from them over the centuries as you say – the Tradition itself in all its innate splendor – not needing all that gilt and maybe not half the ponderosity – just enough of its beauty (potentially best created there, its ancestral home, inherently lovely) and humble spirituality. Here we often say ‘Come and see!’ and as Dostoievski truly said, it is beauty that will save the world, the beauty of Christ and his Church, freely available to all.
There is so much to learn always.