A MILE WIDE AND AN INCH DEEP
06 Dec 2007
Spirituality … for most of Russia’s history … has been defined by the desires of the ruling monarchs and dictators. The choice of “proper worship” has been made on the basis of political, economic, and social advantages. Little opportunity was given for the development of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Eleven centuries ago … when Russia was forming as a nation … Prince Vladimir of Kiev sought emissaries of Islam, Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Judaism. While he liked the structure of Islam, it was rejected because alcoholic beverages were forbidden. Eventually, Orthodoxy was chosen because of their elaborate worship methods. Once chosen as the official state religion, the Russian rulers built elaborate cathedrals. These cathedrals developed their own style and soon exceeded the grandeur of those in Constantinople … and … Russian Orthodoxy came into being.
The ensuing style of worship focused on visual images of God. The priest and his elaborate robe, the fixtures and icons, and the chapel itself are designed to illustrate God’s majesty. The imagery is further enhanced by defining the icons as windows through which the worshippers communicate with God. This style of worship became dark and impersonal.
During the time America was developing as a nation under God with freedom to choose whom to worship, … Peter the Great was redefining his nation under the tsar. The tsar was defined to be a messenger of God. …The Russian Orthodox Church became an instrument of political control.
Soon God was all but abandoned and man became the center. A large statue of Karl Marx near Red Square in Moscow is a prominent feature. Inscribed in the granite are the words “Workers of the world unite!” bearing testimony to the father of communism. The Russian populace was indeed united, … united in their suffering while the ruling class continued their opulent life style.
The workers eventually revolted against the tsar and the ruling class in the early 1900’s. The fall out of the Bolshevik Revolution resulted in Vladimir Lenin as the new leader. Lenin assumed draconian dictatorial powers … declared that there is no God … and converted many of the cathedrals into museums. Scientific materialism soon became the religion of Russia. … The Russian Orthodox Church became an instrument of the Communist Party.
With the success of their Sputnik, … Khrushchev in the late 1950’s … … justified the efficacy of Lenin’s scientific materialism and declared that all Christians in Russia would be gone in twenty years. In 1958-1964 there was a massive closing of churches.
It was not until the fall of communism in Russia in 1990 that one could hear the statement from a new Christian, … “Lenin, Stalin, Communism … all left me empty! They are lies and do not satisfy. I know that Jesus is the Way! I will follow Him.” (This is a quote from our Pastor Stuart. We feel that personalization here will help in your volunteer recruitment.)
Today, … Communism is gone and, yet, the most sacred shrine of Soviet communism is found in Red Square -- a mausoleum containing the remains of Vladimir Lenin, the father of Russian Communism and the embodiment of the Russian Revolution. Although Lenin died in 1924, his well-preserved body is kept here on display. His legacy continues to cast a long shadow of over the populace.
Religion in Bashkortostan is largely determined by one’s ethnicity. Thirty nine percent are Russian and, therefore, Orthodox. Fifty-one percent of the Republic is either Bashkir or Tartar and, therefore, Muslim. Baptists and other evangelicals are not considered to be Christians, and are said to have no right to evangelize the Orthodox.
Is it any wonder that today the spirituality of Russia is a mile wide and an inch deep? They have been at the mercy of the whims of tsars and dictators. … They have had little opportunity to discover what Jesus said in John chapter 10 verse 10 … “I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly.”
The legacy of these years of oppression has left a very deep mark on the Russian people as a whole with little to believe in. Vodka is the national drink and is readily available. Public drunkenness is commonplace. Many of the Russian men face a premature death due to alcohol abuse.
Alcohol abuse also affects the very fabric of the Russian family. Degradation of the family is also evident in the high divorce rate and termination of unwanted pregnancies. Today, only one in four pregnancies are allowed to go full-term. Despite these overwhelming odds, there are young parents who are very proud of their children and seek to give them a better future.
Although the Bashkirs claim to believe in the God of the Bible or Allah of the Koran, faith here is only a shallow faēade. Nothing concrete lies behind it as religious ritualism rarely results in behavioral changes. A recent survey conducted in the capital city of Ufa found that only five percent who claimed to be Muslim or Orthodox said that they attend a mosque or a cathedral more than once a year.
A team member on a recent volunteer mission trip returned with this observation. “Every time I have visited an Orthodox Church I have come away with oppression and deadness. The Bible seems to be a foreign book to these people and many say that the New Testament that we gave them is the first Bible that they have ever received.” (Chris … This is a quote from our Pastor Stuart. We feel that personalization here will help in your volunteer recruitment. You may have a similar quote or a better quote that you would like to use. That would be great.)
Even though they have little allegiance to their own religious belief systems, they vehemently reject those who seek to share with them the life-changing love of God. An evangelical presence has existed in Bashkortostan for over 100 years, … but today, … out of a population of over 4 million in the Republic, … there are fewer than 7,000 believers. Of these 7,000 believers, about 1,000 are Baptists.
In a land of great spiritual emptiness and darkness like Bashkortostan, … there is hope… hope through faith in Christ. YOUR help is needed to bring hope to the Bashkirs. We need your help to awaken the people from spiritual darkness and show them the light of Jesus.
Š The door is open. …
Š God is working in Bashkortostan. …
Š Volunteers are an essential part of reaching the Bashkirs for Christ. …
Š YOU are urgently needed. …
Š Will you join God in His work?
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