Why Russian law shields against some proselytizing
by Don Hank
A few religions that were recent implants in Russia have now been refused re-registration or have had their work curtailed. These include Jehova’s Witnesses, Mormon and Scientology.
In view of Russia’s 20th Century history, it is no surprise that these churches are not welcomed with open arms. Russia has returned to its Christian roots and groups like these are not traditional.
In fact, I have interacted with Jehovah’s Witnesses and discovered that their Bibles are slightly different at one crucial passage: John 1, where John wrote of Jesus, calling him the Word:
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
In the JW translation, this is changed to:
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.
Why did the JWs decide upon this translation? Two reasons:
1—It fits in with their idea that Jesus was not a deity, and
2—In the “original” Greek manuscript, the word God is written in John 1 without the definite article (analogous to the word “the” in English). In most cases, the word for “God” in the NT is preceded by the article (o).
However, there are 2 reasons we can know that this translation is erroneous:
1—The definite article “o” is not used obligatorily with the word God (theos). I went through the Nestle’s NT and found 36 instances of the word for God not preceded by the article.
2—While from a purely theoretical standpoint, one would have to admit that the word theos could be rendered, in some contexts, as “a god,” the real clincher is that the Hebrews were monotheists and did not have or accept the concept of multiple gods. This chapter we are discussing, John 1, makes it clear that the early Christians did not think of Jesus as separate from God the Father. Therefore, John 1 does indeed teach that Jesus was God. They were, in the Judeo-Christian theology, one and the same person in different forms. The Russians do not accept this Jehovah’s Witness teaching. It’s their country, they decide.
As for Scientology, I went to the pertinent web site and saw that there is no mention of God at all. To a Russian, no God means no religion. No religion reminds them of 70 years of hell under tyrants.
Yes, very dogmatic, and if you belong to a non-traditional “religion,” then Russia is not a good place to be. On the other hand, a Russian scientologist should be able to continue to practice this religion at home.
As for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, it is easy to see why this religion would not be accepted as bona fide traditional Christianity by the traditional (some detractors say reactionary) Russians.
The Russians are skitterish about new groups, especially from other countries or whose belief systems come from abroad.
Consider what they have been through:
For 200 years, the Russian people groaned under the yoke of the Tatars, a horde of barbarians who exacted taxes from them, just as radical Islamists do today to non-Muslims. In fact, shortly after the Tatars conquered Russia, they became Muslims. At that point one might say they were collecting the jizya
Later, they were invaded by Bonaparte and then by Hitler, 2 foreigners who all but destroyed their country and slaughtered millions of them.
Further, a foreigner – the German Karl Marx – introduced an ideology – communism – from abroad and a few radicals adopted this idea. It is not known whether Lenin was even ethnic Russian (it is speculated that he may have been Chuvash, Mordvin or Kalmyk), but whatever the case, he hated the Russian nationality and wrote this on at least one occasion. As for Putin, he has dissed Lenin on one occasion. Popular Russian duma member Vladimir Zhirinovsky quotes from Lenin in a recent speech to show that Lenin hated Russians. (BTW, Rabid Neocon activists claim communism never died in Russia. So how do they explain this?).
According to Nobel laureate Solzhenitsyn in his book 200 Years Together, 85% of the top level Bolsheviks who followed Lenin were Jewish. I am not addressing herein the historical veracity of this report, just saying what Russians believe to be true.
In fact, Putin addressed a group of prominent Jewish leaders in Russia a few years ago and told them this story. But Putin came from a staunch Soviet background and was therefore not anti-Jewish. One of the pillars of Soviet creed was that they, as the victors in the Great Patriotic War, stood in contrast to the fascists that they had defeated, particularly in terms of their attitude toward the Jews. Thus, in telling these Jews this story, he just wanted them to know this and told them in a friendly way. He also was subtly reminding them that any attempt to return to a Russia under non-Russian rulers hostile to Orthodoxy would not be tolerated.
Lest anyone think Putin has an anti-Jewish streak, note that he has met with Netanyahu many times in the last few years, even as Obama shunned the latter. And every time they get together Putin reminds him that, despite their differences, their 2 peoples have a lot in common, both having suffered horribly at the hands of the fascists during the Third Reich.
In other words, foreign ideas and people unattached to the Orthodox culture of Russia are seen as the originators of the 70 years of pain and tyranny of Russia. Putin himself has spoken disparagingly of Lenin, for example, and has suggested that Lenin was not a good Russian.
The Russians have a right to their opinion that it was non-Russians who destroyed their country. Clearly, if it had not been for this non-Russian (notably, non-Orthodox) interference in their history, they would not have gone through the painful experience of having atheism shoved down their throats and being forced to live under tyranny for 70 bitter years.
That in a nutshell is their motivation in wanting to stay free of foreign religions and ideologies and allowing Russian Orthodoxy to flourish without excessive interference.
Like the Jews who survived the holocaust, they too are saying “never again.” Their experience too was a holocaust.
Full text translation of Chapter 15 of 200 Years Together
Mr. Trump, why did you meet with my husband’s murderer?
Read it here