Why Russian law shields against some proselytizing

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

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/jan/25/russia.books

 

Mr. Trump, why did you meet with my husband’s murderer?

Read it here

Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, tragically misunderstood by conservatives

Aleksander Solzenitsyn, tragically misunderstood by America

 

By Donald Hank

 

Solzhenitsyn is known as a writer who addressed issues like the lack of freedom in the USSR, for example, in his novels “Gulag Archipelago” and “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.”

But few are aware that his greatest contribution to the world was his thorough fact-finding research on the early years prior to the Russian Revolution and the first years thereafter.

Solzhenitsyn would go to the local library and ask for copies of pre-revolution newspapers. He would laboriously copy out passages that contradicted the Soviet revisionist histories. He also frequently checked out any items of interest in this regard, making library officials suspicious. He was soon tailed by Soviet agents, who interrogated him and ultimately had him arrested.

He was able to hide much of this copied information from them and later use it in his novels.

Thus Solzhenitsyn was much more than just a novelist. He was a chronicler and historian. And he was the only living Soviet who did this to such an extent. He filled a dark void and it is hard to imagine a world without his contribution.

Solzhenitsyn admitted that he was, initially, just another Soviet citizen who hardly questioned the regime and its motives and agenda. Yet, his curiosity led him to knowledge, and knowledge ultimately led to freedom.

But it was a long hard journey, and few understand the sufferings he went through.

Even fewer understand his sufferings in America, where he lived for a few years while employed by Harvard University. Here he was snubbed by those who should have befriended him. And he was snubbed – ultimately – simply for being a Russian patriot.

President Reagan’s advisors wrongly categorized Solzhenitsyn as an extreme nationalist, when he was nothing but a man who loved his country.

No wonder then that he returned disillusioned to Russia and became reconciled with some of the people who were once his persecutors. Who knows what direction Russia would have taken if America had befriended Solzhenitsyn instead of marginalizing him?

And it didn’t have to be that way. American conservatives must divorce their feelings about evil regimes from their feelings toward the people who have suffered under those regimes.

How can God bless us if we do not?

I had stumbled across Solzhenitsyn’s letter to Reagan, and had long wrestled with the idea of translating it but was thwarted by 2 considerations:

1-Perhaps the letter had already been published in English;

2-Perhaps it would not change any minds or produce any tangible benefit for Americans.

But now that our dear friend of freedom is gone, I decided to investigate and found no mention of the letter in English anywhere on the Web.

And I thought perhaps someone may benefit from reading it. Not that I wish to highlight the failure of those Americans responsible for offending the writer. It is rather my desire to help Americans of our generation to learn from our past mistakes.

I have tried to help introduce to Americans a writer from Brazil whose passion for freedom and understanding of the extreme dangers that the Left poses here and in his home country remind me for all the word of Aleksander Solzhenitsyn. The knowledge we can gain from him is considerable and can be turned to our advantage.

Who knows? Perhaps how you treat Olavo de Carvalho may in some way affect our future course.

Let’s do better this time around.

 

 

 

Letter to President Reagan

 

(Published in the book “Aleksander Solzhenitsyn”, Yaroslavl, Verkhnaja Volga, 1997)

 

Cavendish, May 3, 1982

 

Dear Mr. President,

I am delighted with many aspects of your activity, and am happy for America that it finally has a president like you.  I never cease to thank God that you were not killed by those malicious bullets.

However, I have never had the honor of being received at the White House — neither in the Ford administration (the question arose there without my participation), nor later.  In recent months, roundabout inquiries have come to me through various routes asking under what circumstances I would be willing to accept an invitation to visit the White House.  I always responded that I was willing to go for a substantive discussion with you under circumstances providing the opportunity for a serious effective conversation, but not for an open ceremony.  I do not have time in my life for symbolic meetings.

However, I was offered (in a telephone call from advisor Pipes) not a personal meeting with you but a luncheon with the participation of emigrant politicians.  The same sources announced that this would be a luncheon for “Soviet dissidents.”  However, an artistic writer in the Russian sense does not belong to either of these groups.  I cannot allow myself to be assigned a false rank.  Further, the fact, form and date of the reception were sent and released to the press before I was informed myself. To this day, I have not received any information on even the names of the persons who were invited along with me for May 11.

Still worse, the press reported various hesitations on the part of the White House and publicly announced that the White House had not refuted the statement of the reason why a meeting with me was considered undesirable, namely, because I was “a symbol of extreme Russian nationalism.” This statement is offensive to my countrymen, to whose suffering I have dedicated my entire literary life. 

 I am not a “nationalist” at all.  I am a patriot.  In other words, I love my country — and that is why I also understand why others love theirs.  On more than one occasion, I have publicly stated that the vital interests of the peoples of the USSR demand the immediate cessation of all global seizures by the Soviets.  If people who think as I do came to power in the USSR, their first step would be to pull out of Central America, Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe, leaving these nations to decide their own fate.  Their second step would be to stop the murderous arms race, devote the country’s efforts to healing the internal nearly century-old wounds of an already moribund populace.  And, of course, they would open the doors to those who wish to emigrate from our hapless country.

Amazingly, none of this suits your nearest advisers!  They want something else.  They call this [my] program “extreme Russian nationalism,” and some American generals are proposing selectively destroying the Russian population with an atomic strike.  It is odd that in the world today Russian nationalism evokes the greatest fear both in the potentates of the USSR and in the people around you.  Here is evidenced the hostile stance toward Russia herself, the country and the people, independently of government forms, which is characteristic of a substantial segment of American educated society, American financial circles and, sadly, even your advisers.  This attitude is harmful to the future of our two nations.

 Mr. President, it is with heavy heart that I write this letter.  But I think that if a meeting with you somewhere were considered undesirable because you are an American patriot, you would also be offended.

Once you are no longer president, if you are ever in Vermont, I will be sincerely happy to meet with you at my home. 

Since this entire episode has been subjected to a distorted interpretation and it is quite likely that my motives for not traveling there have already been distorted, I feel that I will be obliged to publish this letter. Forgive me.

With sincere respect,

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

 

Translated by Donald Hank

 

Informative article on Solzhenitsyn:

http://www.acton.org/commentary/468_solzhenitsyn_and_his_critics.php

Further reading on Solzhenitsyn’s stay in Vermont:

http://www.timesargus.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080804/NEWS01/808040348/1002/NEWS01