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Author Topic: Evangelism and Russification  (Read 3039 times) Average Rating: 0
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augustin717
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« on: February 13, 2007, 07:38:55 PM »

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I should also point out that Russian culture is one of the more open cultures, in that it can accept in its midst people who are not Russian ethnically (Rossiyane as they are called, to translate, "people of Russia"). Georgians, Armenians, Balts, Moldovans, etc. have all been in the Russian cultural midst, there are many Russians with such a mixture in them.
Not that this would necessarilly be an evil thing, but there were instances, during the XIXth century, when the Russian Church actively pursued the Russification of other -although lesser- already Orthodox cultures. It certainly happened in the Eastern half of Moldova, which became part of the Russian Empire in 1812, and then, of the Russian Church. A very zealous Russifier of the Moldavian Church was the bishop of Chisinau (Kishinev), Pavel Lebedev (1871-1882) who confiscated as many Romanian liturgical books as he could, brought them to his residence and used them for heating his palace for a few winters; he also persecuted the pries that celebrated in Romanian and shut down 340 churches were the Romanian language was used.
Now, these things didn't happen in a religiously "virgin" teritory like Siberia, but in a teritory that, for centuries, had had an Orthodox culture and tradition of its own.
The Church of Gruzia was treated somehow the same, when Gruzia became part of the Russian Empire.
That is not to say that the Russian Church didn't do any good to other Orthodox peoples, because, certainly it did (the Tsars, for instance, on many occasions intervened at the court of Viena in favour of the Orthodox peoples part of the Austrian Empire etc), but the reality is more complex than the simplistic view of a always happy living together of the Russians with other Orthodox peoples.
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« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2007, 08:34:04 PM »

Russification did happen in a few areas, I'm not disputing that, and I don't justify it either. Incidentally Moldova has always had a significant Slavic population that goes way back before the Ottoman times, and where you have two civilizations there are always questions of who's who. What happened to Slavs in the early 90's in Moldova is worse, I'd say, than what happened during the 19th century. Anyway, another topic and no need to start inter-Orthodox arguing here, there's plenty of it to go around...

There was never any era in history that was free of sin and tragedy. But we can certainly look up to certain eras for an inspiration. The Byzantine era is one of them. Oh sure, plenty of grief and trouble, schisms, etc, we can dig around and find it all. But without Byzantium Orthodoxy wouldn't be spread to where it is today, we wouldn't have had the ecumenical councils, the hesychasts, etc.

Pre-revolutionary Russia also had flaws, i.e. the way the old believer schism was handled, the Synodal period when Peter abolished the patriarchate and subordinated it to a civilian figure, etc. But without pre-revolutionary Russia there would be no St. Herman of Alaska, no St. Nikolai of Tokyo, no Optina elders, and no new martyrs and confessors of Russia (who were mostly educated in the Tsarist era), just to mention a few things. Also, countless other Orthodox civilizations wouldn't exist because of the Ottoman empire, which Russia played the most major role in keeping in check (remember that France and Britain formed alliances with the Porte on occasion). St. Theodore Ushakov, naval commander, deserves much credit here.

Furthermore, the traditions engendered in those societies as previously mentioned are rooted in Orthodoxy. Something as simple as removing your hat and not whistling in a room because icons are present. Anyone who reads Russian or Greek literature that talks about people's daily lives will find these little "pointer" traditions - small things we do outside of prayer and worship on a frequent basis that remind us of our faith. Granted, a number of these traditions in Russia have grown weaker thanks to communism's influence, but they're fast on their way back in faithful communities.

Incidentally, what concerns cross cultural influences you can still see to this day a noticeable Hellenic influence in Russian culture which came by way of Orthodoxy. This extends to language, the cyrillic script (esp. in its original form), custom, and symbolism (i.e. the emblem of Russia and Serbia is the double headed eagle). If we removed all the Greek influences in Russian culture, it would be considerably different - moreso different than American or British culture would be.

When an entire country accepts Orthodoxy on masse, the culture takes on an Orthodox dynamic of its own. This is exactly what happened in Byzantium, old Rus, Serbia, etc.

When only a small group accepts Orthodoxy, it is a minority, a true counter culture like it was in pagan Rome. I do not believe at this point there will be a Constantine the Great for America, the very thought of adopting a state religion goes against the base principles this country was founded on. In essence it will always be difficult for Orthodox in America to "christify" their surrounding culture, because the main flow of the culture will be going in a different direction, be it protestant and catholic, or worst of all, secularist.

Russia, after a 70 year atheist regime, is steadfastly coming back to Orthodoxy, and it is thanks to the examples of pre-revolutionary Russia and its culture that Russians can rebuild what was destroyed. Without this, it would take considerably LONGER. America, unfortunately, needs more time to reach that critical mass.

There will always be a tendency in America to view Orthodoxy as a Greek flavored Catholicism, and no amount of beard shaving, calendar 'adjusting', pew building, organ playing, liturgy shortening, or language simplification is ever going to change that. Even if the late Salvadore Dali redesigned the altar and vestments, it's not going to make a run for the Orthodox church. As a matter of fact I think all of the things I mentioned here make it LESS attractive. We need to emphasise what makes us different, not try to blend in. Buddhism is big in some circles because in part it is an ethnic experience of sorts.

If people don't like the Greek or Russian influences in Orthodoxy, that means they're too proud to accept Orthodoxy for what it is. Our people helped build the church, we spilt blood for it, and it is only meet that we leave a part of our culture in there. Otherwise how different are we from paganistic organizations like "Russian National Unity", who began rewriting the gospel to remove all "Jewish influences" in it? Yes, you will meet people out there who will say "I don't want to believe in Orthodoxy because Christianity is a Jewish religion". What are you going to say to that?

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« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2007, 08:40:50 PM »

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Not that this would necessarilly be an evil thing, but there were instances, during the XIXth century, when the Russian Church actively pursued the Russification of other -although lesser- already Orthodox cultures.

It is most certainly a bad thing, and was not limited to Moldova.  Forced Russification of the church occurred in Ukraine and Georgia as well.  Societies such as that of SS. Cyril and Methodius in Kyiv were forcibly suppressed and people imprisoned by the government, with the encouragement of the church.

There are too many other points to address, and most have nothing to do with the church or Orthodoxy.  Regarding the point you commented on, anyone who has visited Russia or knows anything about society there now would know that minority groups in that country are often subjected to persecution and/or racist violence.  Amnesty put this out - http://news.amnesty.org/index/ENGEUR460182006 - title "Russian Federation: Racism and xenophobia rife in Russian society".

There are many good, wonderful things about Russia, Russians and Russian culture.  There's a good deal that's bad, past and present.  The historical record is full of the dark side, of the secular world and the church - from the savage sacking of Novgorod along with the killing of its inhabitants and the smashing of the democratic Veche there by Ivan the Terrible to the brutal suppression of the Poles in the 19th century to the horrors of the 20th century.  The church has had its dark side as well there, and suffered a tragic turn of fate with the triumph of the Josephite party and later with the genocidal violence directed at the Old Believer's.  There's a famous 19th century painting by an artist whose name escapes me that shows an overweight monk sipping tea by the road as a war veteran and child beg at his feet and he pays them no mind.  It was a biting commentary on the state of the church and perceptions of it at the time.  The horrors brought out by the Revolution all came from within this cauldron.

The church there now still has its issues.  Two article worth reading are by Lawrence Uzzell (who is Orthodox)

"Russia: Religion on a Leash"
http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=336&var_recherche=uzzell

"Don’t Call it Proselytism"
http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=382&var_recherche=uzzell

The restrictions on religious liberty, the emphasis on culture over the Gospel and the reliance on dangerous alliances with the government (and there is a new Tsar in town) continue to be problems.

I'm sorry to focus on the negative, but reality is reality; and not all is rosy, perfect or a model for the rest of us.
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« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2007, 09:00:35 PM »

Forced Russification of the church occurred in Ukraine and Georgia as well.  Societies such as that of SS. Cyril and Methodius in Kyiv were forcibly suppressed and people imprisoned by the government, with the encouragement of the church.

Let's not get into the issues with so called "Russification" of Ukraine unless you want to get into a big historical debate with me.

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Regarding the point you commented on, anyone who has visited Russia or knows anything about society there now would know that minority groups in that country are often subjected to persecution and/or racist violence. 

We are not talking about post-Soviet Russia first of all, where ethnic conflicts escalated thanks to Soviet policies. But if you want me to believe in reports funded by Russophobic western funded institutions, think again. These are the same people that bought you the myths uncovered in "Judgement".

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to the brutal suppression of the Poles in the 19th century

What about the brutal Polish suppression of Rus that went on for four hundred years when the Mongols attacked from the other side? What about the forced Unia, which led to the slaughter of many Orthodox faithful in the Ukraine? What happened in the 19th century is a joke compared to that. And let's not forget what Poland did in the early 20th century, where on average 130 Orthodox churches were being closed down and destroyed PER MONTH! They must have been competing with Lenin across the border...

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with the genocidal violence directed at the Old Believer's. 

Genocide? Old Believers were just as Russian as the Nikonites, what are you talking about?

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There's a famous 19th century painting by an artist whose name escapes me that shows an overweight monk sipping tea by the road as a war veteran and child beg at his feet and he pays them no mind.  It was a biting commentary on the state of the church and perceptions of it at the time.

The name of this artist is Kustodiev, who was quite hostile to the Orthodox Church. I can also point out the works of Neitzche and his critiques of Christianity, perhaps you'd care to give it some thought and see if he has any valid points of criticism we should take into account?

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The horrors brought out by the Revolution all came from within this cauldron.

The horrors of the revolution originated from the theories of western materialistic Marxism-Leninism put into practice, that is the main catalyst without a doubt.

Quote
The restrictions on religious liberty, the emphasis on culture over the Gospel and the reliance on dangerous alliances with the government (and there is a new Tsar in town) continue to be problems.

So when protestant preachers come into a Russian town with millions of US dollars and begin buying airtime and paying off school principles and youth club leaders to promote their heretical faith to Russian children, the Russian church should simply sit on their hands and smile? When Vatican funded Uniates violently force out Orthodox from their churches, beating them savagely and threatening to murder and burn them, the Orthodox should simply shrug and ignore it? When Reverend Moon brings in kids from the street and turns them into sectarian zombies we should think that's a good way to keep kids off the street? In your dreams...
« Last Edit: February 13, 2007, 09:03:24 PM by Kaminetz » Logged
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« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2007, 09:10:53 PM »

Kaminetz, please be respectful to my nation.
We are not talking about post-Soviet Russia first of all, where ethnic conflicts escalated thanks to Soviet policies. But if you want me to believe in reports funded by Russophobic western funded institutions, think again.
These Western institutions are pro-human rights, they are not Russophobic. I do believe experience of my life. I do know that investigations of these institutions bring real facts.
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« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2007, 09:15:35 PM »

Kaminetz, please be respectful to my nation.

How have I been disrespectful to Ukraine? I know of many Ukrainians who wouldn't have a single problem with what I've said.

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These Western institutions are pro-human rights, they are not Russophobic. I do believe experience of my life. I do know that investigations of these institutions bring real facts.

See this article, it's not translated into the best English but it gets the point across:
http://www.pravoslavie.ru/enarticles/050126154646
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« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2007, 11:31:49 PM »

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Let's not get into the issues with so called "Russification" of Ukraine unless you want to get into a big historical debate with me.

The history speaks for itself, in Ukraine and elsewhere.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russification

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We are not talking about post-Soviet Russia first of all, where ethnic conflicts escalated thanks to Soviet policies. But if you want me to believe in reports funded by Russophobic western funded institutions, think again.

You said

Quote
Incidentally, I should also point out that Russian culture is one of the more open cultures, in that it can accept in its midst people who are not Russian ethnically (Rossiyane as they are called, to translate, "people of Russia"). Georgians, Armenians, Balts, Moldovans, etc. have all been in the Russian cultural midst, there are many Russians with such a mixture in them.

Which made no distinction between the pre and post Soviet Era.  It really makes no difference though.  The treatment of minorities was problematic in the Russian Empire (particularly the Jews), continued in the Soviet Era and has stayed a part of life in the Russian Federation.  You can discount what Amnesty or any news source says about the ongoing problem of racism and xenophobia in Russia as "Russophobic" or fall back on the old blame the west routine, but it is the reality on the ground there.

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What about the brutal Polish suppression of Rus that went on for four hundred years when the Mongols attacked from the other side? What about the forced Unia, which led to the slaughter of many Orthodox faithful in the Ukraine? What happened in the 19th century is a joke compared to that. And let's not forget what Poland did in the early 20th century, where on average 130 Orthodox churches were being closed down and destroyed PER MONTH! They must have been competing with Lenin across the border...

The Polish-Lithuanian Kingdom would have taken over Muscovy if they could.  The Tsars would have taken over the Polish-Lithuanian kingdom if they could.  Both sides persecuted the faithful of the other when they could.  Both engaged in unfair practices, forced conversions and worse.  What does that really say but that no culture, nation or group is really holy.  Everyone has dirty hands, and what the Russians did to the Poles in the 19th and 20th centuries was no joke.

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Genocide? Old Believers were just as Russian as the Nikonites, what are you talking about?

From Merriam-Webster for genocide:

the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group

What occurred was systematic violence, widespread persecutions, violence, torture and displacement.  That is what I'm talking about, and it was genocidal. The fact that the Church of the Nikonian Reforms (the MP), the civil authorities and the Old Believer's were of the same ethnic stock doesn't matter.

Quote
The name of this artist is Kustodiev, who was quite hostile to the Orthodox Church. I can also point out the works of Neitzche and his critiques of Christianity, perhaps you'd care to give it some thought and see if he has any valid points of criticism we should take into account?

Nietzsche did have some valid criticisms of Christianity as he saw it around him in Germany. 

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The horrors of the revolution originated from the theories of western materialistic Marxism-Leninism put into practice, that is the main catalyst without a doubt.

As if that mattered.  The Revolution was carried out mainly by Russians, though certainly the figures of Stalin and Kruschev stand out among the non Russians.  Really though, it wasn't a Marxist Revolution, but a new Russian totalitarian state that was built on the ruins of the former one.  It was just a new Russian Empire, and the idealists were quickly and summarily weeded out.

Quote
So when protestant preachers come into a Russian town with millions of US dollars and begin buying airtime and paying off school principles and youth club leaders to promote their heretical faith to Russian children, the Russian church should simply sit on their hands and smile? When Vatican funded Uniates violently force out Orthodox from their churches, beating them savagely and threatening to murder and burn them, the Orthodox should simply shrug and ignore it? When Reverend Moon brings in kids from the street and turns them into sectarian zombies we should think that's a good way to keep kids off the street? In your dreams...

Rice Bowl Christianity where it occurs isn't to be lauded, but should the Russian Church collude with the state to suppress religious liberties and play the nationalism card to say being Russian is about being Orthodox and vice versa?  Doesn't the reaction of the MP make the Protestants look like the victims and therefore the good guys, and make the church look like its more interested in nationality than it is Christian principles?  What would Orthodox people think if Orthodox Christians in the West were treated the way law abiding religious minorities are in Russia?
« Last Edit: February 15, 2007, 02:05:31 PM by welkodox » Logged
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« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2007, 11:36:15 PM »

The name of this artist is Kustodiev, who was quite hostile to the Orthodox Church.

One wonders *why* the artist was "quite hostile".  What was the cause or reason for painting such a picture.  There could have been some real reason for his painting it.

Ebor
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« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2007, 11:55:53 PM »

First of all, I have many pro-democracy Russian friends. Just for the record, before I will be labeled Russophobic.
How have I been disrespectful to Ukraine?
The denial of Russification speaks for itself. For example, I support my Jewish friends, who struggle with Holocaust denial.

See this article, it's not translated into the best English but it gets the point across:
http://www.pravoslavie.ru/enarticles/050126154646

I am aware of this site. Promoters of conspiracy theories. They supported genocide in Chechnya. They were involved in the direct persecution of progressive Orthodox clergy in Moscow (Fr. Georgy Kochetkov, etc.).

Welkodox, brilliant article!
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« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2007, 12:08:30 AM »

Welkodox, I'm not going to continue debating this because it has jumped outside the bounds of this topic number one, number two this is a discussion that can go on forever.

You're free to retain your own opinion about Russia and buy into all the western arguments about Russia being a behemoth empire that wanted to swallow everyone, that Bolshevism was a truly Russian phenomenon, etcetera. But even western Russophobes like Richard Pipes would disagree with some of the things you've written. I cannot say that the moral relativism you are hinting at is very Orthodox.

I can see why you're hostile to the idea of ethnic Orthodoxy remaining in America, and I for one am very sorry that you think this way. At least you've found the Orthodox church and I'm glad for that. Perhaps one day you'll understand my people and the truth about their past differently than you do today.


As for all others who are reading this, please understand I have absolutely no desire to force my culture or any other Orthodox culture on anyone. As you can clearly see, anyone can come into an Orthodox church and speak English, nobody's going to throw you out! There are myriads of parishes that offer liturgy in the English language, there are also many convert oriented parishes. I think the Orthodox have done a very good job at making their faith accessible in America, and that's no small feat given our size.

At the same time there are ethnic parishes and they have every right to exist. If we were talking about freedoms in this posting, we have a freedom of association in this country. I choose to pray in the language of my ancestors, I have that right. People like me have a right to have an ethnic parish, where we can pray and converse in our native language, practice our customs, and raise our children this way. We have a right to have bishops and priests that minister to our needs. We have a right to celebrate according to our calendar of choice.

We feel our ethnic culture has a great value to us, that it is not merely ornamental but fundamental to who we are as people. Nobody has the right to force our assimilation, which is already naturally happening on a daily basis all around us. The church is the one place we can be safe, once a week, from being stripped of our ethnic identities and culture. If you take that away from us, you will take away our God given right to associate with our ancestors, and be violating the very principles America was founded on as well.



« Last Edit: February 14, 2007, 12:10:39 AM by Kaminetz » Logged
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« Reply #10 on: February 14, 2007, 04:24:19 PM »

Aristibule:

Enjoyed reading your post. I see you are ROCOR. There is a ROCOR church in the panhandle of Florida? Forgive my ignorance. Being a northerner I've only been to the tourist sections of Florida.
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« Reply #11 on: February 14, 2007, 04:43:22 PM »

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There is a ROCOR church in the panhandle of Florida?

Not yet - but who knows? I'm only here temporarily. There are a few other ROCOR folk here in my county without a parish - we've mostly been worshipping with the Ukrainain priest here (they're trying to build a chapel.) Otherwise my family drives when we can across the state to where one of our retired ROCOR clergy lives. There is a Greek chapel here (not listed by the GOA, but still here) that has irregular services - all in Greek, I think it is a 'family chapel'. Locals just call it the 'Greek church' and go to its once a year bake sale.  The Antiochians have a mission with liturgy once a month a few hours north. Orthodox Evangelism really hasn't been tried here yet (though the Ukrainian priest has that intention). So, God willing there may be one someday - or we'll move back to where there alread is a parish or mission. It was a Russian hieromonk who finally convinced me to convert, after a 10 year struggle - so, we'd rather stay with the Russians. Even with a rise of nationalism, there is still a good part of the Russian heritage there that is welcoming of diverse peoples and cultures - as Kamenitz has pointed out.

Oh - and counting 7 years as a convert, and no itch. Wink I do have criticisms, of course, of how much the hierarchy of various jurisdictions (and often clergy and laity) really don't understand the culture in this country. Naturally, the goal is for them to understand, not to disrespect anyone.
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« Reply #12 on: February 15, 2007, 01:57:24 PM »

This is split off from 5 year 'Lifespan' of a Convert and is meant to continue the conversation of Russian Orthodoxy and its evangelism methods.  Please continue said conversation here.
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« Reply #13 on: February 16, 2007, 12:52:42 PM »

The West has always hated Russia.  I wonder what the Optina fathers would have said about the comments on this forum.  The Jewish Boshevik Revolution is what it is - a western-aided movemet to destabilize an Orthodox nation.  The hatred of Russia and Orthodoxy - including Greece and other countries is a spiritual sickness.   I am not talking about Russian imperialism in Georgia and in Moldavia, but the underlying Orthodoxy of that great nation and other nations that are Orthodox.  The poverty of western thought today is the reason for this dislike of things Russian bordering on hatred.    I believe Putin is paving a way for the restoration of an Orthodox monarch.  He is a tyrant but it is what Russia needs to stand up to the humanistic values of western society.
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« Reply #14 on: February 16, 2007, 12:58:43 PM »

Blame others for your problems and peg your hopes on Ceasar.

If that's Orthodoxy, God help us all.
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« Reply #15 on: February 16, 2007, 02:01:32 PM »

The Jewish Boshevik Revolution is what it is - a western-aided movemet to destabilize an Orthodox nation....I believe Putin is paving a way for the restoration of an Orthodox monarch.
Milarkey.
It was Russian apostates from the Orthodox Church who murdered the God-anointed Tsar, tore down Christ the Saviour Cathedral, threw Holy Icons into bonfires, and tortured and butchered priests, bishops and monastics.
As long as you go on blaming the Jews and everybody else (in the same way that Adam tried to blame Eve for the Fall) there will be no forgiveness, and in vain will you seek salvation from the princes of this world.
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« Reply #16 on: February 16, 2007, 04:24:18 PM »

We can argue all day long about the resurrection of the church in Russia but if the church and the state do not find a way to reduce the abortion rate among non-Muslim Russian women soon, it is predicted that in 50 years or so Russia will be a majority Muslim state. For this reason alone it is highly unlikely we will ever see another Orthodox Russian Empire. If God loved Orthodox empires as His chosen vehicle of government then why have all these "holy" empires ended in catastrophe? Maybe He is trying to tell us something but we are still living in a state of denial. Maybe God has other plans if only we would get out of His way? Instead of having debates about what has happened in the past maybe we could try to find clues He is giving us for the future of Orthodoxy (missionary activity in North America, Africa, Asia etc.). Well, its just a thought...
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« Reply #17 on: February 16, 2007, 09:16:13 PM »

If God loved Orthodox empires as His chosen vehicle of government then why have all these "holy" empires ended in catastrophe? 

Maybe we're just reading too much into both sides of the argument, no?  The Empire happened - thus God must have loved it.  The Empire died - thus God must have hated it. There's too much self-centered assumption that we can read into God's intentions over spans as sweeping as 1000 years, 100 years, etc.

Instead of having debates about what has happened in the past maybe we could try to find clues He is giving us for the future of Orthodoxy (missionary activity in North America, Africa, Asia etc.). Well, its just a thought... 

I don't think this is very helpful, since sites like OC.net are supposed to be healthy and productive places to have these debates about history and theology and whatnot.  As long as the individual user is also making efforts elsewhere in their lives to live out God's mission for them, then there shouldn't be a problem with these debates, especially if they a) inform us, b) edify us, or c) keep us from wasting loving-, serving-, reading-, and missionary-time in the Parish on these debates.
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« Reply #18 on: February 16, 2007, 09:40:56 PM »

Cleveland,

I wasn't trying to end the debate...I was trying to offer a different point of view. Some seem to anticipate a return of an Orthodox empire. They may be waiting in vain. Empires are of this world. Christ didn't ask us to build empires when He ascended into heaven. We need to change our focus and stop living in the past. I guess some want to recreate the past as if we have lost something.
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