This is long; sorry.
I read the article in the OP from a friend's blog yesterday (the post from his blog is HERE
I dunno, y'all...it's pretty obvious that we're FAR beyond any kind of State Church situation lasting for MUCH longer (maybe a generation, two at most), with the secularization of the globe happening faster and faster, seemingly by the week. While I tend to look with favor on the preservation of the traditional Russian religious identity as "officially" Orthodox (this at least preserves an overall, pervading national identity and context in which folks can more readily encounter the true faith, even if said faith itself is not all-pervasive now), I do acknowledge that the nominalism that this ends up engendering is not a good thing -- or rather, it has some very glaring cons.
The baptists in general -- and to a degree the charismatics (the two groups which, iirc, comprise by far the largest two indigenous Protestant groups in Russia) -- cut their teeth as religious groups bucking the state church and have always been grass-roots movements. This is why tithing is second nature to me; yes, it's commanded in Scripture, but hey, pastor's gotta eat, and that building ain't gonna build itself! It's just practical, and I think that lots of folks coming from places where the state helps build these massive temples don't (in general) have as good a grasp on the idea of your
having to dig in those pockets and give, of your
having to build a community of worship by being there every time the doors are open (This, of course, keeping in mind the obvious exceptions of folks from the old country whose sacrificial giving and sweat built
the temples in which we converts were received into the Church). The rule is, usually, that folks assisted by the State don't take as much ownership of the faith, by and large; it's not as "built-in" to the overall culture of the community.
And, lest you think me a cradle-basher, The above paragraph is very tightly paraphrasing our diocesan treasurer (a devout, extremely involved Serbian gentleman who's never been anything but Orthodox a day in his life).
I do have to say, concerning the claim of "persecution," that until we start hearing about protestant pastors being crucified on the doors of their churches (like a Ukrainian priest I read about during the Soviet years), all this talk is, by and large, hyped-up, and the evangelicals should just get used to being the minority. As the above-linked blog post said, "The writer strives to work up a case for the 'persecution' of Russian Protestants. I suspect that Russians know a thing or two about real persecution, and this ain't it. To label it such demeans and dishonors the tens of millions of martyrs for the Faith under the Soviet Union. For example, an evangelical Baptist group was prevented from renting a theater for a Christian music festival. That's correct. Oh, the horror
of it all! (Would that 90% of Christian music concerns in this country suffer a similar fate.) But I am being cynical, I suppose. The truth is, these groups are merely being inconvenienced."
I would add, what did these protestant groups expect? My friend continues: "Can you really imagine Vladimir Putin trying to decide between, say, the Freewill Baptists, or Missouri Synod Lutherans, or say the New Life Covenant Believers Outreach Center (or is it the New Covenant Believers Outreach Life Center?), rather than say, the Orthodox church which has been the faith of his nation and forebears for over 1,000 years now?...True, some bureaucrats are making their ministry harder with unnecessary red tape and intimidation--in the most time-honored Russian tradition. But a little perspective is in order: Russia without an overbearing, ham-fisted bureaucracy--whether it be czarist, Soviet or Putinist--would hardly be Russia..." and, I would say, this is hardly the darkest hour in terms of how Russia treats its minorities.
So, Protestants, I think, need to get over it, basically, and accept their minority status and the hostility that can come with it -- Russia's not going to be pluralistic and passive towards other groups like secular, nominally-Protestant America is with us (though some of the grass-roots hostility down here in the South towards us Mary-worshippin', idol-kissin', dead-ritual-chantin' Orthydox can be a sight to behold).
That having been said, I fully agree with you, Νεκτάριος et al, that the Russian/Ukrainian/whatever Orthodox Church, if it does decide to put a hard stiff-arm to heterodox groups (whether foreign or domestic), needs then to step up to its own and switch its overall focus -- and it is to its own detriment if it does not do this. As important as it is to build grand temples to the glory of God (and it is), folks in the Ukraine -- most especially the starving orphans -- will continue to be drawn to those blessed few who give them the food, shelter, medicine and loving attention they desperately need...even if it does come along with imperfect, sometimes extremely harmful, theology. The faithful need to see the Church as a place they can go for food if they're hungry, shelter if they're homeless, clothes if they're naked...you know...Matthew 25
. We in America might do well to let that light of good works shine a bit brighter, in spite of our small size -- it tends to draw folks who notice it and want to be illumined.
Lord, have mercy.