Welcome to , 03 Jul 2011
Fortnightly Report on Christianity in Former Soviet Bloc Countries,
by Dr. Robert D. Hosken
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FIRST, THE NEWS:
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(Note: the "prayers" link in the heading will take you to this issue's "Prayer and Praise" list.)

METR. HILARION: EDITING OF LITURGICAL BOOKS IS A COMPLEX PROBLEM THAT NEEDS TACTFUL SOLUTION
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate

Select to see full-size! (24 Jun) Metropolitan Hilarion gave a press conference at the request of the journalists during which he spoke about the editing of liturgical books. The objective of editing is to make the understanding of Church Slavonic texts easy to people going to church. On 15 June 2011, the presidium of the Inter-Council Presence resolved to send out to the hierarchs a draft of "The Church Slavonic language in the Life of the Russian Orthodox Church in the 21st century" for consideration and discussion.

Metr. Hilarion doubts that the problem of understanding certain liturgical texts can be resolved by their translation into Russian. "There are texts that will remain not very comprehensible even in Russian, if a reader is not introduced to church subjects. For instance, the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete is replete with the biblical allusions and references to various biblical characters whom many of us do not remember. The listeners of the 8th century, while hearing the words, had immediately comprehended an associative field, but we do associate these words with anything because we have a poor knowledge of the Bible and do not read it much." [read more...]


3-4 MILLION ABORTIONS PERFORMED ANNUALLY IN RUSSIA, OVER HALF MARRIED COUPLES DIVORCE - EXPERT
from Interfax-Religion

(30 Jun) Russian academician and rector of the Russian Social University Vasily Zhukov believes the number of abortions in Russia is understated. "Our statistics don't exactly reflect parameters of this trouble. Indeed, from three to four million abortions instead of declared 1,3 million are performed annually in our country," he said speaking at the Moscow demographic summit organized by the World Congress of Families. Besides, the rector further said, the number of divorces still has a tendency to increase and today there are 60 divorces for 100 marriages.

He emphasized that population of Earth reached the first billion in 1730, the number of people doubled in 1930, it equaled to three billion in 1960 and to four billion in 1975. Today the world population is approaching 7 billion. According to Zhukov, on the eve of the World War I the population of Russia was 190 million people, and before 1917 it increased annually by 2 million, which was the highest rate in Europe. Depopulation started in 1992, and it still persists although its scale has decreased. [read more...]


TAJIKISTAN: BANS ON CHILDREN'S RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY, ILLEGAL MEETINGS, AND "EXTREMIST RELIGIOUS" TEACHING
by Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service

(22 Jun) Tajikistan's controversial Parental Responsibility Law - approved by Parliament's Lower Chamber on 15 June - may soon be approved in the Upper House and by the President. Under it the only children allowed to participate in any religious activity, apart from funerals, will be those at state-approved religious education establishments. Many think this is aimed at Muslims, who only have around 80 state-approved establishments throughout the country.

Also approved in the Lower House the same day were new Criminal Code amendments specifically extending punishments for unapproved meetings to religious meetings, and imposing harsh prison terms for "religious extremist" teaching. However, "religious extremist" teaching is not defined and could extend to any religious teaching without state approval, Forum 18 News Service notes.

Several non-Muslim leaders - including Christians and a Baha'i - told Forum 18 that they do not believe they will be targeted by these new measures, which they believe are directed at Muslims. However, one Protestant pastor told Forum 18 of concern that both the Law and the amendment on "extremist" teachings are unclear, may be easily manipulated, and the mechanisms of how they will be implemented are unclear. "In fact theoretically the authorities might interpret the teaching of some Christian doctrines as extremist." [read more...]


PATRIOTISM, SPIRITUAL TIES MAY PULL CHRISTIANS IN OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS
from ABP News

(30 Jun) Last spring, a leader of the increasingly influential Russian Orthodox Church told a national television audience, "It is obvious today that the nation and church are one. The Russian people will again become a Christian nation, even if this does not please everyone," said Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, who chairs the church's Synodal Office for Mutual Relations between Church and Society. What's more, he continued, the West - including the United States - has lost its Christian distinctiveness and only Russia can offer "the most positive future."

Christians? ability to transcend national pride while maintaining an appropriate patriotism especially is fraught in countries such as Russia, where national identity is associated closely with religion. Minority faiths frequently find themselves relegated to second-class status. William Yoder, a spokesman for Russian Baptists' external church relations department, said some members of his denomination are ambivalent in their response to a patriotism with religious overtones. On the one hand, many "see in the struggle for 'traditional Christian values' a common cause for cooperation with the Orthodox," he said. On the other, the "views of Protestants and conservative Orthodox on the interpretation of the Russian past and present are far apart." [read more...]


RUSSIA: "ONE COMPLEX OF MEASURES AGAINST RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES"
by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service

(29 June) Many criminal and administrative cases against religious communities "take place with violations of the right to freedom of conscience, violations of the rights of religious organisations and violations of the separation of church and state," Mikhail Odintsov, the top official dealing with religious issues at the office of Russia's Human Rights Ombudsperson, told Forum 18 News Service. He regards the many such cases as "one complex of measures against religious communities."

Among cases causing his Office concern are the ban on the activity of Khabarovsk's Grace Church, which the Church is challenging in Russia's Supreme Court on 5 July, and the ban on materials distributed by New Generation Church in Blagoveshchensk, which will also appeal to the Supreme Court. Grace Church's Pastor Vladimir Pak is also being investigated on criminal charges carrying an eight-year prison term for allegedly harming health. "This is a very serious and worrying development, that church leaders face possible criminal prosecution for their activities in the church," the church's lawyer Inna Zagrebina told Forum 18. [read more...]


UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS BILL ON MORATORIUM ON PRIVATIZATION OF CHURCH PROPERTY
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(30 Jun) The Ukrainian parliament rejected a bill submitted by deputy Olha Bodnar (BYuT-Fatherland) on a moratorium on the privatization of religious property, the Institute for Religious Freedom reports. Bill No. 3347 was criticized by the relevant Committee on Economic Policy. The head of the subcommittee, Oleksandr Bondar, said that the committee, first of all, proposes to agree to prohibit the privatization of former religious buildings and at the same time to the possibility of returning them to religious organization - as historical successors of their former owners. In addition, the committee recommends to decide between the concepts "use" and "restitution" of religious property, that is, to clarify the mechanism of its return to religious organizations.

"The national deputy should take into consideration the opinion of the committee and introduce a new bill, and then we will gladly pass it. The committee's position is to send the legislative bill to be revised according to the committee's comments," summarized Bondar. The chairman of the Verkhovna Rada put to vote the author?s request that the consideration of the bill be postponed, but only 67 deputies supported the idea. As a result of the voting, the bill, which was considered on June 14, was rejected. Therefore, according to the rules of procedure, the parliament cannot consider an identical issue until its next session. [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

BEYOND THE VIOLENCE IN THE NORTH CAUCASUS
from Russian Ministries

RUSSIA SAYS ABORTION ADS MUST CARRY HEALTH WARNING
from Reuters

ONE CHRISTIAN IN THE WORLD DIES FOR HIS FAITH EVERY FIVE MINUTES - STATISTICS
from Interfax-Religion

YOU DON'T NEED ARMS (OR LEGS) TO PLANT SEEDS OF HOPE
from Mission Network News

OLDEST EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN BAPTIST COMMUNITY IN LVIV REGION CELEBRATES 90TH ANNIVERSARY
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

METR. HILARION: ESCALATION OF CHRISTIANOPHOBIA IN THE MIDDLE EAST IS A THREAT TO ORTHODOXY
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate

UKRAINIAN PRIEST HANGED ON CHURCH PORCH
from Kyiv Post

See HOSKEN-NEWS Daily for more of the latest news!


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

Select to see full-size!Click on this thumbnail photo: I've added to the Agape-Biblia website a feature that's new in HTML5 called "localStorage" - it lets you type right in a web-page and store your info in your computer's browser folders instead of online somewhere. And even when you go to another website or close your browser, when you come back to this site your info should still appear. Try it out on my www.Agape-Biblia.Org/index-en.htm website: click on the Sun. - Mon. - Tue. - Wed. - Thu. - Fri. - Sat. sections, on "My Journal" and on "Read the Bible in One Year" - you can write your Bible study notes on each chapter. And it works at that website in five different languages! (Of course, don't delete your browser's "cookies" and other files, or you'll lose your info.)

In the second news article, "3-4 MILLION ABORTIONS PERFORMED ANNUALLY IN RUSSIA, OVER HALF MARRIED COUPLES DIVORCE," we see again the efforts to change the tide of Russian public opinion away from abortion. Until just the past few years, abortion was the default option for birth control, or in the event a woman over 40 became pregnant doctors would say - "The probability of birth defects increases by 100% after age 40, so we advise that you get an abortion." This illustrates the built-in societal bias toward abortion: a nervous woman being advised to get an abortion can easily assume that she has a 100% probablility of giving birth to a baby with some kind of mental or physical birth defect, and in Russia most mothers would simply abandon such a baby in the hospital. But think clearly: if the probability for an average woman having a baby with a birth defect is 1%, and it increases by 100%, that's only a 2% probability. But most women in such a situation aren't thinking clearly, they're upset and under pressure to get an abortion.

And in the first news article above, "EDITING OF LITURGICAL BOOKS IS A COMPLEX PROBLEM THAT NEEDS TACTFUL SOLUTION," we see another example of not thinking clearly when under pressure: now that Metr. Hilarion is facing arch-conservative Orthodox clergy and laypeople in Moscow (who are the vast majority), he is espousing the use of the archaic Church Slavonic language in church services. But in "Divine service fragments to be read in modern Russian, Russian Orthodox Church's representative" (Dec. 2007), when he was serving in Vienna, Austria, then-Bishop Hilarion said - "[the] 'man on the street' is kept back from the Church by various 'linguistic, cultural, psychological and other' barriers and clergy does not 'do enough' to help a person overcome them." Quite true: "the man on the street" - 95% of Russians - don't know Church Slavonic and most likely don't have the ability or the time to learn this archaic dialect from which Russian, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Serbian, Croatian. Bulgarian and Ukrainian split off and developed into separate languages.

But for Metr. Hilarion to justify the use of Slavonic in worship services since "biblical allusions and references to various biblical characters whom many of us do not remember... because we have a poor knowledge of the Bible and do not read it much" is simply illogical: this is like saying: "because people don't know the Bible stories very well, we should speak about them in a foreign language so that the man on the street can't understand them at all." As St. Paul wrote, "So also you, unless you uttered by the tongue words easy to understand, how would it be known what is spoken? For you would be speaking into the air" (1 Corinthians 14:9). I've felt the same pressure from conservative Orthodox and Evangelical Christians in Russia while serving as general editor of the Russian Agape-Biblia, so I can sympathize with Metr. Hilarion. But I firmly believe the Bible and liturgical texts can and should be in a language that most people can easily understand. And this is also what the canons of the Orthodox Church require. Using a dialect of Russian (or English) that is 200 years or 600 years or 1000 years old will only make the task of bringing people into the fullness of life with Christ more difficult.

Train Up A Child In The Way He Should Go

In our third news article above, "TAJIKISTAN: BANS ON CHILDREN'S RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY," that country mis-named "Parental Responsibility Law" that is about to be passed removes parental responsibility for religious upbringing of their children, under the guise of fighting "religious extremism" and preventing children from being indoctrinated in terrorism at unapproved Islamic religious schools. But the broad scope and vague wording of the proposed law can easily be used by the state to forbid parents to "train up a child in the way he should go: so that when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6). Of course, this doesn't mean that parents should allow their children to be trained as extremists or terrorists, but certainly a law could be written to clearly specify this, without a blanket outlawing of religious instruction.

In the Soviet Union, parents and churches were forbidden to give their children religious upbringing: only after the children reached age 18 could they have religious instruction at home or attend church (at the risk of being refused higher education and being offered only the lowliest forms of employment). This has been formally abandoned in today's Russia, but several of the former Soviet republics, especially in Central Asia, still cling to this attitude either in law or in practice. This mode of thinking, however, has permeated socialist-humanist ideology in both East and West. How often have you heard people say that children shouldn't be "forced" to go to church, and should be "free" to make up their own minds concerning what to believe about God, religion and morality? But children by definition aren't capable of making such choices: that's why they aren't allowed to vote until age 18. The responsibility of parents is to make those decisions for their children until the children are mature enough and capable of deciding for themselves.

Socialist-humanist ideology goes on to teach that parents should never punish children physically... and yet they allow the "Daddy state" to use physical force when such children grow older and become violent in society. This projects the role of fatherhood on the state, and forces actual fathers to abandon their role. But Scripture tells us: "Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die: thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell" (Proverbs 23:13-14). Conversely, refusing to discipline a child could deliver his soul to hell. Of course, Christians should not use excessive force with their children that could cause lasting injury; but parents - not the state - have the primary responsibility to raise up their children in the way they should go, and this includes physical discipline:

"For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had the fathers of our flesh to chasten us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live? For they indeed, for a few days, punished us as seemed good to them; but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. All chastening seems for the present to be not joyous but grievous; yet afterward it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been exercised thereby" (Hebrews 12:6-11).

Refusing to discipline our children treats them as illegitimate children. By the way, the Greek word for "discipline" is paideuo - it also means "train up" or "teach" or "punish." So in the New Testament, training and teaching children includes the concept of disciplining and punishing. The emphasis, of course, should be on teaching and encouraging - positive reinforcement - but at times this simply doesn't work, which leaves negative reinforcement - not compromise or psychobabble - as the only option that will work.

(Let us know what you think - use the online feedback form!)


Prayer and Praise:
Sun. - Pray that Russian Christians will see the need for having the Bible and worship services in normal Russian language.
Mon. - Praise the Lord that Russians are becoming aware that abortion is not the default option for family planning.
Tue. - Ask God to block the legislation banning parental responsibility for their children's religious upbringing on grounds of "extremism."
Wed. - Pray that Christians in Russia will find the right balance between patriotism and faith-commitment to Christ.
Thu. - Intercede with God for genuine religious freedom in Russia and the former USSR for minority faiths.
Fri. - Thank the Lord that Ukraine has killed legislation that would allow privatization of church property for secular use.
Sat. - Ask the Lord to restore Christian parents' right and responsibility to train up their children in the way they should go.

 

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FEEDBACK:


from John, 07/04/11, 2:13am:
Hi, Bob.
In re to train up a child, a number of years ago, Focus On The Family gave me great insight into what this verse means. It's not so much the spiritual training of a child, but the exercise of a parent's discernment to come to understand the giftedness of any children they have, then seeing those gifts are nurtured such that as the child is tutored thus to embrace & hone the exercise of those gifts, so the child makes the most of them as he matures. So, it's not so much re spiritual training, as it is vocational training, that kids are to become the best they can be doing what God gifted them to do.
Respectfully J.


Hi John,
Thanks for your email message! The application by the "Focus On The Family" program on the passage Prov. 22:6 is interesting, but I can't see that it's good exegesis. None of my commentaries mention the idea of vocational training. The Hebrew verb chanac used here for "train up" is also used in the Old Testament for "dedicate" or "consecrate." When we look at similar passages, for example - Gen. 18:19; Deut, 4:9 and 6:7; Psalm 78:3-6; Eph. 6:4 and 2Tim 3:15 - they all explicitly or implicitly refer to spiritual training. I hope this helps!
In Christ, Bob


from Jack, 07/04/11, 4:37am:
Read this newsletter with great interest. Thank you for the thoughtful insights and for the spirit of Christ which abounds in your work. Spaceebo bolshoi!


Dear Jack,
Thank you for your encouraging words! I'm happy that you find our newsletters helpful and insightful.
In Christ, Bob


from Phyl, 07/04/11, 5:51pm:
Hi Bob,
There's soooo much to read and attempt to comprehend, but I try. Sigh. Certainly i have great concerns about the Russian "thinking" about so many subjects dear to my heart. I can't imagine how a Russian seeking to learn more from scripture can even begin to comprehend much of it with the kind of "regulations" they are so often faced with. I send prayers their way after reading what you share. Thanks.
Phyl


Dear Phyl,
Yes, it's hard to fathom why the "conservatives" among both Orthodox and Evangelicals want to cling to a language that's hard for the "man on the street" to understand. But we have many Christians in the U.S. who believe the King James Version Bible is divinely inspired and the only version we should use. Keep on praying!
In Christ, Bob



Select to see full-size!   Please remember to pray for Christians in the former Soviet bloc countries, and for...

  Your fellow-servants,

  Bob & Cheryl

p.s. Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them.


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