A note to our friends who are Russian/Eastern Orthodox believers:
Please, please, please.......... do not be offended!
We think very highly of the Russian Orthodox church. Other Christians are our brothers and sisters, no matter what church they belong to. The Russian Orthodox church is an essential part of "our" beloved culture here, after all. It just makes us very sad to see Russian Orthodoxy used by some people as an excuse for intolerance and extreme nationalism.
The comments I made concerning The Russian Orthodox Church as a political force to be reckoned with here were largely based on what representatives the ROC have themselves said during recent regional religious forums. I very much do not believe in calling people to a church, but in calling people to a living God, who wants for us to have a living relationship with Him. I have known some sincere Russian Orthodox believers here and had great respect for them.
However, I also interact with everyday people, see everyday life, follow the news, and hear reports from 24 or so other Russian protestant churches in our two regions. In a nation where 57% of the population call themselves Russian Orthodox, and only something like 5-7% of that number even attend a church service once or twice a year, the ideals of the church and daily life often greatly differ. When the majority of those who call themselves 'Orthodox believers' are more than likely to refuse the gift of a Bible, saying they have no time for it, you have to wonder how different is that from the average 'Christian' you might find in a US census?
Please understand that we love and respect the beauty and history of the Russian Church. . . but the church of Christ is neither Protestant, nor Catholic, nor Orthodox. The Church of Christ is made of people who have come to Christ for salvation, not to a church, not to tradition, not to self or national identity found in religion.
". . . and the ringing of the bells speak of unearthly beauty,
But the crowds here below seek only their golden calf.
Does anyone hear? Is anyone touched?
I cry out to those still living: seek Him simply, with the faith of a child,
Turn to Him with the faith of a child,
Oh, listen and hear the Father's voice."
Иеромонах Роман, 1994
(excerpt of a poem by a Russian monk, my translation)