Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Orthodoxy again becoming Russia's State Religion

by Christopher A. Ferrara

Two recent developments remind us of the centrality of Russia in the future of our troubled world. In the first, as reported by The New York Times in mid-August, Russian nuclear-powered submarines have been detected patrolling off the eastern seaboard of the United States, “a rare mission that has raised concerns inside the Pentagon and intelligence agencies about a more assertive stance by the Russian military… [and] has echoes of the cold war era, when the United States and the Soviet Union regularly parked submarines off each other’s coasts to steal military secrets, track the movements of their underwater fleets — and be poised for war.” (New York Times, 4 August 2009).

The Times, quoting a naval historian, notes that there had not been any Russian subs in that class off the United States coast for about fifteen years. “Anytime the Russian Navy does something so out of the ordinary it is cause for worry,” said a senior Defense Department official quoted in the piece. “We’re concerned just because they are there,” he added.

The second development, which has been underway since 2006, is that Russian pupils in the regions of Belgorod, Bryansk, Kaluga and Smolensk “will be taught the basics of Orthodox Christianity” in the classroom, and that the subject will also be included as an option “in the school curriculum in 11 other regions across the country.” (BBC, 31 August 2006). It seems that “lawmakers in the 15 regions backed the move” even though it would appear to contradict the requirement of state secularity in the Russian constitution. Russian Education Minister Andrei Fursenko is quoted as saying that “schoolchildren must know the history of religion and religious culture.”

What are we to make of these developments? On the human level, together they indicate a program already observed in this column: Putin’s harnessing of Russian Orthodoxy to nationalism in a rebirth of Russia as a dominant geopolitical player — a project that also includes the rehabilitation of Stalin as a “great leader.” The idea that Putin wants to convert Russia into a nation of pious and prayerful Orthodox is laughable. There is no sign that Russia has turned away from its binge of abortion, alcohol and divorce.

Then again, in God’s providence what is happening in the Russian schools and her military buildup could both be a material preparation — quite unintended by their proponents — for the true conversion of Russia and her reunion with Rome to save the West in the midst of some dire scenario like the one predicted by the Russian mystic and philosopher Vladimir Soloviev at the turn of the 20th Century.

All things work together in the divine plan, whether or not God’s rebellious subjects freely cooperate in it. Thus there is reason to hope that, whatever Putin intends, Russia is being prepared for its consecration and the consequent Triumph of the Immaculate Heart — an event that, as Antonio Socci has so eloquently put it, will mean “a radical and extraordinary change in the world, an overthrow of the mentality dominating modernity, probably following dramatic events for humanity.” Clearly, those dramatic events are very near.

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