To justify the fact that the Church joined in and to some extent led the universal cult of Stalin it is sometimes argued that this cult was not connected with any distortion of dogmatic doctrine or liturgical tradition, so there is no betrayal of Orthodoxy in it. Such a framing of the question makes us reflect on the very root of our faith. What exactly is Christianity? It is a Cult without doubt, but not a cult of ideas, not a cult of the law, the nation, nature or the cosmos. Perhaps this
may sound unexpected, but Christianity is first and foremost a "Cult of Personality", namely the cult of Jesus Christ. Everything else, religious dogma, moral law, hierarchical structure, sacraments and rites, has meaning and significance only in so far as it serves as a concrete expression of the cult of Jesus Christ. Christianity is not, unfortunately, united: the various confessions are distinguished by important elements of dogma, ritual, church structure and religious psychology, but one thing they have in common - the worship and service of Jesus Christ.
This is the primary and main thing in Christianity.
The one God Who created the world 'is incarnated, according to the Christian faith, in no other but Jesus Christ: not in world reason or spirit, not in the cosmos, nature or moral law, not in any nation or in the human race as a hole. Thereby we have absolute proof that man, the human individual, manifested perfectly in Jesus Christ, in the most profound and all-embracing element in everything that God created.
In worshipping Jesus Christ as the only Savior, Who restored the violated unity of God and man (this violation of the free link with God is original sin, from which all mankind's troubles derive), the Church also worships the saints, which enables us to speak of a "cult of personality" of the saints. Protestantism, fearing the violation of the unity and exclusiveness of the cult of Jesus Christ, denies the cult of the saints; Orthodoxy and Catholicism, however, do not see in this any violation of faith, since the saints are worshipped as disciples and followers of Jesus Christ. Here it is most important that general church recognition of sanctity - without any exceptions - can only be posthumous.
For all their unchanging meaning the ritual, established forms of worshipping Jesus Christ, are not primary. For some members of the Church they are a way of expressing their living, personal and direct faith in Jesus Christ, for others a school and a way of acquiring such a personal relationship. The religious sacraments are the aims of the ontological uniting of a believer with Christ: in this case the effectiveness of the sacrament again depends on the personal attitude, the personal faith of the person who is engaging in the sacrament (or the person who is responsible for a personality which has not yet unfolded, in the case of infants). Before a believer comes to the Chalice with the Eucharist, the priest chants in his name: "And let not this participation in Thy Holy Mysteries be to my judgement nor to my condemnation". How dangerous communion is without the proper spiritual attitude was pointed out by the Apostle Paul.
"But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation
to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep". 1 Cor.11: 28-30.
For all the differences in interpreting the meaning and significance of the sacrament of the Eucharist, all Christians are agreed that tins sacrament is performed in the name of Jesus Christ, who said:
"This do in remembrance of Me" (Lk. 22: 1-9).
Thus, the very sacrament of the Eucharist is an expression of the believer's personal attitude to Jesus Christ, and the effect on him of this sacrament depends on the quality of this attitude (although, according to Orthodox doctrine, the actual turning of the bread and wine into Body and Blood of Christ takes place irrespective of the spiritual state of those celebrating the Eucharist). We have cited this view of the Eucharist here as an objection to those who believe that stressing the personal attitude to Christ is "listing in the direction of Protestantism". For all Christians the truth is equally immutable: the beginning and essence of religious life is a personal attitude to Christ, a free act of will, the moral disposition of the heart.
ln this connection the question of the "cult of personality" ceases to be religiously neutral. On the contrary, it turns out to be close to the basic religious question of precisely what sort of person we worship, to whom we really surrender our hearts.
What was Stalin?
We do not think it necessary to give a biography of Stalin here or to set out individual facts of his activity: the stream of publications on this subject which have appeared recently spares us from this necessity. No one today can plead ignorance of these facts of our history. Go and look! The specific materials connected with the attitude of the church hierarchy to Stalin arc quoted in the chronological document section in accordance with the general plan of the book. These materials speak for themselves: we comment on some examples below. But what we consider essential is to raise the question of the specifically religious meaning of the events which took place and to endeavor to connect them with church tradition and fit them into the apocalyptic context of sacral history.
Church tradition forbids the trial of the human soul: the deepest secrets of the heart are known to God alone, and only at the universal judgement, when "that which is hidden shall be revealed", will righteous
soborny judgement reinforced by Divine Sentence be passed. During a person's lifetime no one can be sure of himself or anyone else that he will be judged or that he will avoid this judgement. Although, it must be admitted, we cannot find any positive features in the nature or actions of Stalin, we are far from absolutising our personal conviction and raising the question of the posthumous fate of this man. We leave discussion of this subject to "omniscient" mystics such as Daniil
Andreyev, who in his "Rose of the World" describes the posthumous fate of Stalin (and not only him) in great detail...
For us now it is essential to determine something else - the character, typology, of the kind of evil which came into the world through the person of Stalin (although not only through him, of course). The evil in the world is multifarious and multiform: the absence of guidelines and distinctions in this sphere can, and does, lead to grave religious and moral errors. Nor shall we raise the question of moral censure of those who joined in the universal worship of Stalin, church hierarchs included.
But a refusal to judge does not mean that we justify them. We simply feel that we do not have the right either to condemn or justify those who lived in that terrible, phantasmagoric time almost beyond our comprehension. But what happened then must be called by its proper name. This is essential for us as an antidote to an incurable spiritual disease which has assumed a chronic form and is always threatening to become acute.
The most general classification of the forms of evil should naturally be sought, first and foremost, in the text of the Holy Scriptures. The exegesis which we propose is not generally accepted, but, we trust, docs not contradict the basic tenets of Orthodox dogma.
In accordance with church prophetic tradition, the extreme embodiment of evil on earth must (or may, if the apocalyptic prophecies are considered conventional) be a
"man of sin... the son of perdition: who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is usually called God, or that is worshipped" (2 Thes. 2: 3-4).
In church literature he is called Antichrist (the capital letter shows that it is a proper name). The same text of the Apostle Paul's names two more forces which assist Antichrist: the "mystery of iniquity", which prepares his temporary triumph; and "Satan", who provides him with "powers", "signs" and "lying wonders". Textual analysis makes it possible to draw a direct parallel between this teaching of the Apostle Paul and the images of the Apocalypse (Revelations) of John the Divine. Chapter 13 of Revelations speaks of three powers which unite their efforts in the struggle against Jesus Christ who will reign on earth. The "beast rising up out of the sea" can be identified with Antichrist; the "beast coming up out of the earth" with the "mystery of iniquity" and the "dragon cast down from heaven" with Satan.
Not raising the question of a literal understanding of prophecies, we shall proceed from the hope that the wisdom of tradition will anticipate many of the problems of our time which are of a truly universal character. What is important for us is that the three apocalyptic images mentioned can be seen as symbols of the three main types of fight against
God, of different origin and nature and, most important, demanding a fundamentally different attitude to each of them.
Only the principle connected with the "abyss" or "inferno" can be considered direct and undoubted evil. This principle manifests itself in those forces of the human soul which contradict the universal moral law and are almost unanimously seen by mankind as something criminal and forbidden. The basis of this criminal principle is the totally unrestricted and unrestrainable egoism of individuality, which balks at nothing, not even the destruction of others, to satisfy personal lusts and aims. If the criminals are joined together in a collective, community or crowd, this does not change the essence. Each one is personally responsible. In remote antiquity the Divine ban ("curse") was laid upon this element in the human race, one of the expressions of which was the moral law "written in their hearts" (Rom. 2: 15). In the strict sense of the word only this form of theomachist rebellion can be called "evil" or "crime" and must be forcibly limited and stopped. In our day this form of evil manifested itself most fully in fascism.
The two other forces which join the struggle against Christianity are of a completely different nature. Acting freely, they are rather forces of "good without Christ" (an expression coined by Seraphim of Sarov). Not banned or criminal in themselves, they deserve condemnation and restriction only insofar as they have recourse for attaining their aims to direct and immediate crime. In the Gospel story the first of these powers is represented by "Satan" *, who during "the temptation in the wilderness" (Mt. 4:1-11) suggested to Jesus an alternative (not at all criminal, although false) way of saving manking. *) Comment (L.R.):
Contrary to widespread opinion, "Satan" in the Holy Scriptures is not identified with the power of the "underworld". In the Slavonic church translation of the Gospel, which follows the Greek text, Jesus bids him: "Walk behind me, Satan" (Mt. 4:10). This evidently means that Satan has not yet been condemned. (It is characteristic that in the Russian translation, which follows the Latin, the meaning of the text is radically changed: "Go away from me, Satan!"). Later Jesus speaks of Satan's "fall" as a free act, but not as a punishment (Lk. 10:18). Only in the event of a direct alliance with Antichrist does the threat of "shutting him up in the bottomless pit" (Rev. 20:3) hang over him.
The second of these powers is represented by Pontius Pilate, the bearer of Roman civilization, which was essentially irreligious, based on human active energy, law and common sense. In fact, both of them betray their principles and aims, promoting direct crimes: Satan out of envy inspires the Apostle Judas
to betray Christ (Jn. 13: 27); Pontius Pilate from fear for his own well-being violates Roman law and panders to "iniquity" by allowing the execution of an obviously innocent man. Jesus does not curse either of them. He enters into a dialogue with Satan and rejects his plan of salvation, whereas he reminds the unbelieving Pontius Pilate of the Divine source of power and law. Both are condemned not for their programs or principles, but only for the concrete crime committed by them.
"He that delivered me unto thee hath the greater crime", Jesus says to Pontius Pilate (Jn. 19: 11).
But in such a framing of the question we will not find in history any organizing force entirely free of complicity in evil: this also applies to all Christian states without exception and to the historical Church. Consequently even in cases when rival forces to Christ and the Church are involved in a number of concrete crimes, they still cannot be condemned and banned as a whole, i.e. their principles, aims, programs and organizations cannot immediately be declared criminal on the basis of individual violations of the law.
Perhaps such a condemnation would be possible, if Christianity had at any point in historical practice manifested in the fullness of earthly life the pure force of good, unsullied by sin or crime. But until such a fullness has been manifested, God-given justice gives rival forces the opportunity to vie freely with Christianity.
The choice between them is made by mankind in the course of the historical process. And if the Church, a Christian state, a Christian society or an individual Christian should violate this justice and declare to he a crime what is actually disagreement with its views, a dfferent faith or a lack of faith, a different spiritual or social program, tins casts Christians themselves into crime, with countless grave consequence's for Christ's cause. In this sense freedom of belief and organization (the basic principle of liberalism) is not a whim of theomachist will, but a God-given law which no one is allowed to violate.
The prophecies of the Apostle Paul and John the Divine quoted above serve as a spiritual warning that attempts to save and organize without Jesus Christ may in the final analysis lead to a final and total union with the underworld - and then the bearers of "good without Christ" will be condemned precisely for this global complicity in a world-historical crime: for all-round support of Antichrist, as the bearer of an undoubted and already condemned evil principle. If the striving for good is genuine and the rejection of Jesus Christ was connected only will) misunderstanding or lack of faith, nothing prevents the bearer of the good strivings from acknowledging Christ, when He shows His power and justice in a way obvious for all, as the Apocalypse prophesies. If, however, the hidden mainspring of these strivings was only the pride of egoistical self-affirmation,
this will be revealed in betrayal of the original aims and in alliance with the forces of the underworld against Christ.
Nevertheless, in spite of the danger, no one is allowed to present a possible crime only envisaged in historical perspective as something which has already been committed and should now be condemned and punished. If even Satan, whose "devices" (2 Cor. 2: 11) have basically been determined, is not cast into the pit by Christ until these devices have been carried out, people who have been deluded, but are still capable of repenting and changing their intentions should certainly not be subjected to premature and unjust condemnation. A state, particularly a Christian one, which has received the right to use force against "evil deeds" (Rom. 13: 4), is bound to observe the strictest justice. The Church, more over, mitigates this justice with mercy. If, however, the representatives of State and Church make accusations which arc not wholly proven against their ideological and political enemies, and particularly if they take coercive action on the basis of these accusations, they are thereby helping to stir up the spirit of hatred and strife, undermining the foundation of the moral authority of Christianity, rejecting Divine assistance and, as it were, giving their enemies a moral sanction to ally with the forces of the inferno. It was mistakes of that kind that brought about the downfall of the Christian Monarchy in Russia and probably elsewhere as well.
Thus, while carefully avoiding the repetition of such mistakes even in our head, let us try to understand precisely which real historical figures and events could be symbolized by the forces which try to do good without Christ" in the world.
It is natural to assume that one of these forces is religiously indifferent, humanist civilization, based on the realization of man's creative potential, reason and active will, the development of the elements of the Roman state. Common sense, efficient labor, individualism limited by the law, a law-governed society and a democratic state - these are the characteristic features of this civilization, which in our day has drawn the greater part of mankind into its orbit. For the Christian the principles of this civilization may seem wrong and insufficient in some respects, but who has the right to call them criminal? One can only note that tins civilization is sometimes invaded by a spirit of "iniquity", which demands sacrifices: Cain built the first town, fraternal blood was shed in the founding of Rome, bourgeois revolutions tend towards regicide, Peter the Great treacherously caused the death of his son, and so on. Reality is by no means always in keeping with principles, hut the same may be said about Christian civilization as well. In Russia this humanist civilization took power, but could not keep it during the February revolution.
The second force which joins in the struggle both
against Christian and against humanist civilization, is socialist or communist utopism, which gives pride of place to the unity of the human race, social justice and the subordination of the individual and personal to the interests of the whole. This force is characterized by an "eschatological" pathos, which is addressed to the mass consciousness and transfers the realization of all human hopes to the historical future, promising a sudden transition from a "dark" age to a "bright" one. This communist utopianism counterposes collective human pride to Christianity, not wishing to recognize its dependence on God; it accuses bourgeois humanism of social inequality and the dominion of some people over others. All these ideas can be seen as false, but again cannot be considered as criminal. The revolution which the Bolsheviks made in Russia was undoubtedly inspired by this eschatological spirit, to which the Russian and Jewish irreligious-messianic consciousness was highly disposed. 0f course, the Bolsheviks were able to conquer their more liberal opponents not only thanks to the power of their ideas, which "seized the masses”; but also thanks to the fact that they decided - contrary to their ultimate aims - to have recourse to methods of struggle for power which violated human moral law. They themselves did not deny that historical necessity and enemy opposition could prompt the Revolution to unlawful and cruel actions (the bourgeois revolutions in Europe also acted likewise). The Church denounced these violations of God-given law "written in hearts"; the general assessment of the Revolution and its fruits must he left to history. We shall not attempt to anticipate its conclusions. (This was wrote in 1990 - L.R.)
In the context of Russian history another point must be noted: the dark, criminal elements of the human soul brought to life by the revolution were not satisfied with a secondary role; the forces of the inferno did not want to serve the Utopian aims of human happiness; the forces of evil gradually took over the levers of state power and placed Utopian ideology at the disposal of their cynical, egoistic desires.
The focal point and personification of this criminal element was Stalin. The more facts come to light about the motives, methods and results of his activity, the more this conclusion is borne out. Of the many testimonies we shall quote one only as an example:
"Summing up all that has been said about Stalin, it can be stated that he was an amoral person with criminal tendencies".(B. Bazhanov. Vospominaniya byvshego sekretarya Stalina. "Ogonek". 1989. No. 41, p. 22)
In connection with the methods by which Stalin seized state power one cannot help recalling the words of the ancient prophecy usually related to Antichrist:
"And in his estate shall stand up a vile person... he shall come in peaceably,
and obtain the kingdom by flattery” (i.e. lies - L.R.).
Dan. 11: 21.
Among believers, however, a serious alternative is suggested, which changes considerably the moral accents in the assessment of Stalin the man, namely:
"Stalin was the bearer of basically positive and noble ideas, but historical circumstances and personal shortcomings resulted in these aims being achieved by unwise, cruel and unlawful actions".
In such an approach the quilt for these actions is transferred largely to those who hindered the implementation of his "historically positive ideas": the cruelty of the methods is justified by the cunning, power and "criminal essence" of his opponents.
What precisely are the positive aims of Stalin referred to here? Many believers even now genuinely see the manifestation of these ideas in the fact that Stalin "brought back to life" the national, first and foremost, Russian element, and in this connection restored the Church as well as some important elements of Russian popular and state tradition, and trough them elements of Christian civilization. In this sense people even call Stalin "a typical Byzantine on Russian soil".
To counter this statement the argument is put forward - again from the Christian standpoint - that it was the nationalism and “despotic tradition" of Russian (and through it Byzantine and Tartar) statehood that gave rise to Stalinism by perverting the "democratic" striving of the February and October revolutions.
Thus the question of a religious-moral assessment of Stalin's personality is shifted to the level of an ideological argument on the role and places of the national clement in the Christian picture of the world. If we do not determine our position in this argument, we run the risk of being distracted from the essence of the matter, the religious problem of the "cult of personality" of Stalin.
What does Christian tradition say about the national element?
The first tiling that is usually quoted in this connection is the Apostle Paul's text that in Christ "there is neither Greek nor Jew" (Col. 3: 11).
From this many conclude wrongly that the national element is essentially sinful and should be overcome in Christianity. This conclusion is sometimes tempered by the statement that as long as we live in a sinful and imperfect world we must take account of national divisions as an existing reality. This negative assessment contradicts the Orthodox Church's many centuries of practice. The complication is that the national question cannot be properly framed without some study of the basis of Christian anthropology - the doctrine about man.
According to the New Testament teaching, "the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2: 5) has a dual origin: on the maternal line he belongs to the same human race as each of us - the unity of the human race is symbolized
(we shall not consider the literal meaning of this symbol) by the common origin from Adam. On the paternal line, however, Jesus has no ancestors. In this sense He is "the new man" (Col. 3: 10; Eph. 4: 24).
The New Testament and church theology say of this that Jesus Christ is the founder of a new human "race": whereas we belong to the race of Adam by birth (Acts. 17: 26-29), we belong to the offspring of Christ by baptism (Jn. 3: 4; 1 Pet. 2: 9).
Communing in the sacrament with Jesus Christ as a new man, we, like Him, belong at the same time to two human races: the race of Adam and the race of Jesus. The texts of the New Testament constantly say of this that the "old man" must be "crucified" in us
(Rom. 6: 6), but only so as to "rise again" without sin. The "old" or "natural" man does not disappear in baptism. The attitude of the new man to the old one is to save the old man from sin and death, i.e. to reunite him with God. Insofar as the old man, the race of Adam, has a nature stricken by sin and also has a free will, the act of salvation is a process which takes place in time: both during individual life, and in the historical life of the whole of mankind. This process does not stop even after physical death - the temporal parting of the soul with the body. Some theologians have even advanced the view (a highly questionable one) that the process of salvation even continues after the Last Judgement.
Proceeding from the doctrine on the duality of human nature of a man baptized in Christ, we can decide in general outline the question of the national clement. Evidently a people or nation is one of the basic structures of natural mankind. In speaking of a "people" one usually has in mind a blood unity or political unity; whereas is speaking of a "nation" it is a cultural-psychological unity. If the human race, the race of Adam, is to be saved, peoples too are liable for eternal salvation, as is testified, for example, by John the Divine's Revelation. Speaking of the New Jerusalem "coming down... out of heaven", the apostle prophecies:
"And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honor into it". Rev. 21:24.
Consequently, in spite of the fact that the "people" today, like the rest of mankind, are stricken with original sin, i.e. separated from God, the very element of the "people", the actual organic division of the human race according to the national principle, is not only not sinful, but a God-given principle, which is preserved in saved and transformed mankind. This is a most important conclusion, which makes it possible from the Christian standpoint to counter universalistic doctrines that deny the absolute value of the national element.
Yet at the same time Christian
anthropology enables us to avoid the danger of idealizing the national element, confusing or identifying it with the church element. If a person is baptized, he belongs simultaneously to the two races, the race of Adam and the race of Christ, and is at the same time a whole person, in which both human elements are combined inseparable. This person, whole in his disunity, may be united with others on the basis of both natural unity in Adam and natural unity in Christ. In the first case, the Christian is a member of his family, people, nation, state or other social union; in the second, he is a member of the Church, which in the New Testament is called the "Body of Christ".
Insofar as the Church consists of people with a dual "origin", it can acquire a national character in the aspect of the "old humanity" of its members. Moreover, it can act as a social organization in this aspect. But in what makes it a Church, what constitutes the essence of its unity, in the aspect of "new humanity", the Church is not a social organization and does not have a national character. The Apostle Paul speaks of this, when he urges "put off the old man with his deeds" (meaning sinful deeds) and "put on the new man", "where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all". Col. 3: 9-11.
Christian universalism thus expresses the unity of the "race of Jesus", whereas humanist universalism proceeds from the unity of the “race of Adam”.
By virtue of the duality of its human nature the Church has defined its relationship with the nation and the state in various ways in historical practice. Thus, during times of persecution the Church organized itself as a combination of independent religious communities which avoided all participation in the life of pagan society. The acceptance of Christianity as the state religion meant the whole nation now consisted of people who had been baptized, i.e. members of the Church.
The nation in the person of its state power announced its acceptance of the supreme spiritual and moral aims of the Church: the "old" man in Adam, sinful but seeking salvation, recognized the "new" man in Jesus Christ as a saving and transfiguring element. It is not surprising that in these conditions the idea emerged of the union, agreement or "symphony" of Church and State. The Justinian Code states that both the Church and the State were given to man by God and should therefore act together, supplementing and supporting each other. This doctrine, in spite of a certain vagueness, is quite true as a whole - for Adam was also created by God and, in spite of sin, the image of God in man was not destroyed totally (otherwise mankind would have perished long ago). And therefore the Apostle Paul, blessing state power,
which is "not a terror to good works, but to the evil", says that "the powers that we are ordained by God" and that believers should obey them "not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake". Rom. 13: 1-7.