FIRST-PERSON: Russian Bear awakening to morality
ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP) -- God once used a donkey to alert a wayward prophet that he was on the wrong track. Could it be the Lord is using a bear, a Russian Bear, to do the same with the nations of the West, in particular the United States?
"Many Euro-Atlantic countries have moved away from their roots, including Christian values," Russian President Valdimir Putin said in his state of the nation address in mid-December, The Washington Times reported.
Putin continued, "Policies are being pursued that place on the same level a multi-child family and a same-sex partnership, a faith in God and a belief in Satan. This is the path to degradation."
Some have dismissed Putin's rhetoric as nothing more than political posturing. However, leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church have echoed their president's assessment.
Patriarch Krill I of Moscow, the leader of the Orthodox Church, "accused Western countries of engaging in the 'spiritual disarmament' of their people," The Times reported.
"The general political direction of the [Western political] elite bears, without a doubt, an anti-Christian and anti-religious character," Patriarch Krill said. "We have been through an epoch of atheism, and we know what it is to live without God. We want to shout to the whole world, 'Stop!'"
Another leader of the Orthodox Church, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, "suggested that the modern-day West is no better for a Christian believer than the Soviet Union," The Times also reported.
"The separation of the secular and the religious is a fatal mistake by the West," Chaplin said. "It is a monstrous phenomenon that has occurred only in Western civilization and will kill the West, both politically and morally."
One would be hard-pressed to dispute these assessments from the Russian Bear.
In 2005, USA Today reported, "Every major religion except Islam is declining in Western Europe, according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Mass. The drop is most evident in France, Sweden and the Netherlands, where church attendance is less than 10 percent in some areas."
If reports are correct, the Russian government is seeking to recover from its past suppression of Christianity. Among these efforts are the rebuilding of churches, religious instruction in public education and state paid chaplains in the military.
The impact of Christian teaching on the Russian people still has a ways to go. Recent surveys by the Pew Research Center and the Gallup organization reveal that the morality of the Russian people is not too different from Americans.
When it comes to attitudes about the moral acceptability of certain practices such as abortion, unmarried sex and divorce, Americans and Russians seem to agree.
However, what must be considered is that less than 25 years ago (the Iron Curtain came crashing down in November 1989) Russia was a society that had been dominated for nearly 70 years by a communist philosophy that indoctrinated its people in atheism. Russia, it seems, now is trying to move toward the light of Christianity.
Could it be Russia's move to Christianity is why 72 percent of Russians believe that homosexuality is morally wrong, as compared to only 38 percent of Americans? Sixty-eight percent of Russians also believe gambling is wrong, while only 31 percent of Americans feel the same way. Forty-four percent of Russians believe that drinking alcohol is morally unacceptable, while a 2012 Gallup poll found that 66 percent of Americans consume alcohol on a regular basis.
It stands to reason that if the Russian people continue to embrace the tenets of Christianity it will be reflected in their morality. Conversely, as America continues to move away from the teachings of the Bible, morality among the masses will continue to decline.
In July 2012 the following was posted on the website of evangelist Billy Graham:
"Some years ago, my wife, Ruth, was reading the draft of a book I was writing. When she finished a section describing the terrible downward spiral of our nation's moral standards and the idolatry of worshiping false gods such as technology and sex, she startled me by exclaiming, 'If God doesn't punish America, He'll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.'"
Countless preachers in recent decades have echoed the sentiment of Mrs. Graham. However, America has continued to run headlong toward a godless secularism characterized by an unfettered, unaccountable hedonism. It seems the God of the Bible is irrelevant even for many who profess to follow Him.
America has thus far ignored the warning of the prophets in her midst. Is God now trying to get the attention of America by speaking through the Russian Bear? It wouldn't be the first time the Lord used an unlikely source to communicate truth. Just ask the wayward prophet Balaam.
Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press, director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention's office of public affairs, and editor of the Baptist Message (www.baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).