Real Answers


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Copyright 2000 Rusty Wright

610 words

RUSSIAN BROADCASTERS SYMBOLIZE HISTORICAL IRONY

By Rusty Wright


Nearly a decade after Communism's demise, the former Soviet Union faces intimidating challenges. Yet a surprising recent development reflects important conviction that could help nations in the Commonwealth of Independent States survive and thrive.

Political turmoil swirls in Russia as lieutenants and rivals jockey to succeed President Boris Yeltsin. Crime and corruption are rampant. The Russian Mafia's tentacles reach deep and wide. Bombs in Moscow apartments and war with Chechnya have engendered fear. Alcohol abuse is widespread.

A floundering economy and nose-diving ruble have brought desperation. During a recent visit, I watched with sadness as middle class homemakers lined Moscow sidewalks hawking their personal goods (clothing, household items) to make ends meet.

In spite of this civic chaos - or perhaps because of it - spiritual interest in Russia remains strong. A recent event largely overlooked by the mainstream press gives a glimpse of the extent of this interest: The young Association of Christian Broadcasters held its second annual convention in Moscow.

The irony is significant. For decades, State-controlled media hammered religion. Government agencies scrambled signals of Christian radio from outside Russia. State TV produced documentaries debunking belief and believers. One wag quipped that Communist Russia had two television channels. Channel One broadcast Party propaganda. On Channel Two, the KGB officer told you to turn back to Channel One.

When Communism fell, doors opened for Russians to investigate and embrace faith openly. As the airwaves became available, broadcast stations carried faith-oriented programs. "Superbook," an animated children's Bible series, drew over a million letters in the first month after Russian national television aired it.

A few days after the airdate, beleaguered Moscow postal authorities called the sponsors in to show them a mountain of mail. "Take all of this mail to your office," instructed the postal executives, "sort it and return the letters that don't belong to you."

Spiritually oriented broadcasting evokes various feelings in Americans. The uplifting music and enlightening teaching of a favorite church or pastor warmly comfort some. Memories of sex scandals, greed and constant appeals for money disgust others. Yet in a Russia still struggling with stability after emerging from Communism's boot, faith-oriented broadcasting represents freedom and hope for many.

One man I met exemplifies the new freedom. Under the "regime," as the locals call it, his father spent fourteen years in prison for the "crime" of being a pastor. The son found his own educational opportunity blocked merely because he attended church (though he was not a believer at the time). Now full of faith, he studies at the new Academy of Christian Broadcasting, training to take spiritual light to his compatriots.

As the political and economic road has become bumpy, many Russian officials have realized that democracy and the market economy work best with a strong moral base. Russian educators have welcomed faith-based ethics courses in their schools. The Jesus film, a popular depiction of the life of Christ, forms the core of many such courses. These seek to promote the biblical dictum that is inscribed in stone in numerous Western universities: "You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." Now top government officials are interacting with religious broadcasters regarding licensing and ethics.

Karl Marx called religion "the opium of the people." In the Communist Manifesto, he and Frederick Engels wrote, "Workingmen of all countries unite! (You) have nothing to lose but (your) chains." During the collapse of Russian Communism, Moscow demonstrators held up a banner reading, "Workers of the World, We Apologize."

Marx' perhaps well-intentioned but flawed political theories failed the reality test. Maybe some of the spiritually oriented efforts that are filling the void his system left can help strengthen Russia's soul amidst the current crisis.

 

Rusty Wright is an author and university lecturer who has spoken on six continents. "Real Answers™" furnished courtesy of The Amy Foundation Internet Syndicate. To contact the author or The Amy Foundation, write or E-mail to: P. O. Box 16091, Lansing, MI 48901-6091; amyfoundtn@aol.com. Visit our website at www.amyfound.org.



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