Debaptism versus Rebaptism: E-Mail Conversations
Anatoly is from Moscow. This is a somewhat edited version of a series of very recent and slightly less recent e-mails, consisting of questions and attempts to answer them. They may be of interest to a wider public.
A: First of all, here is a general question. Why is the global economic summit taking place in London?
Fr A: Twenty of the world’s most powerful leaders, representing 85% of the global economy or nearly six billion people, so they say, have met in London. Why? Because in the nineteenth century London was the originator of global capitalism. Although London’s place was taken by New York, as the city which initiated the process of globalism, London is a symbolic, historic place to hold this summit.
A: Do you think, as we in Russia think, that the USA is responsible for this crisis?
Fr A: What, not who, was responsible for the crisis – this is the question. What was responsible for it was 1989. Before 1989 the world was divided into two, or three, camps, the East (Communism), the West (Capitalism) and the Non-Aligned Countries, which played off one side against another. When Communism or State Capitalism, which is what it was, collapsed, because it was financially and ideologically bankrupt, the Western, private-enterprise or free market Capitalism won. Very quickly, the former Communist countries like the old Soviet Union and China became centres of private Capitalism, the ‘Wild East’. In this ideological vacuum, Capitalism, with its centre in the USA, was triumphant.
A: But still does not such Capitalism mean the USA and Britain?
Fr A: After the fall of Communism, triumphalist hubris came and the Western and westernised world (not just the USA) began to think it could do anything. Their ideology, though US-led, became rampant worldwide. True, all this ended in Mr Bush – and tears. He thought that he could invade other countries, as if they were still empty regions in the Wild West, and instil in them the myth of ‘democracy’, that is to say Western capitalism. It is symbolic that he invaded Babylon, even setting up a military base there. This was the New Babylon taking over the Old. But to take Old Babylon meant that the USA overreached itself and so bankrupted itself.
It is true that Mr Bush was supported in Iraq by Mr Blair. However, the whole world was involved in the general process of globalisation since 1989, a process of greed and amorality. To start blaming one country is not only unhelpful, but also untrue and unjust. We have to take responsibility for ourselves. Nobody had to take part in this race for global greed, which is called globalism, but every country did, including Russia (think of the Yeltsin years with their criminal ‘privatisations’, or rather thefts of public assets) and also France with its huge global capitalist corporations. This process would not have been called global, if it had not been global.
A: Is this economic crisis good or bad? Fr A: The results of the present crisis are a slowdown in consumer capitalism, the throwaway society, which developed in the West after the Second World War and in Western Europe from the 1960s. This had laissez-faire attitudes, caused mass emigrations and immigrations, scorn for everything local – whole countries, peoples, languages and cultures are disappearing - and also ecological irresponsibility and the debt crisis (falsely called the ‘credit’ crisis), for which we are now paying and will pay in the future.
Although this summit may help solve some of the immediate problem, ultimately all of this is a spiritual problem. Legal, political and fiscal regulation will perhaps help, but unless there is repentance for this greed, both personal and collective repentance, the world will just go from one problem to another one. So, to answer your question, the economic crisis is bad, but it can become good, if we use it for good, that is for repentance.
A: What is the essence of the problem of the economic crisis?
Fr A: It seems to me that the problem is that globalism, advanced by the new technology of the internet, the instant international communications network, developed, but in the absence of global regulation. Since this is a global problem, it requires a global solution.
A: Is that dangerous?
Fr A: Yes, unfortunately, all global regulation takes us another step nearer to the end of the world, a Global Dictatorship. This is why Mr Brown has spoken of ‘the New World Order’, and we know what that means. The whole history of the West has been to create unions. Whole countries have disappeared: Wales, Westphalia, Bavaria, Brittany, Styria, the Tyrol, Moravia, Bohemia, Frisia, Flanders, Saxony, Scotland, Cornwall, Provence, Lombardy, Sardinia, Leon, Galicia, Castille etc etc with their own local cultures – these were all once independent countries.
The same thing happened in the USA, where they waged a very bitter Civil War in order to create a Union, instead of keeping a voluntary Confederation. Today, that has been copied in Western Europe where we have the EU, the future USE, United States of Europe or EUE, Etats Unis d’Europe, with its twelve stars, like the American (US) single white star and the Soviet Union’s (SU) single red star. From here we shall eventually reach a Global Union with global control, World Government, also with its humanist pentagram, the five-pointed star.
A: What part does the London summit play in all this?
Fr A: I think that people will look back on London and say that it was historic. It was the beginning of Global Dictatorship, when in the twenty-first century the USA realised that it could no longer rule the world, as it did in the twentieth century, as some there, like Mr Bush and the neocons, had imagined it always would do in their illusions after 1989. These imbalances are now being checked, we have the end to a one-sided, ‘unipolar’ world, dominated by what the French call ‘Anglo-Saxon Capitalism’, with its deregulation and triumphant imperialism. Twenty very different countries are now together. This is a new United Nations. All this means that Antichrist will not sit in New York or Washington, but in Jerusalem. But this is not news to us - the Church revealed it to us over 1,900 years ago.
A: Fr Andrew, you have then an Apocalyptic vision. Does this mean that the end is near, that Antichrist could be enthroned in Jerusalem in the next few years? Is not such talk dangerous? We know from past experience, for example from the Old Ritualists in Russia or more recently sectarians in Penza, that many have predicted the end and made terrible mistakes.
Fr A: Let me make it clear. I am not predicting a date for the end of the world. It could come very soon, or it could still be hundreds of years away. We know what the end will be, but we have absolutely no idea when it will be. Many sects have made predictions about the end of the world and made great mistakes. This was because they used the concept of the end of the world as an ideology to justify themselves – like the Old Ritualists and those in Penza - or to get money from people. Only spiritual purity can survive today, everything else is destined to disappear. This is why the Western denominations (Roman Catholicism and its children, the various brands of Protestantism) will all disappear. The time of compromises, of worldly or institutional religions, is coming to an end.
A: But there were even holy people who predicted the end and got it wrong, not only sectarians.
Fr A: It is true that even some saints, who thought that the end would come soon (for example St John Chrysostom) were mistaken. Why was this? This is a theological question and I think it relates to the human inability (and saints are humans and can make mistakes) to understand that the mercy of God is infinite. Look, humanity should, logically, have been destroyed in 1914, then again in the Second World War, then again in the 1960s, through nuclear or biological war that was called M.A.D. (Mutually Assured Destruction).
Each time we have been protected from our own human stupidity and cruelty, by the grace of God. The world should have ended centuries ago by rights, but God is beyond all human imagination. I think the end has been very close at various times in human history, and the saints saw this, but then the end receded through God’s mercy, the intercessions of the Mother of God and the prayers of the saints. The end really was nigh at many times in history, but then the tide went back.
A: Why was the world not destroyed in the twentieth century? You say there were at least three occasions when it should have been.
Fr A: God has given us extra time to sow and harvest extra souls for the Church. This means that we are all living on borrowed time. It will not last. We all have the impression that the world, time, is speeding up, we all know that we are closer to the end than the beginning and that every day, every minute that passes brings us closer to the Apocalypse. But I repeat, we cannot underestimate the mercy of God – we may have more time than we hoped – but that does not mean that we should not hurry. We simply do not know about the time of the end.
A: You mentioned the ideological vacuum after the fall of Communism. In Russia this vacuum was largely taken over by the Church and led to the baptisms of tens of millions of former Soviet citizens. However, I am worried, there seems to be a tendency to merge Orthodoxy with Russian nationalism, even Soviet nationalism. Some powerful people in the Russian State, supposedly Orthodox, are at this moment trying to rehabilitate Stalin. As an outsider, but a Russian Orthodox priest, what would you say about this?
Fr A: Let us be honest. Russia has only ever known two ‘systems’ – paganism (before 988) and Orthodoxy. Communism was only the regeneration of paganism, as also were the charlatans (‘extrasensy’) in Russia in the 1990s. Communism was only ‘scientific’, that is pseudo-scientific, paganism. It made human sacrifices, just like old-style paganism. The human sacrifices were in its exiled, its civil war, its artificial famines, its purges, its massacres, its gulag, its abortions. Russia has always been a mixture of these two systems. In 1917 the balance tipped towards paganism. In 1991 it tipped back towards Orthodoxy.
A: If there is such a mixture, how do we know what is pagan and what is Orthodox in Russia today?
Fr A: If you want to know who is really Orthodox in Russia today and who is pagan, ask three questions. First ask about attitudes to abortion, then about attitudes to Stalin and finally about attitudes to the New Martyrs. With abortion, all is clear. With Stalin, if they consider that Stalin was a monster, a modern Genghis Khan, responsible for the New Martyrs and Confessors – they are Orthodox. If they say, ‘Oh, he was a patriotic leader’, they are not conscious Orthodox, they are only nominal Orthodox, they still have not cleansed their minds of Soviet ideology, crude nationalism. The attitude to the New Martyrs is vital here too. The borrowed time that the Russian Church has been given now has been won by the New Martyrs. This borrowed time has a global significance.
The New Martyrs are unprecedented since the first three centuries, the centuries of the ‘Old Martyrs’ of the Roman Empire. The Rebaptism of Russia that began in 1989 is also unprecedented in world history since the fourth century. Maybe 100 million have been baptised in Russia since then.
A: You say unprecedented, but there are many problems in Russia despite this Rebaptism.
Fr A: Of course, there are. There is much that is still pagan – the alcoholism and the abortions, the tribal loyalties to corrupt ex-Communist mafioso. Unfortunately, the Rebaptism of Russia that began in 1989 was not accompanied by teaching. St Matthew’s Gospel says quite clearly that we should teach all nations and then baptise them, not baptise and then teach.
Of course, I do not blame anyone for this. There were so few open churches and so few priests in 1989 and such a tidal wave of pent-up demand that all priests could do was baptise the masses on demand – just as in the fourth century. Then also, many priests in the 1990s hurried to baptise because they thought that perhaps the Communists would come back to power and take away the new freedom to baptise – which the Communists almost did. However, all this means now that the nominal masses must be Churched.
A: But with this confusion between Russian Orthodoxy and Soviet history, isn’t there a danger that Russian Orthodoxy becomes a sort of property of the Russian State, nationalism?
Fr A: Of course, there is that danger, an immense danger of such nationalism. Nationalism was why Old Rome fell – it became just a new nationalist imperialism, based on the Germanic nationalist revival of pagan Rome through their agents, the Germanic popes. The same thing happened with the Second Rome, Constantinople, which fell after Greek emperors and bishops abandoned Orthodoxy and sold out on principled Orthodox beliefs to the powerful West, siding with heresy in order to save their nationalist Greek empire. Constantinople fell and still today Greek nationalism, Phanariot Hellenism, rules. And Moscow the Third Rome fell in 1917 for the same reasons. Look how the westernised Russian State and tried to westernise the Church, trying to use it as a tool of repression before the Revolution.
The present revival in Moscow (and there will not be a Fourth Rome) is given only on condition that Russian Orthodoxy lives up to its messianic international calling and destiny. If not, it will be wiped off the face of the earth and then the end will come. It can be said that Russian Orthodoxy is a delaying tactic against satan, it delays the Apocalypse. If it becomes just Russian State nationalism, a mere political and nationalistic ideology, that will be the end.
Russian Orthodoxy is worldwide. ROCOR, Japan, Moldova, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, the many peoples of Siberia, the Altai, the Yakuts etc etc - as well as Russia. The First and Second Romes spoke of ‘Romanity’ (‘Romanitas in Latin, ‘Romaiosini’ in Greek), the Third Rome is about ‘Rusity.. The meaning of this is symbolised by the name of its ruling dynasty, the Romanova – New Roman – family. Orthodoxy is neither nationalist (which is close to Fascism, as we saw with German, Baltic, Croatian or Ukrainian nationalism in World War II) nor globalist. Orthodoxy is unity in diversity, the Holy Trinity, as seen in St Andrei’s famed Icon of the Old Testament Trinity.
If Russian Orthodoxy is not multinational, but falls into a narrow nationalism, then it will lose its spiritual value. Russian Orthodoxy should not be a nationalist ideology, as Protestantism has become in countries like England (Anglicanism) or in the USA. Orthodoxy has replaced pagan Communism as the only Russian ideology, it must therefore be careful that it does not take on nationalist paganism in, for example, attitudes to tyrants like Stalin, or Ivan the Terrible, or the peasant-healer Rasputin.
A: You said earlier that that the New Martyrs have won borrowed time and have a global significance. Can you explain this?
Fr A: The New Martyrs have won borrowed time for the Russian Church to go out into the whole world, teaching and baptising all nations. If we do not do this, then our borrowed time will be taken away from us. This means teaching and baptising inside and outside Russia.
A: I know that they are not Orthodox, but can the Western confessions not also baptise?
Fr A: Before the end, Christianity must be preached all over the world in its Orthodox or Church context, not in some compromised, spiritually impure form. Already among Roman Catholics and Anglicans, there is a custom that children are not only no longer baptised by immersion, but they no longer even have a few drops of water sprinkled on their foreheads. This in itself makes many Orthodox doubt about the value such a baptism. But now, still worse, the priest (or priestess among Anglicans) simply dips his finger into some water, makes the sign of the cross in the air and there is actually no contact between the water and the child. I saw this 20 years ago among Roman Catholics in France. Only Orthodox baptism is the correct baptism.
In doing this, Western Europe is renouncing its saints, its whole first millennium, when it still belonged to the Church. In renouncing baptism, it renounces its own saints who baptised it, it renounces those who laid its authentic spiritual foundations.
Today, at this very moment, Western Europe is not only not being baptised. There are many in Western Europe who are actually asking for and claiming ‘Debaptism’. This fashion seems to have started in France a few years ago. But it is widespread in Spain, Italy, Germany and Britain. Thus, just recently, over 100,000 people in Britain have downloaded a ‘Certificate of Debaptism’ from the website of the National Secular Society. This, they say, means that they have renounced their childhood baptism. One of these ‘debaptised’, a certain Michael Evans, claimed that his childhood baptism was an infringement of his rights. In response to this, a Church of England representative actually told him to contact the European Court of Human Rights. In Italy a similar organisation claims that 2,000 people every month are downloading a similar debaptismal certificate.
So while Russia is being rebaptised, the West is being debaptised. Russia is today living in the fourth century, it is post-Constantinian, but the West is in a state of apostasy, where we can only hope to save small numbers, building virtual catacomb communities. I will now say something terrible. You will see that in the years to come, baptism will be outlawed in the West, probably by the EU, as not politically correct, ‘against the human rights of babies’, against health and safety regulations. Then EU citizens people will either have to be baptised in secret, or else will go to Russia to get baptised.
A: Why did Russian Orthodoxy not undertake worldwide missions in the distant past?
Fr A: Apart from the practical difficulties caused by the Mongol and then Polish invasions, it was not God’s Will. Other peoples would have rejected Orthodoxy then, because of their attachment to their cultures – just as many still do now. People were not ready then, and in rejecting Orthodoxy they would have had the greater sin.
A: So, in all this, you are saying that the ideology of the West will lead to the Apocalypse?
Fr A: Yes, the Western ideology which has its roots in the pagan universalism of the Roman Empire and is expressed in the filioque heresy, will lead to the Apocalypse. A: What does the filioque express?
Fr A: The filioque replaced God by man and so replaced the Church by a cultural institution behind a spiritual facade. The filioque gave birth to humanism, which gave birth to the ‘death of God’, and this will fulfil the Book of Revelation. At the end of time, there will be a false god, Antichrist.
However, it will not necessarily be Western people doing this. The Western ideology has become global. True, some of its worst practitioners were Westerners – Napoleon or Hitler, Kaiser Wilhelm, for example, but there have been Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse-Tung etc etc. In other words, this is not a question of race, it is a question of what is in our hearts. If this evil ideology is in our hearts, we will not be saved, whatever our race.
A: But you agree that it was Western intellectuals who first formulated this ideology?
Fr A: Yes, of course.
A: Does this cultural heritage mean that it is difficult for Western people to become Orthodox?
Fr A: Absolutely. Many are so attached to their ‘Western’ culture that they cannot accept Orthodoxy. They are so attached to humanism that they cannot accept the God-man. This is in fact a form of idolatry.
A: Does this affect converts to Orthodoxy in the West? In Russia we have the impression that some Western converts are liberals and do not know the Tradition. They are spiritually flat and superficial, or else philosophical and full of fantasies.
Fr A: Yes, sadly, this is correct. Several Western intellectual converts have begun by being touched by the Orthodox Faith and started with zeal, but then have fallen away. Their zeal turns to their desire to intellectualise, rationalise, philosophise and syncretise - so that they make themselves feel comfortable in this fantasy world.
They should instead realise that Orthodoxy is not secular conferences, it is being at services. Orthodox is not high level philosophy and speculation, but wearing out your prayerbook. Orthodox is not the university, it is the monastery. Orthodox is not observing the university curriculum, it is observing the Church calendar. That is why all such Western intellectuals say that ‘the calendar is not important’. That was not the attitude of the saints. What they mean is, is that the calendar is not important to them. Thus they condemn themselves out of their own mouths, for they are saying that the saints are not important to them.
Such people can be obsessed by outer knowledge, called by the Latin word, ‘scientia/science’, knowledge about, in other words, philosophical speculation. They should be busied with inner knowledge, called wisdom, knowledge of, in other words, experience. They are what you call in Russian ‘kabinetnye pisateli’, academic writers, without spiritual experience.
They should be busied with the fire of spiritual life in their souls, not with the death of spiritual life in their brains. They are too interested in dry booklore and academic writings in their heads, not in the living Spirit, which they actually do their best to quench – despite the New Testament commandment – ‘Quench not the Spirit’ They kill through rationalisation, intellectualisation.
A: What do you make of the recent administrative changes in the Moscow Patriarchate at the first Synod of His Holiness Patriarch Kyrill?
Fr A: Only this Patriarch could have done this. Only he has the global vision of the calling of Russian Orthodoxy, together with the administrative knowledge of how to prepare the Russian Church to meet its calling. This is why he was elected, this is his task. You cannot be a multinational faith without infrastructure.
For instance, this is why he is re-establishing the New Jerusalem Monastery outside Moscow. The destiny of this is to be a Pan-Orthodox centre. To balance out the political Third Rome of Moscow you need the spiritual concept of the New Jerusalem. This is the original vision of Patriarch Nikon, who built this monastery in the seventeenth century, but was prevented from finishing it because of the Russian State. This was already being westernised, even before Peter I, by so-called ‘judaisers’, that is to say, westernisers. These were the people, Italians and Poles, who were so active at the court of the half-Polish Ivan the Terrible.
A: Some people say that His Holiness Patriarch Kyrill is too ‘ecumenical’ and political. What do you think?
Fr A: That is incorrect. I think that that His Holiness is rather a diplomat. He has been sent by God to carry out this task of fulfilling the multinational vocation of Russian Orthodoxy at this time in history. This is his strength. Of course, he cannot do this alone, his task is administrative, he needs much help. We must also remember that the Russian Church not only has to fight against ecumenism and renovationist modernism (today battles mainly of the past, but from which we greatly suffered in England since the 1950s), but also against nationalism, ritualism, obscurantism, sectarianism, phariseeism, fanaticism, fundamentalism, with their censorious condemnations of others and lack of simple Christian charity.
These are all isms, just like ecumenism, modernism and renovationism. Beware of isms! Orthodoxy, like Christianity, for which it is the synonym, is not an ism. True, in Greek and in French the words for Christianity are isms, ‘Christianismos’ and ‘Christianisme’, but these are not the original words, only words adopted in recent centuries. In Greek the correct and original word for Christianity is ‘Orthodoxia’ and in French ‘Chrétienté’. And we know from the words of St Hilarion the New Martyr, and elsewhere, that there is no Christianity without the Church. And the Church is not an ism either.
A: Are you a pessimist about the future then?
Fr A: We must not despair. Ultimately, a Christian can only be an optimist. The last words in history belong to Christ. As regards our present state, there is much cause for pessimism. But God can heal all manmade disasters, whether ecological disasters like climate change or this so-called ‘credit crisis’ or Chernobyl. Look at Chernobyl, which in Ukrainian means ‘wormwood’. God said: ‘Behold, I will feed this people with wormwood and give them poisonous water to drink’ (Jeremiah 9, 15). But we know that processions with the Icon of the Chernobyl Saviour have actually cleansed areas of radiation. With God everything is possible, provided that there is repentance.
We must not limit God to the size of our tiny human minds. But God will only heal, if man allows Him to heal. The future is in our hands – in repentance. The main thing is that we must hurry to do God’s work, that is, to witness to Orthodoxy as the Christian way of life worldwide. And as Fr Seraphim Rose used to say, ‘It’s later than you think’ and as St Herman of Alaska said, ‘Let us hurry to do good’.