There was a time when some people called the (Patriarchal) Russian Orthodox Church inside Russia ‘The Soviet Church’. This was of course absurd. Whereas Soviet means atheist, Orthodox means Christian, and you cannot have atheist Christians. It is absurd as saying ‘Secular Christians’ (although they exist outside the Orthodox Church and are even proud of it). For us Mammon and Christ do not mix. You are either one or the other, as the New Martyrs of the Church inside Russia witness. On the other hand, it is true that some people in the Russian Orthodox Church inside Russia, oppressed by the illegitimate Soviet regime, did take on certain deformities. What were they?
Firstly, the Soviet Union was an imperialist power. Its ideology was that of the Third International, whose agenda was world conquest. Thus, still today among some individuals, supposedly Orthodox, we see a mentality of imperialism and domination, a racist arrogance towards Non-Russian nationalities. More than this, we see a certain love-of-money and prestige careerism with pseudo-intellectualism and banditry among certain clergy, who, as clericalists, treat the faithful with contempt, as a mob or cattle who have to be hosed down, as it were.
Secondly, as a result of this kow-towing to an imperialist ideology, there is among some a centralisation and bureaucracy of paperwork: nothing can be done without authorisation from a distant above and until huge numbers of forms have been filled in. As a result of such a delocalised, top-down system, many good bishops and good clergy can be transferred somewhere else, unsettling and making protest their flock, for whom they have shown pastoral care. This is because the Church administration is run like a corporation or department of State.
Thirdly, there is the disease of superstitious magic, the search for ‘miracles’, which is the result of 75 years of enforced ignorance by the Soviet regime. However, Soviet oppression ended thirty years ago and its continued existence today, in the age of free information on the internet, is simply a sign of voluntary ignorance, laziness and inertia. Therefore, still widespread is holy water idolatry and many other forms of ‘magic’ animism, comparable to those in pagan Africa.
These three attitudes, the will for domination, bureaucratic centralisation and superstitious magic, are evidence not of Christianity, but of love of power and love of money. These attitudes are opposed to the pastoral care for the faithful, to love. And without love, everything else, infrastructure, organisation, administration, websites, books, statistics, photographs, is merely a hollow shell, a house of cards and ‘sounding brass’. If there is no love, as the Apostle says, they are as nothing.
Of course, these attitudes are not at all unique to the Soviet and now post-Soviet Russian Orthodox Church dependent directly on Moscow. They can be found in every nation, in every age and in every Church, including in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, as a result of the desire for power and money. For example, they were all clearly manifest in the re-Revolutionary Russian Orthodox Church, as any historian, or anyone who knew the now departed representatives of that age, can tell you. Indeed, many would agree that if that Church fell victim to the Revolution, it was precisely because so many of its representatives confessed not Christianity, but an arrogant racism, a bureaucratic centralisation and a superstitious magic Beware: revolutions can happen a second time.