Let us be clear: Spiritually speaking, the only reason to love a country and its culture is because of their spiritual content. Therefore, spiritually speaking, the only reason to dislike a country and its culture (we never dislike any people, because, like ourselves, they are God’s Creation and are therefore redeemable) is because of their lack of spiritual content. As regards any phobia towards any people, this must be due to a lack of love.
For example, I remember my last visit to the Soviet Union in 1976, when Brezhnev ruled. I remember saying then that I would never return until that government was free of official atheism and had stopped persecuting the millennial Church of the people. And indeed I did not return until 2007, when, in utterly different circumstances, the President stood by the Patriarch in repentance before us in the rebuilt Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow.
In speaking of Russophobia, we are not speaking of the temporary political captivity of the Russian Orthodox Church inside Russia and its representatives outside Russia during the Soviet era. Given the decadence of most, though not all, of its parishes outside Russia at that time, as we discovered to our cost, anyone who wished to join the Russian Orthodox Church had only to join its free part, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR).
Here then, in speaking of Russophobia, we are speaking of the refusal to have anything to do with any part of the Russian Orthodox Church. What can lie behind such a refusal? It can only be cultural prejudice – which, like all prejudice, is a spiritual disease, a lack of experience and faith. Let us take, for instance, those who say that they cannot have anything to do with the Russian Orthodox Church because they are ‘Western’.
A first example:
This was an American I met a year ago, who told me that: ‘I will join your Church but only when Russia is a member of NATO and run by Americans’. And yet his is the country that welcomes newcomers not with a statue of Christ or His Cross, but with the statue of a colossal, ‘neo-classical’ (= neo-pagan), horned goddess on ‘Liberty Island’ in New York Harbour. This prophesies the prophetic words of St John of Shanghai – that the USA will fail because of its licence and greed.
A second example
This was the case of an Anglican about four years ago, who said that he could not join us because it was ‘alien to his Western culture’. Strangely enough, a little later, he ended up by joining one of the Greek Patriarchates. Out of pure curiosity I then asked him why he had made this choice. He answered that it was because ‘these people are Western, they give communion to all, they do not have confession before communion, they have adopted ‘our’ calendar, they have pews and seats and I can continue to be a freemason’. I said nothing, but thought his reasoning spiritually shallow and even empty. Later he lapsed. It came as no surprise to me.
A third example:
For years, indeed decades, we showed great patience with a convert from Anglo-Catholicism – how he loved to call himself a convert – never Orthodox. On paper he was a member of the Russian Church, but continually criticised it very harshly. Eventually, and it must be said that many felt relieved at this, he left to join a sect – which is what really he had always wanted; a Protestant wants to protest and ends by setting up his own personal church, that is, by forming a sect. I understood this fully when a year after he had left, his new ‘bishop’ wrote to me on another subject, asking why I thought that the CIA was not an honourable organisation, since many of his members worked for it!
A fourth example:
Seven years ago, like a little group in Estonia a few years before them, like a little group in North America decades before them and like a little group in France even before them, a small group of mainly elderly ex-Anglicans in this country left a strange part of the Russian Church, though claiming to retain its ‘Tradition’. For decades that group had persecuted any who had tried to restore that part of the Church to normal practices, forcing them to leave. Now they failed to explain how, now even formally outside the Russian Church, they would be faithful to something to which they had never been faithful.
In each case, a prejudice, a lack of love, a spiritual deformity, a spiritual disease causing spiritual blindness was responsible for Russophobia.