Staunton, March 21 – Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church has never been a supporter of humanism and human rights, but now in the sharpest terms yet he has denounced “the global heresy of bowing down to the human” – in Russian, “chelovekopoklonnichestva” – as a new form of idolatry that threatens to drive “God out of human life and the life of society.”
In remarks yesterday, Kirill said that at present, many around the world present the human being and his rights as “a universal criteria of truth,” a mistaken view that is responsible for “the revolutionary exiling of God from human life and from the life of society” and that must be opposed (interfax.ru/russia/499346).
Today, the Russian churchman said, “we are speaking about the global heresy of bowing down to the human, a new idolatry which drives God out of human life. There has never been anything like this on a global scale.” And it must be opposed by the church and healthy elements in society in order to avoid “apocalyptic events.”
Among those events, the patriarch added, has been the assertion “with the help of law of the right of any choice of an individual including the most sinful which violates God’s word,” a clear reference to same sex marriages and the Russian church’s unqualified opposition to such unions.
Kirill then recalled his first teachers, his father and grandfather who he said “passed through jails and camps not because they violated state laws but because “they refused to betray the Lord and the Orthodox church.” In fact, as Moscow commentators have pointed out, Kirill is misrepresenting the situation and putting himself and the church on the side of their jailors.
Indeed, Ilya Milshteyn says that “by calling Russians to holiness and threatening an apocalypse, [the Russian patriarch] in essence has spoken in defense of the current regime” which has no interest in protecting or even acknowledging universal human rights (grani.ru/opinion/milshtein/m.249779.html).
Another commentator, Aleksandr Plyushchev, makes a similar point, noting that the Soviet Union had not signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and acted as if its subjects had no human rights against “the ideology of the authoritarian state” (echo.msk.ru/blog/plushev/1733418-echo/).
Plyushchev continues that Kirill’s latest declaration not only reflect his subservience to the state but are “the words of an openly weak leader of a shaky institution. A strong idea doesn’t need force to win people over.” Only a weak one does, and thus it is not surprising that “a weak one always needs a monopoly and the denial of free choice.”
Those who object that the US is a religious society but also one that reflects human rights, Plyushchev points out that there religions adapt themselves to society in order to win converts rather than seek to impose their will by force. Thus, there are indeed many churches in Boston but on every other one of them, there is the flag of the gay rights movement.
And Boris Vishnevsky, a Yabloko deputy in St. Petersburg’s legislative assembly, sums up what is dangerously wrong with Kirill’s position. He notes that “the Russian Orthodox Church considers that the powers that be are from God” even though the Russian constitution specifies that “the source of power is the people” (echo.msk.ru/blog/boris_vis/1733180-echo/).
That is something Kirill’s latest declaration shows that both the Russian Church and the Russian state need to be reminded of, he suggests.