Staunton, December 20 – Religious leaders of all the major confessions aspire to influence the lives of ordinary Russians, but they aren’t doing so in large part because most people live without paying any attention to religion except when religious leaders are caught up in scandals or are behind extremism of one kind or another, the editors of Nezavisimaya gazeta say.
In fact, they continue in a lead article, “the word of the pastor doesn’t leave the churches or prayer houses, people do not carry it in their hearts. Citizens live their own life, and the spiritual bureaucracy lives it. Sometimes, these intersect but rarely for mutual benefit” (ng.ru/editorial/2019-12-19/2_7757_editorial.html).
Rumors are now spreading that the Moscow Patriarchate, worried about its lack of influence in society, wants its priests to get involved in posting positive stories about the church on the Internet so that when people look for information there about the church they will find something other than embarrassing data, the editors say.
The church’s concern on this point is fully understandable, but it is “more difficult” to be sympathetic to it. All mainstream, “traditional” faiths are able to practice their religions without much interference. They even are defended by the police and have the chance to spread their views via television.
“Metropolitans, muftis, rabbis, and lamas sometimes float across the blue screens” but their present leaves viewers indifferent. The TV cameras focus on them only for a moment and then turn to more important civic personalities, and that is obvious to everyone as it clearly is intended to be.
“It is obvious to the unaided eye that the higher spiritual leadership would like more: to take over the education of the younger generation, to support the spirit of people in the military, and to provide comfort to those in prison.” But “despite many years of effort in these directions, their successes are extremely modest.”
Moreover, Nezavisimaya gazeta says, the news is full of stories not only about religious fanatics but “also about sybarites from among the clergy.” Neither of these lead ordinary people to view religion in a positive light; and at least with regard to the latter, the church could be doing something to prevent such reports.
But that isn’t happening. Instead, the religious leaders seem committed to defending their subordinates rather than taking actions to spread their faith and more obsessed about the numbers of followers they can claim than the real number of believers who act on the basis of what their faiths tell them.
In such a situation, the editors conclude, it is no surprise that religion is rapidly becoming something marginal, not because of state oppression as in Soviet times but rather because of the behavior of the leaders of religious groups themselves.