As a Russian Christian I have learned to love and appreciate America for its spiritual heritage. The more I study the history of the United States, the more I find identity with its first settlers who es caped persecution and built a country based upon freedom. Beyond satisfying their own yearning for personal and spiritual opportunities, they wanted to proclaim the gospel freely.
The more I probe history, the more convinced I am that democracy exists only where the biblical principle of individual dignity is maintained. The respect for the individual as a sacred, unique being is not rooted in the French Revolution, Marxism, or any other political ideology. Nations loyal to such biblical principles—and to the Author of those principles—will enjoy prosperity and divine protection.
As a child in the Soviet Union before the days of perestroika, I had to attend an atheistic school. Morning by morning after my mother awakened me and got me breakfast, she opened her Bible and read me Galatians 6:7: "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap" (NKJV). Knowing I would encounter ridicule, disrespect, and isolation, she encouraged me by saying, "Since God cannot be mocked, Michael, His cause will triumph in your life and in our country."
At times it seemed as if the opposite were true, as if the devil were triumphing and God and His cause were being mocked—even in America. Christianity Today recently reported that more than 800 American church leaders demanded an end to what they consider an anti-Christian bigotry in the nation's major media. Their statement called for the entertainment industry to "stop its unbalanced portrayal of characters depicted as Christians in its movies and television programs. This anti- Christian bias in movies and programs is not acceptable to us, just as it is not acceptable to all fair-minded Americans. .. . Rarely on programs or movies cast in a modern day setting are Christians shown in a neutral, much less a positive manner."' Statements were sent to NEC, CBS, ABC, and Fox Television, as well as to Columbia Pictures, MCA/Universal, MGM/ UA Communications, Paramount Entertainment, Warner Brothers, Twentieth Century Fox, Lorimar, and Walt Disney studios. Lew Wasserman, chairman of the board of MCA/Universal, responded by citing the company's right to free speech: "We do not, and we cannot with any sense of conscience, censor our filmmakers."2
Well, the Lord does not censor them either. Nevertheless, time will tell that He will not be mocked.
To Christians in Russia and the other former Soviet republics, it seemed as if the opposite was true during the seven decades of Communist rule. Destruction of churches fol lowed immediately after the 1917 revolution and intensified after Lenin's death. Almost every religious structure was demolished, disfigured, or turned into a warehouse or museum. Antireligious campaigns swept the country, with millions cast into prison camps. During Stalin's purges of the 1930s, more than 7 million people were massacred by their own government in a time of peace. Our historians now publicly acknowledge that 20 million citizens died under Stalin. That's beyond an additional 20 million who perished in World War II.
My father as a young Seventh-day Adventist minister was imprisoned for a year with a man who received a 15-year sentence because he said something construed to be anti-government. Overwhelmed with despair at being separated from his wife and children, he banged his head against the concrete walls of the cell. My father tried to comfort him with the hope and peace of Christian faith.
Matriarch leaders through the darkness
The church itself had no human hope during Stalin's reign. Christians met secretly. When discovered, they were harassed, imprisoned, and even beheaded. Churches had no organized leadership, no literature, no communication with the outside world. In hundreds of congregations, women whose husbands were in prison be came pastors and leaders without any formal ministerial training. For decades they were God's anointed leaders, modeling and fostering fidelity to God whatever the cost. They brought the Bible to life without benefit of visual aids and other teaching tools. I recall those dear mothers with respect and admiration. Their courage, vision, and faith will inspire Russian Christians for many future generations.
During the years of darkness, great fires at custom check points consumed millions of Bibles and other Christian books brought to the border by believers from around the world. Al though Bibles were burned to ashes, the fire in the hearts of Soviet believers could not be quenched.
Humiliation and intimidation of Christian children happened on a massive scale. Parents were threatened with the loss of their little ones if they persisted in teaching them about God. Many families were torn apart. I report this not to arouse animosity toward those hundreds of thou sands who persecuted their neighbors and fellow citizens. Rather, I want to portray the bankruptcy, bewilderment, and agony of emptiness to which whole nations are driven when God is abandoned.
Reaping what we have sown
"Don't be deceived—God cannot be mocked," my mother taught me. "We reap whatever we sow." Even in my youth I could see the truth of this at work in the Soviet Union, although for seven decades, millions and mil lions denied it. Finally reality came. Our society now stands before God empty-handed, desperate, and bitter toward the false gods and corrupt leaders of the past who brought the country to ruin. We are starving for repentance, forgiveness, God's Word, and the warmth of His love.
God will not be mocked; through out the universe this principle reflects as in a mirror the mind of its Creator.
What some call "laws of nature" are, from the biblical point of view, the will of God. "Caprice and instability are the marks of finite and fallen creatures; we may not dare to suppose that these traits can mark the procedure of the infinite and all-holy Creator. In our blind conceit, we may suppose that there is a way of escape for us from the stern regularity of His moral judgement, that we may sin and not be punished, that we may violate moral laws and escape moral deterioration, but herein we deceive our selves."3
Good news for all
Thank God, there is good news for us in Russia and the other former Soviet republics. It also is good news for Americans and for every human being under the sun. The universe reveals a mightier law at work than God's law of cause and effect; the apostle Paul calls it the law of Christ. Through the miracle of God's love and redemption, we who have sown sin and failure may reap instead the reward of what Christ has sown. God does not desire that any human being or nation reap the consequences of foolish or arrogant deeds. In love He warns us, seeking to save us from our sin. And He will not permit the forces of evil to prevail forever.
In my country, institutes of scientific atheism in huge marbled buildings lay abandoned, empty now. No body wants to study scientific atheism anymore. The Russian parliament voted that all atheistic societies, plus the faculties and departments of atheism in all national universities, be taken off the national budget.
At a recent international book fair in Moscow, many Western publishing houses featured popular displays of the best Christian literature. One American group, however, displayed atheistic material. I noticed that the least number of people approached that booth. Two or three who did went with a complaint; "Please, don't get offended—but don't bring this rubbish here. You don't know what it leads to. We Russians know very well."
Few in my country buy atheistic books anymore. Almost all the people, from factory workers to university professors, want to own a Bible. People of the former U.S.S.R. grasp every opportunity for spiritual and intellectual development.
In the fall of 1990 I went to the Siberian city of Novosibirsk on invitation from several universities to lecture on the Bible and the history of Protestant Christianity. Wherever I went, hundreds of students and faculty gathered to listen to the gospel story and the meaning of Christian faith. Everywhere in my country I have found great spiritual hunger and an eagerness to accept Christianity.
How the situation has changed in the former Soviet Union! During the seventies, my atheistic schoolmates mocked and humiliated me. Fellow students threatened to spit in my face in their hatred toward Christianity. Now faith in Christ is welcomed as the only hope for the moral restoration of the nation. Recent world events eloquently proclaim that all false gods, forced values, and human theories of salvation will ultimately collapse. Gospel truth will prevail. God cannot be mocked.
1. Quoted in Christianity Today, Apr. 29, 1991, p. 40.
3. Speaker's Bible, on Galatians, p. 91.