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Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Living in the Underground Church

I'm beginning another post on the topic of the month, but this will be very general, with lessons learned drawn from a variety of situations.

I've been watching a film produced by the underground Russian Baptist Church a full generation ago, at the very height of persecution, but less than a decade before it ended. When this video was recently shown to believers in Mongolia (where the church emerged only after the fall of Communism), this was their recorded response: 
They looked at the faces in that video and saw people who had genuinely given themselves to Christ in the face of the great risk of prison camps and torture. They commented that such real conviction was entirely different from the sort of 'Christianity' seen in Mongolia, where nominal adherence to Christianity and easy believism has been spread by missionaries and now by Mongolians who are encouraged by missionaries to travel the world and sow the same seed where-ever. The Mongolians who saw the video felt highly embarrassed that the character of Christendom in Mongolia is completely different from those shown on the film who wholly dedicated themselves to Christ in spite of the tremendous danger and cost. 
We in the West have much to learn from these saints, now mostly living in our midst, who can still tell us how their faith was able to thrive despite living their entire lives under incremental state opposition. For example, their leader since 1965, Gennadi Kryuchkov, went into hiding in lieu of sure imprisonment--and, for an incredible twenty years, lived in a totalitarian country tantalizingly beyond the reach of the mighty KGB, who were so frustrated in their vain attempts to bring him to ground that one of them said it almost made a believer of him. His fugitive status outlasted the KGB itself, as he led the church that entire time from behind a curtain of invisibility until he at last emerged triumphant. In fact, in an incredibly bold move, he even emerged briefly after 19 years to address a national conference, only to disappear again while the communist regime concluded its death throes.

I'd like to quote the opening paragraph of Gennadi's obituary (posted in The Guardian), and I trust my readers will see the parallels to recent show trials in the American Northeast:
It was past midnight at the end of the second day of the trial of Russian Baptist pastors Gennadi Kryuchkov and Georgi Vins. Having been denied his request for seven supporting witnesses and a proper defence counsel, Kryuchkov exercised his right to a "final address", using the dock virtually as a pulpit. "I'm happy to stand before you as a Christian ... Those brethren who are in prisons and camps are suffering, not for having broken Soviet law, but for having been faithful to God and his church. They suffer for Christ, who called them to a new life. Among them are reformed criminals."

Developing . . .

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