Monthly Archives: October 2016

The New Religious Crackdown in Russia

Since June, I’ve been following a new anti-religion law in Russia which has been getting almost no coverage in the US (probably drowned out by the election). It’s pretty disturbing. I’ve been watching it because the United Brethren church supports missionaries in Russia, though we can’t identify them on the internet.

On July 20, Vladimir Putin (well on his way to dictator status) approved new laws which severely restrict Christians. The laws are embedded in a package of anti-extremism and anti-terrorism laws designed to keep Russia safe (sound familiar?). Putin is using islamic terrorism as a pretext for clamping down on all religious activity.

  • Though not necessarily explicitly stated, the law does the following:
  • Restricts all religious activity to registered church buildings or other places specifically designated for religious activity.
  • Prohibits religious activities in private homes.
  • Bans house churches.
  • Bans informal witnessing–even responding to a friend’s questions.
  • Prohibits sharing faith online, even in an email or text.
  • Imposes fines of up to $15,000 on organizations.
  • Requires missionaries to have permits, with connections to officially registered churches. Missionaries need a government permit to speak in churches and other settings.
  • Requires citizens to report religious activity to authorities.

Russia’s Baptist Council of Churches said the new law “creates the basis for mass persecution of believers,” and described it as “the most draconian anti-religion bill to be proposed in Russia since Nikita Khrushchev promised to eliminate Christianity in the Soviet Union.”

Within a month of going into effect, at least seven people were arrested, including a Baptist preacher from the United States who held services in his home; he was convicted and fined. This past week, on October 11, a representative of the Ukrainian Reformed Orthodox Church was arrested while preaching to a Jewish group–something considered “illegal missionary activity.”

Putin built on his 2007 law that defined religious extremism as promoting “the superiority of one’s own religion.” That law has been used to arrest many nonviolent Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses and to label various religious texts as “extremist.”

The Billy Graham association cancelled a conference they had planned for October. The Mormon Church reassigned 65 missionasries who were originally assigned to Russia.

A Google search will produce a lot of information about the crackdown. However, it remains Page 4 stuff, and to my knowledge (I’ve searched), no presidential candidate has addressed it. Russia should not be our friend.

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Conservative Newspapers Opt for Clinton

I stumbled across a list of newspaper endorsements from the primaries. Nobody pays much attention to newspaper endorsements. However, I found it interesting that John Kasich–the guy I voted for–had 52 endorsements, more than any other Republican. Marco Rubio was second with 22. Trump had just four, including the National Enquirer and the paper owned by Ivanka’s husband.

I sure wish Kasich had won the primary. I’m quite certain he would have sailed to the Presidency. From a political resume standpoint, Kasich and Clinton had the two best resumes. It would have been great watching them square off in truly substantive debates about policy (as did, mostly, Obama and Romney). But, Republicans chose Donald Trump, the only candidate more flawed and damaged than Clinton, and it will cost them the election.

I realize (now) that the Republican Party has changed in fundamental ways, becoming an electorate motivated too much by fear and anger, and overly willing to give a pass to lots of very, very immoral stuff. I’m guessing, sadly, that this mindset will become even more entrenched by 2020. Kasich, like me, doesn’t fit in that party anymore.

Several newspapers which have been conservative bastions have endorsed Clinton this year. The Dallas Morning News and Arizona Republic had NEVER endorsed a Democrat for president, and the Cincinnati Enquirer hadn’t endorsed a Democrat in nearly 100 years. During the primaries, all three of those newspapers endorsed John Kasich. For the general election, they very surprisingly chose to endorse Clinton.

Most recently, the USA Today sided with Clinton, or at least against Trump. Their article was excellent.

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The Missed Opportunity Plague

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Eminent theologian Dave Barry says overrunning Egypt with frogs was the type of originality which earned God the title “Supreme Being.” Did this plague ever strike you as odd? As not particularly fearsome?

Frogs was the second plague, when God was just getting warmed up. Maybe he was using frogs as a somewhat harmless demonstration. “Imagine if this was camel spiders–because instead of a bunch of frogs, I could definitely do camel spiders.” I mean, it’s like overrunning the country with Beanie Babies. Unless there was something in Egyptian culture that led to an unusual fear of frogs, just as in modern day America, we have a fear of, well, just about everything, including getting vaccinated against smallpox.

The picture shows a camel spider, one of the major reasons to never ever visit Egypt. Later plagues included swarming the country with lice, flies, and locusts, but not even a wrathful God would cover the land in camel spiders. Although, if #2 had been camel spiders instead of Kermits, there might have been only two plagues and the Israelites would have hit the road a whole lot sooner. Then, instead of the Passover, Jews would annually celebrate the Feast of Camel Spiders.

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