Church and State in Russia

According to The New York Times, Russia is having some church / state issues:

One of the most discordant debates in Russian society is playing out in public schools like those in this city not far from Moscow, where the other day a teacher named Irina Donshina set aside her textbooks, strode before her second graders and, as if speaking from a pulpit, posed a simple question:

“Whom should we learn to do good from?”

“From God!” the children said.

“Right!” Ms. Donshina said. “Because people he created crucified him. But did he accuse them or curse them or hate them? Of course not! He continued loving and feeling pity for them, though he could have eliminated all of us and the whole world in a fraction of a second.”

Maybe this is good news. After all, a society needs a certain level of stability before they can afford to worry about such things.


As presented in the article, the debate unfolds precisely as it does in this country. Church leaders claim that religious education is essential to understanding the culture and heritage of their country. Representatives of other faiths worry about their children being indoctrinated into the wrong religion.

My only comment is to note that statements like this:

“The goal, I would say, is that all the powers that be, the church and the government, make sure that people, children, know their history and their roots,” said the Rev. Vladimir Pakhachev, a church leader here who helps oversee the curriculum.

seem pretty disingenuous in light of this:

Nearby, Ms. Donshina, the second-grade teacher, led her students in reciting the Ten Commandments before pointing to a tiny tree at the front of the room with branches but no leaves.

“Faith in God is as important for every human as the root for a tree,” she said. “But our tree unfortunately has died just like a human soul can die without doing good. This is what happens to people who do not do good things and do not follow God’s laws.”

She asked the children to choose from a group of flowers, some with Christian virtues written on them, some with undesirable qualities, and attach those with the virtues to the tree.

She ended with a discussion of the Russian saints, saying that they “have shown us how one must live to be close to God.” With that, she dismissed the class, but not before giving a piece of chocolate to each child.

Why is it that educating children about their cultural heritage so often seems indistinguishable from religious indoctrination?

Comments

  1. #1 Tyler DiPietro
    September 22, 2007

    “Why is it that educating children about their cultural heritage so often seems indistinguishable from religious indoctrination?”

    It would seem so, especially in the case of Russia. The heritage of that country involves more than Orthodox Christianity (which they inherited when Byzantium fell), it also involves Tsarism and a long succession of brutal despotisms. They are likely one in the same.

  2. #2 Stuart Coleman
    September 22, 2007

    Why is it that educating children about their cultural heritage so often seems indistinguishable from religious indoctrination?

    Because it’s just a euphemism for indoctrination into the chosen religion.

  3. #3 dm
    September 22, 2007

    Hooo boy,

    I’m not sure religious indoctrination is any better than than a communist one. As much as I want to export our own (US) crazies, I’m not sure Russia is where I want them to go.

    What is it in human evolution that seeks magic as an explanation of anything? Is our penchant for pattern recognition in the waving grass so strong that we have to see dangers everywhere?

    There has to be something, otherwise it would not be so pervasive.

    dm

  4. #4 XIMIK
    September 22, 2007

    It is all part of Russian Orthodox Church’s strategy to expand its influence and power. There was a letter, leaked and published last year AFAIR, from the head of the Church instructing perishes to promote teaching of “cultural heritage” if teaching of “God’s law” draws objections from parents and officials.
    Sadly, very few, if any, officials voice objections to expanding power of ROC…

  5. #5 Anonymous
    September 23, 2007

    And we think that we have church-state separation problems! LOL

    As you might be aware, a stupid federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled that even the mere mention of intelligent design in a public school science class is a violation of the establishment clause.

  6. #6 David Dufty
    September 23, 2007

    I agree that this is a worrying development. However it’s important to keep in mind the context of this story. Russia is in the midst of widespread social collapse.
    In this context, seeing Russia being decimated by AIDS, TB, alcoholism, and other problems, maybe this teacher is trying to make a stand in the only way she knows how. Maybe she’s decided that trying to go through the charade of normal education in that kind of situation is just ridiculous.
    Again, not to endorse religious indoctrination. I’m just saying that we shouldn’t draw parallels to education debates in America from this story.

  7. #7 Oleg
    September 23, 2007

    ??? ???????, ??? ??? ?????? ??????…

  8. #8 Ginger Yellow
    September 23, 2007

    Because people he created crucified him. But did he accuse them or curse them or hate them? Of course not! He continued loving and feeling pity for them, though he could have eliminated all of us and the whole world in a fraction of a second.

    What a standard, eh? We’re supposed to be grateful that he didn’t kill all of creation (for nearly the second time), because people he made sinful and suffering did exactly what he knew they would do. Not only that, but we’re supposed to take moral guidance from this genocidal sociopath.

  9. #9 Fred
    September 23, 2007

    Didn’t God kill off nearly every living thing on the planet (the flood) because he was angry? Great role model.

  10. #10 Fred
    September 23, 2007

    God causes, or at the very least allows all suffering on earth (and presumably throughout the entire universe). Again, not a very good role model.

  11. #11 Dale Husband
    September 23, 2007

    “As you might be aware, a stupid federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled that even the mere mention of intelligent design in a public school science class is a violation of the establishment clause.”

    Note that the post above was made anonymously, like a coward would. We don’t need trolls around here.

  12. #12 wrpd
    September 23, 2007

    This is the same church that declared Nicholas II a saint in 2000.

  13. #13 Shelley
    September 24, 2007

    The Russian Orthodox Church has a long history of being subservient to the state. During the Soviet years, many of the highest (as well as more common) ROC officials were active members of the KGB and promoted the party line. It is likely that ROC is still entangled with the State and so for some reason the State wants religion taught. But I would be interested in what spin is put on church/state obligations by the ROC currently? Probably propangandizing unquestioning compliance with government decisions.

  14. #14 W. Kevin Vicklund
    September 24, 2007

    Actually, Dale, it is mendacity rather than cowardice that motivated our anonymous commenter. The comment was left by Larry Fafarman, who is banned from commenting on this blog and therefor can’t comment under his real name.

  15. #15 Deepsix
    October 3, 2007

    “Мне кажется, что это совсем лишнее…”

    я соглашаюсь Олег

  16. #16 Deepsix
    October 3, 2007

    Ouch. That did not format correctly at all.

    It should say, “I agree, Oleg” – in cyrillic.

  17. #17 olunlar1
    December 4, 2007

    Askeri helikopterler, kuzey Irak topraklar? iinde silah ve mhimmat y???na?? yap?yor.