Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Russian Nationalism

Political institutions in Russia continue to suppress membership growth.  It is a single data point supporting the proposition I made in “Culture vs. Political and Economic Institutions,” that political and economic institutions may be more important determinants of church growth than culture.  The economic theory upon which my suggestion is based was developed by Acemoglu and Robinson who divide institutions into two types: inclusive and extractive.  The church is an inclusive institution that uses its resources to develop the talent and ability of members, feed and clothe the poor, and educate its youth.  The Soviet Union was an example of a political system set up by Communist Party elites to establish powerful extractive institutions to maintain their wealth and power.

The Soviet Union collapsed from the weight of its extractive institutions which inherently lack innovation.  A somewhat freer Russia rose from the wreckage.  Many freedoms expanded including religious freedom.  In 1989, the church began to hold meetings and missionaries arrived shortly afterward. 

While freedom grew, it did not blossom.  Freedom House gives Russia a rating of 5.5 out of 7 in freedom, and the Heritage Foundation rates its economic freedom as mostly unfree.  The church occasionally runs afoul of the government which still requires members to register their religious affiliation.  In an “Into All The World” episode, Charles Cranney, a former president of the Russia, Moscow Mission, described how a tightening of the visas reduced the number of missionaries in his mission to 27.  Anna Nemtsova writes  
Last autumn, Mr Putin called on police to monitor "totalitarian sects" supposedly threatening Russia's internal security. At a meeting at his Novo-Ogarevo residence last October, he also hinted that religious groups might have less-than-holy motives for attracting members. "This is not just a hunt for souls," he intoned. "This is a hunt for people's property."
Political protests followed in which members of groups with ties to Putin’s party claimed that missionaries were sent by the FBI and CIA, a false rumor probably as old as the CIA and one I heard as a missionary in Argentina during that countries Dirty War.  I don’t know who the CIA hires, but they must have much better political connections than missionaries who are busy preaching the gospel.  If you don’t believe me, follow one.  You will be converted or bored to tears. 

Obstacles are not new to missionaries.  Some political obstacles such as war, banning of meetings or missionaries may prove impossible to overcome in the short run but members will continue to pray and work to fulfill the mandate of the church.  

No comments:

Post a Comment