Something more than materialism

“During the 1939-45 War, in the darkest days of Russia when the German army was within a few miles of both Leningrad and Moscow, Stalin did a most extraordinary thing.

You might have expected that as a convinced Marxist he would have had readings from Das Kapital on the Soviet radio in order to stiffen up the sinews and summon up the blood of his fellow countrymen.

But he didn’t do that, for the name of Marx was unmentioned in those dark days.  What he did do was a characteristic Stalinist thing, he fetched the Patriarch and one or two other prelates from the labour camp where they were languishing and brought them to the Kremlin and set them up in business again.

In other words, he reestablished for the time being the Russian Orthodox Church.  It’s one of those very significant incidents that tends to get forgotten.

I wonder what it must have been like in the camp when the poor old Patriarch was told that Stalin wanted to set him up again.  The order to get all his vestments and things would have come as quite a shock to him.

But that is exactly what happened, because Stalin knew that to get the Russian people to fight to the end with their backs to the wall, he needed something more than Marxist materialism.”

Malcolm Muggeridge, The End of Christendom, pg. 15

2 thoughts on “Something more than materialism

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  1. I guess you will argue the power of religion, but to ask people to fight to death – move forward to Jahad suicide bombers – I think this is the main reason people today do not engage with religion the way they once did in their masses.
    I dispaire when religion is used to justify violence – Can not help thinking it is counter intuitive to the actual beliefs.

    1. Hi Mark. I think I understand this short account differently. I am definitely not advocating the use of religion for violence, and I don’t think this account does that.

      What I think it is trying to say is something very different. Remember it said the Priests were also in prison and labour camps. They were banished by a Russian Marxist ideology. But the point is not that they willingly joined in cahoots with Stalin, but that Stalin ran out of ideas because Marxism wasn’t worth dying for. It is certainly not the case that this is about getting men and women to die for their Marxist country by using religion, but rather, Marxism had nothing ultimate left to offer. Plus, the priests etc, were seconded in, they were reestablished to be priests to the people.
      You are absolutely right that Christianity is counter-intuitive to the use of violence, but I suppose it says a lot about the Russian Church that its imprisoned priests were compromised, yes! But willing to go to the people who were forced to fight – that’s all about where man’s ideology ends, and is seen as a failure, where does he/she turn….to something other than a man-made ideology!

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