Beliefnet
Rod Dreher

In a combox thread below, I mentioned that my priest yesterday said in his homily that one of these days, a general persecution of Christians is coming; his point was, more or less, to ask if they start putting people on trial for being Christian, will there be enough evidence to convict any of us? A very good question. A year or two ago, I posted on my old blog a reflection on clergy sexual scandals in the Catholic and Orthodox churches, in which I cautioned that the rotten behavior of (we) Christians could have a catastrophic society-wide effect if we destroy by scandal the power of our witness to the culture. In that blog, I recalled the words of Father Arseny, a Russian Orthodox priest thrown into the gulag by the Bolsheviks. He was drawn into an argument among the prisoners about who was responsible for the catastrophe of communist rule. He responded:

“You say that the Communists have arrested the believers, closed churches, trampled on faith. Yes, it does look that way, on the surface, but let us look into this more deeply, let us glance at the past. Among us Russian people many have lost the faith, lost respect for our past, we lost much of what was precious and good. Who is at fault? The authorities? No, we are at fault ourselves, we are only reaping what we ourselves have sown.
“Let us remember the bad examples set by the intelligentsia, the nobility, the merchants, and the civil servants. We in the priesthood were the worst of them all.
“Children of priests became atheists, and revolutionaries, simply because they had seen in their families lies and a lack of true faith. Long before the revolution priests had already lost the real right to be the shepherds of their people, of their conscience. Priesthood became a profession. Many priests were atheists and alcoholics.
“From among all the monasteries of our land, only five or six were real beacons of Christianity. … Others became communities with almost no faith in them. What could the people learn from such monasteries? What kind of example was set?
“We did not raise our people right, we did not give them the basis of strong faith. Remember all this! Remember! This is why the people were so quick to forget all of us, their own priests; they mainly forgot their faith and participated in the destruction of churches, sometimes even leading the way in their destruction.
“Understanding all of this, I cannot point a finger at our authorities, because the seeds of faithlessness fell on the soil which we ourselves had prepared. And from there comes the rest: our camp, our sufferings, the wrongful deaths of innocent people. …”

…”the seeds of faithlessness fell on the soil which we ourselves had prepared.” These chastening words of an innocent priest victim of communist persecution should cause all of us Christians — clergy and laity alike — to reflect on our own responsibilities in the here and now.

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