It is no secret that I grew up in the Slavic (Ukrainian/Russian) Church. It is also not a secret that I don’t fully agree with all of its traditions, theology, and trajectories. That said, Slavic’s are a great people, not worse or better than any other people. Like with any other people group, some Slavic’s tend to be superstitious, religious, and culturally elitist. Some think they are better and more right than any other group. Fortunately there are more Slavic’s that are humble, kind, and I am honored to know them or of them. That said, there are specific rumors that often rise up in certain Slavic church communities. These rumors are regarding “American Churches.” Obviously there are some Slavic’s that don’t hold to such incorrect ideas, but there are enough that do.
1. “American churches have easier Christianity”
This one I literally heard in person on many occasions. One particular time, there was a group of older people scolding a group of youths. They proceeded to vilify the fact that the young people visited an American church. In the midst of this the older people pronounced that “those who go to American churches do it because they want an easy Christianity that allows sin.” Their (silly) argument continued after I left. I head this same idea more times than I can count. Even now there are people who still assume anyone who leaves a Russian Church for an American one, is obviously leaving to a place where its “easier” to be a Christian because more sins are permitted. Rubbish! This idea is created because some Slavic’s have created a big list of cultural rules. As some people earnestly sacrifice much to “follow the rules” they see others who don’t “follow the rules.” And thus (subconsciously) this idea is born that “our Christianity is harder and needs more sacrifices therefore its holier than theirs.” The only problem is “our Christianity” very often refers to cultural rules not Biblical rules. For example if Slavic’s mandate women to wear skirts, and see women from other nationalities not wearing them, there is a propensity to judge them as disobedient. Everyone is free to do as they please, but to judge another culture because they don’t do what you do is outside the bounds of Biblical Christianity. In my own experience, I found those that were being judged had far deeper roots into Biblical Christianity than those doing the judging. I also found out why the judged had it “easier,” it was because they had the Gospel, and Christ’s burden is indeed “easy” (Mat 11:28-30).
2. “American churches promote divorce”
Recently the world is undergoing a big demographic change, in part due to social engineering. As if the flood gates have broken, most societies are becoming very open to divorce. The world has changed from pride and selfishness in “maintain family honor” to the pride and selfishness in “following your feelings.” Where in the past, even non-believers would not divorce, due to social stigma and to maintain their pride, today even believers get divorced. I once spoke with a man who was convinced all American churches are filled with divorcees. I tried to bring up Mars Hill Church as a counter example. He stated that “everyone” was divorced there. I tried to call out the error in his (rude) hyperbole. Ultimately he admitted he had never even been to Mars Hill, but was still convinced they and everyone else in American churches was divorced. He was not the only one I have heard this from. Many of the people who I called my friends have said this as well. The problem in part is the media is quick to make wild statements like “50% of Christians are divorced” or “More Christians than nonbelievers are divorced.” However, when this is critically reviewed, you will find that active conservative Christian divorce rates are less by at least 35%. Though it should be noted that divorce rates in our modern world are rising. However, it’s interesting that Russia has a higher divorce rate than the United States, according to some, in 2012, Russia had the world’s highest divorce rate. (1, 2)
3. ”American churches will fall apart in persecution“
I will admit this one is less popular than the other two, although it is popular enough that I believed this during my teenage years. This one is probably very simple. From the outside, we Slavic’s looked at American churches, and in confusion we saw that they did not follow our rules. Therefore, in our minds we thought they were backslidden, or at best, weak Christians. We, on the other hand, were battle tested. Our parents and grandparents survived the Soviet era persecutions. Therefore, we were prepared to deal with adversity, yet the Americans were not. This idea I both heard, and accepted for a time. In fact, I was always really scared for American churches. I felt as if they were built on a very thin foundation of entertainment and coolness, and at the first adversity, they would simply scatter. It should be noted here that the world’s greatest men, Christ’s disciples, also scattered in the Garden. And yet we don’t look down upon them, do we? Nonetheless, as I met more American Christians, I began to see many that had an even deeper foundation than my cultural “persecuted Church” pride. You see, they cared more about Christ than their own ability to survive persecution, and that shook the foundations of my world.