Orthodox America


Bringing to Light the Testimony of the Martyrs


Outside the Orthodox Church (and even in some areas within) the world is shamefully oblivious to the glorious exploit of Russia's New Martyrs. We rejoiced, therefore, to read these lines by First Things Editor-in-Chief, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus:

      ... Moderates typically set "socialism" and "capitalism" side by side, and found the former much superior as an ideal. In this view the idealistic Soviet experiment under Lenin was rudely distorted by Stalin, whose brutal character and methods discredited communism. This standard account has itself been discredited by scholars many times over, but perhaps never so decisively as in Richard Pipes' new book, The Unknown Lenin (Yale University Press). Lenin viewed utter ruthlessness as a virtue in dealing with his enemies, and especially with the Russian Orthodox Church. "The greater the number of representatives of the reactionary clergy arid reactionary bourgeoisie we succeed in executing the better," he wrote to his assistants, and he wanted to be kept informed on bow many clergy had been killed each day. In a 1918 directive demanding more executions, Lenin insisted that they be carried out in a way that would strike terror among the populace. "Do it in such a way that for hundreds of versts around the people will see, tremble, know, shout." (A verst is a little more than half a mile.)/.../

      It is good to have Pipe's expose of Lenin.., but the West if still a very long way from appreciating the full horror of the Evil Empire. Although the death toll of communism is many times greater than that of Nazism, we have nothing comparable to the literature on the Holocaust that has so indelibly imprinted that monstrous evil on our minds. This is a great loss for Christians, who are generally unaware that this century has seen more martyrs for the faith than all the prior centuries combined. Despite the heroic efforts of Solzhenitsyn and a few others, the martyrs under communism are not known in the West. During the long years of the Cold War, those who tried to lift them up were derided as dangerous anti-Communists who threatened peaceful coexistence with the Soviet Union, and threatened to make the United States look better by comparison with the unspeakably bad. The Soviet empire is buried, but the habits of anti-anti-communism live on.

      At the End of Days, the martyrs who died in the Gulag Archipelago will rise by the millions from beneath the frozen earth of Siberia.

      Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, Who are these clothed in white robes, and whence have they come? I said to him, Sir, you know. And he said to me, These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night within His temple.

      But they should not have to wait for their recognition until the End of Days. It is we, not they, who need their recognition. It is we, more than they, who need to understand why it is that so many Christians in the West were, and still are, blind -willfully blind, it would seem -- to the testimony of the martyrs.

First Things, May 1997, p 60


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