Round Table Discussion

The American (Not Christian) Century

In the late 1980's, I predicted that by the end of the century, which is also the end of the millennium, "The Soviet Union, or perhaps by that time, Russia, would be Christian, and the United States would be pagan." The first, hesitant part of that prophecy, Russia, has already been fulfilled. And while Russia has not been transmuted into a Christian nation, Christianity, especially but not only Russian Orthodoxy, already enjoys a status in Russia that is increasingly denied it in the United States.

In the United States, the situation seems to be reversed. At the beginning of the 20th century Russian Orthodox Christianity was the established religion in Russia; in the United States, there was no "establishment of religion," but the three major faiths, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, and Judaism, all flourished. Then came the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, which officially proclaimed its atheism, expropriated the churches, and persecuted clergy and believers alike with varying degrees of severity. But the Russian churches survived. Orthodoxy, although weakened, persisted, and the registered and unregistered Protestant fellowships grew and flourished—if one can use that word for the situation of believers in an atheistic society. The situation of the churches in early 20th-century America was officially different, but if anything stronger in reality. No church was officially established, but all were...

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