Someone has said, “There are no experts on Russia—only varying degrees of ignorance.” In the few days I was in and around Moscow I realized a little more fully the Soviet enigma. I even hesitate to put in writing my impressions and experiences lest they add to the confusion of ignorance. Yet even a visitor to Moscow senses that he is in a totally different world.

A Los Angeles businessman who had been to Russia several times had flown to Australia to urge me to go as a tourist just to get “the feel” of the people. He had brought greetings from religious leaders and assurances that we would be warmly received.

On June 11 we arrived at Moscow airport by way of a Russian TU-104 Jet. In no country in the world did we receive such cordial and courteous treatment by customs and immigration officials. Not one of our bags was opened for inspection. Yet even at the airport we knew that this was to be a different experience from any we had ever known. We already “felt” that indefinable something that is the Soviet World. Only a handful of people there at the airport knew who we were. (This is one part of the world where I believe I can move among people almost totally unrecognized.) But as we were going through a line, a young woman with a bright smile inspected my passport, then, looking around as if to be sure no one would see her, she silently pointed upward. This was my first experience among the silent believers that are in the Soviet Union today.

From the airport to the heart of Moscow we drove in a Ziv through the countryside that could easily have been Illinois or Indiana. Suddenly the driver turned a comer and we saw hundreds of new apartment houses which mark a part of the Soviet Slum Clearance Scheme. These magnificent apartments with “built in” shopping centers were pointed to with pride as a sample of social progress. They stood in rather sharp contrast to the shabby dress of the people on the streets and the haunted, tired look on their faces.

Moscow is the capital of a country that covers 16 per cent of the world’s land and holds some 200 million people. It is the heart of a world-wide network of Communist subversion and infiltration that is so fantastic that even the experts are left gasping. As we drove to our hotel, I was contemplating on aspects of its history. This was the land that the Tartans ruled for so long, causing it to miss the cultural, political and social developments of the Renaissance. When Europe was emerging from the darkness of the Middle Ages, Russia remained as she was, divided and conquered until Ivan the Terrible drove the Tartans from Russia in the sixteenth century. This helps us to understand why Russia is different and in many ways far behind the rest of Europe even today. Then I thought of Peter the Great who made closer contact with Europe by his conquests through the Caspian and Black Seas, and who added Siberia and built Petersburg with its European architecture. I thought of Catherine the Great and her wars with Poland, of Alexander I who held back Napoleon. And as we rode through the lightly trafficked streets, my mind considered the day of November 7, 1917, when under the leadership of Nikolai Lenin the Bolsheviks took over the government. Subsequent history has proved that this was the greatest revolution in historyand destined to affect the lives of us all for decades and perhaps centuries to come.

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Suddenly we were at the hotel. As a tourist, you do not choose your own hotel—it is chosen for you. We were fortunate to be at the Ukraine Hotel which is one of the seven skyscrapers in Moscow. In the spacious lobby were people from all over the world. It was evening, but only a few had on coats and ties, and I saw two men sitting at a table in undershirts. It dawned on me that here must be an illustration of classless society which is not so classless any longer. The peasant and the worker could go to the finest hotel dining room in work clothes and feel even more at home than a man in evening dress. The few Americans and West Europeans stood out like sore thumbs because of their better dress.

We set out to see all the normal tourists’ sights. No one followed us, and no one told us where to go or what to do. Most of the time we either walked or traveled by taxi or subway. The things I noticed immediately were the cleanliness of the city, absence of advertising, and the intellectual caliber of the literature on the newsstands, showing a complete lack of sexual emphasis.

High over the Kremlin at night shines a giant Red Star with five fingers pointing to the five continents of the world where the Communists hope some day to bring about revolution. The color of the Russian flag, like the star, is red, symbolizing the blood that was shed in the Revolution and blood that is yet to be shed before the world is completely Communist. One of the amazing contradictions in Russia is that crosses are seen on churches in many places, and on the towers of the Kremlin are crosses symbolizing Christ’s conquest of evil. Thus even on the towers of the Kremlin the cross of Christ faces the Red Star. The word kremlin means “fortress.” It was the original city of Moscow with a giant wall in the Middle Ages built for protection from invasion. Inside are modern office buildings where much of Soviet business is carried on. During Stalin’s time it was closed to the public. We saw even here something of the religious hunger of the people. They would swarm into the churches and temples in the Kremlin which have been kept as museum pieces of historical interest. On the walls of these churches are biblical paintings—one of the Crucifixion, before which I saw people boldly making the sign of the Cross.

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In visiting the tomb of Lenin and Stalin, a visitor stands in line with hundreds of other tourists. Again I watched the faces of the people: this march through the tomb was almost a religious expression. As I looked at Lenin and remembered the bright hope of thousands of workers and peasants who had believed so many promises back in 1917, I could not help recalling the words of Boris Pasternak’s character Andreievich in Doctor Zhivago: “When the revolution woke him up, he decided that his century-old dream was coming true. Instead he found he had only exchanged the oppression of the former state for the new, much harsher yoke of the revolutionary super state.”

In Gorky Park on a Saturday night, which is a combination of Coney Island and Disneyland, we observed more people. I was far more interested in observing them than seeing the unusual sights of this fantastic park with its circus, the largest ferris wheel I’ve ever seen, its athletic contests, et cetera. I thought I could read in their expressions a combination of fear and insecurity, yet determination and dedication. To watch the Soviet person at work or play is almost frightening. While it is true that many of these people may be disillusioned with Communist rule, they do believe firmly that someday they will rule the world. To this end they study and work with a terrific zeal. Mr. Khrushchev’s boast, “We will bury you,” is no idle threat! Behind him is a shrewdness of mind and a power of determination that has already conquered one third of the world and frustrated much of the other two thirds. In this giant park young people were not only engaged in various forms of physical exercise, but were listening to speakers in open-air pavilions. These speakers were apparently party leaders answering questions or making speeches explaining party doctrine. Propaganda posters everywhere were urging the people to meet work quotas, and I saw one in which the hammer and sickle had crushed Uncle Sam with the ever-present dollar mark. Another impression of mine in this famous park was how disciplined the crowds were. One saw no trash about, little drinking, no unruliness. There were young people by the thousands but never once did I see any couple doing more than walking arm in arm or holding hands. There is little emphasis on sex on the newsstands, in parks, or in films or on television. Harrison Salisbury, well-known correspondent for the New York Times, who spent much time with us, explained that the Russians historically have been a puritanical people, but, in addition, the Communist party frowns on any display of sex in public. It is felt by the party leaders that their goal of world revolution could never be attained by a people whose strength has been dissipated in drunkenness, narcotics, or sex. It causes us to pause and think about how far we have wandered from the biblical concept, and how far on the road toward Sodom we have gone. I could not help thinking of Professor Sorokin’s (chairman of Department of Sociology at Harvard) arguments in his book, The American Sex Revolution, as he warns America that our emphasis on this subject may destroy us faster than communism. What a challenge to the Christian Church! Let those that speak out so courageously on social issues also speak out against the sensuality and immorality that seem to be engulfing us as a nation.

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To visit the University of Moscow is a never-to-be-forgotten experience. Certainly it ranks as one of the world’s greatest institutions of learning. It would take days to see it all, but the few hours we spent there convinced us that the Soviet student is there for work, not social life. As we had tea with the students, we again felt an indefinable “something” about the atmosphere and on their faces. What is it? Is it fear—disillusionment—insecurity—dedication—or is it, as someone has said, a giant spiritual octopus under the control of a supernatural power—called in Scripture “The prince and power of the air?” I am not sure of the answer.

One thing I did find out at the University, and that is that 10 million Russian youth are studying English while less than 10,000 Americans are studying Russian. These people mean business! They are getting ready for the day when.…

We saw additional religious symbols and expressions at the art galleries of Moscow. One of the paintings that attracted most attention was a life-size painting of John the Baptist who is pointing to Jesus and saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.” The artist had shown the various reactions to Christ in the faces of John’s followers. I felt I saw these same reactions in the crowd of people who stood silently watching with us. Again I witnessed almost reverence on the part of some as they gazed on that scene. I wondered what was in their minds. Indeed, I was certain that some were true believers, and wished it were possible to tell them about One who let me know that he was the Lamb of God.

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One of the great surprises to me was to find how many churches are open in the Soviet Union. We were told by religious leaders that there are more than 20,000 Orthodox and 5,400 Baptist churches holding services every week. We went to three services in the Moscow Baptist church and heard six sermons. In addition, we went to Zagorsk Monastery, about 50 miles from Moscow, which is the “mecca” of the Russian Orthodox church.

My host, Mr. Bill Jones of Los Angeles, had conveyed the desire of Baptist leaders that I speak in the services on the Sunday we were to be there, but our decision to go to Russia was made too late to obtain the right kind of visa. With only a tourist visa it was against government regulations for me to preach. How thankful I am for the experience of worshiping in this church, sitting among the people, and listening to six of the finest biblical expositions I’ve ever heard. We heard the sermons through translators that were provided. Even though it was a sweltering weekend, the church was jammed and hundreds stood through the two-hour services in the aisles, peering in the windows and standing outside. In watching the people, no one could doubt their sincerity or the depth of their commitment. The preachers have to stick to the Bible, they do not make statements on social or political issues. One sermon was on the Spirit-filled life, another on the blood of Christ, another on the power of prayer in times of hardship, and another on the second coming of Christ and heaven. After the first sermon, the leaders of the church invited us (including half a dozen newsmen who had accompanied us) back to a private study. In answer to a newsman’s question, one of the pastors said, “There is no modernism among Baptists in this country.… We believe the Bible to be inspired of God and we preach it with conviction and authority.” Later we were told that no one under 18 is admitted to membership. When a person applies for membership in a church, he is put on probation for 18 months to three years. No one that drinks or smokes is allowed to be a member. The churches practice strong discipline. If a member is not living an obedient Christian life, he is called before the church; and if his ways do not change, the church withdraws fellowship from him. It is quite evident to a visitor that to be an open Christian is costly in Russia. To be a member of a church is a great privilege and responsibility. The cost has been carefully calculated over many months or years. It’s not just meeting a board of deacons or elders, signing a decision card, or walking forward, or even being baptized—it is the rearrangement of one’s whole way of life. This open declaration for Christ adversely affects the social and especially the economic life of every individual. The price to be paid is not unlike that paid by the early Church. No wonder all the physically able members show up every Sunday. I wish every American Christian could have seen them almost fighting to put money in the collection plate. The collections support the church with its many pastors and assistants. The gifts are not deductible from income tax!

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After the Revolution, nearly all branches of the Christian Church, exclusive of the Russian Orthodox, were united and called “Baptist.” In the midst of hardship and persecution a true spiritual unity, based on common need, the authority of the Scriptures, and the person of Christ, was found. This may be the finest example of true ecumenism existing in the world today.

We had often heard three criticisms of the Russian church. First, that there were no young people. The young Communist League has been conducting a campaign against what they call a return to religion among the youth of Russia. We estimated that at least one fifth of each audience consisted of teen-agers even though there are no Sunday Schools or youth organizations. For a young person to attend a church is exceedingly difficult if he wants to get ahead educationally.

Second, we have heard that some of the ministers may be Communist agents. I cannot answer this, for I don’t know. However, I believe I have some spiritual discernment and I am convinced that most of the pastors we met are godly men who have paid an unbelievable price for their faith. I asked myself many times while there what I would do if I had been born and reared in the Soviet Union during the past 40 years. It is easy for us to sit in our comfortable homes, well-furnished studies and protected religious freedom and point an accusing finger. But suppose there are some unbelievers within the church—Christ had his Judas! That does not mean that all the other disciples were condemned.

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Third, there is little religious freedom in the Soviet Union. This is only partly true. Certainly there is not freedom such as we know it. The church definitely operates within restricted and limited areas. Yet within those areas there seems to be great freedom—especially in the preaching and teaching of the Bible. Here is the most exciting thing I discovered in Russia: the Bible which the party thought to be outdated, unscientific, and relegated to the eighteenth century was handed to the pastors and some of the people. It was thought that no intelligent person, especially the youth, would believe or accept it. They did not realize that this Word has its own built-in power. “Is not my word … like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” And it is God’s sickle to reap a spiritual harvest.


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