1930s >> 1930 >> no-307-march-1930

Editorial: The Priests and Politics

The Archbishop of Canterbury, and other prelates and religious leaders are making public protests about alleged religious persecution in Russia, and they ask that steps be taken involving interference in the internal affairs of Russia.


Mr. Henderson, the Foreign Secretary, in reply to questions in the House of Commons stated that “the reports of religious persecution were causing the Government grave concern.”


The Executive Committee of the National Council of the Evangelical Free Churches, in a resolution passed at the Memorial Hall, Farringdon Street, express its “utmost horror and reprobation of the policy of persecution adopted by the Soviet Government against the Christian and other religious people of Russia, and its sacrilegious violence against all forms of religious belief.” The Executive also urges upon the British Government the “imperative necessity of using to the utmost all available means of remedying this terrible situation.”


How righteously indignant these people have suddenly become who were silent during the decades of Czarist persecution when the knout was freely used, Jewish pogroms were a commonplace, and “Siberia” became a byword for misery and despotism.


And the basis of their indignation is largely imaginary. The Archbishop himself, in the House of Commons on the 20th of February, stated:


“I propose to make the most exhaustive enquiries” (Daily News, February 21st), thereby admitting that he had so far acted on rumour.


Prebendary Gough, the head of the Christian Protest Movement, has already had to climb down when caught, and admit in the Morning Post for February 20th that “those who are conducting the movement are well aware that the savage orgies which were so frequent in the earlier stages of the Soviet domination do not now characterise the procedure of the persecution.” But neither he nor anyone else has, so far given evidence of the earlier “savage orgies.” If there were “earlier savage orgies” how is it that the righteous indignation of the priests has only now found a voice when, according to themselves, the persecution is on the wane?


Further, Arthur Ransome, in a letter to the Manchester Guardian of February 18th, proved that Prebendary Gough’s quotation from Pravda of October 25th, which he alleged was an example of the execution of “persons who openly and actively practise their religion” had been carefully doctored. The real, quotation showed something else entirely—that a military monarchist organisation, composed of the remnants of bands who had distinguished themselves by especial savagery during the civil war, had formed up under the flag of a religious monastic sect, the “name-glorifiers.” Gregorovitch, the leader of the organisation, declared that it set itself the task of ceaseless struggle with the Soviet Government. The seat of the organisation was in the mountains, and they were buying munitions and preparing for armed revolt. The Soviet Government discovered the plot and shot the ringleaders— just as the British Government shot the ringleaders of the Sinn Fein revolt in 1916, all of whom were Christians.


One may ask why the priests should suddenly become so concerned about the fate of their co-religionists in another country. The explanation is not far to seek.


Since the days of the native medicine man religion has been a prop and a handmaiden to each ruling class, and a priestly group has evolved parallel with the evolution of Government and secured a share of the spoil from exploitation. So strong has been the position of religion that each revolution of the past has had a religious glamour cast over it and has involved modification of the creeds of defeated rulers.


So the Church that bids the sweated worker “be patient” and bear his cross in silence, cannot remain still when its position is challenged. The Church leaders imagine that the present regime in Russia threatens the existence of Religion and therefore they would be prepared to violate all the laws they bless sooner than see a diminution in their power.