Monday, May 31, 2004

Two Attitudes About Russia

I have been quite interested by the different reactions Jeff, Tom, Alexander and I have had to various teaching situations during our brief stay in Russia.

I find myself in the strange position of being an optimist here. I tend to be a skeptic about the receptiveness of many Americans to the gospel, and I'm probably far too often very cynical. But in Russia I have been able to see the potential for the seed to take root in almost every situation and to accept the fact that my job isn't to try to gauge the condition of the soil anyway but to scatter it everywhere.

Jeff appears to have the same attitude, but I've also seen that attitude in him in the United States. About the only time I've heard Jeff be even remotely cynical in America is when we've talked briefly about trying to teach "liberals" in the churches of Christ, and I have developed a more optimistic attitude in that case over the years because of Kimberly's background in institutional congregations.

Tom and Alexander, on the other hand, can be quite cynical.

Tom expressed doubts, for instance, that Sergei will continue studying with the Christians here. Tom thinks Sergei was just interested in meeting Americans and learning more of our language. We also are trying to arrange a second lecture in Dzerzinsk for Wednesday, both in case Sergei's family wants to hear about God and because the older man at Saturday's lecture said some Jews who meet later that day might be interested in hearing what Jeff has to say. But Tom suspects neither group may attend. And you may recall Tom's reaction to the man and woman Jeff and I talked to on the bus last week. Jeff gave contact information to them, and we hoped for the best, but Tom insisted that the two were drunk and that we had wasted our time talking. He said we should not have given them contact information, especially Tom's home phone number in case they wanted to contact us during our stay.

As for Alexander, before deciding to schedule the first lecture, he acknowledged some doubts about holding such a forum in Dzerzinsk because so few people have attended in the past, and the lack of interest has discouraged him. Alexander also told me yesterday that it is hard to teach in Russia because two-thirds of the people don't even believe God exists and won't talk about Him, and the other third (save a handful of Christians) is content to worship icons and light candles in the Russian Orthodox church.

I don't mean any of that as criticism of Tom and Alexander. Tom certainly is right that it's a waste of time to try to preach to drunks, and only three people did attend Saturday's lecture. My point is that in America, I'd probably be making the same arguments as Tom and Alexander. And I suspect that were they to visit America, they might be just become as reinvigorated as I have here.

I can tell that it is much more peaceful to be an optimist than a cynic. I just hope I can bring a measure of that optimism back to the states with me.


Post a Comment

<< Home