Saturday, 22 June 2013

Q57: Myth of Biblical Christianity

From: Teresa Gardiner, Vancouver, British Columbia

Several years ago, I had a vision to help the Doukhobor youth not just to understand the spiritual underpinnings of their culture, but to know how to live from the heart. I've been working on how to present this, ever since. I think The Doukhobor Book of Life (Zhivotnaya Kniga Dukhobortsev) is a good place to start, since it is one of the seminal documents of our people.

I was going to email you this morning to ask you about a couple of the Myths you've written about.

The first is myth #5. I grew up hearing the explanation you give about Jesus just being a man who did good deeds. However, in examining the psalms in the Book of Life, I'm not so sure that this is true. Many of the psalms are very biblical in nature and Jesus is referred to as God, certainly as part of the trinity. Where did your explanation come from?


From: Popular Myths and Fallacies About the Doukhobors, in Spirit Wrestlers: Doukhobor Pioneers' Strategies for Living (2002), pages 379-384.

Myth #5 appears often in Doukhobor conversation. It needs to be evaluated and corrected so as to arrive at a new understanding that describes the Movement more accurately.

Myth No. 5: Doukhobors are Christians and believe in the Bible (as the supernatural, "holy" creation representing God) and Jesus Christ (who is said to have died for our sins and was born from a virgin). For most Doukhobors, these notions are parables of an earlier form of Biblical Christianity. Three hundred years ago many Russian peasants rejected the Church as being exploitative of innocent peoples throughout the mechanism of fear. Instead, they chose the "voice of God within" as being accessible to all and central to their way of thinking. They consider the Bible as a good book. But as with any good book, they say, it must be approached with discretion, judgment, and common sense, not just swallowed whole in an act of blind faith. In fact, most Doukhobors read the Bible as a form of literature, not a sacred script. Jesus Christ is considered to be a good man, a human being who performed good acts. Sin and "salvation through the blood of Christ" are notions foreign to them. Doing good, according to the Doukhobors, is the way of being good, rather than speaking about it. There is an old saying, Bog da Bog, da Bog, no ti ne budi plokh [You may speak of God all you like, but behave yourself.]. Good behaviour is of central importance to the meaning of being Doukhobor.

For a more complete look at the wider meaning of the Doukhobor Movement, see pages 375 - 377 on the explanation of The Spirit Within. Herein, I show how Doukhobor beliefs can be distilled into seven propositions. These seven gems are the result of over 55 years of research and observation. Below I cite the first sentence of each proposition (go to the original source to see the full text).
  1. Because we all have the abode of God within us, it is wrong to kill another human being....
  2. The Bible's many sacred narratives are simple moral allegories....
  3. There are no corporate creeds to adopt except the principle of hard work, kindness towards others and hospitality....
  4. Doukhobors do not believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ....
  5. Heaven for Doukhobors is synonymous with virtue, while hell is a metaphor for bad deeds....
  6. They do not believe in the existence of a personal self-sustaining supernatural God in heaven....
  7. When applied to individual behaviour, a case can be made that Doukhobor is a humanistic religion....
These seven propositions of the Doukhobor Movement may shock some observers, especially orthodox theologians. However, these views are the collective invention of a group of Russian peasants several centuries back who in their wisdom or by accident rejected the whole structure of churchism. In so doing, they were ahead of their time, so to speak, in laying the groundwork for a real reform within the institution of the church (a reform that is long overdue). In this journey, they are very much in the spirit of Lev N. Tolstoy, the Society of Friends (Quakers) and Unitarians.

More: Questions and Answers, Comments

Peace — The Exhibition, Ottawa

I had the pleasure of attending the official opening of Peace — The Exhibition at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, Canada on May 30, 2013. The 12-part Exhibition continues until January 5, 2014, and is the first such exhibit at this Museum.

Just imagine, a Peace Exhibition in a Museum of War? That may seem to be an impossibility given that we are living in a society that tends to worship militarism and war as a given, and supports the notion 'My country right or wrong, but my country.'

The present Canadian Government, headed by Stephen Harper and his Conservatives, is striving to assert its macho powers with the purchase of F-35 super planes (costing billions of dollars) and ships with a capacity to kill rather than to work on more peaceful needs such as exploration, rescue, ice breaking, etc. If we are to survive as a human species, peace must be acknowledged as a possibility including the end of war.

Thanks to the imagination and work of Curator and Museum Historian Amber Lloydlangston and her team, this exhibit is taking place in Canada.

I met Dr. Lloydlangston (left) years ago when she was looking for old peace pictures to illustrate a small section in the Museum on peace activities during the Cold War. I was glad that the Museum chose several of my images which they still use in their permanent exhibits. We later met in October 2006 in Winnipeg, Manitoba when we both attended the Mennonite meeting on War and the Conscientious Objector.

The current Exhibition is not the one that most peace activists would mount if they had such an opportunity. Here are some ideas and exhibits they would include:
  • They would include many stories of legitimate activism for building a world without war, such as lobbying against murderous state-sponsored explosives (atomic bombs, land mines) chemical, biological and radiological warfare; and killing drones.
  • We need a comparative chart that shows the casualties of war vs. the cost of normal human life with free health care and education, adequate housing, clean water and other friendly infrastructure, culture, and innovative job training for a peaceful world.
  • Rupert Smith, the former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, in his book, The Utility  of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World (2007), concludes that industrialized warfare is no longer a doable option as the conflicts become timeless and fought among the people. To meet such new challenges of conflicts in the 21st Century, we need new kinds of institutions and policy structures with capacities for war and violence prevention. We need a win-win solution.
  • We must find a way to avert the costs of the military and cyber-contractor government-industrial complexes. For example, the development of alternative energy is needed to minimize the use of fossil fuels esp. the profit from oil (which has been one of the recent major causes of wars).
  • Questioning the right of the state to wage war is a legitimate issue. Who is responsible for this crime against humanity?
  • Questioning the right of any state to occupy other states with their foreign military bases? Is it not appalling that the USA has over 1000 bases around the world?
  • What about the right of states to establish and maintain deadly missiles as shields against another state? A valid issue indeed, to prevent another human wasteful Cold War.
  • The establishment of Departments of Peace around the world as part of the parliamentary system in each country could be a step in creating the new architecture of peace so urgently needed today to support a culture of peace and assertive nonviolence in Canada and abroad.
  • Lessons from the pioneers of peace-making beginning with Lev N. Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and others should be part of our educational curriculum across the country.
  • The Center for Global Nonkilling in Hawaii provides a new way of studying war and peace. Today, under the leadership of Glenn D. Paige, the Center presents a unique way of looking at this issue with innovative research, global education and training, as well as a monitoring program measuring progress forward towards a killing-free world.
  • Domestic violence including gun control is an issue.
  • The power of cooperation, collaboration, and reconciliation are useful as preventative tools in sane human behaviour.
  • A history of the peace movement through the centuries ought to be taught in schools beginning at the high school level.
  • The role of United Nations in peacemaking should be part of every school curriculum.
  • The power of influence in waging peace in society is a challenging theme as a counterbalance to those who are addicted to waging war.

All that said, we must give credit to the Canadian War Museum for mounting a Peace Exhibition. This may be a small step for humankind on planet earth, but nevertheless, it is a step in the right direction.

My friend and colleague Dr. Ian Prattis, a retired professor of anthropology and religion, a poet and environmental activist, attended the Exhibition opening, and on June 14th, posted the following review of this event on his Pine Gate Sangha website where he is the resident Zen teacher.

Peace — The Exhibition by Ian Prattis

It is a long and winding road that led to the peace exhibition at the Canadian War Museum, which will run to January 5, 2014. The initial conversation opened a decade ago with Physicians for Global Survival, the Quakers — supported by Friends for Peace — pitching to the museum director the idea of Canadian soldiers going to war to enable peace for their families. The conversation continued with the Canadian Department of Peace group taking a lead role. They found support in a historian who liked the basic idea. The curator of “Peace — The Exhibition” is Dr. Amber Lloydlangston and she and her team did a terrific job putting it together with very diverse themes.

The exhibition is impressive and extensive with many surprises. A clock from the destruction of Hiroshima, a blue beret from the first UN peacekeeping mission, a World War I Victoria Cross medal awarded to a Canadian stretcher bearer to mention only a few.

There is a station where you can make your own Peace Buttons — a great attraction for kids. Also an art gallery of peace with a tour to see how art reflects the themes of the exhibit. A highlight for me was the attention paid to the Great Peace Law of the Iroquois Confederacy. How it came about and how it is relevant to the present day negotiation between aboriginal peoples and Canadian Institutions. Treaty 7 provides an elaborate case study.

The debate is opened up about Canada’s role as a peace keeping nation with a chart showing different options and outcomes. The mantle that Canada has worn since Lester Pearson’s days has been diminished since Mr. Harper became Prime Minister of Canada. Do we want a change? That is the question raised in a very challenging way. War is not sanitized, neither is the protest movement nor the peace keeping role. We see how Canadians throughout their history have negotiated, organized and intervened for peace. Interactive stations about Haiti, Afghanistan, the Sudan and more, plus play stations for children to grasp the issues are there to encourage them to think and reflect what they want to see in a future Canada.

I hope teachers make this exhibit a "must see" locale for school trips. The Peace Exhibition is very well put together.... Peace is a vital part of the story of Canada and it is still evolving and diverse. I encourage everyone to pay a visit — and take children. A Peace Button awaits them!

Koozma's Concluding Remarks

Eleven years ago Ian Prattis looked around the Ottawa community and saw a need for promoting the voices of sanity and peace. Out of this assessment he gave birth to the remarkable Friends of Peace Day when each year at the end of September becomes a major focal point of peace, planetary care and social justice.

This year, at the 7th Annual Ottawa Peace Festival, the highlight will be the Friends for Peace Day on Saturday September 28, 2013 to be held at the Ottawa City Hall. See reviews of the past six Peace Festivals, which have been coordinated by the Canadian Dept. of Peace Initiative, and at which Ian has held the remarkable Friends of Peace Days.

For the 2013 Annual Peace Awards, Ian and his directors have unanimously chosen two candidates: Dr. Amber Lloydlangston, an acknowledgment of 'the magnificent Peace Exhibition'; and Douglas Cardinal, the legendary architect of the Canadian Museum of Civilization. Prior recipients have included Jack Layton, Marion Dewar, Grandfather Commanda, and others.

I plan to go back to the Exhibition before it closes in January 2014. Why? Because I want to have a better look at the 12 exhibit stories that attracted some 600 people on opening day. Peace is indeed a complex process requiring the attention of young and old to ensure there is hope in the world. Let us recall that the Charter of the United Nations Preamble in December 1945 began with the firm resolve 'to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.'

That suicidal miltaristic 'scourge' continues today. As responsible world citizens, it is time to stop that racket — the slavery of our times! We must acknowledge and persist that wars will stop! That waging war is the transgression of the human right to life! That peace is better than war! That nonkilling, cooperation, compassion and love have a future!

Hopefully, the Peace Exhibition at the Canadian War Museum will raise enough questions to begin the public discussion of making this hope become a reality. I embrace that hope. That is why, as a peace activist, I have been active for over 55 years. Let's get on with it, my friends. Peace is the way!

Exhibit book

Amber Lloydlangston and Kathryn Lyons. Peace — The Exhibition. Ottawa, Ontario: Canadian War Museum, 2013. 112 pages, 52 images. $10.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Peace Day Message 2013

Peter’s Day — June 29 — Peace Day

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Spirit,

Getting rid of militarism and war should be of central concern to all of us as humans, just as cannibalism and slavery have officially been abolished years back. Nonkilling should be the legacy of ourselves, our children and their children.

The idea of killing another member of our species is contrary to everything that we have been taught by all religions. The Commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' and the Golden Rule of doing unto others what we wish them to do unto us, are the standard rules of the road of how we ought to behave in our family, in our community and in the wider world.

In my youth, my mother used to say to me and my friends, 'Do not point a gun at another person because it is wrong to hurt another human being.' My mother believed that a future based on nonkilling was possible.

Our ancestors the Spirit Wrestlers / Doukhobors said 'Get rid of all guns!' On midnight of June 28-29, 1895 (Old Calendar), some 7,000 Russian activists in three districts of the Caucasus (between the Black and Caspian Seas) burnt their weapons that they had accumulated over the years. Their voice was loud and clear: get rid of the institution of violence and wars and instead choose the human path of cooperation, compassion and love.

As we commemorate this memorable historic event, let's remind ourselves and our children about the message of helping to create a culture of peace in our midst. Remember that we all have the spirit of beauty and love in each of us; therefore it is wrong to kill another human being.

Let's support the creation of Departments of Peace in the world. In Canada, for example, let's write our Parliamentarians to support the Private Member's Bill C-373 designed to create a cabinet level Department of Peace in Canada's Parliament. Let's cease to be slaves of killing and instead add our weight to being creative peace-making pioneers as have Lev Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and other Masters of human behaviour have done in their time. Let's believe that the military industrial complex is on the way out and that a new era of human development is on the way in. Let's make real history happen by giving hope to civilization. Act now!

Koozma J. Tarasoff
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

New Video About Georgian Doukhobors

Review by Koozma J.Tarasoff of Doukhobors: Community of Faith, a video documentary by Russian TV, June 7, 2013: (28 minutes). Copyright by "RT" and "TV-NOVOSTI" 2013.

Studying Doukhobors from their roof-top.

The opening image is a 1893 sketch of the Doukhobor village Gorelovka, Tiflis province, Russia, by H.F.B. Lynch. Russian Television (RT) sent a Georgian video crew to produce this documentary. The opening sound track is sprinkled with singing and snippet previews of this 'sacred place.'

The 29 minute video is divided into 5 sections titled: People (at minute 2:48); Vasily (3:30); Nikolay (6:38); Mikhail, Kuzma, Tatyana (9:00); Community of Doukhobors; Ads (12:04 for 2 minutes); Faith (14:12); Easter (15:20); Exodus (19:17); Neighbors (20:42); and Sacred Place (25:30) the cemetery.

Roof-top views

Presented mostly in English over Russian dialogue, the introductory printed text along with another text further on explains the context of this film:
  • RT teams up with a couple [video journalists Niko and Magda] from Tbilisi, Georgia, who travel south of the country to explore the community of the Dukhobors — a Christian group that believes God lives inside humans, not in an organized church. See how this group managed to preserve their way of life for centuries.
  • In 2013 a young couple traveled from Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, to the south of the country. This region is home to a breakaway Orthodox group. Known as the Dukhobors, they reject all church rituals and iconography and have managed to preserve their way of life.
This is one of the better films on the Russian Doukhobors for several reasons. It is tightly edited. Their philosophy is clearly articulated. The tone is upbeat, friendly and informative. Unlike previous videos in Georgia which focused on women, here men and children are included. The video quality and color are beautifully done.

The story is quickly paced from the time the crew leaves Tbilisi by car, arrives in Doukhoboria, climbs on top of a heritage earth house with a green grass roof, where they view the world of the few remaining Doukhobors in a village now occupied with Armenians and Adjarians (Muslim Georgians). The journalists ask many questions in voice over, which are eventually answered by the subjects in interviews. They translate most of the Russian in subtitles, and give insightful commentary throughout.

The journalists describe their roof top view as if it was 'from another planet.' The old Doukhobor village has given way to 'a Caucasian ghetto.' There is nostalgia for the old Soviet era when living together was a pleasure, cleanliness was a virtue, education was free, orderliness, culture and a job gave rhythm to life. There was a view of a public school with only several children present; they were reciting Russian, Georgian, and Armenian alphabets.

After 170 years in the region (having moved in exile from the Milky Waters area of the Crimea in the mid-1800s), only about 150 Doukhobors remain in Gorelovka here today. The trend is towards out-migration and a loss of identity. Their stone architecture remains a prized possession of neighbours who see an opportunity to get good cheap or free accommodation as locals move out to Russia. Only 57 Doukhobor houses remain in this village.

People interviewed are: Vasily Slastukhin (woodshop), Nikolai Sukharukov (sledge shop class),  Brothers Mikhail and Kuzma (at the cheese factory with sister Tatyana Oslopova, who later sings a song of the 'dear heartland').

Easter service begins at midnight with men on the left (3 men and a boy) and 12 women in beautiful traditional costumes on the right, perform a prayer service where there appears to be no leader yet there is a feeling of unity.

In 'Neighbours' a young fellow admits he came because his Armenian grandfather moved here. The village administrator regrets that so many Russians have moved away.

The remaining Doukhobors survive off their land — selling milk, cheese, and growing gardens. We see one of the women in the home making traditional pirogies.

The short clip of the storks in a nest on top of a pole is beautifully-done. According to legend, say the locals, these birds are a symbol of new birth, kindness and love.

In 'Faith' a woman describes the symbology of her Doukhobor cap. She says some suggest that Doukhobors 'originated in Byzantia,' a predominantly Greek-speaking continuation of the Roman Empire.

The last segment, 'Sacred Place,' is a tribute to the past at the Burial site of the leaders, a 3 kilometer drive west east of their village, where they join Doukhobors from neighboring Orlovka village.

The philosophy of the Doukhbors is clearly articulated with the words 'behaviour is the measure of ones life.' Vasily points out that Doukhobors don't believe in baptism. They see no need for churches which they consider to be 'idolatry.' Their God of love is within. 'Giving to the poor' and helping your neighbour is sufficient. White-bearded Nikolai states that Doukhobors 'live by their word' so that their actions speak louder than words.

Although this could be a depressive story of a people losing their property and their identity, the presentation remains upbeat, portraying the inevitable change that has occurred because of recent geo-political and economic circumstances. In the end, morality wins.

I was surprised that the caves and the 1895 Arms Burning site were missed. Despite these major omissions, this video story is well worth viewing because it really gives the viewer an impression of what life is like there in 100s of scenes and thoughtful dialog.