church


I am working my way through Farnham Maynard’s Religion and Revolution (1947). He was canon of St Peter’s, Eastern Hill, Melbourne, from 1926 to 1944. He saw socialism arising from Christianity, especially the Anglo-Catholicism he championed. Indeed, he managed to escape the Australian government’s ban on people travelling to the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China. He toured for eight months in 1952, moving across eastern Europe, through Russia and then to a conference in Beijing.

Anyway, in Religion and Revolution he traces the roles of Christianity in the French and Russian revolutions, arguing that it mostly missed the opportunity to be constructive contributors to the establishment of new modes of production. I am particularly taken by a discussion of the League of the Militant Godless in relation to the Soviet Union.

Maynard begins by noting Stalin’s response to a question from the First American Labour Delegation to the Soviet Union in 1927. He was asked about religion and repression of the church, to which Stalin replied in his typical fashion: ‘Have we repressed the reactionary clergy? Yes, we have’ (Works, volume 10, p. 139).

And then Maynard writes concerning the League itself: ‘Let us note, however, that a substantial part of the work done by the Anti-God League consisted in bringing about reforms which in the West had been brought about by Christians themselves’ (Religion and Revolution, 1947, p. 45).

A little while ago I quoted Nadezhda Krupskaya concerning her and Lenin’s regular church attendance while they lived in London. Others also commented on the habit, such as Trotsky, who went with them on at least one occasion. Of course, these were Christian socialist and Christian anarchist churches, often independent and established by charismatic leaders who broke away from a mainstream church.

But why in the world did Lenin and Krupskaya attend? There was no free meal, no free lodgings. It’s worth remembering that the reasons people attend church are as diverse as the number of people in the congregation. Not all present believe, not all are orthodox in any sense, not all are ardent. Yet, the relationship with these radical churches was not a passing affair, for when the fifth congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) was seeking a safe exilic venue to meet in 1907, they were able to secure the Brotherhood Church in Southgate Road, Hackney, in London. That church, originating in 1887 under the influence of various streams such as Christian socialism, anarchism, pacifism, Quakers and Tolstoy, continues to exist today now as a community in Stapleton.

 

Beneath the pious charade, one begins to suspect so. Two instances come to mind.

First, back in 1976 the guy in charge in the Vatican – Paul IV – was scouting around for a new cardinal, preferably from Asia. One of his assistants mentioned a certain Archbishop Jaime Sin, from the Philippines. ‘Shit yeah’, said the pope, ‘he’s our man’. ‘Why?’ someone asked. ‘You can’t pass up the opportunity for a Cardinal Sin’. So Cardinal Sin he became , and remained so for almost 30 years.

Second, in 1974 the famous church historian, Cardinal Jean Daniélou, was found dead in a brothel at the age of 69. On his person was a bag of cash. When the archbishop of Paris was asked to comment, he said in a deadpan voice, ‘Cardinal Daniélou was … on an errand of mercy’.

I’m sure there’s other examples out there.

(ht ks for the second)

Yes, and reasonably regularly while he and Nadya were living in London in 1902-3:

He visited eating houses and churches. In English churches the service is usually followed by a short lecture and a debate. Ilyich was particularly fond of those debates, because ordinary workers took part in them … Once we wandered into a socialist church. There are such churches in England. The socialist in charge was droning through the Bible, and then delivered a sermon to the effect that the exodus of the Jews from Egypt symbolized the exodus of the workers from the kingdom of capitalism to the kingdom of socialism. Everyone stood up and sang from a socialist hymn-book: ‘Lead us, O Lord, from the Kingdom of Capitalism to the Kingdom of Socialism’. We went to that church again afterwards – it was the Seven Sisters Church.

Krupskaya, Reminiscences of Lenin, pp. 72-3.

No wonder the latter half of the Second Congress of the party was held in a church in London.

Although Gramsci was fascinated by the Church, mining the Roman Catholics for tips on how to run the communist party and holding up the Reformation as the last great bottom-to-top revolution, he has no romantic delusions.

Thus, ‘Jesuitism is an advance when compared to idolatry, but it is an obstacle to the development of modern civilization’ (Q1§107). And yet other elements within the Roman Catholic Church, such as the integralists, made the Jesuits look like a moderate centre-party of a Church that had already assumed ‘the mummified shape of a formalistic and absolutist organism’ which ‘hangs together only by virtue of the rigidity typical of a paralytic’ (Q20§4(ii).

Some delicious terms from the spermatic spluttering pen of Lenin: not only were the Russian secret police known as ‘archangels’, but the clergy – bless their souls – gained the enviable appellation of ‘gendarmes in cassocks’.

… the separation of sex and procreation is in effect a state capitalist programme of bioethical tyranny etc etc. To my mind the Papacy is the crucial bulwark against this.

Alasdair Maclagan (spokesperson for UFO – Ultra-Fucking-Orthodoxy).

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