Friday, May 30, 2008

An Example of How a Simple Question Becomes Complex

Few things in life are as simple as they should be. For example, one can ask whether the famous Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev is a Christian. That should be answered with a simple "yes" or "no" - but it isn't. When we start to examine the historical evidence, it quickly becomes a very complicated issue:

Gorbachev was baptised in the Russian Orthodox Church as a child. He campaigned for establishment of freedom of religion laws in the former Soviet Union. All of which would make you think that maybe he's a Christian. But Gorbachev has also expressed pantheistic views, saying, in an interview with the magazine Resurgence, "Nature is my god."

Remarks by Gorbachev to Ronald Reagan in discussions during their summits, made the President deeply intrigued by the possibility that the leader of the Evil Empire might be a "closet Christian." Reagan seems to have seen this as the most interesting aspect of his meeting with the Soviet leader in Geneva.

At the end of a November 1996 interview on CSPAN's Booknotes, Gorbachev described his plans for future books. He made the following reference to God: "I don't know how many years God will be giving me, [or] what His plans are."

Gorbachev was the recipient of the Athenagoras Humanitarian Award of the Order of St. Andrew Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople on 20 November, 2005.

On March 19 2008, during a surprise visit to pray at the tomb of Saint Francis in Assisi, Italy, Gorbachev made an announcement which has been interpreted to the effect that he was a Christian. Gorbachev stated that "St Francis is, for me, the alter Christus, the other Christ. His story fascinates me and has played a fundamental role in my life." He added, "It was through St Francis that I arrived at the Church, so it was important that I came to visit his tomb."

However, a few days later, he reportedly told the Russian news agency Interfax, "Over the last few days some media have been disseminating fantasies — I can't use any other word—about my secret Catholicism, [...] To sum up and avoid any misunderstandings, let me say that I have been and remain an atheist." In response, a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox patriarch Alexei II told the Russian media: "In Italy, he (Gorbachev) spoke in emotional terms, rather than in terms of faith. He is still on his way to Christianity. If he arrives, we will welcome him."

So what does Mikhail Gorbachev really believe? As you see, the answer isn't simple.