April 21, 2017 by AK
Christianity Today reports from Moscow:
It’s official. Jehovah’s Witnesses can no longer practice their faith freely in Russia, where the Supreme Court on Thursday declared the pacifist religious organization an “extremist group” and banned all of its activity.
The judge ordered all 395 local chapters and its Russian headquarters to close and authorized the government to seize all property.
Considering the Witnesses’ tradition of non-violence, labeling them extremist must have taken some advanced judicial sophistry. There’s no shortage of this intangible but imperishable good in Russian courthouses. The Kremlin team’s legalism is more or less in line with Óscar Benavides’ maxim; “substantive due process” must be as odious to them as it was to the late, overweight Antonin Scalia.
Legal unsubtleties and property interests aside, what’s the ultimate motive for the ban? All grassroots activity not controlled by the government or its religious affiliates is suspicious and potentially dangerous. Non-traditional, charismatic Protestant churches are the fastest-growing (quasi-)Christian denominations globally. The Pentecostals are going strong in Africa but also in Latin America, including Brazil. A non-conformist charismatic church with potential membership in the millions? The towers of the Kremlin shall not tolerate the Watchtower.
The Soviets also hated Jehovah’s Witnesses – passionately. Under Stalin, they were persecuted – hardly surprising – but under his successors, they were still demonized as if evil incarnate. A brief respite under Gorbachev and Yeltsin, then back to the old habits.