Open Book
Light Bulb

take up your cross

February 16 it was announced that Russian dissident Alexei Navalny, Putin’s most prominent opponent, died in prison. He was an anti-corruption politician with millions of YouTube followers, who had organized anti-government protests.

2020 he miraculously survived being poisoned with Novichok—a Russian nerve agent. January 2021 in Berlin he boarded a flight to return to Russia knowing he would be arrested. He was. In his closing statement to the Russian court Navalny spoke of his own Christianity.

“I’ll talk to you about God and salvation. The fact is that I am a Christian; which usually rather sets me up for constant ridicule in the Anti-Corruption Foundation—because mostly our people are atheists. I was once quite a militant atheist myself. But now I am a believer. And that helps me a lot in my activities, because everything becomes much, much easier because there is a Book in which, in general, it is more or less clearly written what action to take in every situation. It’s not always easy to follow this Book, of course, but I am actually trying.

“‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.’

“I’ve always thought that this particular commandment is more or less an instruction to activity. And so, while certainly not really enjoying the place where I am, I have no regrets about coming back, or about what I’m doing. On the contrary, I feel a real kind of satisfaction. Because at some difficult moment I did as required by the instructions and did not betray the commandment.”

July 18, 2021, Stanislav Moskvitin, pastor of a Russia Council of Christian Evangelical Church, was arrested on allegations of running a “cult.” (A designation leveled by the Russian Orthodox Church against Evangelicals.) Moskvitin was sentenced to 18 months in a penal colony. Russia’s Ministry of Justice wants to liquidate the church he led.

December 2019 Yegor Zhukov, a YouTuber dubbed “Moscow’s New Face of Dissent,” was tried for “inciting extremism” after participating in political protests.
Zhukov delivered a powerful speech to a Russian court rebutting the Putin regime by highlighting the dire state of the Russian family—widespread alcoholism, suicide, and despair.

“The Russian state claims to be the world’s last protector of traditional values. Your Honor, I think this may actually be a
good thing. The Christian ethic includes two values that I consider central for myself.

“First, responsibility. Christianity is based on the story of a person who dared to take up the burden of the world. In essence, the central concept of the Christian religion is the concept of individual responsibility.

“The second value is love. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ is the most important sentence of the Christian faith. Love is trust, empathy, humanity, mutual aid, and care. A society built on such love is a strong society—probably the strongest of all possible societies.”

Yegor Zhukov has been disappeared.

2015 dissident politician Boris Nemtsov, an Orthodox Christian, was shot to death within sight of the Kremlin.

Right now, in Hong Kong, former
Apple Daily newspaper publisher Jimmy Lai is on trial for conspiracy to collude with foreign forces. He’s a Christian convert, baptized 1997 into the Catholic Church. He champions the liberty and personal freedom that raised Hong Kong to be the most prosperous Chinese society the world has known.

Christianity is not against the law in Hong Kong, not yet. Outspoken opposition to tyranny is what landed Jimmy Lai in Stanley Prison. He freely accepted prison because his faith insists upon liberty for all.

Before his arrest, allies and politicians advised Jimmy Lai to flee Hong Kong. It appeared the Communist rulers also wished he would just go away. Many are baffled that a man worth hundreds of millions, who might have fled to one of his homes in Tokyo or Paris, would exchange that for prison.

But his trial will give Jimmy Lai opportunity to speak truth. In prison he radiates peace. And he has a message for the Chinese Community Party: Forgiveness.

We do not face a binary choice between defending bloody tyranny or Western moral bankruptcy. Both must be condemned. Christians do not call evil good and good evil, whether it is transgender mutilation or murdering dissidents.

The tyrants in Russia and China are prepared to do anything to strengthen their regimes. The Russian who died in an Arctic gulag was prepared to die. The Chinese man on trial in Hong Kong is prepared to die in prison.

Those who follow Jesus
take up their cross. ~

Dan Nygaard