A Christian Sect of Russia

The Review of Religions (English), June 1908 Issue (Vol. 7, No. 6, pp. 239–240)

Christianity is still giving birth to more sects than any other religion. In Russia, John of Kronstadt has a very large following, and like other prophets of Christianity he also pretends to be a healer. Like a true Christian of old days, he hates the Jews and instigates their persecution and massacre. He has twice prophesied the end of the world, apparently without success as both dates have passed away. The first time he fixed the end of the world in May 1905, and after it was falsified he fixed the date as 12th January 1908. Christian prophesiers have always been very anxious to bring about the end of the world, but unfortunately for them, or rather fortunately, it has not come. The early Christians never thought that another century would see the world in its normal condition, and the very Bible prophecies which were interpreted as foretelling the end of the world in the first century of the Christian era are after the lapse of two thousand years interpreted with as much plausibility as foretelling that disaster within our own time, with as disappointing a result as was witnessed in the earlier generations. John of Kronstadt has, however, been actually a gainer, though a loser in reputation, by these prophecies. Thousands of people are said to have sold all they had in expectation of the coming end and given the proceeds to their prophet. The incorrectness of the prophecy was easily explained where there were so many dupes to believe. It was said that the end was delayed by the intercession of John himself who, seeing that the sinners were not ready, interceded for them.

The worst feature of the sect is its daring immorality. The Truth Seeker of New York is responsible for the following:

“Their proceedings have grown so scandalous that the police have been obliged to interfere and shut their ‘refuges,’ as their places of worship are called, in many towns. They celebrate their rites by all kinds of orgies. They abduct young boys and girls for immoral purposes. Their retreats, which are supposed to be convents for men and women, are nothing less than hotbeds of immorality where the ‘Johannites’ tempt the young people of the neighbourhood. Those who fall under their influence pay for the introduction to these places and for initiation in the black magic that is practised there.

“To understand the mixture of religious fanaticism and viciousness that is rife among the ‘Johannites’ one must bear in mind that Russians are a very mystically-inclined as well as a sensuous people. This is why, under the pretence of religion, the most terrible abuses are practised, not only among the ‘Johannites,’ but among many other sects, who, having been formed with the purest possible intentions, rapidly fall into hands of visionary and vicious fanatics. One terrible practice these ‘Johannites’ have adopted is that of telling the peasant that all children who are born now are little devils, Anti-Christs who must be stamped out immediately after their birth. It is easy to see how such a theory encourages looseness of morals among their followers, and it was doubtless invented as an excuse for the orgies which take place in the refuges. Added to this, obscene literature of the worst kind is scattered widespread by them. Several cases have lately occurred in which children, born delicate and developing slowly, have been taken out into the fields or forests at the instigation of ‘Johannites’ and stoned to death among the wild shrieks and dances of the murderers.”

Does the doctrine of atonement not afford satisfaction in all such cases?