Praying with the KGB. A Startling Report From a Shattered Empire.
By Philip Yancey
Reviewed by Dr. James Rosscup
3.2 (Fall 1992) : 239-240
Yancey reviews a September, 1991 trip with 18 other evangelical Christians called "Project Christian Bridge." He was editor-at-large of Christianity Today, and others were TV and radio broadcasters, lawyers, publishers, specialists on Russia, pastors, businessmen, and mission executives. Invited to Moscow by the government, they appeared before the president, the Supreme Soviet, the KGB, the press, and other groups. They responded to a call to share answers that could solve what some Soviets tabbed the greatest crisis, a moral and spiritual one (12). The government sought to "to stave off societal collapse" (13) by a radical change at the core (26).
Once Soviets had led an atheistic campaign, banning religious instruction to children and confining priests in prison or killing them, but now leaders told the guests that government sponsorship of atheistic campaigns is illegal (23). KGB cruelty had killed, in Solzhenetsyn's estimate, 60 to 70 million (30). But a KGB speaker told the visitors, "The time has come to repent of that past. We have broken the Ten Commandments, and for this we pay today" (33). While Yancey was there, Gideons were resupplying Bibles in hotels as guests kept taking them away, 2,500 Soviet radio stations were airing James Dobson's "Focus on the Family," and Campus Crusade was preparing a curriculum on Christianity for public schools (40). Yancey perceived that God had been there all along, long worshipped in the camps, the unregistered house churches, etc. He had heard of the loyalty of individuals such as Basil, a simple farmer who in prison had preached to fellow prisoners each morning in the cold while they waited for guards to arrive (42).
Gorbachev told the guests that he was an atheist but respected Christian beliefs (65). This leader's interest in spiritual things was a real turnabout in a land where Marx earlier predicted that "religion will disappear" because the New Socialist Man will render it obsolete (89).
Appendix A gives the objective and the names of the visitors. Appendix B shows "What Western Christians Can Do to Help," i.e., provide Bibles, doctrine books, ministerial manuals, literature for children, video players, tapes, audio cassettes, etc. Pages 98-105 furnish addresses of groups supplying information on or operating in the area once called the Soviet Union.
Yancey says, "Never in my life have I been among people with a more ravenous appetite for God" (90). The book is a well-written and stimulating description of conditions from a Christian perspective. It awakens readers to the admission by some that the need of the area is above all a spiritual one.