What patterns prevent those who “live” on the Internet from crossing the church threshold; how does online preaching differ from what sounds in a church; why it is impossible to go to church “telematically”. These issues and many other things were discussed at the meeting of the participant of the project “Batiushka will answer”, Belarusian man of the cloth, priest, and blogger Alexander Kukhta with students from Volgograd.
According to the online preacher, there are templates and images on the path of young people to the Church today that are put into the consciousness by the media. The media shape the image of the Church as a concentration of world evil, and the missionary's task is to destroy this template and create a new one. Albeit the missionary may seem strange, he is sometimes unusual priest who can find a common language with his audience.
- My task is not to lure everyone: “Come to my temple, otherwise you will burn in hell” - no way! My task is to place a little hidden bomb into the audience that the Church may not be what you thought of it before. Maybe when you seriously think about faith, this will allow you to rethink all the templates and if you do not come to the Church, then create your own opinion about it, more adequate and similar to reality than that which is formed in the society. This is the only way to learn to be free.
"I am friends with grandmothers"
It took the priest almost an hour to answer the questions of the public, sipping Cola during the breaks. The range of topics was wide, from saving the soul to preferences in literature and music.
How long have you served in the Church? Did you attend the temple before becoming a priest?
- Since childhood, I have been sent to Sunday school, my family was like everyone else: it seems we went to church, but, otherwise, it seems we did not. I was a programmer and earned living from my occupation; after the seminary, I became a priest, I have been serving for three years in a workers’ settlement near Minsk, two hours' drive from the city.
Are you not worried that grandmothers sometimes react ambiguously to your work on the Internet? Are you not afraid to lose this audience, at least in the temple, it is clear that they do not watch you on YouTube.
“My grandmothers love me in the church; they know about my YouTube broadcasts, they periodically read about me in Belarusian newspapers like “Belorussky Partizan” or “Zvyazda”. They treat me like a grandson, they feed me, they take turns luring me to their pies. For three years I have gained twenty kilograms - I am friends with grandmothers.
It is impossible to please everyone
But there are those who regard you directly as a provocative...
- There are such opinions, but I am not money to please everyone. No matter what I do, someone will not like me anyway. Everyone can like you only if you are dead and do nothing.
How are the hierarchy and colleagues reacting to your activities? And where are there more patterns - in a religious or atheistic environment?
- Christians have their own retrogressive people, there are not many of them, but they are very persistent and they constantly talk about their beliefs. It is exactly from my fellow believers that I have heard the harshest, most ugly words: a person has a temple on his avatar, a cross, the inscription says "I am Orthodox", and he flips you off so that it is just... straight to the ban. There is a movement of strange opposition among our own people. But as soon as you say: "Guys, what can you show, where are the fruits of your work?" - That is where it all ends. It is easy to criticize someone, but make your own product that will lead people to God. At the same time, messages are periodically received in a personal message: “You know, I am an atheist, agnostic, Buddhist, etc. ..., and Christianity has always seemed to me so boring, so square, but I look at you and understand that a new world is opening up for me. Thank you for that." And such comments are the most valuable.
How do you feel about other Orthodox bloggers?
- In general, I am in favor of blogging and I believe that quantity develops into quality. Let there be more Orthodox bloggers, and someday this sub-environment will give birth to a cool priest-blogger. And this is not me, because I have 15 thousand subscribers, which is not enough.
What kind of music do you like, what do you read?
- Now I will open the playlist... My tracks: Aquarium, Tarja Turunen, Aquarium, RHCP, Melnitsa, Liapis Trubetskoy, Nightwish, Aquarium, Aquarium, Aquarium, Leningrad, Nautilus Pompilius... As for the books... Hawking has died recently; anyone would know him. He has a couple of popular books on science for a large crowd, one of which I am currently reading.
What can't be done online
You have raised a highly topical issue that there are few young people in churches now. Young people are used to doing everything remotely: ordering food, buying clothes. You do not need to go anywhere today...
- Is it possible to remotely go to the temple, do you want to know?
Will there be a modern interpretation of this component, and how can young people be given a lead in visiting the temple?
- To do this, you need to solve two big problems. The first is community. The instrument with which Christ preached is ordinary human communication. He comes to visit the tax collector Zacchaeus. Not to say, something like, Zacchaeus, you are so and so, repent... He goes to him, dines with him; we do not know what they were talking about, but after that the miracle of Zacchaeus’ rebirth takes place - he becomes good, correct. As a person who “lives” on the Internet, I understand that this miracle cannot be achieved on the Internet.
I can speak on important topics, but using the Internet to confess my love is some kind of perversion, just as coming to God through the Internet is the same perversion. We need to solve the problem with our community.
And the second question - why do I come to the temple? I can pray without getting out of bed; I can also donate a lot of money to the priest through the Internet for something good – to do this it is not necessary to go to church. I do not go there to give something, but to take something. There are things that I will never give up for anything - this is the theme of the Sacrament. We do not gather in the temple just to pray each one for his own. I remember that in every smallest particle, in every atom of the Sacrament, God himself is fully present, and I believe that this is how I can unite with Him. This is the moment of my faith: I cannot prove it, show it, I just believe in it – full stop. I go to church for Communion first, and then for everything else. For me, as a Christian, everything else is irrelevant if there is no Communion.