(This first section by Fr. Orthohippo)
The desire of governments to control, shape, and/or neutralize religion has been a constant in human history. Religion often is seen by government as a competing challenger to government goals and control. Often the moralities taught get in the way of government practices. Other times government makes religion part of their support system, with government having the upper hand (caesaropapism). A third reaction by government is to ignore religion. This last option rarely lasts long.
Such interference from governments is not something out of the past. It crops up, even in governments based on democracy and republicanism. Examples may be seen today when religious moralities are devalued or penalized in the name of “fairness, inclusiveness, public good, etc”. Government will take on the task of deciding the relative value of beliefs, and demanding their decision as the only one for all their people. Any possibility for exception generally fails to be accomplished.
CENTENNIAL, Colo. — While strolling through a popular flea market outside Moscow in 1999, Father Doug Grandon spied an old Soviet poster that spoke to him because it was about religion.
But it was a rabidly anti-religious broadside he had just found, a remnant from an intense, long-lasting effort by communist ideologues to drum religious devotion out of Russian lives.
Father Grandon’s collection of Soviet posters, produced between 1918 and 1983, grew to over 60, as he kept finding more exemplars on subsequent trips to Russia.
Over the last eight months, he has helped organize several exhibits in Colorado for the public to experience these dramatic examples of a 20th-century war on religion.
“The Soviet War on Religion” exhibit was first sponsored by the Archdiocese of Denver last October at the Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.
Among the boldly colored images, priests are mocked as greedy hypocrites. God is portrayed as a slothful drunkard. Clergy are linked with capitalists as enemies of the Soviet working people. Parents are warned to avoid baptizing children because the sacrament spreads germs.
“The posters are eye-openers,” observed Father Grandon, parochial vicar at St. Thomas More Church in Centennial, Colo. He also serves as a board member of the Mary, Mother of God Mission to the Russian Far East, which is reviving the Catholic community in Russia’s easternmost territory, the largest diocese in the world.
“They’re shocking historic documents, vividly harsh, and, I fear, they’re particularly relevant today,” the priest told the Register.
The posters offer “a warning that this could happen again. Where you have a disrespect for the freedom of religion, a rampant kind of secularism, this could happen again,” observed Father Grandon.
He added, “If we forget these horrific historical examples, and if we become lethargic in our political involvement, our prayers, in our practice of religion, our culture could be lost. It could happen even here.”
Some 1,000 people visited the most recent Soviet poster exhibit at St. Thomas More over Pentecost weekend May 18-20, including students brought from the parish school, guests at a lecture given by Father Grandon and parishioners, before and after Mass.
“The impact on visitors was powerful,” said Irene Lindemer, editor of the church bulletin. “You realize that people died as a result of this campaign” of hatred against Christianity.