When professor Tatiana came to the Christian Research Institute on a January afternoon, she had one thing in mind: getting help for her people. Tatiana is a language instructor at Moscow State University, and a fairly new Christian. But even as God’s love and peace shone from her smile, something weighed heavily on her heart. Why? One of the dear friends in Russia who had led her to Christ had become a Mormon. What, she asked, could we give her to help her show this friend the errors of Mormonism? She had other pressing concerns as well. At the university medical school where her husband works, the Moonies are making serious inroads with the administration. Meanwhile, Tatiana is alarmed by Hare Krishnas who are aggressively hawking their wares at every major subway station in Moscow. She asked us for materials to help answer the questions of the Christian student group she works with in Russia, and she left with an armload.
It has been rightly said that the ultimate test of a man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.
We are witnessing a unique and truly awesome moment in religious history. In answer to the prayers of millions, the Iron Curtain has come down with a thunderous crash. But before the dust had even settled, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Moonies, Scientologists, Mormons, and other cultists were poised and ready to exploit the situation. And Eastern Europe — deprived for decades of the things of the spirit — rushed to partake. Indeed, “to the famished man any bitter thing is sweet” (Prov. 27:7). The gravity of the situation has seldom been brought home as powerfully as in the January 13, 1992 Christianity Today article entitled “New Kingdoms for the Cults.” This powerful piece of journalism is based largely on file material supplied by CRI, which has been monitoring the situation closely.
When I first read the article, even I was stunned by the extent to which the cults are successfully exercising their financial and political muscle in the East. Cult leaders such as the Unification Church’s Sun Myung Moon, Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism’s Daisaku Ikeda, and the guru Sri Chinmoy have all met with Soviet leader Mikhael Gorbachev. Among Moon’s trophies: permission to fly nearly 2,000 university students to the United States for indoctrination. Years of behind-the-scenes, advance planning has paid off handsomely for cults such as the Mormons, whose leaders sent performing troupes from Brigham Young University as well as high-level diplomatic contacts into the Soviet Union and its communist satellites from the late 1970s onward. In The Darker Side of Virtue: Corruption, Scandal and the Mormon Empire, scholar Anson Shupe details the careful compromises made by Latter-day Saint envoys with communist officials — guaranteeing, for example, that “Polish Mormons would be taught to be ‘good citizens,’ to uphold the government, and to follow the country’s socialist work ethic. In short, Mormons wouldn’t provoke political trouble.” All during 1991 we received requests for help from Christians in Russia, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and other countries in the region. One wrote: “I’m a young Christian boy from Sofia, Bulgaria, and I used to be a member of the Children of God cult for about one year and a half. Maybe you’ll be surprised to know that such cults are now flooding the ex-Communist countries of Eastern Europe. I left the Children of God five months ago. The problem with them now is that in Bulgaria they still haven’t revealed their cultic nature. They seem quite evangelical, and unfortunately many young Christians join them, being deceived, not knowing anything about Moses David and the Children of God.”
Indeed, both the church and the general public are largely ignorant and all but defenseless in the face of the cult invasion. While the response to Christian evangelism has been encouraging, much of the budding evangelical movement in Russia and Eastern Europe has shallow roots. The churches are filled with new believers. In many cases, the pastors (or congregational leaders) themselves have only been Christians for one or two years. So deep is the spiritual hunger in these nations that during last summer’s conventions, the Jehovah’s Witnesses baptized 18,293 converts. Incredibly, their peak membership in 1991 for the region was nearly 210,000.
For me, the near frenzy of the cults to exploit the spiritual vacuum in the former Eastern Bloc is the clearest illustration of why the ministry of the Christian Research Institute is so desperately important. The need to warn and equip believers to deal with deception is so tremendous that it can hardly be overemphasized. It has been rightly said that the ultimate test of a man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard. The critical hour has arrived, and Christianity in the West must decide. Are we really willing to do for the truth what the cults do for a lie? Will we stand up to this invasion of the cults while we still have the opportunity, or will we allow our new brethren to go like lambs to the slaughter? Mark my words: the answer will determine the fate of generations to come.