How to believe in God when you do not want to
“The disappointment in faith and the desire to leave the Church and not return again is, in general, logical,” Vladimir Berkhin believes. What to do about it and whether it is necessary – the president of the Tradition Foundation spoke about this with the audience of our lecture hall. The meeting was attended by a clergyman of the Novodevichy Convent of St. Petersburg, Priest Dionisy Kharin.
Radio "Radonezh" was the music of my childhood
Of my thirty-seven, I spent about 27 years in the walls of the Church. I was baptized as a child, and for me churchliness from childhood has been an experience. To some extent, this experience was painful and traumatic, to some extent, joyful and life-giving, but overall it was not easy. I managed to spend some time in a conservative, correct Orthodox parish, where I was considered normal and did not cause any surprise or resistance trying to live as it is written in ancient books. Until about 20 years, I fasted with all the necessary posts, I know what dry eating is; On Wednesday and Friday, as well as three days before Communion, I also fasted; I knew the canons by heart, I knew the four Gospels in Church Slavonic by heart, now I can quote them close to the text. I had a good memory, and we did it all the time: every day we read the chapter of the Gospel. For a year and a half, it is easily learned. All my childhood I lived like that.
Later I managed to stay in the liberal parish, in which all of the above was given little importance, but a lot of importance was attached to some individual experiences and fellowship with God. Prayers were accepted there in their own words, and not according to the prayer book, when people stand in front of the icons or where they are comfortable and say: “Dear Lord! ..” And then they turn to God with gratitude, with a request, with some kind of question. I did a lot of what is called the Christian sermon, in fact, I sometimes write sermons and now, as part of my work, I am already the director of the foundation. Because you need to somehow communicate with the donors of the fund, and everyone does what he does well. I can write sermons well – and I write sermons.
I have a fairly diverse church experience. I have never been to other faiths outside Orthodoxy, but I have some idea how they are arranged. I read quite a lot of religious literature – albeit haphazardly, I read the Holy Fathers, apologists, and many sermons. All my childhood I honestly listened to Radio Radonezh. My mother used to bake prosphora, and imagine such an idyllic picture from my childhood: in the evening, we roll the dough, set the seals, and we have something Amvrosiy Yurasov from the radiola telling something. Or Victor Saulkin with his grave voice. These are good memories, and when Radio Radonezh recently announced that they urgently needed funds, I sacrificed them because I have something to be thankful for. This is the music of my childhood, and whatever childhood is, this is childhood.
I studied in two institutions of a religious orientation. I graduated from the 10–11th grades in an Orthodox lyceum, although the truth of what Orthodox Christianity consisted of was not very clear. I studied at the missionary school at the temple of Cosmas and Damian in Shubin, now it no longer exists, we were taught to preach there. We had a practice: we went to teenage colonies, organized a camp for teenagers who do not go to prison … I did a lot of things, I once had an Orthodox tourist club, and to complete the picture I’ll say that I am married with a married father of many children.
Why do I go there if nothing changes
In general, my path in the Church was long, and on this path I saw quite a few people who left the Church for one reason or another. Someone left because the Church was incompatible with his intellectual research. I know a person who has long and seriously read various biblical scholars and came to the conclusion that the Church misunderstands the Bible. And went into agnostics. Someone left for moral reasons, usually after a heavy offense. Someone was offended by a priest, someone was offended by parishioners, someone was not supported in his work – these are very sad stories when a person worked for a long time and seriously, as it seemed to him, but his work was not appreciated, and in the end he slammed the door. That happens. Someone leaves the Church because he is simply bored.
Recently, I have been observing especially many such people: they went to the Church for 15–20 years, and then thought: “Why am I going there, because nothing changes? I am neither getting better nor worse – nothing is changing at all. Why do I need constant petty violence against myself if it does not give me anything? ”There is no longer the same joy, there is no sense, and the person simply ceases to do this. Even when he leaves, nothing changes. In general, most people who leave the Church change very little. Their everyday habits change a little, and nothing else. No, there were people who deliberately left, saying that the Church restricts them – as a rule, this was connected with the seventh commandment “Do not commit adultery." But such people are not very many. Usually, if a person wants to sin, he does this by remaining perfectly calm in the Church. The Orthodox Church is a very free structure. If you do not like what one priest says, you can go to another. You can always find a priest to your liking, if you really need it. For almost 30 years in the Church, I understood this well – at least in Moscow, exactly.
In ten years you will know everything. What's next?
Disappointment in faith and the desire to leave the Church and not return again are, in general, logical. In any case, in the current church situation. No matter how a person lives, no matter what he strives for, sooner or later this or that cooling and disappointment sets in. It can have different forms, but it necessarily comes to all. Someone experiences it quietly and without dust, without showing everyone, someone, on the contrary, is rapidly writing huge sheets on Facebook. There are many reasons, the first of them is just human nature: over time, a person gets bored with absolutely everything. The most beloved, the best, the most interesting things bother him. This is the structure of the human psyche – it is saturated with any uniformity. Any married person knows this, for example. Any person who has worked in one place for a long time also knows this: even a very beloved job becomes uninteresting, you want something new.
In the Church, this disappointment is experienced harder, because when a person comes to the Church, a lot is promised to him. Such prospects are given to him, such stories are told that it seems as if he has finally found a place where he will be well.
Plus, the church world provides great opportunities for comprehension: it is a large, complex, diverse, interesting world. A long church history, which is very interesting to read and find parallels with modernity, if they are important to someone. Or just read like a fairy tale story of the past, where there are many miracles – and man needs miracles. This is a difficult restructuring of life: services, posts, rules, what is possible, what is not. If you seriously delve into this, it is very interesting and terribly important. And now a person comes and plunges into everything: reads books, studies services, teaches a new language.
In general, a person plunges into all this, studies, learns that one can live differently (people rarely come to the Church from a good life, usually from some “conditions”, difficulties, illnesses, difficulties, troubles). He reads about people who can live differently, he hopes that something wonderful will happen to him someday, he will find signs by which everything is changing for the better.
Unfortunately, the world of modern Russian Orthodoxy is large, complex and interesting, but it has its own limits. And if you are not a scientist, if you do not seek to dig into some jungle, then after about ten years you will know everything. The order of worship, Scripture, basic points of view, objections to them and objections to these objections. If you are friends with the Internet and local controversy, you will have time to participate in disputes on a wide variety of topics from all possible positions. Ten years later, the Church becomes bored. I have seen this many times, and these terms are approximate, but the way it is. For a person who happily plunged into all this, it becomes clear that there is nowhere to plunge further. And the logical question arises: what next? What are we doing here and why?
Only an unshakable idiot has no doubt
There is a wonderful book by Theophan the Recluse "What is spiritual life and how to tune in to it." How to tune in, it tells, but what it is – no. What ideal should I come to in the Church? How do I know if I am going in the right direction or not? I have not yet found a clear answer to this question. In theory, in the Church man is saved. But what salvation consists of is not clear. The Protestants in this regard are a little easier: one Protestant asks another, they say, brother, are you saved? I am saved! – the brother answers. And everything is wonderful. What is salvation? Have I approached him? I began my church journey as a child and, of course, sinned less than now. Why, therefore, did I live these years in the Church, if I began to sin only more?
In general, a person who has been in the Church for a long time realizes that life is ambiguous, and sometimes he needs to shout to God in order to understand what to do, or he is so ill that he needs to be sure that God is, God hears, God knows about him cares. And God does not always answer this. God can be silent for a very long time. And a person begins to think: is there anything at all? This is also normal and even important.
Science feeds on questions. The most obvious: the Sun – we all see it – is small and revolves around the Earth. And one must doubt this in order to understand that the Sun is really big, and this Earth revolves around it. But this is not an obvious fact. It requires doubt and work. Faith also, to a certain extent, feeds on doubt. Dmitry Bykov has the following lines: "Only the one who stares intently and sternly, an unshakable idiot who does not believe in God at all," will doubt. Doubts are constantly coming, and faith is ultimately overcoming doubts.
So, a person after a long stay in the Church begins to doubt. All existing incentives are weakening, worship services no longer cause a strong internal response, words about sinfulness are not denounced. “As if the pig lies in feces, I serve sin and the same,” the Orthodox man repeats every evening. At some point, it stops working. At first you shudder, understanding what is at stake, and for a hundred and twenty-fifth time these are just words. And for five hundred and twenty-fifth times they annoy – why am I saying this? I don’t feel like that, I don’t want to feel that way. No, you can, of course, think of why it is said that this is a kind of pedagogy so that a person realizes the scale of the problem he is facing, but from some point on these words lose their pedagogical meaning and people begin to look for a way out.
There is a way out of the complication of their religious practice. People begin to travel to distant monasteries, look for the right priest, who will lead them where necessary, go to Mount Athos. Athos is an amazing place, I was there twice, and probably the most sincere liturgy in my life was on Athos. People can change faith. It sounds wild to us: they say that there was an Orthodox man, but he converted to Catholics. Or was a Catholic – went to the Protestants. But, let's say, in the Protestant world, the transition from one church to another is perceived as something ordinary – as a transition from one sports section to another. Here a man was engaged in rowing, he was tired of him, he went in for mountaineering. That's what Protestants say about a certain Baptist brother who joined the Lutheran. Well, he crossed over – but he’s still our brother. In the Orthodox Church, this is a more serious matter. So, some people move to another denomination and gain a new breath. Some begin to look for some particularly correct forms of Orthodoxy, go to the Old Believers, to some old-timers, special schismatics – there are quite a lot of them and they are very different, and through this they gain an additional incentive to believe.
Another option is when a person moves from just religious practice to business. He finds himself a certain occupation that gives his life a new meaning. This may be, for example, a ministry of mercy. Very good and righteous, honest exit. A person thinks this way: well, there are commandments that you need to take care of your neighbors, patients, prisoners, and so on. I’ll go about them and take care, it will be my spiritual life. That is, a person leaves himself some volume of religious practice – fasting, worship, confession, Communion. But the main thing is a merciful ministry or sermon, work with youth, or another activity that supports him. Thus, he can be found in the Church for many more years, being busy with some rather useful business. Science, art, icon painting – all this is very good and right. But this is no longer a religious practice and not faith, it is something near it, something instead of it. I know people who eventually went to children. They started a family, raise children, try to somehow protect them from the corrupting influence of the modern world, and this forms the basis of their own life. This is also correct and good.
Separately, it must be said that the structure of the current church life that we have is not particularly suitable for the modern Russian citizen. This life requires slowness, concentration, a long memory, the ability to detach from the fuss. So you came to the temple – and leave everything behind the threshold. Prayer is a very focused process, while the whole life of a modern city dweller is built on immersion in a large number of information flows. It’s very difficult to live in another way. This is not even about the Internet – just few of us at work are busy with only one thing. Most of us have several tasks at once, new ones constantly fall, and no one is waiting for you to complete the previous one. A huge number of people have more than one job. Plus, there is a family, and if earlier the family and work were separated from each other – in the morning father left for the office, returned in the evening – now these processes are going on in parallel. The man is at work, then his wife calls him and asks something: no one is surprised. Or a woman is at work, and children begin to call her for some questions. This is how life is arranged, and it is very difficult to redraw it while being at a modern job in the city. And therefore, a person in the Church may be uncomfortable, because everything here is intended for a different type of life.
One way to get out of the crisis is to fight to improve the Church. For the purity of the church ranks, for everything to be truly – and "for real" can be understood in different ways, both more traditionally and more liberally. Such a struggle is also a substitute for spiritual life, about which no one knows what it is. And finally, the last exit – just leave everything. This usually happens gradually. A man lives his life, understands that he has not communed for three months, and does not feel that he has lost something. He goes to the temple less and less often: it’s too cold, that is, other things, children, something else — he gradually cools down, he becomes uninteresting, and he leaves the Church even earlier than he admits this to himself.
Which part of the article of faith is closest to you
In his crisis, a person, as a rule, remains alone. Some are lucky to meet wise shepherds who are able to support, but more often people complain about being alone in the Church. Attempts to talk with their church environment do not help – and not everyone has it; quite a few church people live in incomprehension even in their own family.
Where to look for a way out? What can help? First of all, some psychotherapeutic work on self-study could help here. In the part of church asceticism that I met, there are very few attempts to understand what is happening to me, why I am doing this and not the other, why I am so and can I be different, what I can do myself, and for which I need God's intervention.
It all starts with honest answers to the questions: why do I need faith, why do I need it there, what do I really believe in, what is important to me? I once did this exercise: there is a Creed, it consists of 12 parts. I took some part and thought: about this I feel something? Does this have anything to do with me? For example, it says: “I drink the resurrection of the dead.” It's important to me. I have a lot to do with death, and yes – death is very bad. But when it says that Christ is predicted by the prophets of the Old Testament – excuse me, biblical scholars, I don’t care. What is the difference to me, prophets predicted or not predicted? I agree with the article of faith, but to me it doesn’t matter. For me, nothing will change if it turns out that this is not so.
And as I studied myself, my first sincere and real prayers began. I realized that I sincerely prayed only when I had some kind of trouble: in a situation of trouble, everyone prays very hotly. Но по-настоящему обратиться к Богу я смог только после того, как церковность в значительной степени оставил. Только когда я понял, что все эти правила, вся эта субкультура не заменяет меня самого. От того, что я буду молиться по молитвослову или в соответствии с каким-то образцом, она может превратиться в какую-то оболочку, форму. Не знаю, как это описать, но в ситуации некоей выключенности из традиции и культуры моя молитва стала настоящей. Я наконец-то говорил с Богом честно.
Мне потому нравится Книга Иова, потому что с ним подобное и случилось: у него все отняли. И его молитва была такова, что Бог пришел к нему лично. Эту историю можно рассматривать как метафору, но мне нравится думать, что это документальное описание. Была у человека счастливая жизнь, он был праведен. Сатана пришел к Богу и сказал: Иов праведен только потому, что ему хорошо. Если ему будет плохо, он моментально перестанет в Тебя верить и проклянет. Итак, у Иова погибли дети, сгорел скот, сам он покрылся проказой. Осталась только жена, которая говорила: «Ну, похули Бога и умри, хватит уж мучиться-то». А еще к нему приходили друзья и говорили: «Иов, видимо, ты где-то страшно нагрешил, Бог ведь просто так не покарает. Покайся, Иов, ведь ты грешник!» А Иов говорил: «Нет, я хороший человек, я был праведен всю свою жизнь, и пусть Бог ко мне приходит, будем судиться, ведь с живыми людьми так поступать нельзя!»
И Бог пришел к Иову. Правда, Он не стал отвечать на его вопросы. Он вместо этого сказал потрясающую речь, которая звучала примерно так: «Иов, а кто ты такой вообще, где ты был, когда Я Землю творил, когда Я крокодилами и бегемотами реки населял?» Это потрясающая поэзия, я мало где встречал подобное. Иову хватило того, что Бог явился, он сказал «я все понял». И после чтения Книги Иова не остается вопросов, справедливо там поступили или нет. Вот так и нужно молиться.
Но… люди продолжают приходить к Богу!
Вопрос из зала: Насколько я понял, чтобы сохранить веру и сохранить себя, необходимо изучать какое-нибудь церковное направление или заниматься околоцерковной деятельностью, и тогда останешься в Церкви?
Священник Дионисий Харин: Мне кажется, это необязательно. Если мы действительно пришли к такому моменту, что теряем веру, в первую очередь, это нужно принять. Большинство людей боится в этом признаться, и у них рождается множество проблем. Нужно попытаться осознать себя, свое место в мире и свои отношения с Богом – насколько честно они складывались. Пересмотреть их. Этому, возможно, действительно помогает некая смена рода деятельности – неважно, церковная или нецерковная. Главное – то, что ты отправляешься на поиски Христа, и они могут быть не связаны с конкретным храмом. Кто-то отправляется в путешествие и узнает различные народы, их отношение к Богу, кто-то изучает литературу, кто-то созерцает природу, кто-то занимается физикой, химией, математикой – и в этом видит красоту Божьего мира, его глубину и сложность, и снова может прийти к вере.
Владимир Берхин: Известный факт, что человек в начале религиозного пути чувствует себя счастливым. Это поддерживающая вещь, которая может заразить и других. Но сейчас, чтобы чувствовать себя счастливым, не обязательно верить в Бога. Увы. Мы знаем вполне успешных, состоявшихся, нравственных, замечательных людей, которые не имеют никакого отношения к Церкви. Это значительно осложняет проповедь. Человек к нам приходит и говорит: а что у вас тут такого, чего нет во всем остальном мире? Показать ему нам, собственно, нечего. Остается только рассказывать.
Но вот что удивительно. Люди продолжают приходить в Церковь, открывать для себя Бога – и для меня это серьезное доказательство, что Бог есть.
Несмотря на то, что мир стал настолько разнообразен – в нем есть любые переживания, идеи, удовольствия, люди овладели удивительными возможностями по управлению собой, друг другом… Но при этом они продолжают искать Христа и приходить к Нему. И значит, Его не может не быть!
Чтобы оставаться в Церкви, нужно найти то пространство, в котором Бог мне сейчас открывается. Кто-то может найти Его в собственной семье. Это не значит, что Он будет там всегда – эти пространства меняются в течение жизни. Важно понимать, что церковная субкультура – только одно из возможных пространств. Оно когда-то было адаптировано специально для этих целей (в современном мире уже не так хорошо адаптировано), но оно – только одно из возможных.
Подготовила Елизавета Трофимова по лекции
«Когда Пасха прошла. О разочаровании в вере и втором дыхании»
Фото Андрея Ульяновского
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