WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Iron mines litter the landscape of Zheleznogorsk, an industrial city nestled in the Kursk region of Russia that is the birthplace of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary student Yuri Timoshenko.
Zheleznogorsk is an impoverished town situated above a fortune in raw materials; its citizens are an impoverished people surrounded by Christian symbols, rich in tradition, yet meaningless to most of the citizenry.
“In Russia, the whole perception of Christianity is different because it is tainted by the orthodoxy,” says Timoshenko, 25, who is enrolled in the B.A. program at Southeastern’s Wake Forest, N.C., campus. “They use the old Slavic language in the liturgies, so my perception of Christianity was like something from the past with all these archaic beliefs and superstitions.
“The majority of Russians have a very superstitious attitude toward Christianity. Many people kept Bibles written in the old Slavic languages in their houses, but they were not actually thinking of reading them; they kept them as something sacred.
“Some (Greek) Orthodox churches would sell prayers or some little trinket to citizens, instructing them to place the talisman wherever the pain was,” Timoshenko says. “It was a kind of witchcraft, just Christianized.”
It was this ritualism that led many Russians to fear outside Christian influence. “Baptists were considered heretics, deceiving people and leading them to hell. It was almost like a curse word,” explains Timoshenko, likening the word, “Baptist” to the word, “cannibal.”