Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Church and commerce: religion does not come for free

“While reading the interview with a ‘professional’ beggar in one of the issues of your news- paper, I stumbled on a line that really cut me to the quick: ‘A church is an abode of Jesus Christ so it’s inappropriate to jingle the coins in a church.’ The point is that we have to ‘jingle the coins’ every time we go to church. Churchgoers need to pay for a lot of things including a funeral service or baptism. A church wedding reportedly cost a hefty sum of money. Even during the prayer in a church, a priest with a tray in his hand will walk around the congregation asking for donations. What kind of an ‘abode of Jesus Christ’ is that if you have to pay for Holy Communion and the remission of sin?

Father Vladimir, prior of St. Nicholas Church, provided comments on the disturbing subject.

“We are born again at baptism. In a figurative sense, we reach an agreement with the Creator. In short, we may go to heaven if we observe certain commitments (Commandments). We need to make our material offerings in exchange for gifts from above. But we need to glorify the Creator in the right way, that’s to say we need to follow the doctrines of the Russian Orthodox Church if we want to see this “exchange” happen.

"The majority of parishes have difficulties raising funds to pay the staff. They save up for years to have a church building renovated someday. Parishioners criticize some clerics for wearing expensive decorations, for driving flashy cars and living in big houses. But all of the above are donated by wealthy people or organizations.

"I don’t know if my parishioners suspect the church of being greedy when they ask me a similar question: Why religious merchandise sold in a church kiosk cost more than the same merchandise in a store? I will always explain that your offerings are included in the cost of merchandise sold in a church. In other words, you pay for the sacraments by buying a candle. Besides, any parishioner, even the poorest one, can afford some merchandise like plain crosses or candles. For example, some candles can cost you 1 or 2 rubles apiece. No doubts about it, a silver or golden cross will cost you a lot more, but the purchase of an expensive cross won’t get you more sanctity.

"Some people believe the more money they donate, the closer they get to the Creator. A person may arrive at the conclusion that he or she will get complete absolution after donating 10 thousand rubles – as opposed to a hundred-ruble donation, which is thought to be good enough for absolving some petty sin only.

"In fact, donation, sacrifice, and alms differ a great deal. The purpose of sacrifice differs from that of donation. The sacrifice is made in an attempt to make up for a major sin or a number of sins. The sacrifice implies a repentant sinner incurring substantial expense. He may sell his car or apartment for the benefit of the church or he may partially cover the cost of a new church. Alms can be both charity (giving money to the poor at a church porch) and sacrifice.

"For instance, if a priest concludes that repentance alone will be not enough for the remission of sins during confession, he may order a sinner to give alms away to the needy during a certain period of time.

You can pray for absolution in church, but you can’t buy it. Those who don’t follow the Commandments day in and day out, those who care to remember God and make big offerings to church only if need be, they’d better realize one simple thing: their prayers won’t go far. Or shall I say it in the lingo they know best: Their investments won’t pay any dividends.”


Translated by Guerman Grachev

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