Seldom has a piece of foreign legislation elicited such an outcry among America’s bien pensants as did a recent Russian bill designed to regulate the activities of the many religious sects that have been setting up shop in Russia since the fall of communism. While the media chorus from New York and Washington was predictable in its mixture of “concern” and condemnation, it is noteworthy that some think-tanks were quick to join the bandwagon. Typical of the crop was a monograph—”Russia’s Assault on Religious Freedom”—by Ariel Cohen of the Heritage Foundation.

Cohen wants us to believe that “this legislation will turn back the clock on religious freedom in Russia . . . as the Russian Orthodox Church, seeking a religious monopoly, has joined forces with xenophobic communist and nationalist politicians in the Duma. Under the bill, the government would be able to reinstitute aspects of the persecution and oppression that prevailed under Joseph Stalin and Leonid Brezhnev.”

The facts are different from the rhetoric. Admittedly, if you are a Scientologist planning to set up a radio station in Omsk, or a Mormon or a Jehovah’s Witness out to convert Russia to your version of the true faith, your job will include overcoming certain bureaucratic obstacles that had not been there before. But persecution a la Stalin or Brezhnev? Images of the Gulag and KGB interrogation cells readily come to mind. /las, no quick martyrdom awaits you in today’s Russia.

If you are a committed Christian determined to suffer for your faith, you should go to Kuwait. In the land for which hundreds of thousands of young Americans risked their lives, your life would be in mortal danger if you dared to preach the Good News. Even worse off would be those who receive your message and convert: they would be sentenced to death. Or perhaps you should go to Israel, a Western-style democracy that puts strict limits on the freedom of Christian proselytizers. Try preaching Jesus in Nazareth and you will be deported—if you are lucky. Persist, and you may get a chance to make some Palestinian friends behind bars.

Russia’s legislation is of course flawed, if only because religion should not be regulated by legislators. Politicians are inherently corrupt and therefore unfit to legislate on matters of faith and conscience. But last June in Russia, I saw sparkling-eyed sectarians from America attempting to buttonhole Orthodox believers as they were leaving church services. The proselytizers weren’t outside on the street but on the very steps of the church, even inside the yard. This would not be allowed in America: there is hardly one parish of any denomination that wouldn’t call the police, or at least ask the interlopers to leave, if its parishioners were being accosted in a similar vein.

The outcry over Russia’s new law is in fact directed against all Christian upholders of tradition who feel abandoned, betrayed and despised by the prevalent “Christomarxist” elite which controls various church establishments throughout the Western world. Dr. Cohen et al., seek to promote the “otherness” of Russia and Orthodoxy, and to perpetuate the intra-Christian schism, for the benefit of those who care not a hoot for the truth or the good life.

Of course the family quarrel of over nine centuries is real. It involves many doctrinal and liturgical differences that cannot be eliminated by any “half-way” compromise, let alone by accepting the possibility of “multiple truths.” But dialogue and mutual help among Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant traditionalists is both possible and desirable. Taken separately, they are utterly powerless to fight the modernizing, relativizing cancer which is destroying their communities from within—from Smolensk to Sonoma, from Belgrade to Bristol.

We are at war. It is a “culture war” rather than the shooting variety, but to many Christian traditionalists it is becoming clear that its outcome will determine the future of our civilization. Its victims are millions of immortal human souls and further millions of slaughtered unborn babies, rather than soldiers in uniform; but those complacent Christians who remain unaware of the devastating and escalating ferocity of this war may already be counted among the casualties.

All around us —in the academy, on Wall Street, in Hollywood-there is a mountain of evidence that the dominant elites are ordering our society after their own image. They are turning it into a virtual-reality theme park in which nothing is real and nothing sacred. New recruits are allowed into the ranks of those elites only if they have proved unable or unwilling to comply with the Christian concept of the good life. For proof, suffice it to say that Bill Clinton is still in the White House.

In the ongoing culture wars we need allies, and none are better poised to grasp the calamity facing us all than the Orthodox Christians of Eastern Europe. After their appalling experiences over the past 80 years, they realize that each of us needs to retain an awareness of his own fallibility when using human fallibility as an argument against the errors of the modern world.

All is not lost, at least not yet: anti- Christian beliefs and the assumptions of the dominant elites are at odds with the majority of the people in every traditionally Christian country in Europe and America. But this majority is embattled. It is being steadily and deliberately whittled away by the continuing onslaught on “conventional morality” in schools and the media, and by the attack on the demographic structure of our societies by open immigration. The problem is compounded by an ongoing betrayal from within the Christian camp, and the conquest of many churches by anorak-wearing guitarists, cryptocommunists, sexual perverts, and radical feminists. These people have their secular agendas, their political and social objectives; that they have no serious faith of any kind goes almost without saying.

The true Christian tradition has saved and sheltered many Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant traditionalists from the arrogant belief of today’s dominant elites that people can solve all the mysteries of the universe through their unaided intellects. But we are increasingly drawn into “the system” without realizing that we are being required to compromise our belief—to become practicing atheists, or worse—in order to participate in today’s society. Instead of joining the chorus of self-righteous condemnation of Russia’s “undemocratic” practices, we should realize that true Christian traditionalists are going to be “culture warriors” on the side of common decency, traditional values, and Truth. We should be prepared to endure sacrifices.

Instead of being thrown to the lions, we may be subjected—by some judicial mechanism dictated by bureaucrats—to mandatory “sexual diversity orientation sessions,” or feminist-led proabortionist “right-to-choose education workshops,” after which the refusal to recant could lead to “therapy” and forced medication. This scenario is not farfetched, alas, on either side of the Atlantic. Americans should prepare for martyrdom.

To prevent such a nightmare, we need to develop a political theory of Christian resistance. We should explain to our children that today’s “liberal democracy” promises freedom “from” things, whereas Christians should uphold freedom “for” things. But can Christian traditionalism offer a modern, practical political theory? Can it develop a contemporary model of a harmonious polity that includes free, willing obedience? If it can, this model should be broad enough to provide the consensual platform for a coalition of traditionalists from different Christian traditions. To regain the war ravaged remnants of “Christendom,” we should help its embattled majority of manipulated citizens become conscious of the power which it still possesses.

But an alliance among Christian traditionalists demands a change in some of our attitudes, too. Revelation and Tradition are not a System, and no System is the Truth. In seeking a post-ecumenical dialogue between traditionalists, we should take this adage seriously. For the sake of a traditionalists’ alliance, let us heed this voice, and admit that others—people outside our particular tradition — may share Christian virtues and lead good lives. Tell this to any true Russian Orthodox believer, and he will understand, and respond.