Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Doukhobors -- A Persecuted Christian Sect

"The Doukhobors were... a Christian sect that the [Canadian] Government actually tried to kill off, residential schools, mass arrests, the whole gambit.

Why do I know about Doukhobors? Because I have an interest in Canadian history and politics, and the intersection with religion. Consequently, I have more than one book on my shelf.

Doukhobor history is interesting and telling. They seemed to me to be the most “Christian” of all the recent faith systems claiming to be so. By that, I mean they seemed to be the one who took the (reported) teachings of Jesus seriously, and tried to live by them: complete pacifism, the rejection of icons and church hierarchy, the renouncing of all possessions, caring for all living things to the point of self sacrifice…

Of course, like all religions, schisms, power politics, external and internal forces broke it up, with the splinter group who most self-identified as “fundamental” ended up being the one straying farthest from the core, resulting in the inevitable charismatic leadership and violence.

-- P@J.


Frances said...

You need to get to the West Kootenays before you say 'tried to kill off'. Tried to bring into line with then-Canadian ideas is more likely. The memory I remember most is driving through Grand Forks and seeing Doukhobours guarding their community hall against the Sons of Freedom who were burning and bombing.

It is said that the Doukhobours do not take life, but one leader was killed (train bombed), ostensibly by the jealous boyfriend of one of his many girlfriends. His grave overlooks the Columbia River on the east side of Castlegar. It was once quite fancy, but by the '60's was reduced to a plain cement slab and even then was a target.

The Doukhobours ran a thriving jam factory and other industries, but internicene strife knocked that all out - not Canadians. And it was only by luck that the powerline they blew up went down at a time when there was no underground shift at the Bluebell Mine. As it was, that blast, and the subsequent layoffs at mine and mill on the east side of Kootenay Lake did have a lot of miners and loggers really upset. However, there was no Salmo-Creston highway, so the only way across was the Balfour ferry. The RCMP and the ferry crews kept everyone on the east side of the lake, so no subsequent relaliation (I heard tell any man wishing to cross had to have a seriously pregnant wife at his side, and would be escorted to Nelson hospital).

The Canadian record with respect to the Doukhobours is not great; but they did a lot more damage to themselves, and from a very early stage.

Joe said...

Years ago I lived in a little Mennonite community and just up the road was a Doukobor community. The Mennonites did not view the Doukobors as Christians in the truest sense of the word. The Mennonites always held that the Doukabor belief was about as Christian as say the Mormon belief is Christian. I never really looked into the Doukobor faith so I couldn't say if they are Christian or not. I ran into my friend on the street one day and he had a bright white stetson hat on his head. We chatted for a bit and a couple of Hutterites walked by. I told my friend if he wore a black hat he could join the Hutterites. He shot back with "yeah but if I join the Doukobors I won't have to wear any hat".

RkBall said...

Thanks Frances and Joe for your first-hand additions.

P@J said...

The question I would ask Joe, would be if any "Christian" sect of the time saw any other sect as truly "Christian”. I’m sure the Doukhobors didn’t thin the Mennonites were “true”, nor did the Catholics, nor did the Mormons… that is (almost) the point.

Frances, I did mention that the Doukhobors were rifted by internal forces as well, and even mentioned the inevitable slide into violence by the small group who considered themselves most “fundamentalist”, The Sons of Freedom even called themselves the “Fundamentalist Church”, ironically, as the Doukhobor religion really had no use for any kind of Church. They also found themselves vistims of several increasingly corrupt “charismatic” leaders.

But it wasn’t the Freedomites who put Doukhobor children into residential schools, and subjected them to sexual and physical abuse. It wasn’t the Freedomites who stripped the Doukhobors of their land, and prosecuted the Doukhobors for peacefully practicing their religion. It was the Counrty: the crown: the Church of England.

Joe said...

Well P@J I believe all Christians hold different views than all other Christians except when it comes to the Divinity of Christ. When a sect such as the JWs deny that Christ is God then that point cease being Christian. When the Seventh Day Adventists began they too denied the Divinity of Christ and they too were seen as being non Christian. Over the years the Seventh Day Adventists have come to believe that Christ is God and as such are now considered to be Christian. From the little I know of the Doukobors I know that they deny the Divinity of Christ. Therefore they are not Christian.

"... nothing intellectually compelling or challenging.. bald assertions coupled to superstition... woefully pathetic"