Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Doukhobors and the USCC
In the past few years that our USCC Website has been online we’ve received thousands of communications and hundreds of inquiries, and it’s long since become untenable to make meaningful individual replies to all requests. We have therefore consolidated some of these questions and responses and prepared a more coherent reply to a given type of question. Our responses, as presented below, are based on an informed estimate of a current consensus of understanding among a majority of USCC members. You may also wish to use our convenient Search option on our Home page to get additional information from other sections of our website or explore our suggested Links to other external sites for more material about various aspects of Doukhoborism.
Visitors to our site are encouraged to continue submitting inquiries or questions not appearing here and we will post additional listings in this section from time to time. We also reserve the right to enlarge or edit existing content. Visitors are likewise encouraged to email us their opinions – whether or not they agree with the FAQ answers – and if not, to submit their own suggested answers for our consideration.
Clearly, even within the scope of this website as a whole (much less in a FAQ section), it is not possible to thoroughly deal with all inquiries seeking a more in depth understanding of our culture, heritage or faith. We will nevertheless continue to do our best and are hopeful that our site will eventually fulfill most of the reasonable expectations of our visitors with a sincere interest in the Doukhobor experience.
How does one become a Doukhobor? Can anyone join the USCC?
“Becoming a Doukhobor” and joining the USCC may seem to be the same thing, but in reality is something a little different. Hopefully, the following explanation will be helpful.
The origins of Doukhoborism as an identifiable entity (actually a dissident religious and social movement) arose in Russia at least three or four centuries ago. In the early period of its development, like-minded people from various parts of the Tsarist Russian Empire coalesced into one recognizable group on the basis of their convictions, in most cases converting from the Russian Orthodox Church. With all of the injustices of the time, it was perhaps to be expected that, in spite of severe persecution from Church and State, the numbers of Doukhobor adherents in various parts of the Russian Empire grew rapidly.
By the end of the 18th century, however, the Doukhobors had already acquired their present name, and had consolidated a unique and distinct identity, and since then, for most of the past two centuries, the instances of “conversion” not involving marriage have steadily dwindled – one either has been born into Doukhoborism or acculturated into it through marriage to a Doukhobor. In the Russian era of continuing Doukhobor development throughout the 19th century that process still produced a steady growth in numbers.
However, in the Canadian era, since their first arrival in 1899, a powerful “reverse acculturation” has taken place, with many of Doukhobor origin converting to other religious denominations or just drifting away into secular society. And, in the vast majority of instances, “intermarriage” has resulted in assimilation into the dominant surrounding culture, away from the Doukhobor identity. After an initial spurt due to natural fertility, the Canadian era has resulted in a steady decline in total numbers of self-identified Doukhobors, especially in the second half of the 20th century. This is a complex process, but can largely be accounted for by the fact that the development of the Doukhobor identity over the centuries has taken place in the context of the Russian culture and language, and has incorporated not only religious and ideological aspects but also a way of life with an extensive fabric of customs and traditions, and distinct and deeply entrenched characteristics of ethnicity. All of these traits have been indelibly forged into one unique and indivisible whole by a shared historical experience of epic achievements gained through great suffering and martyrdom.
Thus, while today it is theoretically possible for anyone outside the Doukhobor “genetic pool” to become a member of the USCC or any other Doukhobor group, such instances (outside of intermarriage) are still quite rare. People of non-Doukhobor origin do become interested in the Doukhobor ideology and way of life, and some choose to become supporting members of the USCC* (or other Doukhobor groups), where they are very much welcomed. In most cases, however, such potential new members usually end up reconciling themselves to merely sharing some of the essential values of the Doukhobor understanding in their own personal lifestyle mode.
Moreover, in the 21st century, while most Doukhobors still very deeply value their own unique heritage, they are also aspiring to transcend the boundaries of race, creed, nationality and ethnicity, and to work for the development of their Doukhobor values within a commonality of human experience, within the enlightened consciousness of a progressive world-wide movement based on unconditional love and a commitment to a life of peace, justice and equality for all.
(*PLEASE NOTE: Anyone interested in becoming a member of the USCC may wish to explore some of the process of becoming a member by registering in the USCC Members Online, which is open to all, and clicking on the appropriate buttons. Those who wish to may also make direct contact, in person, by phone, fax or email – see the “Contact” section of our Website.)
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What differentiates Doukhobors from other Christian denominations?
While Doukhobors consider themselves Christians in the sense that their basic religious ideology has been mainly derived from the teachings attributed to a Jewish spiritual teacher known as Jesus Christ, the differences between Doukhobor understanding and the theologies and practices of most mainstream Christian denominations are quite profound and extensive. Traditionally, Doukhobors have considered themselves far removed from the views and practices of the large establishment Christian Churches, beginning with the Russian Orthodox Church that they historically split away from, and including the Roman Catholic Church and most of the larger Protestant Churches. They have generally tended to associate themselves with various smaller Russian sects, such as the Molokans, and the smaller, more radical Western European Protestant denominations, such as the Mennonites and Quakers (known as the Society of Friends), with whom they have much more similarity.
A thorough analysis of the similarities and differences between Doukhobor views and those of other Christian identities would require a major thesis, and even that would not likely do justice to this matter. Therefore, the following brief listing of a half dozen of the more important areas of difference is only intended as an introductory summary on the topic, which will hopefully give at least some insight into the nature of Doukhobor Christian interpretation, and perhaps stimulate the much more thorough study that would be required for a fuller understanding:
A. Doukhobors do not consider the Bible to be either a “holy” book or infallible in its content.)
B. Doukhobors do not accept any of the so-called “miracles” of conventional Christian theology, such as the “Virgin birth”, “raising of the dead”, “walking on water”, “Jesus’ physical Resurrection from the dead”, etc. Doukhobors consider these to be a perversion of the basic Christian understanding – artificial embellishments introduced as concessions in order to entice the population away from the widespread pagan belief systems that existed at the time that Christianity was being adopted as the official state religion in the Roman Empire. Likewise, Doukhobors reject all the pagan forms of idolatry and misleading symbolism that have been incorporated into mainstream Christian ritual, such as prayer to icons, crucifixes and other man-made objects, the use of altars, incense, candles, water baptism, prayer beads, etc.
C. Doukhobors reject the notion that Jesus died for our sins; that His martyr death serves as some kind of “ransom” for the salvation of others. For Doukhobors this is a fundamental betrayal of the very essence of His teachings, which emphasize each person’s individual responsibility for emulating Jesus, living according to the Golden Rule, and earning one’s own “salvation” through the good deeds of one’s life. Doukhobors believe that the notion that one can live any kind of life one may wish to live, and then receive salvation merely through the acceptance of Jesus as one’s personal “Saviour”, not only goes counter to any rational understanding of the Christian teachings, but also defies common sense. For Doukhobors, the death of Jesus is important mainly because it demonstrates the degree to which we must be prepared to emulate His example of unconditional love – wherein, even as he was being tortured to death, he was able to express unconditional love for his tormentors, saying,, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” Yet, today, we see the grotesque antithesis of that shining example (the very essence of the Christian ethic), when millions claiming to be Christians are prepared to bring the world to an Armageddon of self-annihilation in their pursuit of “an eye for an eye” revenge against their perceived enemies.
D. Doukhobors do not accept the need for an institutionalized priesthood or clergy, or any ecclesiastical hierarchy, with a monopoly on the interpretation of religious and spiritual understanding. They believe the word “God” to be a term used to denote a spiritual energy force, synonymous with the term “love”, which is omnipresent throughout the universe, including in each and every human being. Our “conscience” is the “voice of God” within us and each of us has the ability to listen to that voice. We can always consult with others to help us in understanding, but it is up to each of us to determine the extent to which we respond to that voice. The tendency of most Christian denominations to personify God (as the proverbial white-haired, white-bearded, grandfatherly figure living somewhere in the heavens /sky) is also viewed as a concession to the pagan stage of human understanding, which is totally inconsistent with the spiritual nature of the teachings of Jesus.
E. Doukhobors do not accept the concept of “original sin”, believing that since all human beings are born with a capacity for consciousness, with the ability to reason, and the will to do what their conscience (the “Voice of God” within) tells them is the right (“good” or “Godly”) thing to do, they all have the innate ability to be true vessels of God/Good/Love. Doukhobors also do not accept the concept of a personified “Satan” (which they view as nothing more than another concession to primitive pagan thought), but see “evil” as being the absence of “God/Good” ( much as “dark” is not an entity in itself but is really nothing more than the absence of “light”). Since nobody would consciously do something “evil” (i.e. do something that would harm others, and therefore their own “salvation”), it follows that they do so only through ignorance or lack of understanding. Thus it also follows that ignorance is the only true “evil”.
On the other hand, if one really does know better and still does something against the clearly expressed voice of one’s conscience, then that action (representing knowledge unused) is the only true “sin”. No amount of “penance” (be it in the form of a “Hail Mary” , torture, prison time, or any other form) can undo the effect of a “sin”, and the only “solution/salvation” is to acknowledge one’s wrongdoing and to, as Jesus said, “go forth and sin no more…”
In a similar vein (irrespective of individual beliefs regarding afterlife) Doukhobors understand “Heaven” and “Hell” to be states of existence and consciousness, and not actual “geographical” locations as many “Christian” interpretations would seem to imply. However, a true “Heaven on Earth” is attainable in Doukhobor understanding, if all people were to actually “Love thy neighbour as thyself”, and follow the Golden Rule in their day-to-day lives. The state of universal unconditional love that would result would make it impossible for war (or any form of violence), injustice, inequality, poverty, etc., to exist, and a veritable “Heaven” would be in effect.
Of course, Doukhobors understand that, given the present stage of evolution of our “human nature”, the attainment of such an advanced level of conscious understanding and the power of will to attain it (in order that we could have that “Heaven”) is not something to which we can evolve that easily. However, Doukhobors firmly believe that the potential for that advancement definitely exists, and the awareness for the need to evolve is becoming ever more widespread, so the “spiritual wrestling” must continue.
F. Doukhobors understand that the progression towards a “Heaven on Earth” will go through various stages, as more people attain an advanced level of consciousness. Very early on in their own development Doukhobors realized that it was not possible to be consistent with the very basics of Christian teachings, if one were still involved with violence against a fellow human being, and all the more so, if one were still prepared to take another’s life. They therefore resolved that they would henceforth never take part in any form of violence, and never participate in the taking of a human life, for any reason whatsoever. Doukhobors understood, of course, that the taking of many lives, as in war, is all the more abhorrent and totally inconsistent with the most essential of Christian principles, and Doukhobors share their absolute rejection of militarism and war with only a very tiny minority of Christian denominations. Although there have been deviations by some individuals, this principle of non-violence is perhaps the strongest of Doukhobor identifying features, and in recent decades, Doukhobors are encouraged by the significant growth of those, from all denominations (including millions from various non-Christian origins), who are beginning to understand that, if our human species is to survive (much less achieve a “Heaven on Earth”), we must most urgently and universally reject violence and war as acceptable means of human interaction, dismantle all of the military institutions and doomsday arsenals and apply all those monumental resources to peaceful development.
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What is the Doukhobor understanding of the Bible?
Doukhobors acknowledge that the various Biblical scriptures have recorded and preserved the knowledge of the life and teachings of Jesus and other ancient teachers and prophets, and have thus contributed to the evolutionary development of humankind, including the Doukhobors themselves. No doubt, many of those who did the original writing (and including many of the translators) were very inspired and dedicated in the course of their work. To this extent (inspired as they were by their “inner voice of God”), the Bible scriptures can be considered to be inspired of God, but no more so than any other written work of great dedication or inspiration, be it other great religious texts, such as the Tao Te Ching, Bhagavad-Gita, Upanishads, Koran, etc. or the inspiring writings of many great teachers and leaders such as Gibran, Thoreau, Tolstoy, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Helena Blavatsky, Helen Caldicott, Eckhart Tolle and countless others.
Common sense also tells us that, no matter how conscientious and meticulous a writer or translator may be, over the ages many different interpretations and versions of some events can come into play, and the dogmatic attachment to every written word or phrase becomes not only nonsensical, but actually tends to obscure the very essence of the meaning, as exemplified in the expression, “not seeing the forest for the trees”. Doukhobors also believe that the expansion of human understanding and conscious awareness is a never-ending, eternal process, and it is therefore counterproductive to human progress to attach oneself to written words as being unchanging. It is also a tragic inconsistency that so many Christian denominations have been prepared to persecute and even kill fellow Christians because of different interpretations of the same text, using that very text to justify their violence against each other! This is why Doukhobors have traditionally considered the Bible to perhaps be more of a hindrance than a help in working towards a more enlightened understanding, and an early Doukhobor teacher suggested that it should be done away with altogether, if one were to actually achieve true enlightenment. Doukhobors also attribute considerable significance to the Biblical expression that, “the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life”, which they interpret as meaning that we should be more concerned with the true spirit of the intended idea or concept, and not just the printed wording on a page of a book.
In general terms, however, Doukhobors understand the Old Testament to be essentially a semi-mythologized chronicle of Jewish history prior to the Christian era, and the New Testament to be a series of somewhat mythologized accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus and the very early years of the Christian era. In addition to this, and despite the many distractions and inconsistencies that exist in these texts, there is no doubt that both parts of the Bible contain some very inspiring words of wisdom, insights into the mystery of human existence, and guidelines for living a worthy life. For Doukhobors, however, it is the actual teachings of Jesus that are most important. Once, when he was approached for advice about how to properly study the Bible, the Doukhobor leader, Peter P. Verigin-Chistyakov suggested that all of it could be quite safely ignored, save, perhaps, the Gospel of Matthew, and, even there, all that was really needed was the Sermon on the Mount. He counselled: “Reading and studying that Sermon will give you plenty of advice on how to live, more than enough to work on for one lifetime. The rest of it will only distract you from living up to that most important part!”
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Do the Doukhobors support a hereditary spiritual leadership?
It is true that, from their very origins, Doukhobors have believed that each individual, having the Spirit of God within him or her (as well as a conscience, and powers of reason and will), could communicate directly with that Spirit, without an intermediary such as a priest or other clergy. This Christian anarchist understanding was spread among them by various enlightened teachers, some of whom are known in history and others whose names have been lost in time. Later, as this understanding became more widespread and its proponents coalesced into structured communities, capable, enlightened individuals among them were recognized as leaders. Thus, in the 1700s, we have historically recorded Doukhobor leaders such as Sylvan Kolesnikov and Ilarion Pobirokhin. These gifted individuals earned the people’s respect and trust, wisely guiding the communal activities of their followers, with the aid of a chosen Council of Elders.
As explained in FAQ No. 1, Doukhobors developed not only as a religious and ideological group, but also as an ethnic one, with all the components, almost as in a separate nation, including economic, cultural and political infrastructure and various customs and traditions. Thus, from the very beginning, the early Doukhobor leaders were entrusted with a leadership role, not only as spiritual advisors, but as secular leaders in all the other aspects of the Doukhobor community and its own unique way of life. This was a format that Doukhobors (as Russian peasants who’d long experienced the informal communal organization known as the “Mir”), found both useful and acceptable.
In the early 1800s, with the convergence of Doukhobors from all areas into the new settlements at Milky Waters, the people found it useful to further develop the leadership institution. Among other aspects, an official residence (known as Sirotskoye – “The Orphan’s Home”) was designated. Saveliy Kapustin, the Doukhobor leader during this period, served somewhat in the role of a Doukhobor “Moses”, codifying many of the Doukhobor ideas and traditions. His outstanding contributions solidified the value of the leadership role in the Doukhobor understanding, and firmly entrenched it as a central institution in the Doukhobor community, throughout all of its subsequent mainstream evolution. In the ensuing two centuries, four separate individuals with the Kalmikov surname and five men named Verigin have been acclaimed by the people to fulfill that historic role, all of whom have been genetically descended from Kapustin, with the exception of the female leader, Lukeriya Kalmikova, who was the widow of Peter Kalmikov, great grandson of Kapustin.
In acknowledging their leaders, Doukhobors entered into a kind of two-way pact. They respected and supported the leaders, who in turn provided the services to the community that were required of them. This arrangement has sometimes been referred to as a “Queen Bee” type of symbiosis. Also, Doukhobors did not view their leaders as mere replacements for the former priests. For one thing, most Church rituals had already been abandoned as unnecessary, and, for those that were still required, any capable, respected elder could lead a moleniye, a wedding or a funeral. Doukhobors have always understood the role of a Doukhobor “вождь” or “духовный руководитель” (i.e. “spiritual leader”) to be in a unique category of its own. Those recognized in this role were seen to have a special destiny, an exceptional ability, intelligence and spiritual insight that enabled them to serve as a unifying community figurehead, a collectively acknowledged spokesperson, as well as a wise, impartial arbitrator and consultant. At various times, to varying degrees, Doukhobor leaders have also served as capable administrators, cultural innovators, and spiritual teachers and visionaries. The hereditary connection over the past two centuries has provided a consistent thread of continuity and a sense of collective unanimity, thus adding to the amazing resilience and tenacity of the mainstream Doukhobor community.
Individual leaders have varied in their attributes and in the scale of their historical impact. As with most leaders of any kind, their personas and their leadership style have sometimes been tinged with controversy. Some of their overly zealous and simple-minded followers tended to attribute a supernatural “holiness” to them, which, unfortunately, sometimes led to fanatical interpretations and activity on the part of such misguided individuals. However, the majority of the mainstream community members had a more rational understanding. For them, the leader was a spiritual brother or sister in whom they saw the basis for their faith and trust that this person would serve the best interests of the Doukhobor community that had recognized him or her for this special role. Over these 200 years that faith has not been broken, and nobody who has made even a rudimentary study of Doukhobor history can deny the central, progressive impact of the Doukhobor leaders on the evolutionary unfoldment of Doukhobor destiny up to the present time, entering into the 21st century.
In recent decades, however, there has been a growing awareness that, as with all traditions, so with Doukhobor leadership – necessary change and evolution is inevitable. Such changes were reportedly prophesied by Lukeriya Kalmikova, yet in the 19th century. In his time, Peter Chistyakov Verigin spoke of a coming time when the “chicks would grow up to become adult hens”. Later, in 1960-61, at a series of Extraordinary USCC Conventions, delegates dealt with important issues of the day, including that of leadership. After many years of effort to determine the facts, official notification had finally been received that the acknowledged leader, Peter Petrovich Verigin – Istrebov, had died in a Stalinist Labour camp, yet in 1942. In response to the people’s efforts to acknowledge him as their new Spiritual Leader, John J. Verigin counseled the USCC members to reconsider. He suggested that the concept of the traditional leadership role should be allowed to change with the times. Too much focus on one individual was no longer in the best interests of the Doukhobor community and the people would benefit from shouldering more individual responsibility for determining the continued unfoldment of their own destiny.
The USCC membership took this suggestion to heart, and the Convention adopted a new designation – the role of “Honourary Chairman”, who would serve along with a democratically elected Executive Committee. Mr. Verigin’s suggestions in 1961, and his many speeches on this topic in subsequent years, helped to nurture a progressive, evolutionary consciousness among members. To the end of Mr. Verigin’s life in 2008, USCC members continued to unanimously re-affirm their desire to have John J. Verigin serve as Honourary Chairman, but throughout that period, individual members, serving in various committees and posts, gradually took on more and more of the actual administrative responsibilities in the community.
After the Honourary Chairman’s passing, the USCC Membership expressed its unanimous wish to have his son, John J. Verigin, Jr., continue in the traditional role of leader. John Verigin, Jr. (known affectionately as “J.J. Verigin”) responded with an explanation that he would do his best to serve the people as they requested, but only in his designated capacity as the USCC Executive Director, a responsibility he’d earlier been asked to fulfill by the membership, and had been doing so already for some years. JJ’s dedicated service in that capacity is continuing to facilitate a progressive response to the changing needs of the times, whereby the USCC membership and the Doukhobor community as a whole will determine its own destiny on the basis of conscientious individual and collective responsiveness to the “Voice within”.
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Are all Doukhobors practicing vegetarians?
From very early on in their development Doukhobors understood the need to reject any form of violence against their fellow human beings. In time they saw that violence against their “younger brothers”, the animals, was also abhorrent and unnecessary. In the 1890s, as part of a historic spiritual regeneration, those Doukhobors who were part of the group led by Peter V. “Lordly” Verigin renounced the use of animal flesh for food, and for the next several decades these Doukhobors (who immigrated to Canada in 1899) were quite consistent in their commitment to a vegetarian diet. Although their adoption of vegetarianism had an ethical origin, Doukhobors in Canada gradually became aware of the health benefits of a vegetarian diet, especially when it consisted of simple, unrefined and organically grown foods.
Over the past century, however, the number of Doukhobors who maintain a strict vegetarian diet has declined. This is largely due to the assimilative influence of surrounding society, and can also be attributed to the fact that many Doukhobors who originally adopted the vegetarian lifestyle did so not so much from personal conscientious guidance and inner understanding, but from a loyalty to the counsel of their leaders and the peer pressure inherent in closely-knit groups, such as that of the Doukhobors in their communal period.
Today, perhaps 15%-20% of USCC members comply with a vegetarian diet in their day-to-day lives, and there is also a large number of those who tend to favour vegetarianism, but still consume fish, fowl or meat on occasion. With all formal Doukhobor occasions still maintaining a strictly vegetarian policy, the inherent inconsistency of the situation is an obvious topic for discussion among Doukhobors. A recent article about the Doukhobor tendency to “aspire” to vegetarianism is posted in the UMO section of this website.
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What is the current Doukhobor attitude to the use of alcoholic beverages and tobacco products?
In the 1890s, along with their adoption of a vegetarian diet (See FAQ No. 5, above), Doukhobors renounced the use of alcoholic beverages and tobacco products, as being harmful to human health and well-being. Since then, as with vegetarianism, individual Doukhobors have had varying degrees of consistency in actually living up to this aspiration. Today, virtually all Canadian Doukhobor organizational events still comply with the standards of total vegetarianism, and total abstinence from alcoholic beverages and tobacco products. These standards are strictly maintained at all USCC facilities.
In their personal lives, however, Doukhobors follow a variety of attitudes. While some are teetotallers, the vast majority consume alcoholic beverages on a regular or occasional basis, and the incidence of alcoholism is probably comparable to that of surrounding society. The danger of addiction is acknowledged by all, and the need to avoid this outcome or to “cure” it (by abstinence or other means) is universally understood. In spite of these dangers, however, most Doukhobors now see the occasional moderate use of wine, beer or spirits as something which is not necessarily harmful to a responsible adult.
On the other hand, the harmful effects of tobacco use are now understood better than ever, and the incidence of such use among Doukhobors is probably lower than that of the general public. There is a nearly universal aspiration for the complete eradication of this scourge from not only all Doukhobors, but all of humanity.
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What about all the other types of drugs and chemical substances known to modern society?
While some individuals may acknowledge the considerable scientific evidence indicating that the occasional use of “soft drugs” such as marijuana is not necessarily harmful to one’s health, the vast majority of Doukhobors today would reject the need to use any of these types of substances, and the dangers and harmfulness of so-called “hard drugs” is universally understood. While the USCC does not have a formal position on these matters, it is likely that there are a variety of individual opinions about how to deal with the so-called “drug problem” in modern society.
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What is the current Doukhobor attitude to political involvement in the context of Canadian society??
Officially, the USCC membership still stands by the 1934 document known as the “Declaration”, which expounds a version of the traditional Christian anarchist view on political structures and processes. The very essence of Doukhobor ideology clearly implies that the welfare of society cannot be effectively and securely gained through coercive political processes (which are implicitly backed by the threat of force), but only through the evolutionary development of individual conscientious guidance, and a life based on the Golden Rule. In practice, however, even within their own organizational structures, Doukhobors have never been able to attain such a utopian degree of day-to-day function, and throughout their history, have devised a variety of their own internal administrative and “political” structures, as various circumstances and times required (See also FAQ No. 4, above).
There is a growing understanding, however, that, in addition to the moral, ethical and spiritual development of each individual, and the loving, thoughtful raising of children, evolutionary progress in human society can also be gained through sincere, selfless involvement in various existing political and social processes. It is also possible to engender creative new processes; for example, such world-wide movements as Greenpeace (born in our own beautiful province of BC!), the various Green Parties, Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders, and many others.
Thus in recent decades virtually all Doukhobors in Canada have become actively involved in the political processes of the Canadian society they live in, particularly at the local, municipal and regional levels, with many Doukhobors serving on school boards, regional district boards, as well as village, town and city councils. There is some reservation about party politics at the provincial and federal levels, however, with the USCC officially declaring itself apolitical in this regard (although it pursues a very active policy in support of the United Nations and other multi-national organizations, especially those espousing disarmament, peace, justice and human rights). Nevertheless, most Doukhobors in Canada do participate in the political party process, and some people of Doukhobor origin have been elected at the provincial level, some even serving as cabinet ministers. Poll records also indicate that many individual USCC members vote in provincial and federal elections.
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What is the USCC position on homosexuality?
The USCC as an organization doesn’t presently have a policy on homosexuality, because this topic (along with
some others, also of a more contemporary nature – e.g. abortion, reproductive technology, euthanasia, etc.) has never been “officially” addressed as an issue. There have, however, been informal discussions, particularly among younger members, and it is probably safe to assume that a general group policy will be articulated at some point in the near future.
Individual views may vary to some degree, as with all matters, but it is very likely that the general Doukhobor view would be one of tolerance and acceptance, in line with the fundamental Doukhobor understanding that all human beings are equal children of God, regardless of nationality, race, colour, creed, gender (or sexual orientation) etc., and all are equally deserving of love and compassion, and equal treatment under the law.
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Is it possible to be a Doukhobor without knowing the Russian language?
As with all cultural groupings in society, Doukhobor life concepts and liturgical and choral traditions are best expressed and understood in their language of origin. While translation is possible and has been applied quite effectively in many instances, it produces only a “second best” result, as the very essence of many of these fundamental components of the Doukhobor way of life are fully comprehensible only when one participates in the authentic version of that lifestyle, which was developed in Russian.
Today, however, many of those who consider themselves Doukhobors, or who are actual members of the USCC and other Doukhobor organizations, no longer have a working knowledge of the Russian language. While, historically, Doukhoborism functioned in a context of Russian language and culture (See FAQ No. 1, above), the reality in Canada today is that the Doukhobor community (including the USCC organization) functions primarily in the English language. The traditional singing and prayer ritual are still conducted in their original Russian, but this has not prevented many Anglophones from participating in both. It is even possible that the Doukhobor community of the future will evolve into an amalgam of its own traditional Russian-based culture, along with Canadian and other cultures, constituting a new Doukhobor culture with easier accessibility not only through the new “world language” of English but virtually any other language.
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Doukhobor ideology seems to have much of value, yet few people know about it, so why don’t Doukhobors proselytize?
Doukhobors have always believed (as expressed by one of their early leaders) that “You judge a flower by its scent, an apple by its taste, and a Christian by his deeds”. Thus, the only way that a Doukhobor would wish to influence his/her neighbour(s) would be by example. Historically, to the extent that Doukhobors were able to make worthy advances in their way of life that exemplified their principles and ideals, and were able to be constant in their commitment to that advance (as, for example, when they rejected militarism and war in the 1890s), they were able to attract widespread respect and significant emulation. When one is prepared to suffer and even give up one’s life for one’s principles, it always seems to attract respect and emulation, as in the supreme example of Jesus Himself. Time will tell if Doukhobors will continue to have what it takes to make that kind of commitment in the face of the much more complex challenges that face humanity today.
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