Can anyone become a Doukhobor and 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.