Conflicting Ideas in Christianization of Rus

The author’s opinion of Christianity and Paganism is made clear in the first paragraph of The Christianization of Rus’ According to the Primary Chronicle, in which pagan idols are referred to as “devils” and Russia pre-Christianization was a land “defiled with blood”. As Vladimir is visited by representatives of different faiths, it is again beaten into the reader that Christianity is the only reasonable choice.

Not only do followers of Islam not drink wine, but most of what they say is “false” and crude. The validity of the Jewish people as the chosen ones of God is similarly looked down upon because God had dispersed them, his favorite people, to foreign lands as punishment long ago. Later, when Vladimir sends emissaries to investigate these religions further, nothing is said about the Bulgarians’ Islamic practices other than that they are “disgraceful” while there is a detailed description of the lavishness and beauty of the Greek Orthodox worship.

After being told of the glory of the Greeks’ practices, a year passes and then Vladimir marches an armed force against a Greek city. I find his actions to be confusing, as he had just been told of the emissaries’ respect and admiration for the Greeks. Would he not want to set out in purpose of creating good relations with these people, as opposed to sacking their city? This could be an example of Vladimir’s many conflicting motives for choosing a religion for Rus – the primary being to make his land and his own reign stronger, as opposed to his desire to worship God.

I found The Life of St. Theodosius to depart from a few of what I consider to be the primary teachings of Christianity, in particular the Ten Commandments. A primary theme throughout the text is Feodosii’s refusal to obey his parents. Obedience and respect of one’s parents is generally very important to Christianity (i.e. “Honor your father and mother”) but, in this case, Feodosii is a saintly figure because he refuses to do as he is told. For example, he would rather wear shabby clothing and read divine teachings instead of dressing nicely and playing with other children. Feodosii disobeys his mother and runs away from home to become closer to God. His obedience and adherence to God’s call comes above all else. This is illustrated most obviously when God speaks to him and says, “Whosoever hath not forsaken his father and mother and followed after me is not worthy of me…”

In the introduction to this text, it is clarified that this particular view of religion is not unique to Rus. If so, what region or group of people are these values unique to? Or did everyone pick and choose the aspects they liked about St. Theodosius and ignore others, such as his self-abuse? Can any religion really be valid or credible if its current form is the result of a compilation of conflicting ideals and teachings?

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