The Three Slavic Misconceptions about American Churches

The Three Slavic Misconceptions about American Churches

In his article, Slavic immigrant to the U.S. Yuriy Stasyuk writes about the misconceptions among Slavic Christian immigrants in North America about American Evangelical churches.

It is no secret that I grew up in the Slavic (Ukrainian/Russian) church. It is also not a secret that I don’t entirely agree with its traditions, theology, and trajectories. That said, Slavic’s are a great people, not worse or better than any other people. Like with any other people group, some Slavic’s tend to be superstitious, religious, and culturally elitist. Some think they are better and more right than any other group. Fortunately, there are more Slavic’s that are humble, kind, and I am honored to know them or of them. That said, there are specific rumors that often rise in individual Slavic church communities. These rumors are regarding “American Churches.” Some Slavic’s don’t hold to such inaccurate perceptions, but there are enough that do.

“American Churches Have An ‘Easier Version of Christianity'”

This one I heard in person on many occasions. One time, there was a group of older people scolding a group of youths. They proceeded to vilify the fact that the young people visited an American church. In the midst of this, the older people pronounced that “those who go to American churches do it because they want an easy Christianity that allows sin.” Their argument continued after I left. I heard this same idea more times than I can count. Some people assume that anyone who leaves a Russian-speaking church for an American congregation will be at a place where it is “easier” to be a Christian. There, “more sins are permitted.” This idea exists because some Slavic’s have created a long list of cultural rules. As some people earnestly sacrifice much to “follow the rules,” they see others who don’t “follow the rules.” Thus the idea is born that “our Christianity is harder and needs more sacrifices; therefore, it is holier than theirs.”

The only problem is that “our Christianity” very often refers to cultural, not Biblical rules. For example, if Slavic’s mandate women to wear skirts and not trousers and see women from other nationalities not wearing them, there is a propensity to judge them as disobedient. Everyone is free to do as they please, but to be critical of another culture because they don’t do what you do is outside the bounds of Biblical Christianity. In my own experience, I found that those that were criticized had deeper roots in Biblical Christianity than those doing the judging. I also found out why those under criticism had it “easier,” it was because they had the Gospel, and Christ’s burden is indeed “easy” (Mat.11:28-30).

“American Churches Promote Divorce” 

The world is undergoing a significant demographic change. As if the flood gates have broken, most societies are becoming very open to divorce. The world has changed from the pride of “maintaining family honor” to the selfishness of “following your feelings and desires.” In the past, even non-believers would not divorce due to social stigma. Today, even members of conservative Evangelical churches file divorced.

I once spoke with a Slavic Christian gentleman who thought that all American churches are full of divorced/separated people. I tried to bring up Mars Hill Church as a counterexample. He stated that “everyone” was divorced there. I tried to call out the error in his hyperbole. Ultimately, he admitted he had never even been to Mars Hill but still believed that divorce was a widespread practice among American Christians. Many people who I called my friends have said this as well. The problem in part is that the media is quick to make bold statements like “Fifty percent of Christians are divorced” or “More Christians than nonbelievers are divorced.” However, when we take a closer look, we find out that the divorce rate among conservative Christians is not high. However, it’s interesting that Russia has a higher divorce rate than the United States. In fact, the world’s highest (in 2012). [1]

“American Churches Will Fall Apart, Should the Persecution Begin”

I will admit that this statement is less popular than the other two. We, Slavic Christians, look at American churches and see that they are different from our Slavic congregations. They do not follow our cultural customs related to dress code and some church practices. Being unable to separate cultural traditions from Bible-based doctrines, many of us thought of American Christians as “liberals and worldly.” In comparison, we were “tested in spiritual battles” during the times of atheism and communism in Soviet Russia. Our parents and grandparents survived the Soviet era persecutions. Therefore, we thought that, unlike American believers, we, Russians/Ukrainians were better spiritually equipped to deal with adversity.

For a while, I held to similar views and was concerned about the fate of American Christianity. I felt like American churches had a weak foundation and succumbed to the material culture of entertainment and secularism. Therefore, they would not survive the persecution, should it take place. I did not take a note at that time that even Jesus’s closest disciples fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane. Yet, we regard the apostles as role models for our ministry and do not look down upon them.

My view of American churches became much more favorable and realistic when I started attending worship services and met some American Christians. From our conversations over coffee, I realized that my American Christian friends have strong biblical convictions. Their faith in Christ had a solid foundation. Their life was full of the fruit of the Spirit. The realization of this exposed my “spiritual pride.” I conceded that I could not look down upon other Christians just because I belong to the Slavic church culture. My culture was my safety niche. I was looking for comfort in all things Slavic instead of Christ.


[1] “Divorce Rate.” (29.01.2013).

Photo: Pixabay.

Published with author’s written permission.

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