I watched a documentary on Vissarion, an ex-traffic cop who discovered he was Jesus Christ when he lost his job due to the economic collapse in Russia in 1990. He now has about 5,000 followers at his Siberian commune and claims 10,000 worldwide.
The original Jesus told us about these folks: “For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.” (Matthew 24) They are the wolves in sheep’s clothing we have all heard about. His disciples, naturally enough, wanted to know how they could tell they were wolves, since they were dolled up in sheepskins. Jesus said you will know them by their fruits; that is, the results they produce over time.
Vissarion dolls up in sheepskins. He descends from his mountain home every August 18th wearing a flowing white robe and a beatific smile. Jesus wore a robe, but then so did everyone else at the time. If he came now he would be wearing jeans.
He is doing the usual culty things-signs and symbols and rituals, which we human beings seem to crave-if not in a religious setting then secular parades, statues, flags and swastikas. Have you ever watched a Nazi torchlight rally and thought,”That looks like fun?” Except for the Nazi part.
His followers are vegans, sort of Russian Orthodox, sort of Buddhist and into green issues. He’s got a good combo there-should appeal to a lot of spiritually-starved Europeans. In fact, some commentators say this cult-following thing is a Russian phenomenon, ignoring the fact that his followers come from all over Europe and America. I wonder how the commentators explain Mormonism, Scientology and the People’s Temple?
The documentary was filmed in summer to catch Vissarion’s annual descent from the mountaintop. In summer, Siberia looks really beautiful. How would it be to live in a close-knit community of 5,000 in such gorgeous surroundings? I can see the appeal.
I wonder why we all can’t live in close-knit communities and take care of Mother Nature? Maybe have parades at night now and then, carry candles and sing together?
Minus the fuhrers and fake messiahs?