In a broadcast to be aired Sunday, October 22, former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev talks with veteran religious broadcaster Robert Schuller for nearly 30 minutes about religious freedom, human dignity, and the presence of Christian belief in his childhood home. He also reminisces about the end of the Cold War and the beginnings of perestroika for the Hour of Power broadcast taped last Sunday before 4,500 people at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California.
Speaking through a translator, a smiling, healthy-looking Gorbachev begins by saying that "the revival of the Russian Orthodox Church is one of the most important gains of perestroika." He also explains his reasons for backing Russia's 1990 religious-freedom law and for deciding in 1989 to permit Schuller to broadcast a sermon on Russia's lone television channel. "We have to respect our people, and many of them are believers. ... There can be no freedom without spiritual freedom, without human beings being able to choose," the former Soviet president says.
Prompted by Schuller to reminisce about his mother's prayers, Gorbachev says that "practically all" his family "consisted of believers. And that was important," he says. His grandmother, he recalls, prayed and displayed Orthodox icons on an iconostasis in her home, while his grandfather, one of the first Communists in their village, displayed the portraits of Lenin and Stalin on an adjacent table. "That's how it was in real life," he says. "People did not desert faith, and faith did not desert people."
In a recent telephone call, Schuller told Christianity Today he believes that Gorbachev is only a "cultural atheist," that the former Soviet leader really believes in God. On the broadcast, Schuller repeatedly ...