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By Larry Woiwode

A Martyr Who Lives

1. Two months before Aleksandr Menn was felled by an ax, he was asked in a radio interview broadcast across Russia, "Does one need to be a Christian, and if one does, then why?"

"I think there is only one answer, and it is as follows," he said:

Man always seeks God. The normal state of man is, to some extent, to be connected with a higher power, even when the higher power in the human mind is distorted, and turned into something secular. Eras of Stalinism . . . and all other isms seek some false god even if God is taken away. This turns to idol worship, but still the inner instinct of seeking God is there.

One can imagine Menn, in the austerity of the Moscow studio, drawing closer to the microphone as he continued, on the spot, his careful answer:

The question is totally different when it is put this way: Why Christianity? Is it because of the sacred scriptures? No, every religion has sacred scriptures, and sometimes with a very high quality of spiritual content. . . . Then why Christianity? Morality? Certainly. I am happy that in our society the high moral values of Christianity are accepted, but it would be totally erroneous to maintain that there are no moral values outside Christianity. . . . Then why Christianity? Should we embrace . . . a position that God is revealed and therefore can be found in any kind of religion? No, because then the uniqueness and absolute character of Christianity will disappear. I think that nothing will prove the uniqueness of Christianity except one thing--Jesus Christ Himself.

In the reflex of an Orthodox priest to the name of Jesus, Menn placed his right hand-his fingers tapered like a concert pianist's--across the crucifix suspended over his chest, below his gray--streaked beard.

Many religious teachers, I'm sure, have a degree of truth in what they preach, but let's listen to them: Buddha said that he could reach the state of absolute nothingness only after long and hard exercise. Can we believe him? We can. He is a good man. He reached ...

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