Chicago Tribune article
August 7, 1992

American Gets Calling to Bring Opera on Christ’s Life to Russia

by Carey Kinsolving

Basso Jerome Hines of New York’s Metropolitan Opera was strolling around Red Square in Moscow last summer when he had an inspiration. He said he felt God telling him to bring his opera based on the life of Christ to the famed Bolshoi Theatre.

When Hines returned to the United States, he called Patrick Kavanaugh, director of the 500-member Christian Performing Arts Fellowship in Washington, D.C. Last month Kavanaugh carried Hines’ dream to Moscow with prayers, albeit strong doubts.

“Quite frankly, I didn’t think this was going to come off,” Kavanaugh said. “I was already aware that the Bolshoi had refused the Metropolitan Opera. In the theater’s 200-year-old history, operators had never allowed an American opera to come in.”

At first, Kavanaugh’s calls were greeted skeptically. Even efforts to get a ticket to a performance at the Bolshoi failed.

Finally, Kavanaugh called Vladamir Oielen, a music critic and publisher of a Christian newsletter who had once been a schoolmate of the Bolshoi’s director.

Soon, doors began to open. Two days later, Kavanaugh was watching an opera at the Bolshoi from the director’s personal box with the director at his side. At a meeting with Bolshoi officials, Kavanaugh explained that his company wanted to perform the opera for free. When he added that all the performers, including Jerome Hines, would donate their time, skepticism grew.

“The raised eyebrows took care of the translation problem,” Kavanaugh said. He said he sensed that Bolshoi officials were trying to “size up this supposed capitalist who was not making any money on the deal.”

After the shock subsided, Kavanaugh and Bolshoi officials signed an agreement for two performances of Hines’ 1952 opera, “I Am the Way.” They are scheduled for July 5 and 7, 1993. On July 4, Kavanaugh plans to perform Handel’s “Messiah.”

Kavanaugh said about 100 Washington-area performers will make the Moscow trip.

Kavanaugh finds irony in the Russians’ acceptance of an opera based on the life of Christ. Back home, the director of a Washington theater had rejected the production because he felt it might offend his patrons. Yet, Bolshoi officials said that they wanted the opera precisely because of its spiritual nature.

Performing at the Bolshoi will be new for all the performers except one. During the height of the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, Premier Nikita Khrushchev led a standing ovation for Hines’ title role in “Boris Godunov.”

Hines said composing “I Am the Way” was a life-changing experience for him. It compelled him, he said in a recent interview, to read the Bible deeply for the first time.

“I’d swept through the Bible years before to say I had read it, but had not made much of a dent in it. But in writing the opera, I was concentrating a lot on the Gospel of John, which is a pretty potent book.”

In his autobiography, “This Is My Story, This Is My Song,” Hines chronicles his search for God. “I had always been led by my intellect and, in a fashion, I worshiped it,” he wrote.

“Now I was about to learn to be led by God himself – by his revelation. I discovered that Jesus Christ is a reality… living today – in my heart!”

Washington Post article
April 25, 1992

Taking Lessons Of Christ, Law to Russia

Va. Lawyer to Host Conference

by Carey Kinsolving

Lauren Homer, a McLean lawyer, is going to Russia this summer to train that country’s lawyers and legal scholars in how the rule of law and inalienable rights can make a difference in a society that has recognized neither for many years.

The Law and Liberty Trust that Homer organized two years ago plans to host a conference on law and business in Moscow. Homer said she expects 150 to 200 Russians from political, business and legal spheres to study with American professionals and teachers.

“Laws are evolved from absolute legal, moral and spiritual principles,” Homer said. “There are certain things that are inviolate.”

Most basic of these principles, Homer says, is inalienable rights, which recognize that all people are created in the image of God. Thus, they deserve equal treatment under the law.

Under Communist rule, Soviet courts carried out what Homer calls “telephone justice.” Judges had special telephones so that Communist Party leaders could call and tell them the party line for any particular case.

In January, Homer spoke at a meeting in what had been an intellectual center for the Communist Party, the Institute for Marxism-Leninism. A senior editor for the former Communist Party historical journal told Homer that the situation in Russia was analogous to what he experienced after World War II, the only difference being that there had been no war.

Homer seized the moment and said, “But there was a war. You couldn’t see it. God was warring on behalf of His people in the Soviet Union. He brought down the entire Communist system so that He could reach the people He wanted to reach.”

Homer said she explained that Jesus Christ came into the world to reconcile people to Himself, and now He was going to be able to do this in Russia.

As Homer passed out Bibles to the group on a second visit, the editor asked her how she became a Christian.

Homer told the Russians that once she too had been an atheist. While taking comparative religion and philosophy courses at Duke University, Homer said, she decided that “Christianity was kind of like belonging to the Girl Scouts.”

Homer graduated from Yale University in 1970 with a master’s degree in city planning. Her first job after graduating at age 24 took her to an affiliate of the Rand Corp., the New York City Rand Institute. “I experienced great success at a very early age,” Homer told the editor.

After working for five years in New York, Homer entered Columbia University Law School. As one of the top students in her class, Homer became managing editor of the Columbia Law Review.

“I sort of wanted to show people that I was really smart,” Homer said. “Some people thought because I was a woman and maybe somewhat attractive that I got to where I was because of my personality.”

Homer’s climb continued when she joined the Wilmer Cutler & Pickering law firm in Washington.

Homer said she thought she had it all. Only a broken romantic relationship in 1982 prompted her to stop and question her achievements.

“I recalled I couldn’t rely on academic and career accomplishments to make me happy,” she said.

“I had reached a point of brokenness where I realized that the message of Christianity – Christ’s death, burial and resurrection – applied to me. Only He could heal the brokenness in my life.”

Homer told the Russians that she accepted Christ as her savior after hearing a sermon on the resurrection at National Presbyterian Church in Northwest Washington. However, she confided to them that she continued to struggle intellectually with “what Christianity was all about.”

A new sense of destiny and direction is the way Homer described her life with Christ. “It’s been the most wonderful, transforming thing in my life,” she said.

At the conclusion of her story, Homer asked if she could pray for her new Russian friends. They nodded. She prayed. “It was a very moving moment,” she said. “Some wept, and others hugged me. Their openness was evident.”

Last year Homer joined the firm of Gammon and Grange in McLean to give her more freedom to work on the Russia project. The firm comprises Christian lawyers who are supportive of Homer’s efforts to change the Russian legal system. One of the firm’s specialties is representing nonprofit corporations such as Christian ministries. The new Russian republic recently granted legal status to one of the Christian organizations that Homer represents.

Working with Homer is Russian scholar Nikita Zagladin, a visiting professor at Yale University. Zagladin is the department head of the Center of Strategic Studies of problems of Russia at the Academy of State Management and chief editor of a newly formed independent political magazine called Centaur.

The magazine’s first issue created no small stir in Russian intellectual circles, Zagladin said in an interview.

The magazine devoted a page to Homer’s Law and Liberty Trust.

It also reprinted an article from a Christian lawyer that discussed the Christian concepts underlying the U.S. Constitution.

“It’s very important what Lauren and her organization are doing, supporting real democratic forces and a real democratic press,” Zagladin said.

Washington Post article
November 30, 1991

Soviets Seen Welcoming Evangelical Christians

Atheistic System Perceived as Failure, Activist Says

by Carey Kinsolving

An American academician went to Moscow for a religious experience that would have been unthinkable only a few months ago: He saw Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev join a group of Christians in prayer.

Kent Hill, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, was with a group of U.S. evangelicals who met earlier this month with Gorbachev.

Hill said one of the Americans closed the meeting with prayer. Gorbachev, a declared atheist although his mother is believed to be a Christian, did not offer an audible prayer, but photos showed him with his head bowed and his eyes closed.

Meeting in a Kremlin conference room with pictures of Marx and Lenin on the wall, leaders representing 18 evangelical organizations told Gorbachev about “Project Christian Bridge.” The project enlists U.S. Christians in providing spiritual and material aid to the soviets.

Hill reported that Gorbachev said, “It has been a long time since I met with a delegation that came offering to help and not to criticize.”

Hill describes the Soviets as people who have been humbled by their experiment with atheism. “They know what doesn’t work,” Hill said. “They know state-sponsored materialism, atheism and hostility to Christianity have produced nothing but chaos. Even the atheists will often concede this point.”

The Soviets are looking at other world views. As proof, Hill will teach for eight months at the prestigious Moscow State University and academy of Social Sciences. His subject: apologetics.

Hill seems suited for the task. In 1978 he spent seven months in Moscow on a Fulbright scholarship. He speaks fluent Russian and has a master’s degree in Russian studies.

The title of his 520-page book, released shortly before the Soviet coup attempt in August, has proved to be prophetic: “The Soviet Union on the Brink: An Inside Look at Christianity and Glasnost.” Hill accurately predicted hard-line communism would attempt to halt the rapid move toward democracy, but he also said that the Soviets could never go back to the way things had been. Too much change already had taken place.

In Hill’s view, a telling sign of the radical changes occurred when the Christian delegation met with a top KGB officer in Lubyanka, the headquarters of the KGB. The headquarters, with its labyrinth of underground prison cells, had become a symbol of political and religious oppression.

But now, a top KGB official is admitting past abuses and extolling Christian missionaries. According to a statement released by the Christian delegation, Gen. Nikolai Stolyarov, KGB vice chairman, said: “The role of the missionary is necessary. Any good that unites us as a people is important.”

During the meeting, Hill asked Stolyarov whether there was an official link between the KGB and the Council for Religious Affairs, the official committee that oversees religious affairs.

“I will not deny that such a connection existed,” Stolyarov said in a statement quoted in Izvestia, a Moscow newspaper. But he also said the connection no longer exists.

For a top intelligence officer to admit the KGB tried to manipulate Russian churches is a huge step forward, Hill said.

During the meeting, the Rev. John Aker, a pastor from Rockford, Ill., moved Stolyarov to tears with his account of how he had been involved in U.S. covert activities.

“Before I became a Christian,” Aker said, “I worked in Army intelligence, and my wife did as well. I did some things of which I was very ashamed, over which I had tremendous guilt. At one point I considered taking my own life.

“But I came to know Jesus Christ and found forgiveness. This gave me a sense of forgiveness, the promise of eternal life and a reason for existence now.”

Aker, who recounted the incident, reported that Stolyarov said, “I’ve only cried twice in my life, once when my father died and on this occasion.”

Washington Post article
November 30, 1991

Russians Embrace Christian Art

Washington Group Sponsoring Festival in St. Petersburg to Aid Orphans There

by Carey Kinsolving

A Washington-based group of Christian artists is responding to an official plea from St. Petersburg, Russia – the intellectual center of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution – to help care for its orphans.

And so, for the first time in this century, a major cultural city will formally be host of a Christian art festival, according to Jerry Eisley, director of the Washington Arts Group and owner of a Washington art gallery.

The art group and the Academy of Christian Art in Canada are sponsoring the First International Christian Arts Festival in St. Petersburg from Dec. 31 to Jan. 7. St. Petersburg’s city council has designated funds raised through the festival to aid its orphans.

“The festival title, ‘Sacred Fire,’ is a call to God’s people to establish and affirm a growing movement of artists around the world who lift up their art and beauty and holiness to God,” Eisley said.

“The lie in the art world as well as in politics was that God had died and we must therefore resort to our own spiritual resources,” he said.

St. Petersburg, which has reclaimed its old name after being known during communist rule as Leningrad, is home of the world’s largest repository of art. The Hermitage has more than 5 million works of art. The Russian czars built the collection over many decades.

On a recent visit, Eisley said, his senses were overwhelmed after spending an hour in a room of Rembrandts.

Eisley and other artists traveling to St. Petersburg also want to pay tribute to the courage of artists in the Soviet Union. Many of them continued to paint while suffering communist persecution.

“I want to learn from them,” said Bruce Herman, an art professor at Gordon College in Wenham, Mass. “Honestly, I feel I’m going over there as a student,” Herman is one of the artists who will exhibit works in St. Petersburg.

Herman said there is a reason American art dealers now look to Russian artists for new vitality.

Living under repression has given Russian artists a sense of community and meaning, he said. Conversely, American artists suffer from the gradual erosion of meaning.

“The art world has largely run out of gas,” Herman said. “It’s pretty clear even to the art historians and critics that artists have largely lost their nerve. The simple message of the pursuit of truth has been lost, and that’s what the Soviet artists have regained.”

Herman views the biblical tradition as a treasury waiting to be unpacked.

“We don’t have to be scraping the pavements for meaning,” but he quickly acknowledged, “I’m not going to bully someone into what I believe. I just want to have a chance to put my case forward.”

Herman sees himself engaging in the great conversation of the ages, which involves ideas about culture, meaning and purpose. But to participate in a dialogue, he said, he must stand in a tradition.

About 60 people listened intently at a gathering sponsored by the Washington Arts Group as Herman lamented the plight of educated people who try to understand modern art.

He said many artists are like people of ancient Babylon who tried to make a name for themselves when they built the tower of Babel. He carried the analogy even further by saying that many artists are speaking a private language that cuts off any possibility of communication, similar to the confusion of languages at Babel.

“A lot of people are suspicious of artists because they feel like it’s an ‘in’ crowd gathering that they are not invited to,” Herman said.

Instead of painting to please the critics, Herman said, his paintings are offerings to Jesus Christ.

“Our whole activity as artists is predicated on the idea that if Christ can say ‘well done,’ if he’s pleased with what we are doing, then we’re succeeding.”

Washington Post article
October 19, 1991

U.S. Scholars Help Soviets Weave Christian Values Into New Economy

by Carey Kinsolving

Their task eased by the failed coup in the Soviet Union, 12 professors from the Washington-based Christian College Coalition say they are helping Russian academicians incorporate Judeo-Christian values into the new market economy.

“Not only has Marxism collapsed as an economic system, but it has collapsed as a moral system, and the Russians recognize that,” said John Bernbaum, coalition vice president.

“The Russians are asking, ‘How can we build a social and political order on some kind of moral foundation?’ These are profound questions. The kind of questions we are not asking in our own culture and state universities.”

The coalition includes 81 Christian colleges. The professors, representing nine member schools, met in Moscow this summer with 40 counterparts from six Russian universities to develop a master of business administration curriculum for next fall.

The MBA project is part of a broader package that includes student and faculty exchanges, textbook translations and development of Russian and English language courses.

A student-faculty exchange last month brought several Russian students from Nizhny Novgorod State University to spend three weeks at Taylor University in Indiana.

Bernbaum said that during the coalition’s 18-day conference in the Soviet Union, the Americans told the Russians that they feel the Christian belief that people are created in the image of God leads to greater respect for employees.

This can translate into better management-labor relations, stock ownership by employees and development of corporate plans that engage workers in management, they contended.

At a state-run souvenir shop, Bernbaum related, a private entrepreneur opened his briefcase and sold the U.S. educators identical souvenirs at a cheaper price.

When they asked the manager why he permitted a competitor in his store, he said:

“What difference does it make to us? We don’t care how much we sell. The store is owned by the state.”

Linwood Geiger, graduate dean of Eastern College, said, “Concepts like consumer demand are foreign to them, and it will take time for them to get a sense of how the dynamics of a market economy work.

“They believe that a market economy can produce great prosperity, but it doesn’t offer much for the poor. But they also believe that Christians do care about the poor.”

Bernbaum, in an interview in his Capitol Hill office, said that during his trip to the Soviet Union a year ago, Russian students peppered him for more than two hours with questions such as: What does it mean to relate your faith to education? What’s this business about love? What’s love got to do with education?

“They don’t know about the kind of Christianity where you have a vision for serving the world,” Bernbaum said. “They think of Christianity as abstract and mystical. Most of them have not had access to a Christianity that makes a real difference in the world.”

On their most recent trip, coalition members arrived in Moscow just hours before the coup attempt on Aug. 19.

The next night, Bernbaum summoned his colleagues. “We were all expecting a massacre,” Bernbaum said.

Despite the fears of some of the professors, they decided to stay until the U.S. Embassy ordered them to leave.

In the end, they stayed for the entire 18 days as planned, confident that the failed coup had resulted in much greater receptivity to their suggestions.

The U.S. educators unexpectedly found anti-communist feelings among the 40 Russian professors they counseled.

Only two or three of them were avowed Marxists, and the other Russians laughed at them, Bernbaum said.

According to Bernbaum, the rector of Nizhny Novgorod State University, Aleksandr Khokhlov, responded: “The values which are affirmed by the Christian college are valuable in the Soviet Union, although they were lost in the last few years.”

Khokhlov had seen students searching for values the year before when Bernbaum, 47, visited the university (formerly University of Gorky).

Between 500 and 600 students packed a meeting room in response to a simple notice: “American guest to talk about Christian education.”

The State Committee of Higher Education for the Republic of Russia and an anonymous donor jointly funded the 1990 conference.

The interest in Christian education had taken hold last month when 11 students, two professors and the rector from the university, which is about 200 miles east of Moscow, traveled to Upland, Ind., to visit Taylor University.

After spending three weeks at Taylor, the Russian students arrived in Philadelphia with only two hours to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.

To their astonishment, who should appear but four students from Taylor.

They had driven 14 hours just to spend another couple of hours with their Russian friends.

It was a simple act of friendship that is marking the U.S.-Russian exchange program sponsored by the Christian College Coalition, of which Taylor is a member.

The Russians also visited Chicago, Indianapolis, New York and Washington, D.C.

Alan Winquist, a Taylor professor who was their adviser and guide, recalled the lump in his throat when, at Liberty Island, he thought: “Here I am taking Russians to see the Statue of Liberty. This would have been impossible five years ago.”

Anna Stepanova, a biology student, visited the United States two years ago. Things were different this time, she said.

“I’ve never seen so many smiles,” she said during an interview in Washington in which she reflected on her experience. “But now I see that Christians are very friendly. I was so surprised that they wanted to speak with us all the time. They wanted to help us.”

Bella Gribkova, an English professor, said that she and the students had been changed as a result of their visit here.

Stepanova agreed. “I’ve never been a Christian before,” she said. “And now I think I’m very close to becoming a real Christian. I didn’t believe in God before, and now I think I believe. I’m sure.”

Winquist said he didn’t try to shelter his visitors. In addition to showing them historical sites, he showed them inner-city poverty.

One of the highlights of their tour occurred at the World Gymnastic Championship in Indianapolis. The Soviet men swept the first three places. Even the Americans were clapping for the Soviets at the end, Winquist said.

When asked why a Russian university is cooperating with a small Christian college in Indiana, historian Oleg Kolobov said: “We now have an empty box of ideas, and we must understand Christians abroad. Why not? It is very useful for students in our country during the transition period.”

Jacksonville (Texas) Daily Progress article
November 1, 1991

Jack Kemp finds hope in inner-city ministries

by Carey Kinsolving

Jack Kemp already has achieved fame in two areas – as one of pro football’s best quarterbacks and now as an ebullient Republican congressman turned Cabinet member.

He also is known throughout this town – which loves both football and politics with equal fanaticism – as a committed Christian.

Looking husky and fit – he’s just dropped 15 pounds – and wearing his trademark collar stay, Kemp spoke at a recent banquet at a Presbyterian Church in suburban Maryland. He talked about his two football-playing sons, Queen Elizabeth, the Cabinet. And God.

The Kemp sons are following in their father’s footsteps, or perhaps more accurately, their father’s arm. Jimmy is starting sophomore quarterback at Wake Forest, and Jeff until recently started for the Seattle Seahawks. Kemp chided someone at his table for even suggesting that the undefeated Washington Redskins could beat the Seahawks.

As for God, Kemp finds him at work everywhere. He believes that Judeo-Christian values and ideas won the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

“It wasn’t our military might. It wasn’t our Gross National Product as it was our ideas, our values. And they come to us from Hebrew and Christian scripture,” Kemp said.

But at the very moment of the vast triumph of the Judeo-Christian ideal, Kemp said Americans are losing confidence in it at home.

“We live in a very cynical and skeptical town,” he said, then adding, “We live in the greatest democracy the world has ever known. We pray that someday soon all men all over the world will be able to enjoy the inalienable rights that come from our creator.”

As a politician, Kemp has done more, perhaps, than any other Republican in appealing to black voters. He said he has spent time in public housing of the inner cities of Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles. As a congressman he introduced legislation to allow public housing residents to buy the property where they lived.

“If you’ve never owned anything in your whole life, it debilitates the soul and leads to despair,” Kemp said, pointing out that three of the Ten Commandments deal with property rights.

Political columnist Charles Cook says Kemp is one of the players to watch for the 1996 presidential race. He is repositioning himself with a new group of issues, all with the growth and opportunity theme, Cook says.

As one Washington insider put it, “Kemp looks downfield like a good quarterback and at the proper time he goes deep.”

During his speech, Kemp called the welfare system a swamp and drain.

When Queen Elizabeth came to Washington a few months ago, he was there when Alice Fraizer, a woman in a public housing development, greeted the Queen with a big hug, a taboo when meeting royalty.

Kemp said she explained, “It was the American thing to do.”

The inner city area where Fraizer lives used to be called Dodge City, but today it looks like green tree road, Kemp said. “This is what can happen when you’ve got a community, people of faith and a government that does the right thing now and then,” he said.

Kemp told of changed thinking in what he called a tremendous faith-based inner city ministry in America.

“Bertha Gilkey was a Black Panther who used to carry an AK-47 submachine gun,” Kemp said. “Today her Christian faith has led her to work with the government to help people get out of the welfare system,” he said.

The popular mayor of Moscow, Cavril Popov, recently visited Kemp at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Popov wants to give every resident of Moscow his own property and establish a free enterprise zone with no taxes.

“He wants to establish fundamental sovereignty of the people over the government on the theory that the rights to these ventures come to them from their creator,” Kemp said. “He is a Christian, and he is inspired by the Declaration of Independence.”

Kemp said the pursuit of happiness as stated in the Declaration of Independence is linked to the opportunity to own property. “We treat poor people as if they wouldn’t even want to, or if they had property, they wouldn’t even know how to control it,” he said.

When serving as congressman, Kemp offered a resolution to give everyone in public housing the means to buy the house in which he lives. Kemp’s initiative has blossomed into the National Affordable Housing Act. A provision of the Act provides funds for tenants to buy their rental properties through working to restore the public housing project in which they reside.