Father Alexander Novopashin: "And I keep going..."

On the 26 of July, the archpriest, dean of the Novosibirsk Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Father Alexander Novopashin, celebrates his 60th birthday. He shared his position on the special operation in Ukraine, spoke about the fight against destructive organizations and shared his creative plans.

- The jubilee is the time of summing up. What achievement do you consider the most important in your life at the moment?

- The Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Philippians writes, "Brotherhood, I do not consider myself accomplished; but only, forgetting the posterior and stretching forward, I strive for the goal, for the honor of the highest rank of God in Christ Jesus." I am a man of the church, so I cannot sum up, I cannot name the main achievement in my life, because all the intermediate results, and even more, the main result, are summed up by the Lord Himself. He's a Judge. My point is to follow Him. Also, the Apostle Paul compares the life of a Christian with the life of athletes "running on the tilt-yard", that is, competing with each other to receive the crown of corruptible (earthly rewards). The reward for a Christian is Christ. A Christian must struggle with his passions in order to be worthy of the incorruptible crown, to acquire Christ. "So go to get it," says the Apostle. And I keep going.

- Now it is impossible not to ask a question about the special operation in Ukraine. You do not hide your position on this issue. What do you think is the main threat that our country is currently fighting?

- Russia has always been a burr in the saddle of the United States, Great Britain and their satellites. They spared no means to weaken our country, divide the peoples, and ultimately take possession of our territory, our natural resources. All these years we managed to restrain their onslaught, to resist more or less effectively, until it came to unprecedented events - stuffed with modern weapons and misanthropic ideology, which became essentially an informal neo-Nazi NATO unit, Ukraine began artillery shelling of the Russian Donbass, as a result of which civilians and children were killed. And it lasted eight years. For eight years Ukrainians have been killing Russians. And then at the very top, read as "in the USA", it was decided to seize the Donbass and from there directly threaten Russia, and in it's person threaten the entire Russian world. And then it was decided to act ahead of the curve. Russian special military operation in Ukraine is Russia's choice, aimed at protecting Russian civilization, protecting the Russian world. It should be added that although there are clamors that Russia started a war against Ukraine in February of this year, let me remind you that the Kiev authorities unleashed a war against their people, and we are now ending it.

- There are also a lot of problems inside the country. Unfortunately, there are also destructive organizations, including fascist ones. Earlier, you voiced your "classification" of the consequences of involvement in various destructive organizations for people. What are these associations and how are they dangerous?

- There are people who, in their quest for power and money, cross all possible moral boundaries and create groups, entire organizations and movements, often pseudo-religious, whose members are completely subordinated to their will or a crazy idea they have invented. This is achieved either by outright lies, or by rude intimidation, or by psychotechnics, but most often all together. People are deprived of critical thinking, it is very difficult to dissuade them, almost impossible, because manipulative influence on them in these organizations does not stop for a minute. Adherents of destructive organizations devote their lives to their leaders, rewrite their apartments and houses on them, donate the last money. These are unhappy people who are completely dependent on the organizers, there is even such a term as sectodependence, that is, dependence on the association they belong to. Getting rid of it is as difficult as, say, drug or alcohol addiction. Children whose parents have been influenced by these antisocial elements are particularly affected. Their life is spent in a sect, where they can be subjected to various violence, including sexual violence.

Such associations are under the close attention of Western intelligence agencies. They are even helped financially. To then use for their own purposes. For example, - I have said this more than once and I will say it again - it is reliably known that neo-pagan and neo-pentecostal organizations took an active part in the Orange Revolution of 2004 and the Euromaidan of 2014 in Kiev. In the Azov regiment, the Ukronazists get along well with the neo-Pagans, there are also Satanists. There are also neo-pagan paramilitary units in Ukraine. Here it is appropriate to recall the extremist organizations created in Ukraine, actively operating on the territory of Russia Misanthropic Division (MD, banned in the Russian Federation), Maniacs. Cult of murderers, and the sect of Ukrainian origin AllatRa.

Such organizations are dangerous not only for a particular person, family, society - they threaten the national security of the country. Currently, our citizens are dying and losing their property not only as a result of the activities of extremists and terrorists. Destructive subcultures, suicidal games and hobbies, totalitarian sects, medical dissidents, psychocults, magicians and pseudo-healers cause no less damage. We call all this diversity destructive formations that harm people's health and well-being, destroy the institution of the traditional family, incite discord for various reasons, as well as prone to other types of destructive activities.

- It is known that you are fighting sects and other destructive organizations. How is this work being built now?

- The Information and Advisory Center on Sectarianism at the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral has been one of the most famous centers of this kind in the country for many years. We get calls and visitors not only from our city and the region, but also from other cities and regions. Questions about sects are also addressed from the "other side", from abroad.

Nothing has changed in our work over the past quarter century. We are still collecting detailed and reliable information about destructive organizations, using various sources for this, including the testimony of the adherents themselves, who suddenly began to understand what kind of swamp they allowed themselves to be dragged into. We share the information we receive with the authorities and the public: we publish books, send letters, organize meetings, round tables, conferences, and hold consultations.

The 2016 feature film Next to Us, of which I am the author, is largely based on real events: the relevant information was received by our center.

- You once said that a person is responsible for his own way of life and mindset. Please explain this idea?

- Yes, it is. A lot here depends on the family and the environment of a person, but if he is serious, if he does not want to get lost in this life, but strives to find a favorite thing, find a family, raise children, then all paths are open to him. They say the way of life is tortuous. But it is the passions, the weaknesses of the person himself that make it tortuous. It is necessary to have the courage and go the "middle way", or it is also called the "royal", especially since, by and large, it has already been determined. There is no need to frantically try to find something special, exquisite, such desires can be caused by vanity. And we must remember that a person is responsible not only for himself, for his life, often he is responsible for other people, not only those around him, but also those who will live after him. They say, "child, what is the dough: as I kneaded, so it grew." That's the connection.

Well, if you look at life in a spiritual sense, then the main task of a person is to save his soul. And for this, too, you need to choose the royal path. The John Climacus of the Ladder called Christians to this: not to turn to the left or to the right, "but to go the royal way." And again, the salvation of others depends on how a person will succeed in his salvation. "Acquire the spirit of peace and thousands around you will be saved," taught St. Seraphim of Sarov.

- What are the main problems, in addition to those already listed, would you call the main ones for modern Russian society?

- You know, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill said this very well a few years ago: Russian society is becoming inviable. Why did he say that. Because people are offered unlimited freedom, which, if they accept it and bow to it, will make them happy. This is not just a path to nowhere, it is a path to perdition. We, Orthodox Christians, affirm that true freedom can only be in Christ, which means that only Christ can make people happy. This is not an idea, but an inner state – independence from passions and staying in love. Who loves Christ is free in Christ, Who loves sin is in slavery of it. The Apostle speaks about all of us, "When you were slaves of sin, then you were free from righteousness. What kind of fruit did you have then? Such deeds as you are ashamed of now, because their end is death" (Rom. 6:20-21). Christian happiness is faith in Christ. There are no barriers to such faith. And even suffering ceases to be suffering. "I fell in love with suffering," said St. Luke of Crimea and Simferopol, because he endured them for Christ's sake, and they brought him closer to God and made him truly happy.

- What is the Church and you personally doing to combat these problems?

- Spiritual and moral problems have always been acute for humanity, and the Church, as a loving mother, does not cease to exhort people, to educate, and for two thousand years has been tirelessly calling for repentance and turning to God. I, as a member of the Church, as a ecclesiastic, cannot stay away. It would contradict my beliefs, my faith. The missionary and social activities that my brothers and sisters in Christ and I have been engaged in all these years are aimed at revealing to people the beauty of Orthodoxy, the beauty of the Orthodox faith, the beauty of Orthodox culture.

- Do you think the state is doing enough to combat these problems, and what else could be done?

- People need to be educated. Not only within the church walls - this goes without saying - but also outside the church fence. However, the state educational system is clumsy, inert, how much effort had to be put into schools to start teaching at least facultatively - not the law of God! - the culturological subject of the Foundations of Orthodox Culture, which illuminates the glorious history of Orthodox Russia, tells about the heroes of Holy Russia, about its saints who had a huge influence on the Russian people, about its architecture, art, literature. But even now there are problems: a dubious subject of secular ethics is being planted in schools, which is an antagonist of Orthodox culture, you can still hear that Russia is a secular state, that the Church is separated from the state and other ridiculous excuses, so long as priests do not teach children "obscurantism".

Nevertheless, I would like to note that the authorities have begun to pay more attention to the Church, especially recently. Today, the Russian Church and the state jointly celebrate church and state holidays. First of all, it is the Day of National Unity, the Day of Family, Love and Fidelity, the Day of the Baptism of Russia.

The state began to clearly understand that without the Church it is impossible to deal with spiritual and moral problems - drug addiction and alcoholism, abortion, vandalism, profanity, sexual promiscuity, the decline of the institution of the family, the general decline of morals.

In 2020, a decree of the President of the Russian Federation was issued approving a new version of the Strategy for Countering Extremism in the Russian Federation until 2025. It repeatedly speaks of the need to protect traditional Russian spiritual and moral values, the bearer of which has been the Russian Orthodox Church for more than two thousand years. The Church, has a certain role to play in countering extremism and terrorism. Thus, the state recognizes that without spiritual and moral enlightenment it is impossible to unite the people, fill them with the sacred spirit of patriotism, it is impossible to instill in them virtues that will allow them to be called a great people.

And, besides, spiritual ignorance is the best ally of extremists and terrorists, who often speculate with pseudo-religious rhetoric when recruiting into their ranks.

- You are a creative person, you are even dedicated in cinema. Сould you please share the latest achievements in the creative field and your immediate plans?

- My last works in cinema were two feature films - about the problem of drug addiction and extremist movements in Russia. The pictures were well received by both the audience and cinema experts. The films have received awards at Russian and international festivals. But I want to note: films have become an excellent tool for preventing drug addiction and tool of opposition extremist ideas. We show these films at meetings with young people, and after watching, we always discuss sensitive topics, and sometimes the conversation takes longer than the viewing itself.

Will I continue to make movies? This question is asked to me constantly. But working on the film takes a lot of energy, strength, so I didn't dare to start it for a long time. And now, apparently, the time has come. I started working on a script for a film about the homeless. There is enough material. A comprehensive service center for citizens left without housing has been organized and has been operating in the Novosibirsk diocese for many years. We are spiritually nurturing several centers organized in Novosibirsk by public charitable organizations, for example, Lifeline. It should be understood here that people without a fixed place of residence do not always turn out to be idlers, drug addicts or alcoholics. Many have lost their homes as a result of fraudulent transactions, someone was kicked out of the street by relatives - this also happens. Those who live in these centers tell amazing stories about themselves, each of which deserves to become the basis for a film.

Two films It doesn't concern me and Next to us already exist. If the Lord blesses me and I manage to carry out my plans, then the creation of a new film will be the completion of the trilogy I have conceived.

By Decree of the President of the Russian Federation dated July 15, 2022, Archpriest Alexander Novopashin was awarded the "Order of Friendship" for his great contribution to the preservation and development of spiritual, moral and cultural traditions, as well as many years of fruitful activity.

The newspaper Chestnoe Slovo
(Honest Word in Russian)