In a news story that shocked Christians throughout the world this week, it was revealed that Joseph Stalin -- the Russian tyrant responsible for murdering millions of innocent people -- was pictured on an icon at an Orthodox Church in Moscow.
The icon appeared in the Church of Saint Nicholas, and depicts Stalin with Matriona, the blind saint, in an alleged meeting between her and the Russian tyrant. Apparently this icon, whose author is unknown, had been donated to the church by a parishioner.
According to a legend -- one that has been rejected by the Orthodox Church -- Stalin visited Matriona in 1941, and she predicted victory over the Nazi Germans who had attacked Russia. Her prediction turned out to be correct, and this made Stalin more religious at that time, but he died as an atheist.
Although he was a student at an Orthodox seminary in neighboring Georgia, Stalin was expelled at the age of 20 in 1899, because of his revolutionary activities.
After the death of Lenin in 1924, Stalin took over as head of the Soviet Union and remained its dictator until he died in 1953. He eliminated threats to his power by means of purges and widespread secret executions. Indeed, Stalin was responsible for the murder of millions of innocent people during his dictatorship.
So why in the world would Russians today want to praise this "butcher of millions of people," and include his image on a church icon?
The answer is that many Russians today are still impressed -- even mesmerized -- with Stalin's military acumen that resulted in Nazi Germany's defeat in World War II.
On the other hand, this victory also proved to be very costly, because more than 20 million Russians were killed in defending their nation.
Another major reason that some Russians still revere Stalin is the fact that he did manage to make the Soviet Union into a world superpower -- the most powerful nation in the world, after the United States.
But what about Stalin's murders of millions of innocent people? Also, what about the repression and fear he instilled in all of the Russian people? Should these critical aspects of Stalin's dictatorship be ignored, in order to justify his image on an icon and displaying that icon in an Orthodox Church?
Of course not! In fact, painting an image of Stalin on an icon, and displaying that icon in a church is a sacrilegious tragedy -- a tragedy that contradicts the teachings of Christ and everything that Christianity represents.