Religious Confessions Of a Post-Soviet Father

I have a confession to make. I have become slightly religious lately. As a totally nonreligious post-Soviet person, I had never really thought of telling Vita about Jesus and the Bible.


The closest she has got to acquiring any knowledge of the biblical legacy is a favorite nursery rhyme of hers about Noah building his ark and counting the animals -- lots of scope for animal noises but hardly religiously inspiring. And her only two experiences of churches have been when at the age of two months she slept blissfully through Miranda's sister's wedding in England, and in Russia when Miranda, to my amazement, suddenly took her off to a Russian Orthodox Christmas service at our local church last year.


Vita came home full of candle lights in her excited eyes. Apparently the beautiful singing, the bells, the solemn movements of the clergy and the imposing gilded glory of the icons and frescos had impressed her deeply.


So I started wondering whether it was time for me to have a position on Vita's religious upbringing. Miranda tried valiantly over Christmas to tell her about the birth in the manger but came unstuck when she forgot why the family was going to Bethlehem, and Vita thought the donkey must be Eeyore from "Winnie the Pooh." (Another friend of ours instructing some little Russians managed to tell the whole story without mentioning the star, until her Russian partner politely enquired: "Isn't there supposed to be a star somewhere?")


Having been brought up with the Soviet atheist grilling, I have always found myself quite uncomfortable in church. But neither Russian Orthodoxy nor, certainly, the Church of England are particularly aggressive or oppressive churches, I reasoned. I don't have any particular objection to the ten commandments, and the general philosophy of being good and prepared to share with thy neighbor. This is not to mention the merrymaking and feasting that accompanies every religious holiday and puts you in a good mood.


Then I realized that it's a cultural thing as much as anything else. Churches are an inseparable part of both the English and Russian landscapes: If you can't see a gold dome or a church spire with a cockerel on top nestling on a hillside or in between the city high rises, then it is neither Russia nor England.


Strangely the omnipresence of churches is, to me, something that makes you feel vaguely at home. Not much of a religious message, I admit, but will this architectural aspect of religion also be a bridge to help Vita and Benedict understand their dual heritage? Will the presence of the same God, preaching the same values, in both their homelands bring them comfort?


Or am I another post-Soviet Russian in search of a national identity?