In early 1994 I went to Russia for the purpose of visiting a factory in Bryansk, which is located at the meeting point of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. This was not a factory producing high tech military hardware, but something more prosaic but important for our modern world: diesel pile driving equipment, used in the construction of roads, bridges and buildings.
Below: a YouTube video of the inside of this plant.
These were the days when the Russian Mafia reigned supreme, so we had to be careful. The plan was for me and my representative to cross Moscow via car and metro to the Moscow Kievskaya train station, board for a six hour “overnight” train trip to Bryansk, spend the day there, and return as we came to Moscow. Except for our plans for avoiding the criminal element, this wasn’t a very difficult trip.
So we made our preparations. No US cash, no credit cards. I even switched my wedding band to my right hand. We were planning on travelling light, but we had to have some spending money. So, as we prepare to leave, my representative whips out a wad of Russian cash and asks me, “Half a million roubles. Is it enough?”
I was boggled by the question. Not even family trips with my mother to the Ritz-Carlton cost half a million. But here the currency had collapsed with communism; the exchange rate was about 1300 roubles to the US dollar. So we were only talking about US$385, which was a reasonable sum considering that much of our travel (especially by train) was subsidised by the government.
Some of you reading this live in a place where the currency is parcelled out with many zeroes. But it’s interesting to note that, to my knowledge, no currency started out that way. If we look at major currencies today, we see that all of them are either “substantial” in their value (dollar, euro, pound) or were at one time (yen, and of course the rouble itself.) But there is a greater lesson here.
If Islamicism has done one thing, it has put monotheism on the front page of the news, whether the secularists like it or not. (And they usually don’t.) This is something, of course, that Islam has in common with Christianity and Judaism. But there are still many who believe that there are many gods. The most important representative of this is Hinduism, where literally millions of gods are resident and require worship of some kind. Mormonism for its part is more worried about its adherents becoming gods rather than worshiping a polytheistic system of same.
Then, of course, we have secular systems of “gods” which do not have spiritual divinity but have divine importance to their adherents. We think of people who are focused on their houses, their motor vehicles, their jobs, etc. These are pursuits that can pull you in many directions, to say nothing of run your finances down.
The central problem with any system of belief that affirms the existence of more than one God is this: the more “gods” there are, the less meaningful the whole idea of deity becomes. Like the roubles we took to Bryansk, there may be many of them, but they’re not worth very much. Both Russian roubles and Mormon gods are the product of the same process: too many of each were “created” for the intended purpose. Religions such as New Age and Mormonism attempt to exalt humanity by debasing divinity, but they end up debasing both. As with currencies, we are better off with one God who is worth it all than many which are, individually and frequently as a group, worth very little. The promise of divinity doesn’t look all that good when seen in this light; it is a mirage that vanishes as we approach it.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates. (Deut 6:4-9 from New International Version)
Socialist states love to trumpet their own successes, real or just propaganda. The collapse of the rouble left just about everyone in the Russian Federation with more than a million roubles (about US$770 in early 1994) of net worth. So I declared to my representative, “Seventy years of socialism, and everyone’s a millionaire!”
His response: “It was their greatest achievement!”