A CONTRACEPTION BY THE POWER OF THE CHURCH

Bogolyubovo is a small Russian town of just four thousand five hundred people one hundred and twenty miles north east of Moscow.

The town is notable for a huge monastery which was established on the current site by Prince Andrei in the twelfth century.

The monastery sits on a hill overlooking seven thousand square metres of a soviet-block brick factory which has been in disuse for decades now.

There is no work for those who seek it in this town, not even in Vladimir, the larger town and regional capital twelve miles away.

So those who want to work and are prepared to seek it out have long moved away.

Vladimir is a man who was born and bred in Bogolyubovo.

There is not anyone in this remote town or in the town of Vladimir or across the Russian state who does not know who Vladimir is.

Vladimir has lived every young boy’s dream and become a professional football player.

He is forty four years old and long retired but this is the local and national hero who has returned home with a business plan to put his wealth into something beneficial and make a difference to the town of Bogolyubovo.

His plan is to establish the business at the site of the former brick factory and to employ at least two hundred people as workforce from the local community.

The folk of Bogolyubovo should be rejoicing at the prospects but they are not.

The problem is quite simply ‘contraception’ and the power of the church.  The Orthodox church but it could be a catholic or islamic protestation in any other part of the world.

The church considers the condom as male abortion and an unwarranted contraception to the procreation of new life.

Put more simply, only married couples can have sexual relations and therefore use a condom to practice birth control whereas anyone who is indulging in sexual relations outside of marriage cannot.

An overideaological view perhaps.

This then implies  that God, mankind, society, define it how you like, will punish the offender of sexual relations outside of marriage for their sinful commitment.

Notional at best.

For those who think and believe that religion in the world has no power or voice, then this is a story which must be told, read and understood.

As children, a sense of faith is ingrained into all of us  to follow a religion and adhere to Gods calling.

The Russian Orthodox Church is powerful and influential.

It even has the support and backing of the country’s president.

Bogolyubovo is a microcosm of a world in which we live today.  So is Vladimir.

It is a fact that HIV Aids is an out of control epidemic across the Russian State.

It is a fact that the Russian population is decreasing.

It is a fact that Russian nationals appreciate being able to practice their faith today with total freedom and openness, unlike in the past.

It is a fact that ‘contraception’ is a term referring to the prevention of something happening if we ever took time to study a few words of latin.

It is a fact that HIV Aids can be reduced in its spread if those having sex use contraception.

It is a fact that a  condom is another word for contraception.

It is a reality that people are choosing to have less children or no children at all inside a relationship across the whole world.

It is a reality that you cannot stop human beings making choices.

The Orthodox Church seeks to act for the public good when things to be done are outside law enforcement but Vladimir is surely not wrong in a world of free enterprise to commercialise a product for the public good as well.

This is where we are starting to get to the core of the problem in the small town of Bogolyubovu and in the society of the world at large.

Hence presenting several risks if a condom is not used in a sexual encounter.

A potential pregnancy neither partner wants.

A cultural solicitation of an ongoing relationship into a bond  neither party wants nor needs.

A  transmission of a sexual disease.

Vladimir knows all about this.

He was a handsome man and a playboy during his time.  Women flocked to him and sex was as available to him as kicking a football.

Vladimir met with the consequences of his promiscuity in later life and was lucky to be in a position where he felt he could make a difference.

Somewhere.  Somehow.  For someone.

Unusually perhaps for a stereotyped Russian and someone who has lived the kind of life he has, he does not smoke or drink alcohol and believes in health and fitness for longevity in life.

The local populus still remember the local boy who made good twenty five or so years ago and many still keep the memories in their homes of his achievements.

But these same people and many more are the voice of opposition to his plan to turn the former brick factory into one for the manufacture and distribution of condoms.

Prayers, icons, wooden crosses, banners and slogans represent the protest against the hero of the hour turned villain of the peace.

Conservative ideaology and traditional values fuel the religious view that the deliberate refusal to have children because of selfish urges devalues marriage and can only be a sin.

Vladimir endeavours to reach a compromise with the opponents of his business plan.

He knows them well to a man, woman and child.

He must convince them that his strategy is for the common good of mankind and the future of Bogolyubovo.

Despite his many sexual encounters, Vladimir remains unmarried and there is no evidence that will change anytime soon.

There was once a local young woman who had his attention in his later teenage years but then he was spotted by a talent scout and his life was changed forever.

That young woman, Katya, a year younger than Vladimir, subsequently married and then widowed, is with assymetrical irony one of the protesters to his business plan.

The people of this small town are no different from any other town in any other part of the world.

They want a community.

They want children to grow up in an environment which is spiritually good.

There needs to be work for the people who live in the community.

There needs to be a practice of faith.

The locals want Vladimir to turn the factory into manufacture of baby nappies and first aid products.

He is reluctant to do this because medical research has concluded that baby nappies can lead to impotence.He can, of course, decide to start his condom business in another town and in another country.

But this is Vladimir wishing to make a statement and he will not be swayed from making it in his home town.

Vladimir has to make a choice.  What choice?

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