From Ruscha with Love

After reading Jessica Thomas’ blog (, I was reminded of an important and lasting event that happened when I was 18.

On August 10, 1988, I went to a concert featuring the Christian rock band Ruscha ( They not only had great music, but a fascinating testimony that’s both horrifying and encouraging. Here’s what I wrote after I came home that night:

The [Ruscha] concert was supposed to start at 7:30, but I left the house at 5:30 because I had to pick up Cheri, Wendy (two people I went to cosmetology school with) and her sister. We got to the church at 6:00, so we had an hour and a half to waste. We just stood by the doors and argued over what color t-shirt I was going to buy.

They let us into the auditorium at around 7:00 and we got front-row seats (the advantage of getting there so early).

When the concert started, it wasn’t until they were halfway through the first verse that we all stood up, and it wasn’t until the second song we went up to the stage. I got right up front, so I was definitely a happy camper. When Peter, the bass player, started to speak, he told us all to sit down, so we began to return to our seats.

“Wait a minute,” he said. “you can sit up here. We won’t bite!”

Peter and his brother, Nickoli, are from Russia. The whole family were Christians, so he had some very enlightening stories to tell about what life was like behind the Iron Curtain. This is their story:

When we were in school in Russia, the first day of school the teacher said to the class, “There is no God, and I’ll prove it to you. Bow your heads and pray to God for a piece of candy.”

We all bowed our heads and prayed to God for a piece of candy. She then told us to lift our heads and there was no candy on our desks.

“See,” she said. “There is no God. Now I want you to pray to Lenin (I don’t exactly remember who), and Communism for a piece of candy.”

We all bowed our heads and prayed to Lenin and Communism for a piece of candy. We all lifted our heads and there was a piece of candy in front of us. It turned out the teacher had gone around the room and placed a piece of candy on everyone’s desk while our heads were bowed.

One day the KGB came into our classroom – remember this is kindergarten full of 5 and 6-year-olds – took a gun out of his holster and threw a Bible on the floor.

He pointed the gun at the Bible and said, “Get in line, and I want everyone to spit on this Bible.”

The first boy came up with tears streaming down his face he was so scared. He quickly spit on it and ran back to his desk. The second boy walked by and spit on it.

Me: Peter bent down to the Bible he had on the stage.

The third in line was a little girl. She bent down and with her little six-year-old hands gently wiped the spit off the Bible. She then bent down and kissed the Bible.

Immediately the KGB man put the gun to her head and pulled the trigger – blew her brains out for the whole kindergarten class to see.

Me: Wendy had told me that story earlier, but it had a greater impact on me when Peter told it, because he was a witness. I could see the pain in his eyes and hear it in his voice.

Aside: I wrote this particular part a few days earlier, but I add it here to put what comes next in better context.

On the inside of their album Come Alive there was a sickle and hammer of the Russian flag (remember, this is 1988). The hammer, however, was crushing the sickle and I realized after looking at it a while that the hammer was a cross. At the bottom corner there was written KGB inside a circle and a slash. From that I figured the group was originally from Russia, and something happened where the KGB was involved.

What Peter said about the little girl confirmed my hunch about the album, but that wasn’t all.

Peter picked up a book and showed a picture of a dead man stabbed in the heart six times just for being a Christian.

Peter: There was a man named Yuri that went into the army. They were all put into a line and were told to bow down to the Russian flag, kiss it and take an oath. Yuri just stood there with his arms crossed. That infuriated the KGB and they said if he did not bow to the flag, they would kill him.

He said simply, “You can kill my body, but my soul will live forever.”

That infuriated the KGB even more so they took a hot knife to his flesh. His blood covered his body and meat hung off his bones (Me: I could feel the audience cringe at this and many gasped and covered their faces). Still he would not deny God. They took a hot nail and forced it between his fingers, so there was nothing left but torn flesh. They put a hot iron near enough to his eyes so there was nothing left but black, bloody sockets. Then one KGB grabbed his jaw while another grabbed his tongue and pulled it off and out of his mouth. Still he did not give in to the KGB.

Peter looked at the audience and said, “How many of you would do the same?”

He continued: At three o’clock in the morning while all of us were sleeping – this is God’s truth – the KGB lined up outside our house and at three in the morning all of a sudden all the windows and doors blew out and the KGB rushed in. They shoved us out of our beds and threw us up against the walls and searched us. They tore up our beds, mattresses and pillows, tore out the walls and floors, anything and everything, even potatoes. See, we used to cut out a piece of potato and put a page of the Bible in it and turn it over. They tore up our house and everything in it looking for any kind of Christian literature.

We all went outside and all us kids saw that the KGB had our grandfather’s hands behind his back, and hand over his mouth so he couldn’t say a word to any of us. My grandfather shook one hand loose, looked up and pointed up to the sky. The KGB hit him in the head, shoved him in a car, and they all drove off while we watched tearful and helpless. Our grandfather returned to us weeks later in a casket. He had frozen to death.”

Me: Peter said more such as a Bible given out for free in America costs $700 in Russia and how on a dollar bill are the words, “In God We Trust,” but the word ‘God’ cannot be mentioned in public schools.

He asked us if we would be willing to die for Christ and to raise our hands if we would.

Peter: I noticed some of you immediately raised them, some were not quite so sure and others couldn’t at all. But how so many of us are willing to die for Christ, but how unwilling we are to live for him.”

He asked us to assume an attitude of prayer, but added, “No one close your eyes or bow your heads. We must be willing to show others our commitments. Any of you who want to know Christ, I want you to come up to this stage and stand with me.”

He waited and no one made a move. He begged, “because it is a matter of life and death. There’s no more time to waste.”

Still no one went to the stage. I almost wanted to go up there myself, just so no one else would have to be the first.

“Fine,” he said, “I’ll do it your way. Bow your heads and close your eyes.”

He prayed, and still no one came.

“Well,” he said, “I guess everyone here is a Christian, but I know that there are those that aren’t, but are afraid to come. And I know there are those that are Christians, but need a re-dedication . . .”

My eyes shot up just then, for Peter had referred to me.

“Now I want those that are in need to come up to the stage . . .”

I went up, but I was not alone.

Peter looked at each one of us on stage and asked if we were Christians or not and to nod or shake our head. He told the audience that we had the guts to come up on stage in front of everyone.

To live for Christ, we must be willing to let the whole world know. That was Peter’s message, and it was the one message I needed to hear that night.

And a message I needed to hear this night as well.

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