Greg took his role seriously. His country’s power brokers listened to him, hung on his every word, made major decisions based on his wise advice and sage counsel. Greg’s time in the halls of power saw his nation suffer the agony of political, economic, and even military upheaval. So, his inputs and opinions about the major issues of the day were invaluable to those who ruled his land.
Today, Americans do not think it odd that religious leaders such as Greg would be considered as an important advisor to those who hold political power. We are used to such things as a National Day of Prayer and presidents speaking before religious groups. Often, minsters, rabbis, and pastors are called to the Oval Office to discuss the issues of the day and how morality applies to them.
That’s the type of role Greg filled for his nation. The major difference was that Greg’s voice became the only one the leaders listened to. His influence was seen in some circles of government as being too large, his power over the decisions of government too great. Yet, Greg continued to have the ear of those who held the reins of power.
Those who knew Greg marveled at his rise to such a position. Born to a poor farming family in a rural part of the country, his mother had seven other children, but only Greg lived to adulthood. His youth was misspent and saw him get in trouble with the local constabulary for such misdemeanors as petty thefts and drunkenness. His schooling was spotty at best. He finally settled down somewhat and married a farmer’s daughter and began a family, taking on the farmer life for himself.
Stories about his entry into the ministry vary. For whatever reason, he decided to become a pastor. After some training in a seminary, Greg returned from his training a changed man. He had sworn off alcohol, became strict in a vegetarian diet, and began preaching a message of personal responsibility and strict abstinence from all worldly passions. The message resonated in part because of Greg’s personality.
Those who heard him speak became taken with his passion, his drive. It was said that Greg could cast a spell over his church audience. His local congregation of followers grew and grew. He began to be someone people (and many rich people) came to for advice and counsel. And Greg’s sessions proved to be fruitful to those who came to him. It was only a matter of time before those holding political power sought him out for not only his advice but also for the reputation he had garnered in his growing ministerial work.
One day, the leader of the government asked Greg for a favor. Would the minister please pray for his youngest child, his son, who had a congenital disease? Absolutely, Greg said. The prayer seemed to provide the young man some relief. The family, especially the young man’s mother, ever so grateful, brought Greg into their inner circle as a healer, a holy person, and someone in whom the powerful family placed their entire—and, it turns out, misplaced—trust.
You know how this story ends. That powerful family—the family of Russian Czar Nicholas II—relied on the peasant preacher Gregori Rasputin more than any other advisor. And they did so as their empire and eventually their own lives crumbled around them.