On Russia & Ukraine, in Hope for the Church’s Reaction

Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation.

Russia has annexed part of Ukraine.

Buried beneath a mountain of varying noisy opinions on supporting charitable organizations who refuse (and then unrefuse) to take controversial stands and the people who refuse (then rethink) giving to said organizations, there is a story that is of historical proportions. I have looked to the internet for vitriol, for dismay, and for outrage. I have looked for some sort of twitter campaign calling attention to Crimea. I have looked to see what our response, as the church in America, might be, and I have found silence.

Before I go on, I should state my own inability to pass judgement. My last post on the blog, as you can plainly see, is in response to the World Vision debacle. In the past week, I have started a new job, read every word I could find on the upcoming baseball season, and I have read parts of Moby Dick. I am also by no means an expert on Russian politics, past, present, or future. I’ve read some Dostoevsky and have read some about the Cold War and the fall of the USSR, but who am I to offer an opinion on Kiev?

In short, I am no positive example of a voice crying in the wilderness. And furthermore, I am not particularly interested in being a modern day John the Baptist. Pointing out injustice and bemoaning the decisions of world leaders is frankly much easier than living life in the space between the already and not yet of the kingdom of God.

But at some point, perhaps we all need to step out from our norms and take a temporary job as a prophet.

So here goes…

from CNN.com http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/27/opinion/menendez-russia-sanctions/

photo from CNN.com

Russia is reclaiming by force, intimidation, corruption and a farcical “vote,” the former glory and boundaries of the Soviet state. This is not an incidental move, nor is it an isolated event. It is not the same as Israel and Palestine fighting over the same stretch of land that’s been contested for thousands of years. This is about a world power expanding its territory by force.

This is wrong. This is unjust. This is evil. There are people whose rights to freedom, to life, to dignity are being taken away from them.

And I know that there are people everywhere whose lives are in constant jeopardy. Injustice can take the shape of domestic violence, sex trafficking, corrupt prison systems, discrimination in all its forms, war, hateful speech, and the list goes on. We are right to speak, to take action, to pray, and to spend our lives in attempts to right any and all of these wrongs. We are right to care about suffering in all its forms.

In light of this self-evident truth, the fact that there is currently a nation at work annexing parts of other nations by military force should be more disturbing. Clearly, we have enough anger, enough cynicism, and enough sense of prophetic justice to be outraged over Vladimir Putin’s bald indifference to the rights of the Ukranian people, right? Surely we can spare a moment and reflect on the fact that Putin’s vision for reclaiming the lost glory of his Russia feels eerily similar to Adolf Hitler’s vision for reclaiming Germany’s lost glory, right?

Or has our well for righteous indignation somehow run dry?

I wonder what it is about human nature that moves us to collectively choose one or two pet causes and remain willingly blind to others. I wonder why the American church chooses to remain silent on the injustices on the other side of the world while we dig our heels into debates on gay marriage and marijuana use. Is it because we feel so ill-informed? Do we feel helpless to affect change in Ukraine? Or are we too distracted by the hiring practices of humanitarian organizations to notice major world events?

The question before us, from Washington to Warsaw, is not which direction will we turn, but rather how decisively we will move to support Ukraine in the face of Russia’s illegitimate annexation of Crimea. -Sen. Robert Menendez

Speaking honestly, I am truly afraid, as I sit and write, that history is, as it is wont to do, repeating itself. We have our own fish to fry. We are too busy figuring out who to let into our club to realize that the church is no longer the church when she surrenders her prophetic role.

This is what happened to the church in America as Hitler ran amok. Where were the domestic voices speaking out against the injustice of the Nazi regime before Pearl Harbor was assaulted? The injustices were happening, after all, on the other side of the world. We were not outraged until the battle came to us. Looking back with the (massive) benefit of hindsight, our indifference made us complicit in unspeakable atrocities.

My prayer for the church today is that when our children’s children look back, they see signs of courage, signs that we cared about justice, and signs of life. May we have the prophetic capacity to identify injustice wherever it may be found.

And may God give our political leaders wisdom in these chaotic times.

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