The end of a Chapter

A quick farewell to all of you who have read or followed my posts since 2015. There are enough spiritual writers out there and influencers to carry on the task of promoting living the holy life in a humble manner in the midst of a secular society that my written word is redundant.

I leave this venue of spiritual expression, not in despair, but in retreat to my own private prayer

and solitude. I am sure God will inspire me to bring it outward when necessary, through prayer, through the written word, or by direct action. For now, I return to my reading, meditations, and the folly of the ink well!

Your voices are needed in every sphere of advocacy for calling for peace, for respect of human life, and promoting human dignity.

The calling is high. In the midst of the Ukraine war in Europe, with human freedom challenged by autocracies, the rise of populism worldwide, and an increase in hatred, division, and tribalism – individual inner-spiritual strength is needed. Only the light within each of you can sustain and move the tides of humanity to aim for the greater light of love and compassion for all people.

I look forward to reading your blogs and contributions in the different venues that influence and the causes you support! I am sure our efforts will not be in vain – they are mystically tied beyond the written word.

Thank you and Godspeed to you in your work and spiritual calling.

Joseph

Photo borrowed from Godspeed Institute

World Order

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and paralysis of the United Nations is evidence that we do not have any established international norms.

Fiction is presented as truth. Lives are taken without worry. War crimes committed with purpose.

The alarming nuance for most is this is happening between two developed countries, one with a nuclear Arsenal. The world has been used to third world or underdeveloped nations internal wars. Not that this is acceptable either.

No one is safe. No one.

How much further will we go down this path of military and economic warfare? Will we have any choice?

Ukrainian citizens do not have any choice today. We may not have any choice tomorrow.

We are already paying inconvenience dues as a result of inflation and the cost supporting Ukraine. We may not recognize it now, but our long term security and freedoms are also at risk.

A deeper struggle, lost in the business and drama of life, is the defamation of our humanity, of our collective souls. Indifference, numbness, helplessness, victim-blaming, denial, accusations, and other human reactions create a fog over the human suffering and deaths of thousands in Ukraine.

God, I have no power to stop the war. No influence over western or eastern ideological war mongers, no ability to stop war profiteering, no voice for those afflicted.

I ask the question from afar in the safety of my home – what can we do? Others, from refuge camps, Ukrainian cities, or ditches in the war zones are asking the same of us, and of God.

I look for hope and their are many heroes out there today. Thank you to each one of you who has acted courageously or compassionately in response to this war.

Ethiopian misery

An angry citizen of the world commented on one post here regarding Ukraine. Unfortunately, I did not approve the post based solely on excessive profanity. Silly really on my end given that his concerns and rage are valid and what authority would I have anyway to label them invalid anyway.

His basic argument and attack at my post and anyone supporting Ukraine is that we are racist for standing up now while ignoring Ethiopian poverty and war crisis. I will not refute this point. Refuges are not created equally. The circumstances, geography, national resources, alliances, and multiple other factors determine the world’s response, including implicit or explicit bias. If your curious about your own bias, check out the Harvard Implicit Bias Assessment test. It may illuminate bias that you were unaware of or chose to ignore.

There are so many geopolitical differences between Ethiopia and Ukraine aside from the race of the people suffering. Race, however, probably does play an outsized role on how the media portrays the different conflicts and how the world responds.

His argument though is one of false equivalence. An individual or group of people being anti-Putin and anti-war does not make them racist even if they never raised a concern about Ethiopia currently or in the past, or of other African nations.

Putting this aside as well, the main salient point is that western nations are doing more now then has ever been done for Ethiopia. He is right. And regardless of the reasons, the victims of Ethiopian civil war are still suffering, starving, or being killed as the country is largely cut off from world aid and intervention.

Suffering is suffering. I could post 10 causes everyday for the rest of the year and still alienate people that are not mentioned. The homeless in my own community, the incarcerated, the victims of racism or other forms of isms are all around me.

I have no answer for the magnitude of world suffering. Right now Ukraine is in the spotlight due to the power of the aggressor and the potential impact on world order. Next year this time people will not be thinking about Ukraine’s that were thrust into poverty and never recovered. The spotlight will be someplace else witnessing mans inhumanity to man.

Here is a recent article on Ethiopia. Hear his cry and give it a read. Be aware and help if you can. People are numb now to Ethiopia and other African countries. Some are already numb to the Ukraine crisis. As long as one person is oppressed and living in poverty – we should not be silent.

www.nytimes.com/article/ethiopia-tigray-conflict-explained.html

Pope Francis and Krill

It is like a movie, Indiana Jones and the raiders of the lost Ark, and subsequent movies or books that link religious history and mystical power to current evil men seeking that power to conquer the world.

In this real-life tragedy the religious split between three sects of Christianity are in the spotlight: the Roman Catholic Church, the Russian Orthodox Church, and the Ukraine Church. Putin has completely coopted the Russian Orthodox Church and utilized religious conservatism and nationalism to proclaim a moral, religious, and national agenda to invade Ukraine. His elevator speech includes defeating nazism, proclaiming no gay parades will come to Russia, and a call for national purity. Krill is completely by Putin’s side.

The Roman Catholic Church has been seeking unity with the Eastern Orthodox Churches (Ukraine and Russia) for several years now. Putin’s war has taken a path to unify the two eastern Churches by military conquest.

Pope Francis went directly to the Russian Embassy as well as had a direct video conference with Krill. He has condemned war publicly and called for war to stop. Like Popes before him, he has not named the aggressors, Russia or Putin by name.

The war on Ukraine has nothing to do with God or Christianity. Putin has used a thin veneer of religious, cultural, and geographical history to present a false mandate that he is conducting a national/holy military operation to save Russians being oppressed and killed by Nazi’s in Ukraine.

It is a month now of death, destruction, and a massive humanitarian crisis. No external voices are deterring Putin. Not the churches, not China or other Russian allies, or the Western alliances.

There is to my eye two spiritual themes that are evident from a Christological perspective. The first is more appealing to our sense of human responsibility and courage. Russians inside and outside Russia are condemning their own country. This is Christ-like – to be a revolutionary willing to be condemned, tortured, and killed by the establishment for a belief in a higher principle then Russian nationalism or Krillian Russian Orthodox Christianity silence or outright support and blessing of Putin. This is human responsibility at its finest. And for courage, the Ukraine people defense of their nation has created thousands of seen and unseen acts of heroism, compassion, and unbelievable faith.

The second theme is not popular or acceptable to our human spirit. When Christ accepted his fate to be given up by Judas, condemned, and crucified he disappointed the hopes of his followers by not rising to be a conquering messiah, a warrior, a king. Instead he was a suffering messiah, embracing suffering and death at the hands of his oppressors. His handling of oppression, suffering, and death from a Christological perspective taught Christians that somethings are more important then human life.

In our own hearts we all mostly believe this sentiment that somethings are more important then our own comfort, peace, tranquility, or even our own lives. We sacrifice and may even suffer for other people or for principles all the time. We embrace suffering as a necessary price when we have to for the greater good.

Christianity takes this suffering one step farther – it proclaims we embrace our suffering with and for our God, not for our own ego driven needs or long term material desires. In every tear drop of suffering and every unnecessary death is a spiritual opportunity to transform human tragedy into spiritual ascendency not only in real time, here and now, but in contemplation of eternal time.

I would fail as A Pope as I would call out Putin and Krill perhaps if I sat in the papal chair. All that would do is secure further splitting and put more Catholics at risk in these territories – it certainly would not deter Putin. Pope Francis has no authority over Putin or Krill, as neither accept his Papal authority and rightful ownership of head of the mystical church. Very similar to Nazi Germany failure of the church and the world – too little and too late response to Hitler.

I would also call out more vigorously the details of those suffering everyday, joining them in sorrows publicly, sharing on the meaning of suffering, and calling the world to share this burden. This would be largely unpopular and also not very beneficial unless wedded to a call for true sacrifice to help those suffering directly and meaningful global action to stop the war – not vague calls to action, but detailed support by every Catholic believer to protest, boycott, and take action at every-turn. Be a spiritual Zelensky. To be fair, our Pontiff is very old, but he has at his disposal many skilled orators that could carry the message with more pointed and consistent force of spirit.

Fortunately I am not the Pope. I would certainly bring the church beyond its calling and probably bankrupt it and cause great internal and external turmoil. Many accuse the current Pope of doing just that already – and he has only moved the needle of church reform a few degrees.

The answer to Ukraine is not one world leader, nation, or religion. It lies in the heart of soul of individuals like you being active, committed, persistent, and vigilant wherever you are today, to stand up for what is morally right and just.

NYT Article on Pope Francis response:

www.nytimes.com/2022/03/18/world/europe/pope-francis-ukraine-russia-war.html

Putin Menace

Ukrainians, Russians, and any people that value freedom and human life have been warned by Putin today. He is using the language of dictators if the past that have embraced authoritarian rule, war, and genocide. This quote today is chilling:

“The Russian people will always be able to distinguish true patriots from scum and traitors and simply spit them out like a fly that accidentally flew into their mouths,” Mr. Putin said. “I am convinced that such a natural and necessary self-purification of society will only strengthen our country, our solidarity, cohesion and readiness to respond to any challenges.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/16/world/europe/putin-russia-ukraine-protests.html

He has just declared war on his own people with his conviction that “self-purification” of society is natural and necessary. The Russian apparatus is already rounding up dissenters within and kicking out all free media.

At the same time Ukraine is being decimated. Ukraine and this war are different and the stakes are high for democracies worldwide. It is hard to parcel out national interest from the reality of people being wounded, maimed, and killed.

For me, it returns frequently to the God issue, where is God? God is not dropping bombs and killing innocents today. Putin is the aggressor and killer here.

I am deeply afraid for Europe as well as our nations safety.

It is times like these that Christ like imitation fails most of us. We cannot just turn the other cheek.

Pray for Maria Ovsyannikova

Ms. Maria Ovsyannikova interrupted a live Russian Broadcast with a poster saying no to war. It of course went viral outside Russia. Inside the censors took it down quickly. Maria is now in custody.

Russian citizens, knowing the price is steep including jail, hard labor or death…are still standing up. Modern day saints and martyrs in my eyes, without the religious adornments, perhaps even a greater courage, alone standing for humanity.

Here is reporting from CNN:

Russian state news agency TASS confirmed OVD-Info’s reporting, citing a source, and added that she could face prosecution.

OVD-Info also obtained a video purportedly made by Ovsyannikova before she interrupted the news broadcast.

“What is happening now in Ukraine is a crime, and Russia is the aggressor country, and the responsibility for this aggression lies on the conscience of only one person. This man is Vladimir Putin,” Ovsyannikova says in the video, noting that her father is Ukrainian, and her mother is Russian. 

“Unfortunately, for the past few years, I have been working on Channel One and doing Kremlin propaganda, and now I am very ashamed of it,” she says. “It’s a shame that I allowed to speak lies from the TV screens, ashamed that I allowed to zombify Russian people.”

“I am ashamed that we kept silent in 2014, when all this was just beginning,” she says. “We didn’t go to rallies when the Kremlin poisoned Navalny, we just silently watched this anti-human regime and now the world has turned its back on us forever, and another ten generations of our descendants will not be able to wash away from the shame of this fraternal war.”

“We are Russian people, thinking and smart, and it is only in our power to stop all this madness,” she says. “Go to the rallies and do not be afraid! They can’t transplant us all!”

Videos of the interruption quickly were posted on social media shortly after it aired. CNN obtained the video from a live feed from Russia Channel One VK’s profile. 

Within minutes, that live feed was removed.

Is Putin Christian? How are we Christian today?o

By human definition, Putin is Orthodox Christian. He was raised Orthodox Christian by his mother. His father was atheist and also a career with KGB. Putin “joined” the Orthodox Church at age 41 and has used their platform to garner support ever since. I think most of the world sees Putin as Godless. Interestingly a right-wing think-tank below states the same despite the risk of the same arguments underpinning GOP connection to evangelical Christianity.

I have not seen any news regarding the Russian Orthodox Church speaking out against the war and violence.

https://www.heritage.org/europe/commentary/how-putin-uses-russian-orthodoxy-grow-his-empire

The Vatican and Pope Francis has condemned the war. Regardless, this is not a religious war. This is a nation state war run by a man who is at heart, his fathers son. Religion, like everything else including oil and human life, is a means to an end. Ruthless. Neither spiritual dialogue or atheist ethical or moral relativism will reach this man.

He is the spearhead for several autocratic nations declaring a return to primal means of achieving power. China, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, and other anti-western nations are vocally supporting Putin. They are not alone: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/2/25/where-do-russias-allies-stand-as-western-powers-slam-moscow.

The UAE also is supporting Russia. They are aligned with what they see as their long-term economic interest. Morality, humanism, spirituality, and freedom are not weighed in this calculation. Saudi Arabia also has joined the Russian talking points, not surprisingly, they executed 81 people yesterday.

NATO is also calculating and minimizing its exposure. They are doing more then Russia calculated and this has shocked both the East and the West. A large part of their peoples are supporting Ukraine on moral and humanitarian grounds, some on spiritual beliefs. Putin is counting on paralysis and withering support.

Where is the Christian believer in this war? Outside of both religion and government. They are with those suffering, the poor, and the oppressed. Like Christ and early Christians, they are powerless to stop the war or unravel the geopolitical of shifting alliances and resulting tragedies. Yet they must bear witness, sacrifice, and shed light.

The Ukrainian people themselves are the brightest star in the sky today while suffering grave loss of life and livelihood today.

The war pulls at my human heart. First and foremost for the Ukraine people. Then for the soldiers on both sides. And downstream the millions that will be pushed into poverty as a result of this war.

It also pulls at my human yearning for revenge and violence. Not at all Christ-like. Seeing Ukraine’s defend their homes, I am happy to see Russian forces pay a dear price, until I think of the conscripts who had no idea they would be invading their neighbor, who are dying not knowing why, and for their families left behind.

In an overly simplistic manner, I blame Putin. However, we are all responsible for embracing strong men autocrats, militarism, inequality, and injustices worldwide that diminish the value of human life. That allows men like Putin to take many lives today.

It is a time for most of us to feel spiritual desolation. Some, ones I am covetous of, have faith so strong and vibrant that neither war nor death nor personal suffering diminish their faith. In fact, when confronted with this misery they rise above the suffering and their faith precedes them in everything they do. The saintly ones even ask to take their brothers suffering if God wills it. Today people in Ukraine and the world over are doing that in large and small ways.

I have no interest in Putin’s faith or Putin himself. The rest of the world controls Ukrainian destiny including the Russian people. I pray for their help.

Selfishly I am glad we are not sending marines and other forces abroad – though my inner barbarian wished we had.

It is hard to phantom the “end” of freedom or “end” of a democracy or other ways of life. We take that for granted in the U.S. Our way of life is at risk. The Ukrainian people’s plight and suffering is a wake call for American citizens to stand up and demand accountable governance and accountable voters. Toxic disunity must end and civility restored. Our torn nation cannot lead without unity. Without unity democracies worldwide are at risk.

Is it possible to call to arms all people spiritually and politically…

Recent update: Russian Orthodox stick by Putin.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/13/nyregion/russian-ukrainian-orthodox-churches.html?referringSource=articleShare

Your Life is Not About You

St Maximilian Kolbe | Westminster Abbey

I have a sweatshirt with this quote, not so much as to insult everyone else, but as to remind myself of when I am most at peace within my own skin. I am most at peace when I am unconditionally serving others. By service, I do not mean anything grand.

Service comes in many shapes and sizes. When I intentionally am looking out for the greater good of others, without expectation of reciprocal return, my life tends to be happier. It is easy to do this when things are going well. Harder when life’s misfortunes are at my doorstep. However, that is when I need this strength and spirit the most. Caving into any misery or misfortune by falling into the trap of “what about me” and the thousand versions of martyrdom that may accompany my anger, disappointment, and other feelings that accompany when life does not meet my expectations, is only selfish consolation, good for a momentary breath of acknowledging my sense of entitlement.

Most of the time, the situation and consequences are not about me. We often are victims of collateral damage by the actions of others in this world. It may feel personal and direct at the time, but often is just a byproduct of multiple interactions and complex dynamics creating an unfortunate outcome for us personally. It is insulting to our ego that it is not about us at all when these things happen: Health care crisis like COVID, MVCs resulting in life loss (motor vehicle accidents), job loss by organizational restructuring, or like the Ukraine people are experiencing now, War.

Maximillian Kolbe experienced this personally. He was eventually given sainthood for his faith and sacrifice at the hands of Nazi Germany. He was also made the patron saint for people suffering from and living with addiction.

The latter at first was confusing to me. He received this honor as the Nazi persecutors killed him with a lethal drug. However, on deeper dive, his teachings speak often to our attachments being given undue influence. His life was not an easy one, nor his death.

image-13

I am thinking of and praying today for the Saints living and fighting in Ukraine today. Many are giving their all knowing only death awaits. They know today better then we all know that life is not about them. Putin, NATO, and other international influences are not putting the Ukraine people first. Mothers, fathers, and Children are needlessly being killed today.

Maximillian would not flee Ukraine today. Nor would he lift a rifle. He would however bear witness to the evil, serve the suffering, and sacrifice himself for his brother.

I must read more about him. His story reminds me of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, also killed by the Germans. War brings out the worst in us, but also the bravest souls.

This article, “Be a Man: St. Maximillian’s Rule of Life” capture some teachings we could learn from today.  The Sober Catholic also has a piece on him.

Ash Wednesday Hypocrites!

The article below provides excellent information on the western Catholic practice of receiving ashes on their forehead today. The handling of symbolism, identity, sincerity, and hypocrisy is deftly handled by this article. You could apply this teaching to many debates regarding the utility of symbolism and rituals versus say, worshipping false idols.

www.americamagazine.org/faith/2022/03/02/ash-wednesday-catholic-242449

Are you a hypocrite? If your reading this, my bet is that you are not, at least not intentionally!

Happy Lent out there to all who practice increased devotion and reclamation of your desire to be in communion with God.

War Part 4: Lazarus

Lazarus of Bethany: John 11:1-44: Lazarus

The biblical account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is a prominent source of teaching regarding faith and hope in Christianity.    Christians believe this miracle happened, as did Jesus rising from the dead (the resurrection).   As the centuries pass, there is a reductionist tendency to focus on Christ’s moral teachings rather than the miracles performed.   

From my point of view, there are two legitimate reasons for this tendency, including pragmaticism and utility. There is also grave danger. 

Pragmaticism:

When it comes to miracles, the theological debate on early Christian writings and the origins and style of the writers often have conflictual interpretations regarding if an account was a “literal” representation of history or a “figurative” used as a literary device for teaching.    

The figurative camp would probably do a deep dive into what we know about Death today through science. The biblical story accounts for concerns regarding the “stench” of Death as Lazarus had already been dead four days when Jesus commanded the stone be removed from the cave that held Lazarus’s body. We know scientifically today that Lazurus’s body would already have experienced rigor mortis through Autolysis and entered into the bloating stage caused by the gases that would have caused the Stench that Martha mentioned in this gospel.    We do not get any information on this from the biblical account other than Lazurs rose and Jesus commanded people to unbind him from the stips of cloth that covered his face and body.   

The literal camp would discount this objection pointing to lack of detail. The original authors did not see the importance of going into Christ’s ability to restore Lazarus whole and undue the damage done by the natural process of a human body decaying. 

Religious leaders and scholars have come to recognize that the mysteries in the bible and the theological debates and interpretations required do not neatly fit into 45-minute sermons on Sunday.   Pragmatically speaking, it is just easier to preach what Christ wanted us to learn from this account.

Utility:

Hopefully, Scripture and religion teach humanity to live holy lives aligned with God’s intentions. For Christianity, that teaching includes for all Christians to try to imitate the life of Christ in all they do. This biblical Scripture does not encourage me to try to imitate Christ and go out and raise the dead. I have not meant anyone who can raise the dead – irreversible cessation of all brain functions, no heartbeat, no bodily functions, and in the ground for four days. There have to be other valuable teachings coming from this Scripture for it to be included in Scripture and hold such a prominent place.

Grave Danger:

In my experience, this is a significant flaw in most organized religions. There is an over-reliance on the institutions of religion and “recipe” spirituality.   When this happens, churches risk becoming mausoleums of dead faith and hypocrisy. 

There is a danger to using Pragtamism and Utility unless the audience understands pragmaticism and utilitarianism implied in the teachings. The audience is expected to be aware of the more profound theological mysticism and unknowns underlying the teaching.   Any Sunday teachings are a starting point for contemplation, evaluation, discernment, and action.

If you have ever messed up putting together an Ikea purchase by intuition rather than by reading the instruction manual, you know what I mean.   Almost all manuals start with verifying you have everything you need to start the project. How many of us start building anyway, assuming all the parts are included?  And some manuals are just mystifying!

We have greater individual accountability to the God of our understanding and to each other individually than we do to our chosen church.   The same applies to our political affiliations as well. We have to be intellectually and spiritually mature to be of any use during times of great suffering and misery. That requires tools, experience, wisdom, and knowledge. All too often we enter into a crisis without all the tools needed to be part of the solution.

Believers leaving the sermons with a bit of knowledge and a genuine religious fervor ignited by well-meaning priests can be set up for a great fall from grace. Pause, breathe, think, discern…before you speak or act.

Returning to Lazarus:

Is Jesus Christ teaching me here about dealing with Death now while I am alive or teaching about life after Death? You can ask this question of almost any teaching in the Christian bible and come up with different answers each time. It is like the vase optical illusion; do you see a vase of two faces?     

It depends on where you are and what you are looking for in the picture! Today, I am looking at Death and destruction in Ukraine. Tomorrow I may be facing Death closer to my home or my eternal dirt bed. 

Ukraine and Russia:

Roughly 200 have died and over 1000 wounded in the bloody conflict between Ukraine and Russia.   I believe this must be an undercount. The story of Lazurus teaches me a few things about Death, suffering, and supporting those experiencing it:   

  • Sorrowful: Jesus did not rush in and fix things. He took time to weep with the family on arrival. He experienced loss as they experienced loss (35: Jesus began to weep). The passages describe Jesus as greatly disturbed. He was sorrowful with them. Jesus had what they did not have, a divine understanding of something greater than our human lives, but he was able to put himself in the griever’s shoes and knew such confidence was not possible for Mary, Martha, and other grievers. He was with them in real-time. He also set a message for eternal time here that Death has been conquered in him. Through Lazarus’s raising and his eventual resurrection, he gives us hope that Death is not the final chapter. We do not have the power to give this promise with certainty to freshly grieving someone. In time, we may give hope in eternal life, but right now, we are in real-time dealing with pain, suffering, and Death. I am sorrowful for the people in harm’s way in Ukraine today. These foreign people may not share my faith and belief. Even if they did – the reality of war may evoke a spiritual crisis. Now is the time for healing and support, not evangelization. 
  • Hope:  Both Mary and Martha attacked Jesus for not coming sooner. He understood their anger and frustration.    Lacking Jesus’ ability to raise the dead, I must understand and help when I can, burden the weight of rage and anger caused by great misery and suffering. If we were Jesus, we would be looking for the opportunity to bring peace and healing, hope and consolation. We may or may not have any responsibility for the war in Ukraine.    Hope is a Christian virtue. We hope and pray for better outcomes in Ukraine. We must also act as well to make that a reality. Shy of raising the dead as Jesus did, what can I do from the other side of the world?   I can pray, write, and give financial support. This hope is here and now, present day.
  • Faith:  My faith nourishes me to make sense of the impossible, to have hope in the future, and to serve others. I have only a few resources and glimpses of certainty in my God that propels me to live a holier life. This humbleness protects me from the grave dangers I mentioned above while still nudging me forward to try and be a beacon of light and hope for others. 

Today, I pray with great sorrows in my heart for the people of Ukraine and Russia living through war and loss of life. I pray for and support relief and hope now for a greater future for all those that survive and for eternal life for those whose lives have been prematurely ended.   

I know my prayers and financial contribution are but a whisper in the sounds of eternal time. I might whisper countless others to alter the course of history toward a more peaceful and harmonious planet.   Shy of miraculous and heroic capabilities I am left to pragmatic and utilitarian actions! The mystery of eternity and after-life can wait another day for me or many, many days if it is God’s will.

Charity of the day: Catholic Relief Services

Remember Ukraine in your prayers today.

War Part Three

They chose not to surrender. The NYT photo below depicts three women armed to resist.

The tears in their eyes are real. The guns heavy in their hands. The transport van somehow shadowing impending death.

I “feel” glad they chose to fight. This feeling is filled with awe and respect for the people of Ukraine. Perhaps a little vicarious sense of vengeance and justice are underneath this emotion.

Underneath this emotion is great sadness, sense of powerlessness, and a little rage. Being spiritually (or just a mature human being) open to the pain and suffering of the Ukraine people is not easy. It is far simpler to engage our human psychological defenses…get really busy, turn the channel, blame game, rationalize behaviors, intellectualize world events, practice ignorance or apathy, become numb or indifferent.

I choose not to go there. I choose to in solidarity with both Ukrainian and Russian common man to be aware of and acknowledge this travesty of war. I choose to write here that we all have a collective responsibility. At home we must fix our own toxicity too. It has weakened our ability to lead and promote world peace.

https://static01.nyt.com/images/2022/02/26/world/26ukraine-briefing-kyivteacher/26ukraine-briefing-kyivteacher-superJumbo.jpg?quality=75&auto=webp

Humble prayers and hope for our sisters and brothers facing death and misery today.

War Part 2 – Unconditional Surrender

My Bible, the New Testament, does not provide acceptable answers to the Ukraine Russia War.

Oxford bibliographies cite “publications explicitly on war in the New Testament itself are relatively scarce, tend to allegorize or spiritualize the topic, and/or focus on the battle scenes and eschatological warfare of the Book of Revelation.” The reason for this is Jesus Christ and his primary audience in the first and second centuries were more often the victims of war or aggression. They did not have armies or power.

The exception is the book of revelation which “revels” in apocalyptic violence at the end times.

Still, most scholars accept Christ’s teachings and the teachings of the early Christian fathers as more aligned with pacifism and non-aggression. One writer quoted Mark Twain that the early Christian community put the emphasis on the afterlife and not current action:

“Such violent images of final judgment owe to an increasing preoccupation with the afterlife, something of little concern in the Old Testament. This shift in focus between the Testaments once caused Mark Twain to observe that only after the Deity “became a Christian,” did he turn “a thousand billion times crueler,” by inventing and proclaiming hell.” (Shelly Matthews, Passages article)

If we want answers to war, we may have to turn to Judaism or Islam. However, I take no solace in these scriptures for guidance as they have misled man to kill in God’s name the same as the Christian Crusaders misused Christianity.

Intuitively and Spiritually we know in our soul aggression and war are wrong. What we don’t know is how to respond to it when our general acceptance of this moral position is not accepted as a social contract. Putin has basically thrown the gauntlet down and proclaimed Russia will take Ukraine and is doing so right now.

In spiritual terms, President Biden has taken the non-violent response by coalescing countries to condemn and sanction Russia. The GOP is purely reactionary and divided on foreign policy. They have lost their way and elected populists with shallow foreign policy understanding. The U.S. itself is morally weak and divided, in a state of disunity being driven by a hunger for political power rather than democracy and principles.

I am thinking the unpopular thought now. Perhaps the Ukrainian President should tell his troops and the citizens to lay their guns down and take the pacifist approach.

My internal sense of justice and inclination is defiance and like those 13 Ukrainian soldiers now dead on Snake Island, accept death before surrendering. However, to commit others to death and watch the country’s infrastructure get destroyed for the inevitable – is not surrendering an act of egotism or bravery?

Soberly and non-passionate thinking says this may be the smartest and most noble action? Zelensky gets on national TV and advises the nation to stand down in the name of life preservation and humanitarian concerns? This would be an example of selective pacifism – because his war is not winnable today?

The American Jesuit Magazine today encourages prayers for peace despite the feeling that prayer is useless. I advise letting your local politicians, community, and the international world know you are willing to sacrifice as well for world peace. Most of us only have money to donate, time to give, and a pen to alter the course of human misery.

I try to end posts with opportunities to take part in solving world suffering or supporting causes. Please consider these two options:

International Committee of the Red Cross: Responding to Humanitarian crisis across the world.

St. Judes Cancer Research Center: Personal fundraiser by the author for an international cancer treatment center. (Top rating by Charity Navigator).

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