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: