- As of February 24, 2022, as Russian air strikes, missiles, and tanks began pouring into an outmatched Ukraine, the Byzantine calculus of symphonia, of a mutually interdependent church and state, devolved into an unholy alliance joining at the hip a predatory Putin and a sycophantic Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kyrill.
- Especially over the past decade Patriarch Kyrill has tied the fate of his church to that of his patron Putin, the same tragic mistake made by the same church in its defense of tsarist Russia in its death throes.
- Since his accession in 2009, and emphatically since Russia’s moves against Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk in 2014, Patriarch Kyrill has sought to enshrine the principle of “Russky mir,” the “Russian World,” which he understands to mean the spiritual and ecclesial union of the Eastern Slavs.
- Following the demise of Marxism, Russian Orthodoxy emerged as a substitute state ideology, not only giving the Russian Republic a sacred purpose for its existence, but also energizing the dream of the reconstitution of the old Russian/Soviet empire.
- Presuming an East-West spiritual and moral divide, Putin increasingly sees all things Western, including Catholicism and Protestantism on Russian soil, as a threat to Russian Orthodoxy, which is one of the underpinnings of his regime.
- In close proximity to notions of the “Russian World” and Orthodox triumphalism is the attendant messianic belief that Patriarch Kyrill and Putin are the world’s last best hope for the preservation of traditional Christian family values, and this in the face of their obscenely lavish lifestyles and out-sized hubris
- Tragically, the Russian Orthodox Church, far from being a check on Putin’s war against Chechnya, anti-Assad forces in Syria, and now Ukraine, supports the Russian autocrat wholeheartedly.
- On March 6, 2022, Orthodoxy’s Forgiveness Sunday, in Moscow’s palatial Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Patriarch Kyrill outdid himself going so far as to equate Ukraine with the Prodigal Son.
- On February 28, 2022, Kyrill declared in vain that a guarantee of “fraternal relations” would be “our united Orthodox Church represented in Ukraine by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church headed by His Beatitude Onuphry.” Yet four days prior, on the very day the Russian invasion began, Metropolitan Onuphry had already boldly condemned Russian aggression. For the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in communion with Moscow a Russian war against Ukrainians is “a repetition of the sin of Cain, who killed his own brother out of envy.”
- On March 2, 2022, this author received an “Appeal to Compatriots” signed by 81 (at the latest count, 380) individuals, mostly Russian Evangelical Christians-Baptists and some Pentecostals, condemning the Russian attack on Ukraine in the strongest of terms: “We assess what is happening as a grave sin of fratricide—the sin of Cain, who raised his hand against his brother Abel,” the identical biblical condemnation Ukrainian Orthodox Metropolitan Onufry had laid at the feet of Putin.
- As of March 6, nearly 300 Russian Orthodox priests had signed a petition of their own in opposition to the war in Ukraine. Like Ukrainian Metropolitan Onufry and Russian Protestants in their Appeal, the petition of these exceptionally brave Russian Orthodox priests—but no Russian metropolitans—references Cain’s murder of his brother Abel.
- Among those who signed the Evangelical Appeal are dear friends I have known for decades for whom I now have reason to fear. They will suffer for this unless Putin is dethroned.
- There is also good reason to fear for the safety of any believer of any persuasion other than Russian Orthodox in any additional Ukrainian territory occupied by Russian forces.
- Manifestations of a reign of terror in Ukrainian lands occupied by Russia or its minions in 2014 are numerous and sobering: press slander, fines, harassment, deportations, raids on worship services, robberies, forced closures of church-based orphanages, rehabilitation centers, charities, and seminaries, interrogations utilizing psychological and physical torture, and murder.
- Russian Republic violations of freedom of conscience pale before the draconian theocratic regimes now in place in Crimea and the Donbas. Unfortunately, the experience of Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk is very likely what is in store for believers not beholden to Kyrill in any additional lands Russian forces wrest from Ukraine.
- At present Putin, with Kyrill in tow, is about the destruction of a democratic, religiously tolerant state that is home to arguably the most robust Christian population of any country in Europe. Ukraine, with a population of 44 million, is home to more Orthodox churches than Russia with a population more than three times that of Ukraine (146 million). And the same is true for other Christian confessions and denominations. Despite its smaller size, Ukraine is home to far more energetic and growing populations of Catholics, Baptists, Pentecostals, and Adventists than is Russia.
- Two words in Old Church Slavonic, three words in English, are voiced repeatedly in the Orthodox Divine Liturgy: Gospodi pomilui, Lord have mercy. As Ukraine appears on the brink of descent into another Golgotha of Russian captivity, and as Russia, Eastern Europe, and the West all appear to be entering into a time fraught with the greatest danger to world peace since World War II, we cannot repeat too often, Lord have mercy.
Elliot, Mark R.
"Putin's Invasion of Ukraine: What's Religion Got To Do With It?,"
Occasional Papers on Religion in Eastern Europe: Vol. 42
, Article 6.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.georgefox.edu/ree/vol42/iss2/6