The Russian Orthodox Church and the Invasion of Ukraine

It’s no secret the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church has supported Vladimir Putin and his barbaric invasion of Ukraine. Excepting the brave dissent of a relatively few clergy, who have signed a petition against Putin, the remainder have either supported Putin’s Make-Russia-Great-Again-inspired aggression against Ukraine or remained silent.

It is disheartening to say the least. I don’t think we can blame Patriarch Kirill’s support on ignorance or the result of Russian propaganda; Kirill has sufficient connections to the outside world to know the truth. From one of his most recent sermons, it appears Kirill is attempting to rationalize Putin’s aggression because Ukraine has permitted Gay Pride Parades. My guess is Kirill is smarter than that and he simply doesn’t want to cross Putin.

Whatever his motivation, his actions have placed him and the Russian Orthodox Church in the same league as the German Lutheran clergy who supported Adolf Hitler, as he ravaged war on Europe in the name of German nationalism.

I don’t envy Kirill or the circumstances in which he finds himself. He must know if he crosses Putin, he would likely be killed (secretly poisoned perhaps?) or jailed. But as Christians in a fallen world, we often have little say on whether and when history will thrust on us such a choice.

It is quite clear, though, that as a Christian, the right choice is sometimes the one that ends our life for the greater good of the Kingdom and King Jesus. Deitrich Bonhoeffer made that hard choice in returning Germany in 1939 from safety in the United States, and he paid for that decision with his life.

The Kingdom is all the better for Bonhoeffer’s sacrifice, and history still mocks the hypocrisy of the German Lutheran Church who supported Hitler. Perhaps Kirill should take note. GS

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