As Russia continues its assault on Ukraine, U.S. Republicans and conservative pundits have confirmed whose side they’re on after years of praising Vladimir Putin, following the lead of their figurehead, Donald Trump, who called Putin’s actions “genius.” When they’re not talking about how strong and competent and sexy Putin is, they’re attacking the U.S., going far beyond just criticizing President Joe Biden, and talking about how we should be more like the dictator-controlled oligarchy that Russia has become, calling authoritarianism “strength.” Think about that statement. In an interview with the Guardian, Stephanie Grisham, Trump’s former press secretary, stated, “Donald Trump ‘admired’ Vladimir Putin’s ability to kill anyone he wanted. I also think Trump admired Putin greatly. I think he [Trump] wanted to be able to kill whoever spoke out against him.” While you digest that tidbit think about the eight House members who voted against suspending trade relations with Russia, thus supporting Trump in general and more specifically Putin: Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Georgia; Matt Gaetz, Florida; Lauren Boebert, Colorado; Thomas Massie, Kentucky; Andy Biggs, Arizona; Dan Bishop, North Carolina; Glenn Grothman, Wisconsin; and Chip Roy, Texas.
Furthermore, Fox News host Tucker Carlson urged Americans to ask, “Why do I hate Putin?” and has questioned why it would be “disloyal” for Americans to side with Russia if war breaks out. Whether you support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or not, it has absolutely nothing to do with loyalty and everything to do with man’s inhumanity to man. What bothers me is the picture of the 6-year-old Ukrainian boy who placed food on his mother’s grave in Bucha where she died from starvation and the stress from the brutal Russian onslaught. Moreover, I can’t reconcile that picture and the other similar pictures I’ve seen with God’s mercy and justice.
Winston Churchill famously described Russia as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” Churchill thought that the key to solving the riddle lie in the Russian national interest. In a 2005 speech, Putin viewed the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century because tens of millions of our citizens and countrymen found themselves beyond the fringes of Russian territory.” Similarly, Putin stated in 2014 that “millions of people went to bed in one country and awoke in different ones, overnight becoming ethnic minorities in former union republics, while the Russian nation became one of the biggest, if not the biggest ethnic group in the world to be divided by borders.”
A significant portion of the U.S. evangelical community has been developing a political as well as emotional alliance with Russia for approximately 20 years. These Americans, including prominent figures such as evangelical leader Franklin Graham and Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow, view Russia, Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church as protectors of the faith, standing against attacks on “traditional” and “family” values (Melani McAllister, “War in Ukraine is testing American evangelical’s support for Putin as a leader of conservative values,” The Conversation, April 6). During a pro-war rally in Moscow, Putin invoked the words of Jesus Christ to justify his invasion of Ukraine. According to reporting by Gratson Quay for The Week, Putin said he ordered the invasion “to get people out of their misery, out of this genocide, that is the main reason, the motive and purpose of the military operation that we began in Donbas and Ukraine.” Putin continued by paraphrasing John 15:13, “There is no greater love than if someone gives his soul for his friends.” While Putin identifies as a Russian Orthodox Christian, I don’t believe Jesus would approve of Russian troops murdering innocent women and children as well as the complete destruction of numerous lives as depicted in the photo of the boy in Bucha.
One is tempted to ask, “Can God force Russia to stop the war in Ukraine?” as did Philip Kosloski in an article in Aleteia.org, March 23. Kosloski argues, “What this would entail is God overriding the free will of the Russian soldiers and forcing them to stop the violence.”
According to the Catholic Church, “God willed that man should be left in the hand of his own counsel, so that he might of his own accord seek his creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him.” Thus, in the absence of free will we would no longer be responsible for our actions. The three major religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, view justice and righteousness as essential attributes of God and everyone will be judged by God according to their actions and deeds. Some Christians argue that the war in Ukraine somehow is God’s will, that God is using this profound evil to bring about the end of days and the final judgment.
Conversely, Rev. David Wilson Rogers argues, “such thinking is dangerously idolatrous and does nothing to serve faithful Christianity… This unholy invasion of Ukraine has nothing to do with God, the Bible, or authentic Christian faith. It is an act of demonic power. Russia’s war on Ukraine is not biblical” (Carlsbad Current Argus, March 5).
While I agree man has free will and the war in Ukraine is a demonic act, I can’t help but wonder how the suffering of millions of Ukrainians, many of whom are children, is anything but man’s inhumanity to man and it serves no purpose but to satiate the egos of people like Putin, Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Xi Jinping of China, Kim Jong-un of North Korea, Donald Trump, Mike Pompeo, Marjorie Taylor Greene and other right-wing conservatives and autocrats.
With the defeat of Germany, Italy and Japan in World War II, we vowed to never let this happen again, yet it seems that history is repeating itself. Will justice prevail? Will God’s mercy be bestowed upon the people of Ukraine? Will democracy triumph over autocracy or will man’s inhumanity to man continue? Pray for the end of war and for anyone seeking freedom and justice.