IS IT POSSIBLE FOR THE ORTHODOX CHURCH TO BE NEUTRAL IN THE UKRAINIAN WAR?
The Lord said: “Let your yea be yea, and your nay nay” (Matthew 5.37). These words apply especially in relation to matters of the faith. For, as St. Mark of Ephesus says, in matters of faith there is no mid-point between truth and falsehood.
What about matters that do not obviously concern the faith but which certainly concern questions of morals? Here, too, the Church is definitely involved and must give a “yea” or “nay” answer to the question: who or what is right in God’s eyes here? For if no answer is given by those who have the mind of Christ, or purport to do so, then the faithful may well be tempted to support an immoral act and even to join an antichristian leader – to the eternal ruination of their souls.
It is the fashion nowadays to consider many serious matters of morals, especially those involving political leaders, to be not the Church’s concern, whose domain is exclusively the spiritual, having nothing to do with “politics”. This fashion has displayed itself recently especially in relation to the Russo-Ukrainian war.
Thus Bishop Clement of Larissa (True Orthodox Church of Greece (Kallinikos) has just published an encyclical to his flock exhorting them to say nothing that would favour one side of the other in this war (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2262851597212852&set=p.2262851597212852&type=3). Then he goes on: “From the spiritual point of view there is no great significance who is more just or unjust” (С духовной точки зрения не имеет большого значения, кто более справедлив или несправедлив). So justice and injustice have no great significance from a spiritual point of view?!!! Clement’s concept of “spirituality” is definitely not Orthodox.
Again, a priest has written: “We are in this world, but not of this world. – We are pilgrims traveling through this world, going to the Jerusalem on high. – We are passengers in the Ark (i.e. Church), which the world (i.e., the sea) wishes to swallow, but can not. – This war is not our war. – This is not a war for God, Faith, family and the Tsar (i.e., the anointed one). – This is a war of illegitimate powers/nations seeking the division of good people. – Our “patriotism” belongs to the Church. – If we ever get to the Kingdom of Heaven, do we expect to find divisions (ghettos) of Greeks, Jews, Russians, Ukrainians, etc.? – Are we not all brothers and sisters in Christ? – “Every land is a fatherland, and every fatherland is a foreign land.” – War is a terrible event, but it is a grievous sin when brothers take up arms against each other. – We have relatives, parishioners, clergy, parishes and whole dioceses on both side of the issue, who need to see the entire encompassing event for what it is. We must overcome the politics and view each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. – The Holy Synod will be wise in not taking a position, other than the position of the Church of Christ. To do otherwise will only cause harm to our faithful.”
Let us analyze this statement a little more closely, beginning with this sentence: “This war is not our war. This is not a war for God, Faith, family and the tsar.” Quite frankly, this is nonsense. This war vitally affects individuals and families not only in Russia and Ukraine, but throughout the world. In fact, if this war develops into the Third World War, as many believe it will, then it will vitally effect every man, woman and child on the planet. Some have said both sides are heretical, so it’s no concern of the True Orthodox Church. Even if there were not dioceses of the True Church on both sides of the border, with many True Orthodox Christian already forced to emigrate to other lands, how can a military conflict that involves the army of the neo-Soviet antichrist not greatly interest Russian Orthodox Christians? After all, if that army is defeated, the results will be profound for Russia and may open the way for freedom for the Church and even a True Orthodox tsar, which so many holy men have prophesied. Or, if it triumphs, then we can expect that the evil heresies that the MP preaches will spread much more widely and corrupt many Orthodox churches. Has this got nothing to do with God and the Faith? Of course, it has.
“This is a war of illegitimate powers/nations seeking the division of good people. – Our “patriotism” belongs to the Church.” So the murderers and the torturers (the Russians and their supporters) are on the same moral level as the murdered and the tortured (including many innocent children who supposedly have become “neo-nazis”))?! Of course, this is a traditional position of leftist Christians and non-Christians. They forget that whatever the sins of the Ukraine, it has freed itself from the most serious sin of the Russians. For, on the one hand, the Ukrainians have banned by law all Nazi and Soviet propaganda and symbolica, while the Russians are happily increasing Soviet symbolica, statues of Lenin, icons to Stalin – and, of course, the hammer and sickle on all their tanks, making it clear that they are antichrist Soviet! Still more seriously, by identifying themselves again, since Putin came to power, with the Soviet Union as a lawful power, they have fallen under the Russian Church’s anathema against Bolshevism and all those who cooperate with Bolshevism.
“Our “patriotism” belongs to the Church. – If we ever get to the Kingdom of Heaven, do we expect to find divisions (ghettos) of Greeks, Jews, Russians, Ukrainians, etc.? – Are we not all brothers and sister in Christ? – “Every land is a fatherland, and every fatherland is a foreign land.””
Of course, the Church is our first loyalty, higher than loyalty to our homeland, and in Christ there is “neither Greek nor Jew”. Nevertheless, patriotism is a natural, not an evil emotion, which cannot be extirpated in normal people. Nor should it be; for “charity begins at home”. Don’t forget that Jesus Christ Himself showed patriotic love for the Jews even while prophesying their destruction because of their sins (Luke 23.28-31). St. Paul also (Romans 9-11). And to show no compassion for one’s own countrymen, – or the citizens of any country – when they are invaded unjustly, tortured and killed on a massive scale is more like hatred than love. As St. Paul says to the similarly indifferent-towards-evil Corinthians: “You are puffed up, and have not rather mourned that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you” (I Corinthians 5.2). At the very least, the heart of the Christian will burn at the sight of evil and injustice, whoever the evildoers are.
“War is a terrible event, but it is a grievous sin when brothers take up arms against each other. – We have relatives, parishioners, clergy, parishes and whole dioceses on both side of the issue, who need to see the entire encompassing event for what it is. We must overcome the politics and view each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.””
Of course, war is a terrible event, but it is a grievous sin, a kind of moral ecumenism, to make a sign of equality between those who, unjustly and out of hatred, take up arms their brothers and those who are the victims of these evil, hate-filled acts. Was Cain equal to Abel? Was Naboth morally on a par with Jezabel, who stole his vineyard? True, we must overcome purely political passions, and view each other as brothers and sisters in Christ (if we are talking about those in the Church). But does that mean abandoning all norms of morality and justice and substitution for them a pseudo-spirituality which will not speak up at all against the deepest evil? Absolutely not!
After all, all those who lead, or approve of, Putin’s “special operation” will definitely go to the gehenna of fire if they do not repent. Should the Church not rebuke them for their evil and try and persuade them to repent (and persuade their Ukrainian victims not to hate those who hate them)? That is the absolute duty of the Church! In fact, according to St. Maximus the Confessor, not to warn a Christian away from a mortal sin is in fact HATRED.
“The Holy Synod will be wise in not taking a position, other than the position of the Church of Christ. To do otherwise will only cause harm to our faithful.””
Not take a position in relation to the greatest moral evil of our generation?! To say neither “yea” nor “nay” to the Soviet Antichrist in its most recent, most terrible manifestation?! And how could this possibly NOT cause harm to our faithful, who will receive no clear indication on how to relate to the Antichrist and are already severely tempted to join it? Let us be clear: the regime of the neo-Soviet antichrist will, if successful, strengthen evil not only in Russia and Ukraine but throughout the world. To turn one’s fact from this fact on the grounds of a specious pseudo-morality will most certainly do a great deal of harm to the faithful!
For, as Archbishop Averky writes, “no true Christian can be reconciled to evil, wherever and in whomever he might encounter it. All true Christians throughout the whole history of the Church have followed the example of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and His Holy Apostles and have always condemned evil and struggled against it, even though this might cause them all sorts of severe deprivations and even cost them life itself.”
But some will reply: “The real adversary is the American Antichrist, not the Soviet one, and by murdering Ukrainian men, women and children we are protecting them from the Americans.” However, the Ukrainians, unsurprisingly, don’t seem to be grateful for this “protection through murder”, but rather consider such arguments black jokes in very bad taste.
In any case, first things first; surely Russian Orthodox Christians should attend to their own evil first. Has the Soviet Antichrist been removed? Very little sign of it. Who is corrupting the faith and values of Russians more today – the Russians or the Americans? Obviously the Russians. The duo Putin-Gundiaev are the antichrist and false prophet of contemporary Russia with enormous, almost uncontested power. There is no way that slaves of the one antichrist can remove the other – except, perhaps, by throwing nuclear weapons at it, which appears to be what some Russian commentators, such as Dmitri Kisilev, are gleefully anticipating.
Let us imagine the impossible and suppose that Putin and Gundiaev actually want, out of the love of their hearts alone, to save the Ukrainians from American moral influence. Can such a goal be attained by killing and torturing them? Did the apostles kill and torture the peoples they were trying to convert from paganism? The Prophet David said: “Depart from evil and do good.” That is: first depart from you own evil and renounce the evil one, and then, perhaps, you may be able to bring some people to the good (by peaceful means, of course). Again, in his famous Psalm 50, David beseeches God for forgiveness and the gift of “Thy governing Spirit”, and then, he says, “I shall teach transgressors Thy ways, and the ungodly shall turn back unto Thee” (50.13). Only true good, that is, love and repentance, not the Soviet hatred, can produce good fruits. As Tsar Martyr Nicholas said in his very last words to the world, as passed on by his daughter Tatiana: “They should remember that the evil which is now in the world will be still stronger, but that it is not love that will conquer evil, but only love…”
The greatest act of love, says St. Photius the Great, is to tell the truth, that truth which is necessary for the salvation of the soul. On May 28 / June 10, 2022, the True Orthodox Church of Russia acted in such a spirit of truth and love when it declared “the antichristian essence of the present regime of the Russian Federation”, which “is carrying out the dechristianization of the Russian people, a campaign for its moral corruption”. That being the case, and being confirmed by the ever-increasing corruption and evil of Putin’s acts since 2004, who can deny the necessity for the open proclamation of the utter immorality and antichristianity of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine? But such a voice is not heard in the kingdom of darkness that is the Russian Federation today… On the contrary, voices are heard trying to cover up the RF’s abominations, diverting attention from it to other nations’ evils, even blaming the Ukrainians for protecting their lives and homes…
When the prophets of the Old Testament addressed God’s people, they concentrated on the Israelites’ sins, and said relatively little about the sins of their neighbours – the Assyrians, the Egyptians, the Babylonians, etc. This was not because these neighbours were without sin. Of course not! But because we are saved only by concentrating on our own sins, not those of others. Similarly in the New Testament: “If we judge ourselves, we shall not be judged.”
July, 2022; revised on April 10/23, 2023: