Skip to content

A Response to Slavic Protestant Silence on the Crisis in Ukraine

March 3, 2014
by George

The Real Olympic Games

       I have to make a confession: sometimes I act like a complacent American citizen. Although I was born in Ukraine (before it’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991) I haven’t followed its politics much. In fact, I have to admit that I was watching some of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, while half-way across the globe in my former country a revolution was taking place. To be sure, it was still nonviolent for most of the duration of the Olympic Games. It’s when people started dying in the streets of Kiev that my attention was sharply diverted to my birth country. Trying to put together the facts from both sides of the story, hoping to reconcile them, I watched Russia Today and searched for online news. It was then I realized Russia hasn’t changed much despite the collapse of the USSR. References to thousands of protesters as right-wing extremists and nationalists were obscured as I looked upon young and old faces of different social classes, ordinary men and women out praying together, providing medical aid for the injured, feeding the hungry, and helping each other in the midst of the chaos unleashed upon the Maidan. It reminded me of The Soviet Story, a documentary (2008) about Europe’s most brutal regime, which exterminated 20 million people by some approximations. Russia is the heir of the USSR, and Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent himself, isn’t just interested in any games. He knows how to wage a public relations campaign, many noting this years Olympic Games as an attempt to showcase the new, modern Russia. But even the extravagance of the Olympics couldn’t absolve him of the past. It’s not that easy to forget tyranny, especially for Ukraine.

Soviet De-Christianization

Being a Protestant refugee from the former Soviet Union, I had heard the story growing up of how Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev, successor to Stalin, once predicted that the last Christian would be paraded on Soviet state television within a few years, religion ending in the atheist-communist empire. Now living in the largest evangelical Slavic community in the United States (outside the USSR), I find it somewhat amusing. Slavic Christianity goes back to over one thousand years of history, when Princess Olga, queen of Kievan Rus, was baptized in Constantinople and Orthodox Christianity became the national religion – until 1917. The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, when the Marxist-communists took over and Lenin disarmed the people, meant Slavic Christians could not defend themselves against forced de-Christianization, not having adequate means of self-defense at their disposal. Slavic Christianity became passive. This deficiency is in our theology here as well, as most of the believers from the former USSR hold to pacifist views of war. Many Slavic pastors or preachers encourage prayer for the former Soviet States their congregants came from, but often there is little agreement over what actions to take other than that, if any, to help those who remained in the former Soviet territories. Some of my own relatives still reside in Ukraine, and I don’t think it’s any consolation to them to see what is happening before their very eyes and being told not to do much other than pray. The prayer of a righteous man is effective, but oftentimes God answers our prayers by sending us out.

The Breadbasket of Europe

Imagine being in their place. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to visit Ukraine just a couple years ago (in 2011) and had the privilege of viewing some of the tourist attractions around the country. I even walked around many of the places that currently look like ruins from a war zone (after the massacre), and I have to say, had I been there during EuroMaidan I would likely have been protesting against the corrupt government as well. For a country in Europe the size of Ukraine with all it’s natural resources, including some of the richest farmland in all of the world, the standard of living there is quite below average, somewhat un-European like. And understandable so, for it had been under communism for about 7 decades, from the time Stalin tried to starve Ukraine into submission (killing up to 8 million people) in Soviet collectivization of their farmlands, up until the breakup of the evil empire in 1989. Anybody with a basic understanding of economics knows that in order to make efficient allocation of scarce resources among millions of people, no top down system will suffice. For no matter how noble minded a government may be, it cannot make better economic decisions for millions of individuals than they can themselves, with God-given incentive to work for provision and protection. Anywhere communism has been tried in the world, including early America, it has failed miserably.

Religious – Economic Liberty

I understand the Ukrainian peoples desire to move away from the past (Communism-Marxism-Leninism). They are intimately familiar with the results. But moving away from the past needs to include a rejection of atheism as well, for they go hand in hand. Communism assumes that the State is capable of allocating resources equally among everybody and religion is just a means of controlling the masses or social classes, whereas God requires individual as well as corporate stewardship over the earth, thereby providing the foundations for private property, not State ownership of all resources. Our family moved away from the USSR once the iron curtain fell for the freedom of worship as well as economic liberty. Ukrainians want economic as well as religious freedom. But does that mean moving towards integration with the European Union, like many folks in the west seem to think? Well, it’s complicated, but I think it depends. Europe used to be called Christendom for a reason, and many of its riches derived from the progress of Christianity (the printing press, scientific revolution, universities, hospitals, etc). Now, however, Europe (and the US for that matter) is moving away from its liberating ideals and towards secular humanism and socialism as social and economic philosophies, whereas the freedom it brought about came from its faith in the invisible hand guiding all of human history. The same hand responsible for our freedom to make choices resulting in a free market economy, which we now refer to as capitalism. Nothing fosters interdependence between people and nations like voluntary trade; except for Christian faith. But economics without the underlying theology is just a monopoly game.

Non-intervention, Self-determination, and Decentralization

Thomas Jefferson once said, “commerce with all nations, but alliances with none, should be our motto.” That way they could stay out of foreign entanglements and focus on developing as a nation themselves without outside interference. They believed in a nation’s right for self-determination and promulgated a non-interventionist foreign policy. But we have drifted far from the principles that built this nation. The US Assistant Secretary of State was recently caught scheming to meddle in Ukraine’s political affairs (in a conversation that also featured her cursing the EU, which also shows a great lack of moral discernment). If she had any sense of shame at all, she would resign immediately for such undiplomatic sentiments. We can assist without political involvement, trying to determine who should make up the government of a foreign country. Free trade will help them economically, which will likely serve to stabilize Ukraine politically as well. Ukraine would want the US, Russia, and the EU to respect their sovereignty, not try to impose their will on them. Let them work on a stable unity government. In some ways, we’re just as divided ourselves and would benefit from decentralization so that regions or states would have more authority and less orders from bureaucrats not familiar with local jurisdictions. Ukraine should be engaged with voluntary trade among all its neighbors, which would be mutually beneficial to all. And as for foreign aggression, there’s the Christian just war theory, which has been incorporated into many military rules of engagement. Suffice it to say that war should be a last resort, for defensive reasons. American Patriots appealed to the Supreme Judge for the rectitude of their intentions.

Christian Involvement

So why is it, I wonder, that people still ask (including many Slavic pastors in the U.S. today), “should Christians be involved in Ukraine’s politics?” It’s really a silly questions to ask, especially since 90+% of the country claims to be some kind of Christian, but some Slavic evangelicals here think this way. Should the 1% of professing unbelievers determine the future of a country with a millennium history of Christianity? Politics will directly affect the freedom of religion and ability of the people to practice their faith. We who are Christians are supposed to be standing for the truth, but I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I act like a coward instead and run. Regardless what denomination, however, the Ukrainian people did stand and many died for the truth about corruption and against an ungodly authority1. It’s a Christian’s duty before God; and your family, the church, the society, and future generations to come. More than one hundred Ukrainians sacrificed their lives at the Maidan of Independence, and not for a replacement government like some insist because the opposition is divided – but to fight for liberty (and against tyranny). This is our right and privilege, for us as the church to be salt (preserve unity) and light (piercing the darkness of sin and deception). And the whole world is watching for what will happen with Ukraine. After decades of oppression and persecution of Slavic Christianity under atheistic communism, miraculously there is now a Protestant Christian in authority over a country with a 2% Protestant population!

Faith vs. Fear

But it doesn’t take a Protestant to sense suppression of religion and economic oppression. The opposition and protesters, as diverse as they were, were united by one thing: they did not want to return to the godless past. If Ukraine is a Republic like it’s officially stated in the atlas, then let’s push to strengthen the rule of law for everyone, showing no favoritism, and not excluding government officials. And who has a better understanding of law than Christianity, unless its theology is antinomian? For a country of laws to function properly there must be a foundation in religion and morality, because creation provides the belief in the equality of man, in the good stewardship of God’s earth (which necessitates the right to the ownership of private property), and the fall acknowledges the sinful human nature of man which requires decentralization (or a separation of powers to prevent evil). Every country and government has a faith, a belief system, although few are honest enough to admit it. Perhaps this is Ukraine’s chance and time to choose which; whether the faith of their communist past which led to economic slavery and religious oppression, or the reformed faith of a Christian future, which can alone provide the necessary foundations for freedom of religion, economic liberty, and social order. This is a future to die for. In the words of Ukraine’s currently-acting President Oleksandr Turchinov (my translation): the believer in God is not afraid of death…for where there is faith there is no fear; so go forth together unto victory. And we need to return to this Christian courage. For freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction, as a recent U.S. President once said. Until the Kingdom of God is born within our hearts and spreads throughout our societies, we have to fight to preserve the peace. We cannot ensure a man-made peace in the whole entire world until it accepts the Prince of Peace. If politics had the concept of sportsmanship as in the Olympics, everyone could just march together in solidarity as in the closing ceremony. Ukrainians and Russians, for the love of something greater; not sports, but Christian liberty. But only one thing is sufficient to unite not only Ukraine and Russia, but the EU and US as well. And that is Christendom.

1Romans 13:1- conveys that the office of civil magistrate is appointed by God, but not all those who occupy it should be obeyed.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. art derby permalink
    March 3, 2014 10:15 pm

    Thx., Yuriy. Any way to get this other than fb? I know you young people really don’t do anything the pre computer way, but if this was attached to an email, I could forward it to guys like Ben and Jay, who probably won’t pick it up on fb. Since you’ve done such a good job of describing the whole enchilada, as Jay would say, some old timers like that might like to see it.

  2. Alex V permalink
    March 4, 2014 2:36 am

    I respect your opinions, but,I have to disagree with some of your points.

    1. Almost US presidents have been “Christians” but they have done some of the most unchristian things.

    2. For over 150 years, the framers ideas and Americans freedoms have been trampled on by “Christian” presidents

    3. What were berkut retreating from?

    4. Who provided the maidans with firearms?

    5. Who provided and stocked all the cigarette boxes throughout the city.

    6. Most of Russian is Christian including Mr. Putin

    7. Ukraine won’t live better once it’s in Europian Union, on the contrary, Europe will take Ukraines natural resources in exchange for never ending debt. If Europian Union was the solution, Greeks would stop rioting.

    8. Political leaders are chosen out of people. The Ukrainian people (as the Russians) are very corrupt, what do you expect the next leader to be? Better than Yanokovich? I don’t think so. Yulia will take the roll, sell the country and then pass the country off to another man that will be more brutal than Yanokovich (don’t forget the outcome of the Orange Revolution).

    Although I’ve been identifying issues with some of your statements and the whole “Maidan”. I would like to propose a solution: return to the roots. Both in a Christian perspective and in a political.

    • George permalink*
      April 7, 2014 4:24 pm

      1. Agreed, and so do we. I don’t see what this has to do with the article, unless you’re arguing therefore Christians shouldn’t get involved because we make mistakes or some false converts make us look bad. Jesus said, “you shall know them by their fruits.”

    • George permalink*
      April 7, 2014 4:28 pm

      2. Agreed. Again, so what should our response be, to run and hide? Or to show them what true obedience to the faith means? Where they failed, let’s excel and respect rights, and where the founders were wrong correct them on Biblical grounds.

    • George permalink*
      April 7, 2014 4:34 pm

      3. There are different stories due to propaganda wars, but what is not disputed is that peaceful protesters were attacked by berkut first at night (so the rest of the story becomes self-defense), and later killed outrightly.

    • George permalink*
      April 7, 2014 4:39 pm

      4. Again, different accounts due to propaganda, but it’s a moot point since they were attacked first and then defending themselves, although many of those armed were rumored to be Russian-paid “titushki” provacateurs.

    • George permalink*
      April 7, 2014 4:44 pm

      5. In my opinion, this is a silly point, because we’re talking about many diverse people’s in a war zone. Orthodox don’t oppose smoking, so the people may not know any better.

    • George permalink*
      April 7, 2014 4:47 pm

      6. If you really think Putin is Christian, see the documentary The Soviet Story and response to number one (Matt 7:16). Let’s judge Biblically and determine who (which country) is the aggressor and in the wrong here.

    • George permalink*
      April 7, 2014 5:00 pm

      7. Look at Poland for another perspective. I don’t know about you, but i would personally rather live where i can worship God according to the dictates of my conscience than under threat to my life, family, and property or livelihood. If not, we would not be living here (since America has been going the way of Europe). We should oppose liberal “Christianity” as much as the new Soviet-Russian version because the Church speaks proclaims the true Gospel and opposes evil no matter what brand. Are you moving to Russia?

    • George permalink*
      April 7, 2014 5:06 pm

      8. Yes, some of Ukrainian people are corrupt, just like everywhere. Does that mean they deserve a government that shoots to kill their own people? There were over 1 million people at Maidan (most ever in Europe) protesting their corrupt government. That takes some courage, don’t you think? Should past mistakes keep us living in fear and slavery, or can we learn from them?

    • George permalink*
      April 7, 2014 5:13 pm

      Alex, with all due respect, you have not proposed how to return to the roots in a Christian perspective or political, although i completely agree with your statement. My proposal is to help reform Ukraine, and so i’m raising funds, raising awareness, speaking out for the truth within the abilities that God gives me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *