After Russian President Vladimir Putin’s army invaded Ukraine on February 24, the Center for Orthodox Christian Studies at Fordham University in the United States released a statement in multiple languages that has up to has been signed by over 500 church leaders, many of them in various Orthodox languages. religious denominations around the world, which condemns Russia’s current and unprovoked assault on Ukraine. This statement is titled “A Statement on the ‘Russian World’ (Ruski Mir) Teaching. It is a condemnation of ultra-Russian nationalism as a religious concept, an idea that has spread in Russia this century and is embraced by both Mr. Putin and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow from the Russian Orthodox Church.
The Bible records that God instituted the nations. My book, Palestine Arrives: The Revival of Ancient Philistia (1990), begins: “Each nation has the right to its own land. . . . Nations have always been God’s plan for man. In the beginning, God told man to ‘fill [populate] earth, and subdue it” (Gn 1,28; 91). To do this, God “made” the nations (Dt 26.19; Ps 86.9). Even in the Messianic kingdom, “nations” will come to Jerusalem to worship God (eg, Isa 2.2; Zech 14.16). The concept of nations, however, does not justify the belligerent nationalism that triggers wars of conquest.
In this post, I quote a little more than half of this Declaration. In a follow-up article, I will compare this teaching of Russian nationalism with a prophecy from the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation, about “mysterious Babylon the great, mother of harlots and abominations of the earth” (Rev. 18.5). The following excerpts appear in this statement:
The Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022 is a historic threat to a people of Orthodox Christian tradition. Even more troubling for Orthodox believers, the high hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church refused to acknowledge this invasion, issuing instead vague statements about the need for peace in light of “events” and “hostilities” in Ukraine, while emphasizing the fraternal nature of the Ukrainian and Russian peoples as part of “Holy Rus”, blaming hostilities on the wicked “West”, and even urging their communities to pray in ways that actively encourage hostility.
The support of a large part of the hierarchy of the Patriarchate of Moscow for President Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine is rooted in a form of orthodox religious ethno-phyletic fundamentalism, of a totalitarian nature, called Russkii mir or the russian world, a false teaching which attracts many in the Orthodox Church and which has even been taken up by the far right and Catholic and Protestant fundamentalists.
The speeches of President Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill (Gundiaev) of Moscow (Moscow Patriarchate) repeatedly invoked and developed Russian world ideology of the past 20 years. In 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and launched a proxy war in the Donbass region of Ukraine, until the start of the full-fledged war against Ukraine and then Putin and Patriarch Kirill used Russian world ideology as the main justification for the invasion. The teaching states that there is a transnational Russian sphere or civilization, called Holy Russia or Holy Rus’, which includes Russia, Ukraine and Belarus (and sometimes Moldova and Kazakhstan), as well as the Russians of ethnicity and Russian speakers around the world. He argues that this “Russian world” has a common political center (Moscow), a common spiritual center (kyiv as “mother of all Rus”), a common language (Russian), a common Church (the Church Russian Orthodox, Patriarchate of Moscow), and a common patriarch (the Patriarch of Moscow), who works in “symphony” with a common president/national leader (Putin) to govern this Russian world, as well as to maintain a spirituality, a morality and a common and distinctive culture.
Against this “Russian world” (so called the teaching) stands the corrupt West, led by the United States and the nations of Western Europe, which has capitulated to “liberalism”, “globalization”, “Christianophobia”, “gay rights” promoted in gay countries. parades and “militant secularism”. Above and against the West and the Orthodox who have fallen into schism and error (like the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and other local Orthodox churches who support him) stands the Moscow Patriarchate, with Vladimir Putin, like true defenders of Orthodox teaching, which they view in terms of traditional morality, a strict and unyielding understanding of tradition, and veneration of Holy Russia.
. . . . . . . .
Therefore, we reject the “Russian World” heresy and the shameful actions of the Russian government in unleashing a war against Ukraine that stems from this despicable and indefensible teaching with the connivance of the Russian Orthodox Church, as profoundly unorthodox , non-Christian and against humanity, which is called to be “justified…illuminated…and washed in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God” (baptismal rite). Just as Russia invaded Ukraine, the Moscow Patriarchate of Patriarch Cyril invaded the Orthodox Church. . .
Faced with the teaching of the “Russian world” which is devastating and dividing the Church, we are inspired by the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Sacred Tradition of his living Body, the Orthodox Church, to proclaim and confess the following truths:
[I will now quote the Declaration’s six New Testament texts (five sayings of Jesus and #3 is from the apostle Paul) and omit commentary contained in it. To read this entire Declaration, go to the following URL: https://publicorthodoxy.org/2022/03/13/a-declaration-on-the-russian-world-russkii-mir-teaching/]
“My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight, so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but now my kingdom is not from here. (John 18:36)
“Render therefore to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Matthew 22:21)
“There is no longer a Jew or a Greek, there is no longer a slave or a free, there is no longer a male and a female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thy enemy.’ But I say to you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:43-45)
“Go learn what it means: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners. (Matthew 9:13)
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:31-32)