Orthodoxy in the Midst of War

Some (or all) of my Orthodox readers may have seen this or something similar.  For those interested, the International Herald Tribune has an article today on response of the Russian and Georgian Orthodox churches to the current military conflict.

Patriarch Aleksy appealed for peace when the war broke out, though his statement wasn’t nearly as strong as the one sent to the Kremlin by Gerogian Patriarch Ilia. I was pleasantly surprised that the Moscow Patriarchate did not immediately assume jurisdiction over the churches in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Dealing with Russian Aggression

With all that’s been happening here in Texas, I haven’t had a chance to comment on the the situation in Georgia.

Bad Russia! Bad, bad Russia!

In an earlier blog identity I posted flags of Abkhazia and South Ossetia on the right column, as I generally support the idea of ethnic self-determination. You may notice that I have now posted the flag of Georgia.

While I understand the desire of the Abkhazians and Ossetians for political autonomy, I also appreciate the principle in international law that is it vital to respect the territorial integrity of sovereign states. While Saakashvili made a tactical error in using military force on Ossetian rebels, it was not lawful for Russia to then invade, not just South Ossetia, but the rest of Georgia.

Unfortunately, the Russians will continue to violate the territorial integrity of Georgia for some time, thanks the to deal brokered by the French president. The only way to get the Russians out would be for a military force bigger than the Russians to kick them out. There’s only one military big enough to do the job and they are mired in a couple of other situations. \

Truth be told, this situation is not unlike the cause of the First Gulf War – one sovereign state invading another. And even the goal of controlling the energy supply is not dissimilar. Saddam wanted Kuwait’s oil fields and Russia wants to further it’s ambition to control the flow of energy into Europe.

However, on top of this is Putin’s anger that so many countries bordering Russia and formerly conquered by Russia don’t want to have anything to do with Russia. Russia’s leaders see themselves as having a right to a sphere of influence in the region. Why? From whence to they derive this right? Why do sovereign states like Georgia, Ukraine, and others not have the right to choose their own alignment?

The Russians believe they have some sort of right to punish the Georgians for wanting to join NATO and strengthening ties to the US. Frankly, I think this is almost enough reason to go to Georgia and kick some Russian ass.

Now Russia has threatened Poland with a nuclear strike for hosting US missiles on its soil. I think Russia should be thrown out of the United Nations for that. How dare they. Again, Poland has the right to choose its allies. If the barrel of one Russian tank nudges across the Polish border – which it would have to do from it’s oblast around Kaliningrad – I think the US should just take Kaliningrad and split it between the Poles and Lithuanians. They should take all of Russia’s many nuclear warheads pointing at NATO, scrap them and send the remains to Moscow.

In the meantime, the US Navy should find a couple of spare aircraft carriers to park next to Russia’s Baltic Fleet. Put one at Klaipėda and one at Gdańsk. Then just line up a blockade between the two.

Russian Genocide Deniers

The Russians are angry with the Ukrainians. Nothing new there.

Seems the Ukrainians are insisting on bringing up the past. In particular they are bringing up the time the Russians murdered millions of Ukrainians during the Holodomor of 1932-33. Estimates of the number of unnatural deaths during this period range from a conservative three million to a frequently referenced seven or even ten million.

It all started earlier than that. The attack on Ukrainian nationalism began in 1928.  First the Russians eliminated the cultural elite – academics, writers, and significantly most of the Orthodox clergy who had separated from the Moscow Patriarchate. With the leadership out of the way, the Russians then starved the rest of the population.

How did they starve the breadbasket of Russia? The agriculural collectivism of communism meant that all grain was state property. The grain was shipped off to Russia or simply allowed to rot. Stealing any amount of grain was a capital offense. In Stalin’s Soviet Union, capital offenses were not subject to a lengthy process of judicial review. Whole villages were taken out to dig their own graves and then shot to fill them.

But Putin and his puppet president don’t want anyone to mention this and they most certainly don’t want anyone to blame the Russians. They have become genocide deniers. Perhaps this is offensive to Russian-ness like admitting the Armenian genocide is offensive to Turkishness.

I have written about the Holodomor in a previous blogging identity, but this was brought to mind again by a extensive article in today’s Dail Mail. Definitely worth a read.

Miscalculation

Here’s something to file under “so crazy no one could make this up”.

Pyotr Kuznetsov is the leader of a “True Orthodox Church” in Russia. Just like any group that has to pull out their apostolic succession to prove their validity, any group that has to tell you they are the “True” whatever church are almost certainly not. The True Orthodox Church refuses to eat processed food, believes that bar codes are Satantic symbols, and is convinced the world will end soon. Very soon.

Pyotr convinced his followers that the world is going to end in May of this year. As a result they all went to live in a cave. Except, for some strange reason, Pyotr. The followers barricaded themselves in the cave and wouldn’t come out. But as one bad decision follows another, they didn’t pick a very good cave. The parts that aren’t flooding are collapsing. The authorities have been a bit concerned because some of the followers were children.

Pyotr wasn’t keen on them leaving just because a little thing like the roof falling in on them. He said God had collapsed the cave and to go against God is a great sin.

Fortunately the children have gotten out, as have most of the followers. They are now waiting for the End in Pyotr’s wooden cottage. It tooks months of negotiations to get them out. As part of the deal they have been supplied with a cow. After all, they can’t drink Satanic milk from a carton with a bar code on it.

Pytor isn’t with them. He’s in a psychiatric hospital.

He hasn’t been sent away because of his crazy ideas. Rather, he had a hard time dealing with his realisation that he miscalculated the date of the End of the World. He tried to commit suicide. Being crazy, he didn’t attempt any of the usual methods, like gunshot, hanging, overdose, jumping from a cliff, or slitting his wrists. He was much more inventive. He put his head on a tree stump and started hitting it with a log.

He didn’t hit it enough times, because he survived emergency surgery for this head wounds. Perhaps he knocked some sense into himself.

Sowing the Wind and Reaping the Whirlwind in Kosovo

I’ve debated within myself whether to step into the morass that is the matter of Kosovan independence. After my post on the Rest of the Bible blew away all my previous stats on this blog and overnight became the most read post in the history of this incarnation of my blog and my daily stats doubled my previous high, the return to normal numbers is a bit of a letdown. If I alienate all of my Ortho-blogger friends, the numbers are likely to dry up even further.

Let me say from the outset, that I don’t think the Unilateral Declaration of Independence was a good thing for a least three reasons. First of all, Kosovo is Serbia. It is just one of a number of regions. It happens that ethnic Albanians have migrated there. Second, UDIs create a mess in international law. Invariably some countries recognise it and others don’t. It’s made an even bigger mess when members of the UN Security Council are on opposite sides of the matter. They can (and are perfectly will to do so in this case) block the emerging country from joining the club. Third, as Steve notes, Kosovo UDI is a triumph for terrorism.

The Serb minority in Kosovo have been, and will continue to be, subject to persecution. I think this is a bad thing. Yes, it is a statement of the obvious. So why do I bother?

Because I think was goes around comes around. Or to use biblical language, what you sow, you reap. As Orthodox, ever-persecuted, or at least in the West having a sympathetic persecution complex, we want to see Serbia as the victim – the victim of the Croats, the victim of Bill Clinton, the victim of the Muslims (whether Bosnian or Albania or Turk). Neither am I denying that Serbia and the Serbs have suffered in the past, both distant and recent. But neither have they been keen to turn the other cheek. They have been just as willing to perpetrate genocide when it suited them.

So you say, yeah, sure, but that’s those evil politicians and generals like Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić. The Serbian Church has been pure as the driven snow over the mass graves in Bosnia.

Unfortunately, that’s not true either. The Serbian Church has behaved like the Russian Church when communism was overthrown there. It has immediately grabbed ahold of the leverage of the State to persecute other Christians. Like the Russian Church, it is nationalistic and ethnocentric. You can’t encourage violence and oppression against Protestant Hungarians in Vojvodina and then cry foul when Muslim Albanians start wrecking your churches and burning your icons in Kosovo.

Several bloggers have suggested that Russia will come to Serbia’s aid in this latest turn of the Kosovo crisis. Will that be in the form of fascist Putin Youth, fresh from the government-sponsored stadium rallies encouraging them to fornicate to make babies for Mother Russia? Are Orthodox in the West willing to decry American imperialism while supporting the resurgence of Russian imperialism, because it is the imperialism of an ostensibly Orthodox country?

Frankly, I think that rather than looking to them for spiritual guidance, Orthodox in the West need to start asking some hard questions about the “Orthodox homelands”. Let’s set aside the blatant Phyletism, if we can for a moment ignore the elephant in the room. Why is the abortion rate in Russia only exceeded in Europe by (you guessed it, another Orthodox country) Romania, that only legalised after the fall of Communism what the Church has always recognised as the intentional killing of an innocent human life, when the Church was once again free to proclaim and propagate the Tradition? Bulgaria, Belarus, Ukraine and Greece are not far behind.

I do not for a minute want a single person, Orthodox or otherwise, in Kosovo to suffer persecution in any form. I do not want to see the historic churches there to suffer even worse than the churches of this country did under Oliver Cromwell. But neither will I blindly support the Serbs just because they are Serbs or Orthodox, nor will I ignore the whole political and spiritual picture.

What If . . .?

Philippa’s response to the 123 tag was from a book about Richard Nixon. It got me thinking about the Nixon presidency.

If there had been no Watergate affair, Nixon would have served out the full second term. Even with Ford as vice-president, I have doubts that he would have run for president. And even if he had, I think Ronald Reagan would have given him much more of a run for his money in the primaries.

Though we can never say with any certainty what would have happened if key historical event had not occurred, I think Reagan probably would have gotten the nomination. If the Democrats didn’t have anyone better than Jimmy Carter in 1976, and I can’t think of anyone better they could have had, Reagan probably would have won.

Had Reagan won in 1976 and 1980, this may have had a profound effect on the world. Soviet Communism wasn’t ready to  collapse by 1984. Would his successor – again, probably a Republican – have presented the same iron will that helped precipitate the events of 1989-90? Or were the agitations within eastern Europe enough with the backing of the American aadministration? Or would the system have collapsed under it’s own weight anyway?

Perhaps the bungled burglary at the Watergate triggered events that led to the freedom of eastern Europe today.

Why I Haven’t Warmed to Russian Spirituality

The United States is not the only nation when religion is intertwined with politics. If anything, it is much more innocuous mix than you will find in Russia, even if it is my own brand of Christianity that is the official Church in all but name. The State helps the Orthodox Church stamp out any other expressions of Christianity and the Church helps the State stamp out any opposition to the Putin regime. Both promote Russian nationalism above all else. This certainly isn’t surprising, as Putin and the Patriarch used to be colleagues in the same firm, well known by the initials KGB.

An Orthodox priest recently emailed me a copy of a Wall Street Journal article which reveals more about this unholy alliance. I have included it in full below the fold.

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