The invasion of Ukraine in recent days is not encouraging. Having recently authored a book on being a peacemaker, I find myself wondering about the motivation of the Russian leadership...
A pastor friend referred to Russian president Vladimir Putin as being completely amoral. Something in me balked at that statement. Although I strongly disagree with his actions and the values which I assume lie behind them; that is not the same as claiming that he has no morals. And so I wonder, what is the logic behind his values?
I have heard that Putin's youth background is from an environment where legitimacy was gained through strength and where any show of weakness would be a bit like committing social suicide. And it appears that being a leader in the Russian (or Soviet) framework is similar. Leaders in western democracies leave office at the end of their term and usually go on to be respected statesmen/women. Russian history doesn't have many examples of that. Which might mean that Putin is caught up in an increasing need to demonstrate strength in order to avoid being laid on the wayside of history.
Another take on what may be motivating president Putin can be gleaned from his claim that it was necessary to invade Ukraine in order to set the country free from the drug-addicted Nazis who had taken over that nation's government. Jason Stanley's analysis of this claim is definitely worth reading. Among other things, he draws a connection to the growth of what in recent years is being called Christian Nationalism. Seth J. Frantzman's similar analysis is another good read.
Although they don't use my terminology, these two analyses illustrate four mechanisms which are diametrically opposed to the how the Kingdom of God works.
- The fruit of knowledge of good and evil: This fruit comes directly from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It defines who is "in" versus who is "out," frequently along ethnic, religious or even racist lines. It defines those who are "good" versus those who are "evil," in terms of how well they match up to some specific interpretation of moral behavior. But Tree of Knowledge thinking is the domain of the devil. It is the root of original sin. It is entirely opposed to the Kingdom of Peace.
- The desire to conquer and control: This is often voiced in terms of a need to "restore our values." But, in partnership with the Knowledge of Good and Evil, it ends up mostly being about control. This control through strength or power is the realm of the devil—whose original rebellion was rooted in his ambition to conquer and take power through his own strength (see Isaiah 14:12-14). By contrast, the devil was totally defeated by God laying down his own life on a cross.
- The workings of the political spirit: The political spirit sows division in a people by encouraging "us" (those who are on our side) to view those "on the outside" as enemies. It leads us into the habit of opposing, criticizing or obstructing those enemies at every turn. Any such voices are, whether they know it or not and regardless of which side they are on, under the influence of the political spirit—opposing their "enemy" no matter what.
- Untruth: Outright lies, distortions or even using true facts in a manipulative manner, are all forms of untruth. The source of all such untruth is the father of lies. Truth, however, is a Person, and that Person is Love.
In the Kingdom of Peace, those whose hearts are after the heart of God will not eat of the Tree of Knowledge. Rather than controlling or dominating, they will lay down their lives. Rather than demanding their rights, they will choose to suffer loss. Rather than criticizing or cursing, they will bless. They will love their enemies.
We do not wage war as the world does (see 2 Corinthians 10:3-5). In order to bring about the Kingdom of Peace, we must always operate in the opposite spirit to the kinds of mechanisms which the world uses. This is not a quick fix. It takes years to change a culture. But there are no quick fixes on the road to peace.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)
When the children of Father God begin to stand together in loving their enemies, then nations will be changed. This is our calling.