From Russia

A New York Times headline recently caught my eye.  “Russia opened a murder investigation into a car blast near Moscow.”  I wondered how a country that’s an aggressor at war, killing civilians in Ukraine every day, would be interested in something so petty as murder.  Then I saw the rest of the headline: “that killed the daughter of an influential ally of President Vladimir Putin.”  So there it is—some lives are more valuable than others.  Don’t get me wrong—I’m saddened by this (and any) murder.  And the use of violence to get what one wants is unethical.  Justice in this world, however, is based on unequal standards.  The supporters of Putins and Trumps matter more than any other people.  Death should not effect them the same way it effects civilians being missiled and shot.

Throughout all this we might wonder where the voice of the church is.  Churches, as institutions interested in power, are political players even when there’s no state religion.  The Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church supports Putin implicitly.  With the power of Russia, the power of the church rises.  A few thousand dead civilians, well, let God sort them out.  Churches become corrupt when they become politically powerful.  Politics is one of the most polluting things humans can do.  Long ago Lord Acton put it this way: “All power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Churches got into power-brokering in the fourth century and we’ve seen the results ever since.  It’s not just Christianity, however; Islam makes it political and yes, even Buddhism and Hinduism incite violence when they become politicized.  A religious body that takes its mythology too seriously becomes dangerous when it tastes political power.  The world has many mythological figures.

What really took my breath away, however, is how many state resources will be devoted to finding and prosecuting those who killed one government supporter—we must find and punish those responsible—while thousands lie dead with the Russian government as their killers.  Other nations are just as guilty of course, but there’s a karmic imbalance when that nation is an aggressor in war.  Would you have ever expected a fair trial in Nazi Germany?  Does not unprovoked war make a mockery of the very concept of justice itself?  Justice, of course, means fair treatment.  For all.  She’s pictured as wearing a blindfold, after all.  She’s perhaps one of those mythical figures as well.

2 thoughts on “From Russia

  1. markedington384746370

    Dear Dr. Wiggins — I have been meaning for the longest time to write to you about this essay, which I much appreciated. Your observations about what happens (especially to the church) when the church becomes seduced by state power are insightful and on target. It explains a great deal about what is happening w/re the evangelical part of the Christian church in the U.S. today — or at least so it seems from here.

    I have a sort of different perspective on this; I’m a bishop of the Episcopal Church (which I know you mentioned in one of your more recent posts) but in Europe, with responsibility for our twenty-one congregations here. Begun by American expatriates, they are no longer majority American communities. That by itself is a story; but to me the more interesting story is the enduring connection between a central organizing purpose that motivated the founders of these communities (offering an American example of how religion should be organized, in contrast to the Established arrangements of churches in the UK and elsewhere in Europe), and the continued appeal of that model of church governance to communities that now comprise members from all over the world.

    At any rate, thanks for this, and keep writing — I am always glad to see a new entry in my inbox.

    Faithfully,

    Mark Edington
    The Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe
    Paris

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Bp. Edington–thank you for your kind note. I tend to write my own interpretation of events, filtered through many, many years of church involvement and independent reading. It’s nice to know that sometimes I’m heading in the right direction!

      I’m interested in learning more about your situation. My involvement with the Episcopal Church ended years ago when a unfortunate series of events led to me losing my lifelong career goal because of an unthinking conservatism. I still miss Anglicanism very much. Apart from a few former students, nobody from the church has ever reached out to me, compounding the pain.

      I’m glad you found that post interesting. I tend to write on eclectic topics, but I’m always interested in what readers think!

      Feel free to stay in touch!
      Steve

      Like

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