When God is first, a nation usually does pretty well. This has been proven through several thousand years of what the Church calls “sacred history”, but even honest secular based surveys of history reveal the same fact. When a nation is aligned in such a way that its leadership keeps an allegiance to God as prime, then the nation usually does well.
The opposite is also true – when a nation or its leadership rebels against God, it usually fails. The same thing also happens when the nation in question puts its own identity first and then “hijacks” God through a twisted version of nationalism in which religious belief is made subject to nationalist views first. When this happens, the appearance of religion in national culture is subtly but powerfully altered, and it eventually falls apart or results in disastrous behavior.
For example, National Socialism, or Naziism as we know it, did NOT expressly forbid religion. Six years into the Nazi era, a survey taken in 1939 revealed the demographic makeup of Germany to be 54% Protestant, 40% Roman Catholic, 3.5% as essentially deistic and only 1.5% atheist. However, the push within the government was for what was called a “positive Christianity” which was a uniquely Nazi form that rejected Christianity’s Jewish origins and portrayed “true Christianity” as a fight against Jews.
We all know what the result of this was.
History repeats itself
In today’s Ukraine we are witnessing a similar situation. That part of Ukraine which favors Western ideals and values, and wants to be away from Russia’s orbit has claimed as its justification its own Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate as both justification and product of a uniquely Ukrainian national culture that is distinct from Russian culture. And in a tragic error, the Kyiv Patriarchate has identified itself more along the lines of Ukrainian nationalism than as a Church of a nation that itself tries to live under God.
The results are tragic.
The leader of the schismatic Kyiv Patriarchate, Patriarch Philaret shared the stage with a hideous and depraved man, the self-styled “drag queen” whose name is Tom Neuwirth, but appeals to the sexually perverse crowd under the name “Conchita Wurst” (and looks like the worst, too). Philaret blessed the Eurovision event in Saint Sophia’s square, reportedly in exchange for evicting a Ukrainian Autocephalous Church presence at St Michael’s Monastery there. While this may not seem like anything big in the West, the Ukrainian and Russian people alike have a deeply traditional history, but as the vassal or cohort of the nationalist Ukrainian government, the church is betraying Christ by placating to the most vile examples of depravity, and with a blessing!
Violence between the Kyiv group, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, which is also schismatic and uncanonical, and the canonical Moscow Patriarchate Church operating in Ukraine has been periodic and sporadic. Moscow-affiliated priests and churches are often besieged, sometimes violently, by Kyiv people and they are aided and abetted in that regard by the Ukrainian government, which is virulently anti-Russian.
Political pressure applied in the most heinous way
The latest event concerns a Moscow Patriarchate priest who is targeted for criminal proceedings because he refused to serve a funeral for a young boy whose families are parishioners of the Kyiv Patriarchate. The child’s father reportedly physically attacked the priest for not doing the service.
Again, in the unbelieving and ignorant West, this may seem like a stupid problem. But viewed from the context of the Orthodox Christian Church it is significant. Part of keeping Church order is that one follows the rules, called “canons” of the Church and to violate them is seen not just as a transgression, but something tantamount to a spiritual betrayal of Christ, whom the Church is supposed to serve.
The priest, Father Evgeny Molchanov, followed canonical norms as he is expected to as a priest of the Orthodox Moscow Patriarchate, but he is being treated as a criminal for doing his job. Since the child was not baptized in a canonical Church, the priest of a canonical Church cannot serve a funeral for him.
In a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), the canonical Church in the region, these criminal proceedings were addressed. The bishops present demanded a cessation of the case, given that their priest was simply abiding by the canons of the Orthodox Church, and in no way was the priest violating Ukrainian law.
The Synod further explained:
According to the Holy Synod, the criminal proceedings contain signs of persecution on religious grounds, stemming from a political point of view, and are nothing but an attempt to interfere in the internal life of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Nationalistic Ukrainians often persecute clergy and parishioners of the canonical Church because they remain faithful to the Orthodox Church within the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate.
The Synod also drew attention to the fact that, in accordance with international law, state authorities have no right to interfere in the internal affairs of a religious community, and cannot dictate the order and method of a religious community celebrating or not celebrating its rites.
As Fr. Nikolai Danilevich had explained, the Synod reiterated that Church Sacraments and rites can be celebrated exclusively for members of the Church, which requires a true, Orthodox Baptism.
A clear and deliberate setup
It should be clearly understood that there are a great many Kyiv Patriarchate parishes in Ukraine, and so the likelihood here is that this was orchestrated (one of the most heinous ideas imaginable, to use the death of a child as a political or ecclesiastical weapon) to create havoc for the Moscow Church in Zaporozhye, Ukraine, where this happened.
It should be further noted that Zaporozhye is in Eastern Ukraine, and while it is not in the breakaway regions of Donetsk or Lugansk, most of the people in this region are Russian speaking and favor close ties with Russia. So here the government and the Church in the western part of the country are attempting to use the Church as a weapon of the State, to uphold Ukrainian nationhood rather than to serve God.
In the Orthodox Byzantine model of Church and State relationships, the structure is said to be “in symphony”, or symphonia, where the Church and State mutually cooperate in matters concerning the nation involved. But further, the Church rightly acts as the conscience of the State, and properly understood, symphonia between the two notes that the State must listen to the guidance of God through the Church, and not the other way around.
In Ukraine’s present government, this is tragically reversed. The Kyiv Church has all the trappings of an Orthodox Church, and no doubt many, if not most, of the people who are members of it do not think of Ukraine’s nationhood as more important than serving God. At least, let us hope this is still the case. But at the levels where it counts, it is clear that the Church no longer really serves God, it attempts to use him to promote a secular humanist political agenda, and in that sense serves to only betray Christ.
In the Christian world view, there can be nothing more tragic than this.