Someone needs to take down Vladimir Putin.
Last week’s brazen attack on a residential building in Dnipro, Ukraine, is only the latest in a year’s worth of horrifying atrocities set in motion by one man alone — Putin. And for no good reason. Only arrogance and pride and villainy can explain the evil perpetuated by this one man.
It was horrible enough to target bombs on churches, and now this. And not for the first time. On top of intentionally blowing up power plants and infrastructure as winter bears down.
So far, Putin’s war has resulted in the murders of 200,000 people — about as many Russians as Ukrainians — and the decimation of a country. For perspective, that’s about half the number of American lives lost in all of World War II. Taken out on one man’s war against one country.
These deaths not only are mass murder, they are genocide.
What kind of person perpetuates such evil? And what kind of “church” endorses it?
“As disgusting as Putin is, leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church have given him cover in the name of God, which is an affront to the name of God.”
As disgusting as Putin is, leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church have given him cover in the name of God, which is an affront to the name of God.
Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, has told the conscripted Russian troops that “sacrifice in the course of carrying out your military duty washes away all sins.”
Doesn’t that sound a lot like the plotters of 9-11 who told the suicide bombers they would be rewarded in paradise with 72 virgins?
It also sounds a lot like the Catholic Church of Martin Luther’s day as they sold indulgences to build cathedrals. Remember this little jingle: “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.”
Also do not miss the power of Christian nationalism at work here. Putin and Kirill are exploiting a form of Russian Christian nationalism that not only seeks to reclaim territory they believe ought to be part of Russia, they also see the Ukrainian people as sinners in the hands of an angry God.
What is this dreadful sin of the Ukrainian people? Toleration and kindness. Especially for the LGBTQ community.
Adrian Hilton, writing in The Spectator, explained: “Putin’s political objective is a national cleansing or purification, which Kirill might call atonement or purgation. He believes the liberties and moral licentiousness of Ukrainians need to be restrained. The spiritual discipline echoes the political oppression: for him, ethnic cleansing is symbiotic with religious cleansing.
“President Putin is a faithful disciple of this ideology. Together, the patriarch and the president have purposefully conflated religion and political power to propagate a strong delusion of Christian nationalism,” Hilton concludes.
“To think murdering 200,000 people and destroying the infrastructure of a nation is doing the will of God is demented.”
To think murdering 200,000 people and destroying the infrastructure of a nation is doing the will of God is demented. And evil beyond measure. It must be stopped.
I do not write these words lightly.
I am about as close to a “dove” as you’re going to find when it comes to war and peace. I’m not antimilitary at all but I am one of those Christians who believes physical violence must always be the option of last resort and rarely used.
These roots run so deep in me that I remember writing a paper in college about “Reagan’s War” — a silly little stunt in Grenada. Nor was I a fan of the Vietnam War or the U.S. invasion of Iraq, to name two easy targets. Nor am I a fan of the excessive military complex Americans so worship.
I understand America cannot assassinate the leader of another country — even if that leader is a dictator. And I appreciate the billions of dollars America and its Western allies have spent arming the brave fighting people of Ukraine. We need to do that and much more.
Yet one year later, Putin remains in power and continues to pursue his relentless campaign against Ukraine — even at the expense of his own countrymen’s lives.
Something more must be done. I’m not an expert in foreign affairs, and I’m not going to pretend to know more than I know. I don’t know how it should be done, but I do know it must be done.
We’ve been here before in times when war was the only answer to stop mass murder and evil tyrants — namely the beginning of World War II, which America was slow to join despite undeniable evidence of Hitler’s maniacal massacres.
Yes, this is dangerous business. But doing nothing more also is dangerous business.
The NATO allies could — and should — increase the flow of arms to Ukraine and, as one friend recently said, “stop being so damn timid about providing the Ukrainians with all the advanced weapons they need to hit the Russian forces where it hurts, including on Russian territory. If Putin were going to escalate the war against the West with attacks on Eastern Europe, he would have done so by now.”
“The best-case scenario is for his own people to take him down.”
Even at home, Putin is increasingly weak and isolated. The best-case scenario is for his own people to take him down. From a Christian ethical standpoint, this is a reasonable argument.
There’s one other thing I’m usually loath to suggest but that seems appropriate in this case: Imprecatory prayer.
An “imprecation” is a spoken curse. We find examples of such in the Psalms, in what are commonly called “imprecatory psalms.” See Psalm 69 as an example, with such gems as this:
- “Let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and make their loins tremble continually.”
- “Pour out your indignation upon them, and let your burning anger overtake them.”
- “Let them be blotted out of the book of the living; let them not be enrolled among the righteous.”
There are times — not often and not for selfish gain or control — when we need to pray God’s intervention to take down evil rulers. Truly evil rulers, not just politicians you disagree with on something.
If you’re among the billions of Christians who believe prayer matters, now is the time to put your faith into action by praying God’s swift judgment on this evil tyrant. Pray for Putin’s salvation if you want, but in the meantime, he must be stopped.
God’s “burning anger” of Psalm 69 might be better expressed as God’s “burning love” made known through Jesus Christ. Sometimes love demands we make bullies stop hurting people. This is one of those times.
Mark Wingfield serves as executive director and publisher of Baptist News Global. He is author of the newly released book Honestly: Telling the Truth About the Bible and Ourselves.
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