Division in the Eastern Orthodox Church

Kyiv Refectory Church Complex UOC-MP Overlooking Dnieper River.
Kyiv Refectory Church Complex UOC-MP Overlooking Dnieper River.

There are approximately 260 million Orthodox Christians in the world, and the two largest nations where Orthodox Christianity predominates are Russia and Ukraine. The Eastern Orthodox Church in Constantinople (now Istanbul) broke away from the Roman Catholic Church in 1054, in what is usually termed “the Great Schism.” The chief dispute was over the authority of the Pope. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453 to Muslim armies of the Ottoman Empire, the main center of Orthodox Christianity became Moscow. There is no office equivalent to Pope in Orthodox Christianity, and national Orthodox churches have considerable autonomy.  

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History’s Lessons for Just War and National Security

Russia’s War on Ukraine

St. Augustine painting
St. Augustine painting

Confederate General Robert E. Lee and Union General William T. Sherman had quite different philosophies of the conduct of war, but they had one opinion in common: war is terrible.  But to say that war is terrible is not to say that all war is unjust or immoral. Whether a war is just and moral depends upon both its purposes and its conduct.  When a nation’s sovereignty, peace, and vital economic interests are threatened by armed aggression or invasion, it must destroy the aggressor’s will to persist or see its cherished heritage and the rights and welfare of its people crushed or subdued. It is the solemn duty of a nation’s leaders to assure the survival and prosperity of all that its people rightly hold dear. Peaceful intentions and talk are not enough to deter aggressors driven by imperialistic leaders or ideologies. History teaches us that peaceful nations must be prepared to defend themselves or be swallowed up by tyranny. 

The concept of just conduct and means in war recognizes primarily that a distinction must be made between combatants and non-combatants. Non-combatants should never be deliberate or primary targets of military action. Senseless terrorism,  cruelty, and wanton destruction are prohibited. Besides the lives and health of civilians, the destruction of civilian properties that provide food, shelter, and medical attention should especially be avoided. Just conduct in war demands that prisoners of war must be treated humanely and respectfully. Torture of prisoners of war or non-combatants is prohibited. Additionally, the use of force must not be disproportionate to objectives, threats, or harm done. As much as prudence and realism will allow, the enemy must be treated in good faith to keep open the possibility of reconciliation. 

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Corruption and Bad Judgment Since Late 2013

2010 Ukraine Election Map. Blue shades favored pro-Russian policies.
2010 Ukraine Election Map. Blue shades favored pro-Russian policies.

On September 23, 2020, U.S. Senators Ron Johnson (R-WI), Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, released a report that revealed millions of dollars in questionable financial transactions between Hunter Biden and his associates and foreign individuals, including the wife of the former mayor of Moscow and individuals with ties to the Chinese Communist Party, as well as his highly paid consulting in Ukraine. Of particular concern is the conflict of interests arising from Hunter Biden accepting a position on the board of, and taking millions of dollars from, Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company with a long-standing reputation for corruption, while his father, Joe Biden, was vice president and the public face of the Obama administration’s handling of Ukraine policy. 

Below are the first two paragraphs of the Senate report’s executive summary.

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Commentary and Lessons from History

Russian MiG-29, February 2015
Russian MiG-29, February 2015

With few exceptions, the lock-step mainstream national media is proving an unreliable news source on the Russia-Ukraine War.  This makes a dangerous war even more dangerous.  The United States has not been as close to World War III since the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962.  I remember those 13 days between October 13 and October 28 well, because I was an Air Force Photo-Radar Intelligence Officer at Strategic Air Command Headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska, and had some responsibility for locating and identifying Soviet missile sites in Cuba.  Those days were far more ominous than the present situation in Ukraine to date, but there seems to be a reckless war fever stirred by some politicians, media pundits, and business executives that could easily push moral and intellectual objectivity and common sense aside and ignite devastating destruction and loss of life, which most people would later recognize as stupid and insane.

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Bread, Security, and Freedom

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian Christian author
Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian Christian author

Fortunately for the reader, this article will not be 1,225 pages long, as was the first  full edition of Leo Tolstoy’s historical novel, War and Peace, published in 1869.  Tolstoy’s great work, however, is not irrelevant to understanding Russia and the Russian people today. The time-frame of his historical “fiction” is centered on real European events from 1805 to 1820 relating to Napoleon’s war with and invasion of Russia.  Over 160 of the people mentioned in the “novel” were not fictional but  real people.  The events and times brought great  suffering to the Russian people, but they overcame and triumphed over their suffering and their French invaders. 

Tolstoy was a Christian and a realist. Many of the chapters of War and Peace were not narrative.  They were Tolstoy’s philosophical grappling with war, power, tragedy,  suffering, moral dilemmas, and survival that still permeate the nobler understanding of Russian suffering.  

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