There´s a lot of grumbling about this war inflicted on the Ukraine. Lots of touchiness who’s right or wrong.
Well, there´s no doubt in my mind that Putin is the aggressor and that far too many Russians are voluntarily goosestepping against their very kin, those who have emerged from the very same baptismal font even. It´s fratricide, nothing civil about this border crossing war. Nothing at all. Putin reckons, he can get away with war, mass murder, genocide as if he was Attila the Hun. Yeah, he´s in the league of Ivan the terrible. In the name of special ops and Russian peace, he claims divine right to wipe any opposition off the face of the world as You would clean dishes of food scraps. Down the drain the rubbish goes. As if Russia is the measure of everything and Putin the rule of law. In megalomania, Putin has concocted some fantastic narrative mixed with religious fanaticism blessed by some sectarian Moscow patriarch. Their demagogical story allows bloodthirsty maniacs to rape children, murder widows and old cripples in wheelchairs. With the Russian free pass to wreak havoc in country towns and mega cities they turn blooming landscapes into deserts. Whilst the world is watching aghast, these fiends ruin the global breadbasket. They plant devastation as they go and leave nothing but death in their wake. The Kremlin calls out marauding hordes from the expansive Russian hinterland, calls up bandits from its many war zones, summons outlawed terrorists and ghouls from the underworld to attack a peaceful country Ukraine, which tries to go about its daily business, prepares for Easter, crop sowing in spring and family summers. Well, the Russians sure match Ivan the Terrible in madness, terror, and shamelessness. They do them proud. No evil is beyond them – even as they parade as angels of light and world peace. Defiling churches. Razing seminaries, monasteries and chapels, fraternities, and religious centers. Targeting theaters, cinemas, and opera houses. Firing on fleeing civilians. Bombing cyclists with tanks and bazookas. Haphazardly shelling living quarters, maternity wards, emergency units from their pirate fleet in the Black Sea. Destroying shopping centers, playgrounds, parks just as crazily as milking sheds, tyre factories, bakeries, eateries, and wide-open spaces haphazardly. Cutting water mains, electricity, and lifelines. Poisoning water and air with weapons of mass destruction like they did in Syria, Chechnya, Mali, and Libya. Running mortuaries day and night to hide atrocities even as they leave their own dead to rot or be eaten by scavengers. These Russians are dogs of war, bloody robbers, fucking predators from the East, savages falling into the Ukraine worse than the sum of all ten pests plaguing Egypt of old and competing for devilish honors as apocalyptic horrors to beat.
You get the picture. There on the road between Jericho and Jerusalem, where East meets West, on the banks of the Black Sea, there in the beautiful pearl of Ukraine. It has fallen under the robbers just as that traveler in Jesus´ tale. It´s in a terrible state. No question. They´ve stood up against the aggressors for nearly two months. But it´s tough. Their strength is severely tested. The world watches. Sees the poor soul in duress. Some help comes. Some is promised. Some actually arrives. Thank God, there is always that good Samaritan. Shame on those bigoted churchmen going by and rambling off their legal excuses like bishops Maggot Rottencheese and Fritz, the cheap soul peddler, who sold his gran for a few dimes and feasts on a stolen vineyard like King Ahab even as those entrusted to his care, suffer distress, and lack the gospel. Oh, there are so many good reasons not to get one’s hands dirty, keep walking and looking the other way, which only appears right! Thank God for the foreigner, who does come up with positive action. He does the right thing. Helps the victim up and out, applies medicine, pours out the stuff and pays the fee until the poor chap is back on track again. Our good Lord uses him as encouraging example: You go and do likewise!
Of course, there are others, who warn, the Russian robbers are sure to spread their violence with a vengeance. They´re known to be brutal. This is their terrain. Their doing for ages. That´s what they have been born for. Spreading fear, terror, death. Don´t antagonize them further. That may make it worse. They might take it as an invitation to spread their brutish violence. Better lie low, mind Your own business. Just like with those dragons of old. Let sleeping dogs lie and ferocious demons too. Otherwise, You might wake them, land up in trouble, fighting a war You can´t win, they say. Stay out of it. That´s how they´ve been stuck in gulags for decades now. Fear is the very enemy of freedom! Just as the slaves in Egypt. Moses had his work cut out to draw them to the promised land. Israel always looked back with fear and trembling at Pharaoh and his troops.
Others are in cohorts with the Russian robbers. They pay extortion fees. Exorbitant sums for gas, oil and coal. Daily. Putin´s cash cow. Golden goose. Laying eggs – battery wise. Utterly dependable. Close connections over decades, brown-nosing and playing privileged upper class in the inner circle of the Kremlin monster web. Collaborators. Paying with honor and soul. Betraying motherland. Selling out fatherland. All for Putin, whom they can´t refuse. He, the old deceiver, knows. He´s caught a lot. Paid plenty bribes and cheap Germans are a bargain any day. Still the price for traitors is high. You land up on the wrong side. The dark and evil one. The one that is going to lose ultimately. You might try to forget. Try to sweep the dirt under the carpet. Escape before the whole story explodes. Yet, there is nowhere to hide. Shit happens and it’s hitting the fan. Just watch. It´s not just the Moskva sinking nor only Russian tanks stalling. Putin’s generals are dying as if they´ve found a shortcut to paradise. His soldiers are revolting as if it’s going out of fashion. He´s losing badly and so are his pals. They can´t win. That’s crystal clear. Just watch.
Dr. Martin Luther got involved in politics now and again. Not just in the peasant’s war. He used the law against both the peasants and against the nobility. None really listened to him. They were too busy with their agenda. He was often too late with his admonition. Often misunderstood and not just due to bad timing. Luther acknowledged many grievances of the peasants based on the renewed discovery of the gospel and encouraged the nobility to give ear and concede, where it was conducive to the spreading of the gospel and promoting good order in the land. However, taking the law into their own hands, forceful rebellion was out of the question for Luther. In his biblically sound view, it was always better to suffer, than to achieve owns own goals by force. David´s struggle with King Saul was a prime example in this argument. God would eventually provide. Just wait patiently for His help in His own good time. So, Luther´s advice to the peasants was to wait for the help of the Lord. Yet, the peasants impatiently revolted. Struck out on the war path. That was wrong. Luther went out of his way to encourage the nobility to crush this militant uprising by force. He was afraid, that the war would destroy the lands and wreak havoc amongst the people, causing political chaos and ending the free course of the gospel. The ensuing massacre was brutal, and Luther lost whatever standing he had amongst those crushed. For them, he had picked wrong sides and proved himself as a kowtowing servant of ruthless lords. Theoretically i.e. biblically and theologically he was right all along, but the results of this armed conflict were just too terrible for calm and collected argumentation, never mind heated and emotional sermons from Wittenberg. Many peasants turned their back on the gospel and the church – not just the old one, but also the reformed Lutheran one. The nobility got away with murder and continued to do their own thing – just because they could. Luther´s efforts to admonish both sides to stick to the gospel way, had lost a huge battle in the German reformation. Liberation, which had been high on the reformation agenda, was now seriously limited in its outreach to the common people. Luther was very much restricted to the inner church realm after this.
Another political episode in which armed conflict was seriously contemplated, was in the conflict of the Evangelicals (Lutherans) with emperor Charles V. The good Doctor from across the Elbe was initially quite compliant. Even when he already fought all out against the pope, he was not for armed resistance against the emperor. This changed, when his lawyers convinced him and his fellow Wittenberg theologians, that according to imperial law, there was a right to oppose the emperor if he failed to promote the gospel, the church, and the prosperity of his subjects. In Luther´s mind it became more and more obvious, that by siding with the pope the emperor had chosen the wrong side and was thus opposed to the very gospel, the true church, and his evangelical subjects. Thus, armed resistance and use of force were legitimized in this struggle. Especially if it was a defensive struggle against the assaulting imperial forces – intruding on peaceful lands just because they were following the true gospel. This argument for armed resistance became important for the German confessional church and their defiance against Hitler. Bonhoeffer uses this legal argumentation to promote armed struggle against the demonic rule of the Nazis, who had turned the German law into godless lawlessness – especially with their attempted genocide of the Jews, but also with the laws of total war.
A final aspect in this issue, is Luther´s discussion of our good Lord´s admonition in His Sermon of the Mount to turn the other cheek, when somebody strikes You. Well, that is true and You should do that, if You personally are faced with such a violent attack. Still, Luther points out, that You have a task and duty towards the attacker too. Just letting him get away with his vicious power would be detrimental to his own wellbeing – in this life and the one to come. The violent attacker should be stopped for his own good – and not just thinking of eternal judgment, but also his earthly travail. The aggressor should not be encouraged by passivity to go on with his lawless misdoing and evil. Rather he should be stopped – definitely in the name of God´s good law, which puts a break, stoppage and limit to our lawlessness and bars free-for-all unruliness. Obviously, there is police and other office-bearers of government, who should protect innocent and law-abiding citizens from unruly attackers. However, if they are not around, every Tom, Dick and Harry is called to carry out this office, ministry, service over and against the attacker in God´s name, for his own sake and also to protect innocent victims. I should thus use appropriate force to stop a criminal and get him to refrain from his wild attack. Rapists should not be encouraged to run free. Child molesters should be stopped. Murderers should be hindered by all means. Luther uses the example of two people crossing some lonely marshlands. If the one, hurts or harms the other, that should not just be accepted as good, right, and salutary. Rather, the harmed party should use self-defense to prevent the attacker to live out his violent and sinful desires. I should do that not so much for my own good, but for the transgressor´s good. That´s not selfish reasoning, but rather tough love. It would be bad for the transgressor to get away with evil and think that all is ok. He needs definite limits. He´s not free to do as he pleases if evil pleases him. That means also, if I see a robber stealing, looting, or causing harm I should prevent him from doing so. I should not let him get away with it. The same holds true for all sorts of crime and vice against God´s commandments. The fifth commandment: “Thou shallt not kill!” is prominent on the list and goes before those following. It has prominence. Thus, if somebody harms, destroys, rapes, burns, cuts, or even kills – he should definitely be stopped by appropriate force if necessary. That holds true not just in the private realm, but especially also in public and common realm. Even in international relations. We, who hold that people are plagued with original sin – and don´t just do good naturally all the time – and that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely – therefore also believe in the continued place of the law. It needs to stop evil and regulate society in such a way, that evil does not harm innocent life. Wherever it does, it needs to be prohibited, limited, and stopped. Government doesn´t bear the sword for nothing, but to punish evil doers and protect innocent lives. The apostle Paul knew that. That´s what he writes to the Romans. We know, it holds true even today. That´s why we don´t just say, Putin is crazy, sick or feeling off track, but that he is transgressing international Law and needs to be restricted – not just verbally, but by appropriate force in a true match for his threats and war efforts.
So, after this detour, we´re back with the Ukraine and the Russian aggressor. There is no question, that the Ukraine has the right to self-defense. There is no question, that the Ukraine did not provoke Russia – nor anybody else. NATO did not invite Russia to invade Ukraine. That´s a fact. Aggressive Russia did so, because Putin thinks, he can get away with breaking international law and common sense. Even after serious setbacks in their first offensive, the Russian invader did not come to their senses and retreat, but rather they regrouped and have again hit full-out against the victim Ukraine. Even in the first round Russia did not follow any rules. Rather, they did whatever evil damage they could inflict, crossing all red lines of international decorum and civilized law, perpetrating crimes against humanity and carrying out acts of genocide. That´s not in question. That´s fact. And all passersby are now no longer in a position to just pretend, they are watching a game of ping-pong. No, this is a matter of life and death. Does the long-gone superpower Russia get away with its old ways of bullying smaller nations like the free Ukrainian opposition into submission – even killing huge numbers of civilians, destroying the infrastructure of that independent nation, and causing stress, expense and immense damage to many more. Even threatening world order and disrupting longstanding peace with terror and sheer brutality. The EU and NATO have promised that this will not be so. Some diehard Putinists like the Kreml collaborators in the SPD together with naïve pacificists like Bishops Friedrich Kraemer and Margot Kässmann don´t want to swap sides but continue to cheer on the Russian aggressor with their refrain of “No force!” Ghandi and Mandela knew, when it was no longer conducive to talk, but time for armed resistance. Putin has gone beyond the permissible, excusable and exonerable. He doesn´t listen to outsiders, just his inner calling. Not even to his buddies Macron & Schroeder! He needs opposition – fierce, armed and determined. Lots of it to match his super ego and the proliferation of his nukes. Therefore, tanks for the Ukraine – and enough jets too. The West (and also the German Angela Merkel!) convinced them to give up their nukes. Now the West needs to live up to their commitment to keep them safe against military aggression and deceptive Russian warlords.
Long live the Ukraine – and all its people.
May the peace of our good Lord be with them always +