07.03.2018

Not Everyone wants Reconciliation

Would Jesus have been a „Monist“?

Commentary    

M o s c o w – The elation in the South Korean city of Pyeongchong reached the rafters on 9 February as the united Korean team entered the arena under an all-Korean flag. Any of us who had suffered through the division of Germany could not help but be moved. How much hate and aversion had rained down on Koreans during the past 70 years! And the Korean division has been much stricter and is surviving much longer than the German one. Had the political actors not been nearly as serious as they pretended to be? Is a stubborn form of life now pushing its way up through the cracks in the rock?

On the winners‘ podium in Pyeongchong on 18 February, the Ukrainian skier Oleksandr Abramenko celebrated his gold medal by hugging the Russian bronze medalist, Ilya Burov, beside him. Since Burov had been forced to appear without a flag, Abramenko wrapped both in his own Ukrainian one. Russian media called that a “defiant political embrace”. Abramenko’s courage is astonishing: People in Ukraine have endangered their lives with much less public political statements. Abramenko’s own life illustrates well the tragic division among Eastern Slavs: His fiancé, the skier Alexandra Orlova, started for Russia in Pyeongchong.

Moving on to my own little world: A few weeks ago in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad I was forced to show my pass at the local „Sberbank“. „Takaya Krassavitsa!“ (What a beauty!) the employee exclaimed more than once. I, an aging gent, was beaming, for she had been looking at my pass photo. But very soon it became clear that she had the attractive graphics in a US-passport in mind.

Russians are usually aghast when I need to show my pass, say, in a store. They find it hard to imagine that someone could voluntarily abandon Florida for the supposed chilliness and poverty of Eastern Europe. I usually justify the move as an escape from alligators and similar critters. If I were less generous, I would point to the mass shootings in public places.

My conclusion: Despite all anti-Russian tirades in the past decade – and the corresponding response from Russian media – more than a few Russians find it very difficult to stop marveling at the USA. In positive terms, one could interpret this attitude as human maturity and a dogged, irrepressible sense of largess nearly unmatched in the West.

In the midst of the jubilation at the Olympic opening sat a scowling US-VP Mike Pence. That awakened the suspicion that the creation of a unified and neutral Korea (as well as a neutral Ukraine) may not be a priority for US foreign policy. And was the excitement perhaps nothing less than an all-Korean response to past policies of the USA? A reunified and neutral Korea would be without nuclear weapons – case closed. Reunification would also finally give a significant number of Christians sufficient air to breathe.

We dare not forget thereby that Pence is „our man“: He’s a reborn evangelical from the „Greenwood Community Church“ in Indianapolis/Indiana. But Pence’ behaviour is logical: Only a few weeks before, his president had threatened the 36 mill. residents of North Korea with total annihilation. On 25 February Donald Trump, the candidate of choice for more than 80% of US-evangelicals, assured that US policy would be transitioning to “Phase Two” if the Korean People’s Republic did not relent.

Moving on to another divided country: The British historian Richard Sakwa reports of two options for Ukrainian society. Jonathan Steele quoted him in the London „Guardian“ on 19 Feb. 2015: The overthrow of Viktor Yanukovich in Feb. 2014 was nothing less than a triumph for the “monist view”. This view, which was most vehemently propagated in the Western Ukraine, describes Ukraine as an “autochthonous cultural and political unity”. The country must “strengthen the Ukrainian language, repudiate the Czarist and Soviet imperial legacies, reduce the political weight of Russian-speakers and move the country away from Russia towards ‘Europe’”.

The alternative „pluralist“ view „emphasises the different historical and cultural experiences of Ukraine’s various regions”. Building a modern, democratic post-Soviet state “requires an acceptance of bilingualism, mutual tolerance of different traditions, and devolution of power to the regions.

According to Steele, the end of the Cold War was not a “shared victory” leading to the creation of a common European house. “Most Western leaders saw Russia as a defeated nation whose interests could be brushed aside”, that needed to “accept US hegemony in the new single-superpower world order - or face isolation. Instead of dismantling NATO, the Cold-War alliance was strengthened and expanded in spite of repeated warnings . . . that this would create new tensions. Long before Putin came to power, Yeltsin had urged the West not to move NATO eastwards.” Professor Sakwa speaks of a “fateful geographical paradox: NATO exists to manage the risks created by its (own) existence”.

Internally, the Protestants of the Ukraine had already accepted the monist option in the 1990s. In a letter from 3 July 2012 addressed to President Yanukovich, nine denominations protested against all proposals to introduce Russian as a second official language in some regions. The signatories included the Baptist Union and two Pentecostal denominations (see our release from 11 July 2012). According to this letter, bilingualism „deepens social division, strengthens political resistance and undermines the foundations of the Ukrainian state“. (Imagine the response to such a letter in Crimea.)

My humorous responses to this letter at that time were nothing less than flippant. After all, Russian was the sole language which all Ukrainians understood. Yet this letter illustrated the co-responsibility of Ukrainian Protestants for the splitting of the Eastern Slavic world. We will be suffering from this division for years to come. The Greek-Catholic Church, a large portion of which had returned to Ukraine from Canadian exile, struggled mightedly for the monist option. Yet I cannot imagine that Jesus would have found the monist model morally superior to the pluralistic one.

Rumblings of War
The US sociologist Edward Curtin made an alarming prophecy in the online-journal “Counterpunch“ on 23 Feb. 2018. “The Trump and Netanyahu governments have a problem: How to start a greatly expanded Middle-Eastern war without having a justifiable reason for one. . . . If they can’t find a “justification” (which they can’t), they will have to create one (which they will).”

Curtin continued: “All signs point toward an upcoming large-scale Israeli/U.S. attack on Lebanon and Syria, and all the sycophantic mainstream media are in the kitchen prepping for the feast.  Russia and Iran are the main course, with Lebanon and Syria, who will be devoured first, as the hors d’oeuvres.  As always, the media play along as if they don’t yet know what’s coming. . . . And the media wait with bated breath as they count down to the dramatic moment when they can report the incident that will compel the ‘innocent’ to attack the ‘guilty’.”

„CNN“ and the „New York Times“ “find it impossible to see legitimacy in Russia’s position, resorting to name calling and illogical rhetoric. Russia is surrounded with US/NATO troops and missiles and yet Russia is the aggressor. Iran is also surrounded. These media are propagandists, that’s why. They promote war, as they always have. . . . The world is entering a very dangerous period.”

Could the converted do something creative in this hour of need? The evangelical professor and conservative democrat Rainer Rothfuß (Lindau on Lake Constance) is doing what he can and organising annual auto peace caravans to Russia. In late September, the “European Baptist Federation” will be holding its annual conference in the West Ukrainian city of Lviv (or Lvov). Will the delegates be content to “serenade the choir”, or will they be bold enough to formulate creative statements fostering peace? That should not be an easy task, for this region is known as a traditional stronghold of Ukraine’s “monists”.

Dr. phil. William Yoder
Gvardeysk, 7 March 2018
“kant50(at)web(dot)de”

A journalistic release for which the author is solely responsible. It is informational in character and does not express the official position of any church organisation. This release may be reprinted free-of-charge if the source is cited. Release #18-3, 1.306 words.