Premier Christian News reports that a religious ideology associated with the Russian Orthodox Church headquartered in Moscow may be part of the driving force behind Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
In fact, several hundred people have already signed a petition organized by a group called Public Orthodoxy, condemning the weaponization of Christianity in the war.
According to its website, Public Orthodoxy provides “scholarly research on a wide variety of topics related to the history, thought, and culture of Orthodox Christianity.”
In its petition, Public Orthodoxy states that Russian President Vladimir Putin along with the senior leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church has embraced what is described as a Russian world ideology referred to as ‘Holy Russia’ or ‘Holy Rus.’
On its website, Public Orthodoxy described the fundamental principle behind this new ideology:
The teaching states that there is a transnational Russian sphere or civilization, called Holy Russia or Holy Rus’, which includes Russia, Ukraine and Belarus (and sometimes Moldova and Kazakhstan), as well as ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking people throughout the world. It holds that this “Russian world” has a common political centre (Moscow), a common spiritual centre (Kyiv as the “mother of all Rus’’), a common language (Russian), a common church (the Russian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate), and a common patriarch (the Patriarch of Moscow), who works in ‘symphony’ with a common president/national leader (Putin) to govern this Russian world, as well as upholding a common distinctive spirituality, morality, and culture.
In other words, ‘Holy Rus’ looks upon Ukraine and Belarus, and possibly even Moldova and Kazakhstan, as part of Russia’s spiritual and political empire
Because of its radical shift from the teachings of Jesus who taught we need to love our enemy and bless those who curse us, Public Orthodoxy declared ‘Holy Rus’ ideology as heresy. It also noted this is part of the reason that the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) has refused to publicly condemn the invasion.
Public Orthodoxy even alleges that when the ROC prays for peace, it is actually praying for Russia’s successful conquest of Ukraine.
In an interview with Premier Christian News, Dr. Brandon Gallaher from the University of Exeter and one of the founders of the Public Orthodoxy petition strongly condemned this new ideology.
“The religious ideology is so wicked,” Gallaher told Premier Christian News, “that where there is some sort of pretense that this is an act of love by invading another country.”
“It distorts the gospel, it twists it,” he added. “It makes it into something which is an absolute contradiction of love, which demands that you serve not only the brother, but the enemy, the one who disagrees with you.”
“Christians are called to be peacemakers, not warmongers, to stand up for justice and to condemn injustice,” Gallaher said.
The Ukraine Orthodox Church separated from the Russian Orthodox Church in 2019
The issue was further complicated by the Ukraine Orthodox Church’s decision to officially separate from ROC in 2019.
For several centuries, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) has been under the authority of the ROC, which is headquartered in Moscow.
But according to BBC, after the USSR broke apart in 1991 and Ukraine gained its political independence, there was interest in the Ukraine Orthodox Church gaining its spiritual independence from Moscow as well.
This interest rapidly escalated in 2014, after Russia annexed Crimea and Russian separatists tried to control parts of Eastern Ukraine. At that time there were even accusations that the Russian Orthodox Church, which has parishes in Ukraine, was behind some of this. However, it has denied any involvement.
Nevertheless, the BBC reports that the UOC’s official separation in 2019 sparked anger among the leaders of the Russian Orthodox church, writing:
The move has provoked a furious response in Russia, where the Church has broken off links, deepening a split in the worldwide Orthodox Church.
READ: Hundreds of experts sign declaration condemning religious ideology driving the Russian President’s invasion of Ukraine AND Ukraine Orthodox Church granted independence from Russian Church AND A Declaration on the “Russian World” (Russkii mir) Teaching