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Praying for Ukraine?

If the prayers of American Christians for Ukraine don’t include repentance for our own nation’s role in the conflict, then perhaps our prayers are more American than Christian. I’m not on Twitter, rarely on Facebook anymore, and don’t watch any TV news. I keep up mostly through written sources online, which usually succeeds in sheltering me from the emotional pendulum that defines much of the American reaction to any given policy issue. With all of that in mind, it’s always a bit surprising to me when that emotionalism manages to invade my day-to-day life in a highly noticeable way, as has happened with the military situation that has been unfolding in Ukraine for the last several weeks. It seems like calls for prayer and support for the nation of Ukraine are everywhere I look, from church prayer requests to billboards. Yet I can’t help but notice that all of these calls for prayer are rooted in a level of myopia that has willingly chosen to embrace a particular political spin on the situation, all while refusing to apply biblical teaching to the issue in a consistent manner. When our prayers make bogeymen out of other nations while simultaneously absolving us of any sin in the situation, we have a serious spiritual problem. Much of this stems from the fact that we’ve been repeatedly told that we need to keep politics out of our faith, leading to a general decline in thinking biblically about our politics. This shouldn’t come as a real surprise, since the demand that we maintain this mental separation has been made almost entirely in bad faith. The majority of the people claiming politics and Christianity shouldn’t mix have no problem using Christianity to push for the political causes they care about. They would just prefer you uncritically accept cultural and political positions without examining them under the lens of biblical truth. This is especially clear in the Ukraine conflict, where American political interests have managed to co-opt the goodwill of her churches with very little theological pushback. It is, of course, rather obvious that we should be praying for the people of Ukraine, many of whom are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Being invaded by a foreign power is awful, and the suffering the Ukrainian people are experiencing deserves compassion, prayer, and as much humanitarian relief as we can muster. We cannot, however, end our biblical self-examination at the easiest point. The Ukrainian conflict is complicated, and we bear a good deal of blame for it. The root of the trouble is, going all the way back to the Clinton administration, that the American government began making political moves that numerous foreign policy experts at the time knew would lead to a Russian action against Ukraine. The constant and aggressive expansion of NATO created a military threat to Russia, triggering ever-increasing levels of alarm. All of this came to a head when US government meddling, in the form of overt support (and possibly even direct intervention by American intelligence agencies) led to the installation of Zelensky as president in order to have a Ukrainian government more amenable to US interests. The United States consistently gave Zelensky messaging implying that if he triggered a conflict with Russia we would step in to help him. This resulted in increasing pressure on Russia, which, combined with a brash Ukrainian government that utterly failed to recognize its role as a buffer state between the Russian and European spheres of influence, created a conflict that was virtually inevitable. The average Ukrainian, of course, has no responsibility for the actions of their government - especially since it was largely acting under US guidance. Nor does any of this make Russia’s invasion a just action. However, it does mean that our prayers for the Ukrainian people ought to include both repentance for our own nation’s actions in provoking the conflict, and a prophetic call to stop this kind of disastrous foreign meddling. We cannot accept the narrative of a Russian bogeyman at face value, without examining our own hearts and the role our leaders have played in this conflict. Repentance is in order, and the sooner the better. What’s more, we cannot let our own foreign policy interests keep us from seeing the whole of the human suffering that is occurring in Ukraine right now. Just as Ukrainian civilians don’t bear meaningful responsibility for the actions of their government in provoking this conflict, the average Russian doesn’t either. Many brave Russians protested the invasion and are imprisoned for it. Even the average Russian soldier, who is now facing the threat of war crimes if captured, doesn’t have any real influence over the actions of his autocratic government. Much like the people of Ukraine, many Russians are simply caught in the crossfire of geopolitical conflict, and doing their best to survive. Like the people of Ukraine, many of the Russians suffering in this conflict are also innocent - and they too are often our brothers and sisters in Christ. Furthermore, our myopia shows in which conflicts we loudly proclaim as unjust, and which ones we quietly ignore. There has been hardly any attention at all given to the situation in Yemen, which has led to massive amounts of civilian deaths and suffering. In this case, the situation has been caused almost entirely by our own CIA, and there is a strong case to be made that the United States is an unjust aggressor in the conflict. Yet none of the people calling for Russia to repent of her unjust invasion of Ukraine are calling on the US to repent of its unjust aggression in Yemen or the carnage that has resulted from it. Likewise, there has been very little said about the ongoing genocide of the Uyghur people in China - with several major US companies (I’m looking at you Disney) being complicit in the coverup. If we are looking for bogeymen overseas, perhaps the government that is engaged in active genocide and locking people in actual concentration camps deserves a bit more of our prayers and attention? Or perhaps we should be in prayer and active protest about the numerous Canadian and Australian pastors who have done jail time for refusing to close down their churches in the face of unjust Covid restrictions? Where are the prayers for the people our nation bombed in Somalia about the same time Russia was entering Ukraine? The fact that all of the above situations have slid past our gaze without raising so much as a hint of righteous indignation, while the situation in Ukraine has led to a level of support and calls for prayer so widespread that even I can’t get away from it, points to a pretty clear logical error. We’ve let our media and political interests set the prayer agenda for our churches. We’ve chosen to ignore uncomfortable realities about areas our political policies violate the clear teachings of the Church, in favor of praying fervently into situations where doing so serves our own interests more than the interests of the cross. We’ve prayed for justice while committing injustice. We’ve prayed for peace while fueling ceaseless wars. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on we who are sinners.

Daniel Boggan grew up overseas and has spent most of his adult life in bi-vocational ministry working with unreached internationals and helping to mobilize and equip Christ's Church for the Mission of God. He's also spent the last 10 years practicing, teaching, and consulting in the field of regenerative agriculture and is passionate to see God's people take the Creation Mandate seriously. Daniel has a degree in biblical studies and is passionate about the Word of God.

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