There is a 5”6’ white man with blue eyes. He has a law degree. He has many catch phrases, one of which is “dunk them in toilets.” He has utilized toxic masculinity in the most sinister manner imaginable, creating a public image of himself as outdoorsy, tough, sporty, adrenaline-seeking, macho. Strong. Without emotion, because he is a man, and emotion is feminine and weak. I would describe his default expression as “humourless, soulless, and severe” (much like the prison guards of Azkaban.) I have a personal theory that he’s a very unhealthy three on the enneagram. This man’s daily actions skyrocket my levels of anxiety and stress and result in the deaths of thousands, many of them innocent children. Their mothers weep. Their fathers stare into nothingness.
Whenever I start to think about Ukraine and Putin and whether *The West* has contributed to global destabilization, I break out into a cold sweat. What can we do, I think frantically. What can we possibly do?
We can donate money (I have no money.) We can pressure Putin (somebody more capable than me is already doing that.) We can cry (ineffective). We can write about it (narcissistic).
To be perfectly honest, I secretly wish that America would just do their John Wayne thing. You know what I’m talking about. The thing Americans do when they swoop in and declare themselves the good guys, the heroes. Maybe there are horses and guns involved and everyone’s using the word “y’all.” I kind of hate that about America, but I also kind of need that from them. I need someone overconfident, zealous in their conviction that they’re the right person for the job, someone who doesn’t give a shit about the rules and appoints themselves the rescuer of the world. (See also : white saviourism).
But real life is rarely like John Wayne movies. Especially when global politics are involved.
And I begin to wonder. What is God doing? Why isn’t He showing up in the exact way that I expect him to? And what are we doing? How much did my religion contribute to the cascade & unfolding of global events that led to the militarization of nations and the dehumanization of entire populations?
I don’t know.
I don’t even know how one would, ostensibly, go about “being a Christian” during a war. My faith, such as it is, bars me from even getting on board during Remembrance Day. And that’s honouring veterans that fought in World War I and World War II! Come on! If I can’t even get on board with vanquishing Hitler, what am I even doing with my life?
And yet. I am powerfully unsettled by the words of the bible. I can’t forget them. I can’t get them out of my head. In the brief moments I do enter the news cycle, I see the broken bodies and the fierce strength and courage of the Ukrainian people, and I see the violence perpetrated by Putin, and I see the calls to destroy Putin, and I can’t help but agree. Somebody’s got to take that asshole down, I think, the same time as the words of Jesus run through my mind.
Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Lay your weapons down. Never take your own revenge. Be gentle. Do not envy the violent or choose any of their ways. The Lord examines the righteous, but those who love violence he hates with a passion. Those who live by the sword will die by it.
I don’t say this often – in fact I say this never – but there are two things that I am 100% sure the bible condemns. One is violence. The other is greed. What about violence committed for greed’s sake? Such as Russia invading Ukraine to expand their territory and gain resources?
Surely such a person would be my enemy. I’d like to dunk him in a toilet.
This past Sunday at church, Nikayla preached a sermon. She told us that the literal, wooden translation of the name Adam – in Hebrew – is Red Earth Man. God made a Red Earth Man. We came from the soil. She told us that there is a Middle Eastern belief that our blood is red because the soil is red. And Science, that clinical yet amorous observer of truth, says the same thing. Blood is red because of the interaction of soil & oxygen. The soil is also red because of the interaction of iron & oxygen. All iron comes from the soil. The iron in our blood comes from the earth. The bacteria in our gut is the same as the bacteria in the soil. The landscape is not scenery, it’s family. The blood in me is the blood in you.
Your blood is my blood. Your healing is my healing. Your violence is my violence.
Those who live by the sword will die by it.
That is why we feel it when we look at the news. That’s why I can’t bear to look at the news. That’s why our hearts thrill at the story of the Russian soldier, captured by the Ukrainian military, who was met with refuge instead of violence.
Here’s some tea. Call your mother.
Perhaps something in them was remembering the old stories. Adam and Eve. That we are each other. Eve came from Adam. We came from Adam and Eve. Bone of my bone. Flesh of my flesh.
Let me be clear. I am not saying that there is no such thing as healthy boundaries or that boundaries are not for Christians. We cannot honour the divine image in each other without boundaries. This whole mess started in the first place because Putin didn’t respect Ukraine’s boundaries. He should not be in a position of power. He must be removed. The damage that has been done cannot be undone. It is part of the Ukrainian soil now. War forces us backwards in the creation story.
But the soil will not stay silent forever. Eventually, the soil calls all of us to account. Even me. Even you. Even Putin.
“We will not forgive,” Zelensky declared. We will not forgive. Putin has inflicted the wound of violence on all of us. Himself included. Even if he was sorry, what good are apologies now? What good is remorse in the face of such expansive destruction and disfigurement? Anyway, it doesn't matter. He will never apologize. And we will never forgive.
So here we are. Bone of my bone. Flesh of my flesh. Love your enemies. Lay your weapons down. We have failed so badly, without meaning to, without measuring the consequences of our failure. In the act of trying to live together, each one of us has been fatally wounded. We can't come back from this.
But we are the red earth people. Made in the image of the divine. The soil, the blood, the face of Jesus. Putin, Zelensky, the Ukrainians, the children of Kyiv, the Russian soldiers, the babushkas, me, you, that homeless guy who sits outside the Tim Hortons, your most beloved friend and your most hated enemy. All the face of Jesus. Soil breathed into life. Every ugly and beautiful and hilarious and lonely scrap of humanity you’ve ever encountered is wearing His face.
So the only job we have – the only response we can have, during war and not during war – is twofold. First, we must protect the divine image by protecting and enforcing healthy boundaries. The second job we have is to remember what it was like before any of this happened. Before famine, before war, before children, before cars, before social media and business lunches and rainfall and the gender pay gap. There was a time when there was just one of us.
Can you remember it? When we were all contained in the same body?
We must look into the humorless, soulless eyes of those who have executed the innocent and see someone we love.
“I wish that Christians would insist more and more on the unrighteousness of war, believing that Christianity means no sword, no cannon, no bloodshed, and that, if a nation is driven to fight in its own defense, Christianity stands by to weep and to intervene as soon as possible, and not to join in the cruel shouts which celebrate an enemy’s slaughter.”