What is it exactly with the leaders of the West and Vladimir Putin? Clearly they view Russia and its president as a threat, but why?
We have heard endless stories of “Russian hacking” and “Russian aggression,” while Putin has been called a “thug,” a “dictator,” and Russian forces have been accused of bombing hospitals in Aleppo–in fact Russia, it seems, bombed the “last hospital” and killed the “last doctor” in Aleppo on at least five different occasions in 2016: on November 18, July 30, July 23, April 27, and sometime either in the last week of January or early February (see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here ).
So What accounts for all this hysteria? Is it simply because Russia has thwarted US regime-change plans in Syria? Or is there something else behind it? Perhaps the Gospel of John can give us an answer.
In John chapter three, Jesus gets a visit from a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, or ruling council. Christians will recall, of course, that Jesus had numerous problems with the Pharisees. They attacked him, despised him, and were at odds with him more so than any other group. However, Nicodemus seems to be one of the few Pharisees with an open mind, and who is at least somewhat willing to listen to reason. Moreover, the gospel tells us that Nicodemus “came to Jesus at night,” which has led scholars over the years to speculate that the Jewish leader was afraid to be seen talking to Jesus.
I should also mention here, that John chapter three is a favorite passage of evangelical Christians, for it is in this conversation with Nicodemus that Jesus uses the phrase “born again,” and of course it is also here he utters the famous words that make up the oft-quoted John 3:16. My focus here is not so much on either of these two lines, however.
Instead, the part of the dialog between Jesus and Nicodemus I find most interesting, and most germane to our commentary on Putin, is a curious comment Jesus makes about “Spirit” and “wind.” This comes after Nicodemus admits to being perplexed regarding Jesus’ admonition that “no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus responds quizzically. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born.”
It is at this point that Jesus attempts to clarify the matter, and in doing so ties in the concepts of spirit, wind, and rebirth–all into one. He says:
Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.
The frenzied minds of the West’s corrupt leaders contemplate the sound of Russia’s wind blowing, but they “cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.” Imagine having an enemy like that and how bonkers it would drive you.
As I have pointed out in a number of posts, Russia has experienced an almost phenomenal spiritual rebirth since the fall of communism. You can go here, for instance, to see a post I did in 2013 that includes a fascinating video documentary on the Valaam Monastery. Located north and east of St. Petersburg, the monastery is considered one of the holiest sites of the Russian Orthodox Church.
“Those who’ve been here more than once,” the narrator remarks at one point in the documentary, “say you have to put the time into Valaam to understand it fully, that living and working here is the only way to really tap into its energy. The job is tough and repetitive, but none of the volunteers complain. Everyone is confident of a spiritual reward and happy that they’re working to reestablish a faith that was so persecuted during the Soviet Union.”
Monastic life also figured prominently in Putin’s visit to Greece last summer, for his state visit to that country included an excursion to perhaps one of the most unique places in the world. As I commented in a post on June 1:
Mount Athos is an autonomous monastic state located on a peninsula jutting into the Aegean Sea from the northern part of Greece. It is the home of a number of monasteries and is inhabited almost entirely by monks. With a political status kind of unique in the world, the 130 square-mile region is governed by a “Holy Community,” consisting of representatives from each of the monasteries, yet there is also a Civil Governor appointed by Greece’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whose main job is to keep the infrastructure in tip-top shape.
The post also includes a video of the Russian leader being received warmly by the monks, as well as commentary by Russian writer Pavel Shipilin, who discusses what he thinks Putin’s leadership means to a majority of the Russian people:
I think, first of all, it is hope:
- A person who aims at eternal values, not immediate ones, rules the country.
- He supports peace, not war.
- Russia for him is the last outpost of Orthodoxy (NS maybe Christianity in general). That’s why he is going to protect it.
- That the office of the President for him is, first of all, for service, not a source of gain.
It is very important that Putin never emphasizes his Orthodoxy. He speaks and acts, as the President, not as a monk. It would be difficult to suspect him of ostentatious godliness. He visits remote churches all over Russia during major Christian holidays instead of going to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior as would be expected.
At the same time, we understand that Christian values are above so-called universal human values, which are imposed on us instead of centuries-old traditions. Postmodernism is just a beautiful cover; its essence is the decomposition and atomization of society. If we don’t resist it, it will end badly.
What is so attractive about Putin? It’s the fact that he calls things by their name. Same-sex marriage is a sin. The introduction of military forces into sovereign states without being requested by the legitimate government violates the rules established after World War II. It is also a sin. As is the behavior of one nation that decides its power gives it the right to rebuild the world in its own image.
Today Russia is the only country saying “No” to the US. It’s the only country whose “No” Washington clearly hears and cannot do anything about. And the main thing is that this firm “No” is heard by those who appreciate our common roots and traditions, who still hope that this crazy world will recover its soul.
Yes, Washington hears Russia’s “No” clearly–just as it hears the wind blowing without knowing what direction it’s coming from or where it’s going.
Shipilin’s comment about Putin spending Christian holidays visiting remote churches in rural areas of Russia, rather than attending services at the main cathedral in Moscow, is also interesting. The Russian Orthodox faith celebrated Christmas this year on January 7, and a huge and elaborate Christmas Eve liturgy took place at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. In fact I put up a post on it on January 6, here, which included a link to a two-hour video filled with scenes from the service. Most of the video was of the service in Moscow, but at a couple of different points the camera cut away to a small church in the province of Novgorod where Putin is observed attending a service with the locals. At one point he leans over and can be seen helping a small girl light a candle.
Think back to the last time you saw film footage of an American president attending a worship service at a church–any church. I don’t recall ever seeing anything of the sort, although maybe there were a few such incidents during the Carter administration.
So now we have Russia…fighting terrorists in Syria that America has supported…blocking Monsanto and banning GMO foods…taking steps to protect endangered species…while serving as snare and pitfall to a US-installed puppet government in Ukraine–and all the while, through its actions for good, counterchecking and abrogating the western media’s efforts to paint it as the villain.
“So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
By “Spirit” Jesus is of course referring to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is mentioned in all four gospels, but it is in the Gospel of John that it takes a front-and-center place in Jesus’s teachings. In addition to the passage in chapter three, we have these words in chapter four spoken by Jesus to the Samaritan woman at the well:
A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.
to his disciples in chapter six:
The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.
and in chapter fourteen (here most of all):
If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you…
…All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
This is what Nicodemus was trying to understand, but couldn’t quite grasp; and it is also what Western leaders have found so maddening.
“How can this be?” asks Nicodemus.
Jesus’ answer to him is instructive.
“You are Israel’s teacher,” he replies, “and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?”
For the past six years US leaders have been trying to instigate a coup in Syria, and as we know, bringing down governments is something they have accomplished with ease countless times in countless countries around the world–but for six years now and counting they have failed to achieve this objective in Syria.
“How can this be?” they must be asking themselves.
I suspect if Jesus were here he would give them the same answer he gave Nicodemus.
Significantly the Holy Spirit also plays an important role in the birth narratives provided in the gospels of Luke and Matthew. In Luke, chapter one, the angel Gabriel visits the Virgin Mary to inform her she is to give birth.
“The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God,” he tells her.
The birth of Christ occurred at a time when a corrupt empire had expanded to the stage where it had come to tyrannize and prevail over much of the rest of the world. Christ’s coming into the world was in a sense a “rebirth” for humanity, and the empire at that time, as we know, eventually collapsed.
Now we see a present-day empire that has become grotesquely corrupt, prevailing over practically the entire world, this coming simultaneous to a rather amazing spiritual rebirth that we see occurring in one country–a country which, it so happens, is “the only country saying ‘No’ to the US,” as Shipilin rather aptly puts it. The parallels are there if you wish to see them.
Meanwhile, a rather befuddled Obama seems able to do little other than listen to the sound of the wind while wondering…where it’s coming from and where it’s going…as he prepares to leave office on the 20th.