Rich Manieri: Wars and Rumors of War | Columns
The tyrants of history have at least one thing in common: their will to destroy and slaughter anything and anyone who stands in the way of conquest. It’s not new. From Genghis Khan to Adolf Hitler to Vladimir Putin, civilization’s greatest monsters have always been able to justify untold atrocities in the name of imperial expansion.
Putin’s justification for invading Ukraine was particularly chilling, given its Hitlerite overtones – denying Ukraine’s right to exist while providing the same kind of fractured justification the world heard from Hitler before ‘He annexed the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia in 1938.
Among the differences between yesterday and today, the world is much smaller. The weaponry is much more advanced and information (true or false) can spread internationally in seconds.
Explaining all of this to young people, in my case students, most of whom were born after 9/11, can be a challenge. Most of the time they ask, “Why? Why is Putin doing this? Why is he killing Ukrainians? Talking to 19-year-olds about Ivan the Terrible or Julius Caesar is only so satisfying.
There is another answer.
Evil is present in the world and we underestimate its existence at our peril. After all, the devil’s greatest trick is to convince us he doesn’t exist. Thus, the manifestations of evil should not surprise us.
In the New Testament, in the Gospel of Matthew, in chapter 6, Jesus says: “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but be careful not to be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is yet to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.
As Christians, we accept this and find comfort in knowing the end result; in the end, God wins. Death and evil are already in checkmate. In the meantime, we are not called to a spirit of fear or fatalism so what should be our response?
A good starting point is to look away from the bully and look at his victims. A massive humanitarian crisis is unfolding as hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians flee the country to parts unknown. Many of those who remain are currently crammed into bomb shelters without food, water or medical attention. Ukrainian soldiers and civilians are fighting and dying. and much of this unfolding human drama is witnessed live around the world.
We must remember that what we see is real, more real and potentially combustible than any such conflict in our lifetime. We don’t know what will happen, but we should all be well aware of what can happen.
But there is work to be done. First, we can pray. Pray for the Ukrainian people and for their courageous president. Second, we can look for ways to get involved materially through volunteer and financial support. For example, Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian non-profit humanitarian organization, has deployed disaster response teams to Poland, Romania and Moldova to receive and assist thousands of fleeing Ukrainians who have left their houses with nothing more than they could carry. Samaritans Purse typically provides food, clothing, shelter, and medical care to victims of disasters, from hurricanes to wars.
There are currently other churches and organizations in Ukraine doing what they can to meet the needs of those who are suffering.
Christians are called to empathy, and turning empathy and compassion into positive action is both a Christian and a patriotic response. As author and Iraq War veteran David French writes, “healthy patriotism expands our scope of concern” while unhealthy nationalism “narrows our scope, often leaving us indifferent to the suffering of others. “.
The Bible is full of passages on empathy.
But nowhere will you find empathy described as a virtue we can manufacture or acquire simply by trying a little harder. The spirit of God gives us an empathic heart. That’s not to say a non-Christian can’t show true empathy.
But Christian empathy comes from Christ and can turn a self-centered rascal into someone willing to die for someone else.
What can we do for the Ukrainian people?
We can be careful. We can donate to charity and yes, we can pray for them. and we can pray that we never become indifferent to their suffering or that of anyone else.