13 March 2014

Einstein and Eddington, again

Screenshots from the film Einstein and Eddington

Considering that we'd scheduled this film some time ago, it was interesting that we were showing Einstein and Eddington to our students at just this time of international and interethnic tension.

A main theme of this film (described in this post from two years ago)is that the search for truth crosses all conceivable lines that separate people. We would not be Quakers if we didn't believe this, nor would we be living here in Russia. We certainly did not have to push the relevance of the theme; our students caught it quickly enough.

Given the information war going on all around us in connection with Ukraine, we spent a little bit of introductory time talking about the biases in the film itself. The British talk sternly about the role of science in the "German war machine" (illustrated in the film particularly by the development of poison gas at the University of Berlin--to Einstein's great horror). Nothing is said about the "war machine" on the British side, a nation that has at one time or another invaded most of the other nations on the planet.

A week later, as we prepared to show the second half of the film, students plied us with questions about the U.S. and Ukraine. We turned most questions back to the students themselves, more eager to hear their viewpoints than to promote ours. But we did comment about our frustration that this extremely complex bundle of controversies was being marketed by U.S. media as a conflict between Presidents Obama and Putin.

This morning, as we completed the series, we showed a clip from The Colbert Report, in which Obama's political critics roast him for being indecisive and in over his head, utterly failing in the obvious American task of controlling Putin. You don't have to know much about Crimea to realize the transcendent and dangerous stupidity of reducing the issues to a personal matchup between two men, neither of whom is Ukrainian.

(One student wondered out loud why The Colbert Report has not been banned.)

In the meantime, I'm gratified to read messages via e-mail, Facebook postings, and blog comments, supporting Moscow Friends in our efforts to call the Quaker world into special prayer for peaceful resolution of the Ukrainian situation. We've heard from at least the following ...

Reedwood Friends Church, Portland, Oregon
Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting
Friends World Committee for Consultation (Gretchen Castle, general secretary)
New England Yearly Meeting
Friends in York, England
Surrey & Hampshire Border Area Meeting
Palo Alto (California) Monthly Meeting
Davis Friends Meeting
Poole Meeting (UK)
North Carolina Yearly Meeting (Conservative)
Santa Fe Monthly Meeting of Friends, New Mexico
Clearlight Worship Group of Taos, New Mexico
Newcastle upon Tyne Meeting, UK
Exmouth Local Meeting, UK
Dublin Friends Meeting, Ireland
Nailsworth Local Meeting, UK

... and many individuals from meetings and churches all over the world.

The Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists released an official statement on Ukraine yesterday. An English-language version came out earlier today:
Dear friends around the world:

Today, world society is divided on how to assess developments in Ukraine. One demands that we choose sides. But doing so means rejecting those people of good will on the other side of the barricades. At a time like this, we remember the words of Job in chapter 37:23: “The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power; in his justice and great righteousness, he does not oppress.”

God humbled Himself and accepted His undeserved reproach, torture and death at the hands of those whom He had created. He accused no one, even though he had infinite numbers of reasons, arguments, physical evidence and documents at his disposal. He condemned no one and did not label people as “friends” or “enemies”. And God is the same, yesterday, today and forever.

He equally accepts those from EuroMaidan and those from the Regions, both within Ukraine and beyond. He accepts them all as his children. Let us not claim that God is on our side and against the others! God is above and beyond our pet preferences and loyalties. In the political sphere, God is not for one side at the expense of the other. We are not sure how to make it clear, but we want to demonstrate our love – and God’s love – for those on all sides.

Humankind seems to be teetering on the brink of a disaster and is remaining unharmed thanks solely to the grace of the Almighty – even though some would claim that they themselves have guaranteed survival. But all the hosts of advisors, analysts, political forecasters and intelligence services cannot offer a thorough and objective overview of all that is transpiring. But we are very sure that Jesus Christ is our Lord and supporter, independent of that which occurs. He is in control of all which is developing in Ukraine, Russia and the entire world. It all happens “according to his will” or plan.

On earth, he chose the path of non-resistance to evil, of humility and patience. He loved and prayed for his adversaries. And his love is real and unchanging and can be experienced in that which transpires around us. Peter wrote, for ex:

“The Lord has taught us not to fear others, that we not fear suffering, pain, violence and deception. He taught us not to regard the world as the center of our being. Peter wrote, for ex: “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened. But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.” (I Peter 3:13-18)

No historical events can overcome the love of God. No "genetic" nor "national" memory can erase the result of the death of Christ on the cross. No propaganda, no science, no politics, no economy nor army can change what the Lord said in His Word confirmed by His blood more than 2,000 years ago: "Forgive, and you will be forgiven." Each of us needs forgiveness from the Lord, and for that we must come to terms with each other, to forgive enemies. That is the only way Christ offers us to find peace and quiet in our homes.

Being able to forgive for Christ's sake means more than death on the Maidan, more than a treaty with Western Europe, more than a discount on Russian gas. It means more than billions of dollars from Russia or Europe, more than forty-five acres of stolen possessions, more than forty billion dollars stolen from a country. It means more than all dollars and euro added together. We must ask for forgiveness and also forgive. That is why we turn to our Heavenly Father and cry: "Have mercy on us, o God. Grant us the strength to ask for forgiveness from enemies and to forgive them in the name of Christ."

Our calling as Christians is to demonstrate the love of Christ and His forgiveness, especially when the world’s conditions seem to exclude that possibility. And his solution to the current situation will be better than anything we could have devised through our own efforts! Realizing that, we thank God for all that was and is, for “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”. (Romans 8:28)

Today, we pray that God might bless the principalities and powers which He has ordained for our good, no matter where we are. We pray that we might not become the sons and daughters of violence, that we not become guilty of dishonesty, disobedience or insurrection, that all might be done for Christ and His glory. We pray that all which occurs in politics, economics and otherwise not take over center stage in our lives. We must dedicate our time to the most important task of all: preaching the Gospel and praying for the redemption of the lost.

We pray today for the two fraternal nations of Russia and Ukraine and for peaceful resolution of the current situation. We pray for understanding among the political and religious leaders of our two countries as well as the entire world community.

May God preserve and protect us all.

Published by the „Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists“

Rev. Vitaly Vlasenko, Director of External Church Relations.

Moscow, 13 March 2014
(Bold type appears in the letter as we received it.)

"No historical events can overcome the love of God." May our behavior match our profession.

Bill Yoder on "How Russian Protestants are responding to the crisis in Ukraine."

Two items on the Internet information war over Ukraine: "Fifteen Memes that Escalate the Crimean Crisis" and "Four Hoaxes Shaping Ukraine-Russia Conflict." Meanwhile, Michele Berdy is "getting too old for this."

Sean Guillory, "Infantilizing Putin." "American officialdom often reacts to enemies by characterizing their behavior as childlike and itself as the responsible adult that must discipline the unruly child."

Is war actually dying out? Tom Engelhardt on "Missing in Action: What Happened to War and the Imperial Drive to Organize the Planet?"

Meanwhile, "A new wave of conscientious objection in Israel...."

Blues from Krasnodar...

Биби — Funny (cover) Live @ Nabokov Cafe from COSMOSTARS on Vimeo.


Anonymous said...

Johan, here's another body of Friends to add to your list of those who responded to the letter from Moscow Friends. North Carolina Yearly Meeting (Conservative) posted a link on their Facebook page.

Johan Maurer said...

Thank you! I'll add them to the list on the post.

Meg said...

A practical question - best way to send a letter by postal mail? I've sent mail to a relative in St Petersburg that never arrived. We can also send electronically.
Chestnut Hill Monthly Meeting. PhYM. USA

Johan Maurer said...

Hello! You can send e-mail to me (clerk) at johanpdx@gmail.com ... (and you can write to me at that address to get the physical address).

Traditional mail seems to be pretty reliable, but has sometimes taken as long as a month.

Thank you for asking!

Nancy Thomas said...

Thank you especially for the statement by the Russian Baptists. It gives hope and insight on how to pray. What times we are living through!