Good Friday and Ukraine


Funerary monument for Dr. Anton Ritter von Scholz at the cemetery of the Catholic church St. Johannes der Täufer und St. Johannes der Evangelist in Mönchberg, district Schmachtenberg, July 2012. Wikimedia Commons image uploaded by user "Urmelbeauftragter."

Funerary monument for Dr. Anton Ritter von Scholz at the cemetery of the Catholic church St. Johannes der Täufer und St. Johannes der Evangelist in Mönchberg, district Schmachtenberg, July 2012. Wikimedia Commons image uploaded by user “Urmelbeauftragter.”

I had some random Good Friday thoughts running through my mind as I took a cool trail bike ride this morning.

I’ll freely admit that the story of the passion isn’t my favorite in the Bible. Growing up, I loathed Stations of the Cross, which were an annual bore fest in the Catholic school I attended. And I’m not into graphic violence in any literature.

But, I was in a “memory” mood this morning, and I was trying to mediate on the meaning of the day. I’m reading a book right now about the rise of the Nazis before World War II, and in that book I have just finished reading about the Treaty of Versailles, the disastrous agreement to dismember and humiliate Germany at the end of World War I.

And somehow Ukraine was on my brain—how “old school” the current tension between Ukraine and Russia seems, with its messy inter-mixing of areas where several European ethnic groups live—a Russian population on the Crimea that Russia has appropriated to itself, eastern Ukraine with its mix of Russian and Ukrainians, etc. Sounds like Alcase-Loraine.

Of course, because it’s Good Friday, I was reminded of the passion of Jesus. One thread of that story is that a human can be condemned by powers-that-be for being inconvenient—for being the wrong person in the wrong place, from their point of view. Or for saying wrong and troubling things.

I don’t have any grand ideas for Ukraine and didn’t come up with any on my bike ride. I don’t have enough background anyway to make intelligent suggestions.

But I do understand why the situation there creates so much anxiety—why a “what should we care” attitude on our part would be extraordinarily short sighted. In the past 100 years, this sort of territorial dispute in Europe has usually been badly handled and can result in disaster.

Russia, Russia. It’s not 1914. The game you’re playing, if it blows up, won’t just hurt Ukraine.

Anyway, I was deliberately trying to recall the passion story and extract some lesson from it. I figured it’s worth remembering that it is Good Friday. And I’m not sure why that made me think of the current violent state of Europe.

Maybe the thread is that people in power are always willing to find scapegoats and crush those without power to achieve political ends.

Another thread is that Christ accepted his fate—which is one of the aspects of the story that makes it hard for me to understand. Maybe the lesson there is not to blame the one who suffers, even if he or she accepts the suffering. Someone else is pounding the nails. Others looks on and don’t stop what is unfolding.

I don’t blame President Obama for troubles in the Ukraine, and I don’t buy the narrative that somehow American weakness is to blame. Vladimir Putin is far more interested in internal Russian politics than anything we were up to nor not up to.

And I don’t have any answers. Just a prayer on this Good Friday that whatever road forward we are on, it won’t involve too many innocent people being sacrificed to violence or nationalism or patriotism or any other ism.

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