Saturday, 24 December 2022 17:48

December 23, 2022 News Update

December 23, 2022

Dear Friends,

I have had many queries concerning a number of troubling reports concerning Ukraine. Some are in response to a recent diatribe by Tucker Carlson on FoxNews.

Others questions relate to various articles on different news sites on the Internet. I do not claim to be an expert on Ukrainian politics, or US politics for that matter. But I hope that my perspective might help to clarify a few issues.

First, let me say that I neither appreciate nor agree with Tucker Carlson’s assessment of what is going on in Ukraine. His view, in my opinion, is short-sighted and ill-informed in several respects. The first clue to this can be seen in his criticism of the manner in which President Zelensky of Ukraine was dressed for his address to a joint session of Congress, characterizing it as something that might be worn by a strip-club manager. In the same rant, he also made a snarky remark about older members of Congress wearing orthopedic shoes. This certainly adds no credibility to his assertions.

Next, let me address the issue about Zelensky being anti-Christian and that he is trying to shut down churches. Zelensky is quoted as saying, “Personal economic and restrictive sanctions will be applied to any Christian caught worshiping in unapproved ways.” There is no doubt that this was said, but what does it mean

The religious culture in Ukraine is rather complicated; some of this is a historical problem which has existed for centuries, and some of it is contemporary. You can do an Internet search for Ukrainian Orthodox Church if you want to get the historical background. The current situation in a nutshell is this: There is a Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchy and there is a Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Kyiv Patriarchy. Those under the Moscow patriarchy are tied to Russia. The Ukrainian government inspected several locations and gave notice to several clergy, believing that some of those churches were promoting Russia in its war against Ukraine, were transmitting military information to Russian leaders about the location of Ukrainian troops and materiel, and were hiding caches of weapons and saboteurs in their church buildings and monasteries. The Security Service of Ukraine stated that it was investigating allegations that church property was being used “to hide sabotage and intelligence groups, foreign citizens, storing weapons.” As of last month, officials said 33 priests had been arrested for assisting Russia since it invaded in February, most of them charged with gathering intelligence and feeding it to Moscow’s forces.

The actions on the part of Ukraine were carried out in a tiny fraction of Ukrainian Orthodox Churches of the Moscow Patriarchy. It was not an attack on Christianity or a particular denomination, rather it was a response to information that certain clergy were promoting support for Russia in this war, and that certain locations were being used for military purposes against Ukraine.

It should also be pointed out that those so critical of this so-called “anti-Christian” action have completely failed to note Russia’s bombing of numerous churches during this war. Churches that were housing refugees, many of them with children inside, were deliberately targeted by Russia. They have also been silent about Russia’s arrest of Ukrainian clergy, and in one well-known case, a Protestant clergyman and his son were taken prisoner, tortured, and murdered.

As one who has lived in the former Soviet Union for 30 years, my opinion is that Ukraine is a country that has had great religious freedom and tolerance. There is an openness to Christianity not seen in any other European country. Evangelical churches are proliferating throughout the country. Evangelical ministries have been pushed out of Russia, and non-Orthodox churches must be very careful about their activities. Many missionary organizations who left Russia set up operations in Ukraine. We have enjoyed many years of religious freedom in Ukraine and have seen much fruit from our work there.

Other questions being asked:

Why should America help Ukraine in this war?
To begin with, in 1994, America, along with the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and Northern Ireland signed what is known as the Budapest Memorandum. In this document, the US made commitments and gave assurances “to provide assistance to Ukraine … if Ukraine should become a victim of an act of aggression or an object of a threat of aggression in which nuclear weapons are used.”

This was in connection with Ukraine giving up all of its nuclear weapons. America promised, in essence, to protect Ukraine against Russian aggression. But now people are saying that this was not a formal treaty, and that America has no legal responsibility to fulfill its promises, in spite of words in the documents such as “commitment,” “confirm,” and “will” (not “shall”). In other words, our assurances, our promises, or our words have no meaning. If that is the case, why would anyone ever believe anything we might say

Is Russia America’s enemy?
Well, they certainly are not our friend. Since World War II they have been working against us to weaken us and to bring us down. The implication in the question is that since Russia has not directly attacked us, they are not the enemy.

What is the goal of helping Ukraine?
Mitch McConnell said that helping Ukraine defeat Russia is our number one priority. While I think that there are much greater issues that America needs to address, I do think it is important to help Ukraine to keep Russia from asserting hegemony over neighboring countries, such as was experienced in the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslavakia, and Putin’s 1999 invasion of Chechnya, which resulted in its capital, Grozny, being declared by the UN to be the “most destroyed city on earth.” Putin made reference to Chechnya as a model for his invasion of Ukraine, stating that it was a war against terrorism. It would seem that he would like to destroy cities in Ukraine even as he did in Chechnya. It must be noted that Ukraine was invaded without provocation. Ukraine was not committing acts of terrorism against Russia or against Russian people, as Putin falsely claimed.

I have no answer as to what extent the US ought to help Ukraine in this war. I do know this: Putin has inflicted incredible suffering and damage in Ukraine. Many atrocities and barbaric cruelties against innocent Ukrainians have been documented. America has certainly made a lot of bad decisions about its involvement with other nations over the years, but I don’t think that helping Ukraine to maintain or regain its freedom is a bad decision. Thinking back to World War II, was it a bad decision for us to become involved in the war in Europe? Was Germany our enemy when they invaded Poland and France and began its attacks on Britain?

Some people are objecting to the amount of money that has been committed to this endeavor. And yet, the US has spent much more in helping countries that are sworn enemies of America. On balance, the amount that the US is pouring into Ukraine is a pittance when compared to the pork barrel and foreign aid spending. Of course, this is not a justification for any policy with regard to foreign aid. Decisions about the US supporting Ukraine will be made by the politicians. We can’t change that. But we can change what we are doing in the spiritual realm.

Whether or not you agree with the political stance taken by the US with regard to Ukraine, at the very least, we as Christians ought to be involved in ministering to the Ukrainian people. We need to be in much earnest prayer for these people who are suffering greatly. Pray that Christians there will stand firm in their faith, that it might be a testimony to the glory of God even in the midst of tribulation. Pray that they will use the suffering as an intensified opportunity to serve the Lord and to give the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ to those who are lost. Pray, too, that the Lord will supply their material needs. No matter what the government might do, we can still show love, mercy, and compassion through the giving of material aid. The solution to man’s problems is ultimately spiritual, not political. What should we be doing for our brothers and sisters in Christ?

In previous letters, I have addressed questions about corruption and anti-Semitism in Ukraine. We are living in a sinful world, and we can’t solve that problem. Only God has the solution for that. Let’s keep our focus on the spiritual aspect.

May the Lord be glorified in you and through you as we celebrate the birth of the One who came to save us from our sins, and may the coming year be one in which you bear much fruit in your service for our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable Gift,


P.S. :Phyliss's booklet, “Why Me?” is now available for download in English, Ukrainian, and Russian. Click here to access the links to download the PDFs.