The legacy of Maidan. Part 1. Spirituality.

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As Ukraine struggles and lurches toward a national presidential and parliamentary election this Sunday, please continue to pray. I truly believe that a stable government with the democratic mandate of a “free and fair” election will go a long way toward bringing needed equilibrium (not “stability” yet) and beginning the long, complex job of national reconstruction in many spheres: economic, legal, social, cultural, political… .

We know that, ultimately, the best hope for Ukraine is not in Democracy (nor, likely, in anything that could be written with a Capital Letter)… but in alignment with the heart and will of God. I want to repeat some lines from my journal, written in Kyiv, that have stayed with me for the past several months:

These are very trying times for our friends, brothers and sisters in Christ. It is a time of great uncertainty like I have never experienced before. They really are in serious doubt as to “what country we will be living in” tomorrow or next week. It brings a lot of stress on people. But their faith is strong.2014-01 UA24 769327 priests (Large)

2014-01 UA23 769322 Ночь с 22 на 23 января, Грушевского в огне. Фото Ильи Варламова. hrushevskogo (Large)
The hymn that goes… “Oh, Church, come stand in the light” sounds different to me now

But the process of living out faith in such times makes “easy answers” disappear. They really have to look at what their faith is built on, and what makes it work in real life. When circumstances seem stable (even if there’s a lot we don’t like about them) it is easy to say that “God is in control” and “I trust Him” when it’s not at all clear that we are trusting in the “fact” that things will not fall into catastrophe any time soon. But that’s exactly what these dear folks are facing. Which drives them deeper into God…

So we still have hope.

It’s that spirituality of Maidan that still intrigues me: There was an ability to be there, being who I was (a Russian-speaking, American, evangelical Christian resident of Kyiv) and fully participate as such… while knowing I was participating in something inherently pluralistic. Though we evangelicals are there because we believe that it is only as a nation truly turns toward God that it will fulfill its potential, no one is there because the answer to every one of the complex political, economic, social and human questions before us is “Jesus.”

There were many within the Ukrainian evangelical camp who thought that, since “all authority is from God” that we should submit to the “authorities” and not protest (an unfortunate but widespread misinterpretation of Romans 13:1-2).

But the nation was in crisis, the spirit of the nation was under attack, the future of the nation hung in the balance… and so the nation – the narod – responded. In all its messy complexity, it responded. And the nation spoke. If there is one place a Christian presence needs to be, it is there. If there is one place where a Christian witness is needed, it is there. You are in a crisis-steeped environment around passionate people who are talking of changing the values and structures of society to be more just… and who are open enough to engage you in conversation over one of the hundreds of thousands of Gospels of John that were distributed. The nation was gathering. So of course the church was there.

And as the nation met, they prayed and read Scripture together. Every morning. I shared Psalm 37 (36 in the Russian Bible) with many there: The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright. But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken. We felt like we were watching the first part happen before our eyes… but what would the second part – the piercing of the heart of evil by the very weapons it brings against the upright – look like in the world of flesh and blood? We didn’t know what it would look like… but that didn’t stop us from praying for it…

2013-12 UA maidan protester pot head - CopyIt did tell us that the weapons that are used against the righteous cannot be taken up by the upright to defeat the wicked. God has to do it… but that does not mean that “resistance is futile” either. But it is with spiritual weapons of love, forgiveness, and also justice and truth. And it may require a presence that in itself can be a great risk. And that’s what Maidan was… and is and will be.

It does mean that I will always owe a debt of honor to those who stood through the winter, even in the most brutal cold, to stand for righteousness and refuse to scatter, even when oppressed… and who continue to move forward in the spirit of the Heavenly Hundred.

I honor those church folk who, day after day, week after week, took money, food, medicine, whatever they could scrounge, up to Maidan. I honor those who kept all these guests to our city – whose presence was needed for Maidan to be truly “democratic” in the novel sense I will describe shortly – fed and warm… making the rounds with tea, sandwiches, and kind words to those within the protest camp. Having seen many such transactions, I sense an underlying unity that is deeper than the manufactured, rent-a-mob conflicts elsewhere. It is a unity that is based on respect, dignity and the worth each of us as we contribute to a greater whole.

And, in my next post, I’ll share why I think the experience of Maidan may also be an indicator of new ways to “do democracy” in these complex days.

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