On a piece extremely critical of Russia


The Greens and Their Church


Who is still capable of saving us?


L a d u s h k i n – At a gathering of Berlin’s “Gustav-Adolf Werk” (a Lutheran East mission) hosting church guests from Siberia on 10 February, the participants were encouraged to take along the January 2020 issue of the evangelical magazine “Zeitzeichen”. I did as suggested and was quickly jolted by a heading reading “A Chekist with Body and Soul”. The text contained phrases such as: “Vladimir Putin only understands strength. He judges people and states accordingly. Putin knows no compromise; he considers that to be a sign of Western weakness.” “The West´s weaknesses are Putin´s launching pad.” “Everything is forced into line.” “Any sign of regional independence is a thorn in the flesh of the Kremlin.” “He was a Chekist; a secret service agent with body and soul.” “The KGB-man Putin fears any independent movement among his underlings.” “He wanted ´dictatorship of the law’, but the ‘law’ fell by the wayside.” “He saved the dictator Bashar al-Assad.” “He annexed Crimea and occupied Eastern Ukraine.“ There exists „the crude ideology of the Kremlin’s boss“. Putin even regrets the loss of his country’s status as a superpower.


But not all is yet lost, the author reassured. “Despite long-term imprisonments” the young are starting to revolt. “The plus points stemming from Crimea don’t count any more.” “The young have become more self-reliant, independent and fearless.”



Should one make the effort to counter such accusations? Perhaps the greatest scandal are not these claims, but rather the fact, that a leading, mainstream Lutheran periodical would print them. The author was Klaus-Helge Donath, the veteran Moscow correspondent of Berlin’s Green newspaper, “TAZ” (Tageszeitung). How depressing, that the Green party and its church followers have wandered so far from the path of peace! The memorable calls for peace from 40 years ago are now only history. “Humanitarian interventions” – with and without weaponry – are the call of the hour.


One has forgotten that trust will create more peace than weaponry. It is not the threat of military force that has taken the French their fear of an invasion from their eastern neighbour. There are of course voices of reason in Germany: Friedrich Merz, Willy Wimmer and Jürgen Todenhöfer from the Christian-Democrats, Matthias Platzeck from the Social Democrats, the party “Die Linke” and many, many more. But the Green party in its current form is hardly among them.


A read such as this reminds one of the dangers of projection: One’s own side is most guilty of the sins it accuses the other side of committing. In the 1980’s, Vladimir Putin was a middle-level KGB-operative in the city of Dresden. Very soon thereafter, in 1990, he was already in the services of Anatoly Sobchak, the neo-liberal mayor of St. Petersburg. So why mention the KGB at all? George Bush Sr. and Mike Pompeo both served as heads of the CIA. The supposedly evangelical US Secretary of State is remembered in Europe for his statement on the CIA at Texas A&M on 15 April 2019: “We lied, we cheated, we stole.” The passage was followed by applause and cheers. The USSR’s supreme commander, Yuri Andropov, had previously been head of the KGB from 1967 to 1982.


Is Putin’s ideology indeed cruder than that of, say, Adam Schiff? Has Putin every celebrated the murder of a nation’s top leader? One thinks of Hillary Clinton and the death of Muammer al-Gaddafi through torture in October 2011. Putin has been referring at least until recent times to Russia’s Western “partners”.


Was it in Syria more ethical to support the dictator al-Assad or the jihadis? I understand that the Syrian democratic movement is strongest in Western exile. When forced to choose between Assad and the jihadis, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the USA have regularly sought their fortune with the latter.


The current election year in the US should bring us new heights in anti-Russian McCarthyism. Russian capitalists will fare no better than the old-time Russian communists. How wrong the Russians were when they believed the dropping of communism would lead to long-term friendship with the West! On 26 February, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson accused his country’s hardliners of lacking creativity. “How about a new conspiracy from Argentina or Malawi?”, he asked rhetorically. What’s happened to the creativity of mainstream media? Yet nothing is to be expected from Malawi – tiny countries are much too weak to cross-up a superpower.


May we, as the Germans say, snuggle up warmly for 2020. May world peace remain essentially intact. With missiles capable of hitting Mach 5 and the trashing of long-term arms agreements, it may be only God who is capable of keeping the globe in one piece.


A change of scenery

In late February, a court of appeals rejected a push to reinstate the accreditation of Moscow’s Baptist seminary. It and the vast majority of Russia’s Protestant centres of learning will need to make-do with a half-legal status. Yet I cannot image that the state’s move against all non-government – also secular – schools is independent of the general climate between East and West. When B is vilified by A, one should expect the behaviour of B to become more “villainous”. And Russia’s evangelical learning institutions are extremely sensitive to the weather - frequently a good 95% of their funding is from Western sources.


Persons on the receiving end of texts as critical as those in „Zeitzeichen“ are often offended. That was the case when a delegation of Christian journalists from China visited Moscow and was repeatedly asked and - even instructed - about persecution back home. Yet the guests thought they knew best how to assess developments in their country and preferred to take care of matters themselves. A quote: We “want the foreign side (first of all) to communicate with us; we can learn from each other on how best to help the church in China."


William Yoder, Ph.D.
Ladushkin, Kaliningrad region, 06 March 2020


A journalistic release for which the author is solely responsible. It is informational in character and does not express the official position of any church organisation. This release may be reprinted free-of-charge if the source is cited. Release #20-06, 965 words.