17 April 2014

"Love All Around This World"

If you look at gotcha videos from Moscow, you see Russian speakers being beaten by Ukrainian fascists. Videos from Kyiv show how Russians are the guilty ones. In so many of them, young men are sure that fists, clubs, and guns are going to put things to rights. Such an old story, and (setting aside for a moment the resulting bitter grief), so utterly boring.

There's an occasional voice of sanity:
We are on the eve of the Holiday of all holidays--the Resurrection of Christ. Therefore I appeal to all leaders of social movements and political forces: in the days of Holy Week, as Christ goes to his death for the salvation of each one of us; and in the following days of Easter Week--days of universal jubilation--cease the bloodshed, stop the acts of anger and hatred that defile people's hearts and delight Satan. (Archbishop Luke of Zaporozhets, Ukraine, serving in the Moscow Patriarchate; quoted here.)
In my high school classes yesterday and today, I used another voice of sanity to resist this constant polarizing drumbeat of national and ethnic hostility. At the end of my lessons I use a song as a listening comprehension gap-fill exercise--this week I used Bill Jolliff's "Love All Around This World." I normally don't expect a sing-along, but it was interesting and moving to me that an unusual number of students sang along, in all four of my groups.

Go ahead and try the gap-fill exercise for yourself. (I'm using the MP3 file from the Northwest Yearly Meeting Web site, kindly provided by Bill on this page for Peace Month 2012.)

Today in Elektrostal: spring comes to City Hall's front
lawn. (Our institute's building is in the background.) 
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:1-5, context)

May the remembrance of Good Friday and the promise of Easter be with everyone who reads these words, especially if you too are sometimes discouraged by the threats, the beatings, the constant electronic one-upmanship. The darkness cannot overcome!

"The day the Pope asked me to pray for him."

A brief word from Anthony Bloom: "Let us be attentive not to destroy the gifts of God...."

Another "Exile and the Prophetic" feature from Marc H. Ellis: "Resurrecting Passover?" "Here’s the irony: Jews need Passover today like Christians need salvation – to be diverted from the injustice we are enabling. Has Passover become our (Christian) salvation? A faux prophetic trope to banish the unstable Jewish prophetic?"

Andy Freeman, "5 Books That Taught Me Prayer."

Here's a Russia-centered view of today's developments in Geneva concerning Ukraine. And here, courtesy of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, is a lecture by Valerii Solovei on the role played by network television in Russia.

"Looking for Tom Lehrer, Comedy's Mysterious Genius." (Thanks to Margaret Fraser on Facebook.) Here's the song that keeps him in our institute's memory.

Norwegians getting happy. (Oslo Gospel Choir.)

10 April 2014


Victor Bogorad, The Moscow Times
Somewere I read that the number of students of Russian language in the USA is about a quarter of its peak during the cold war. It's certainly true that Russian has not been offered at my Chicago-area high school for a long time, and the Russian-language faculty at my university is roughly a third of the size I remember.

The theme of a decline in Russian expertise in the West (in language, economics, politics, and so on) has been around a while. Controversy swirled, for instance, around the defunding of the USA's "Title VIII" program of support for Russian studies last fall. And now this deficit of experts is blamed as a factor behind the USA's recent supposedly inept handling of relations with Russia.

Sean Guillory's Facebook page just posted a link to The Moscow Times's article "Getting Russia Wrong" by Peter Rutland. The article itself offers three purported examples of botched policy resulting from "shallow and schematic misunderstanding of Russian politics...." Comments on Sean's post, taken together, provide a compact review of the things area experts can and cannot provide. Given experts' fondness for "nuance" and lack of practical policy guidance, Mark Schrad confesses that he's "just a little cynical about the role of 'expert knowledge' these days and in these circumstances." Andrew Gentes responds, in part, "... But the idea that we have to have an all or nothing approach (either we really know what's in Putin's head or we're just playing a random guessing game) seems to be an expression of frustration with the realities of geopolitics. Oh, and I will continue to defend nuance over mere insight or (gasp!) Ultimate Truth."

What should we reasonably expect from experts?
  • Facts and thoughtful interpretations of the past
  • A professional vocabulary adequate to communicate the details and nuances of their field
  • Concrete data about the correlation of forces in a given situation
  • Balanced sampling of participants' voices in all the constituencies involved
  • Linguistic and cultural context
  • Honesty about sources and methodology
  • Recommendations for action.
What are we unlikely to get from experts? (Surprise me!)
  • Exact predictions
  • Perfect ability to communicate their findings to nonspecialists
  • Mind-reading
  • Perfect objectivity
  • Total honesty about past errors; complete disinterest in career advancement
  • Fair descriptions of competing or opposing points of view.
What work is required of the experts' audience members (the end users of their expertise)? (Can you add to this list?)
  • Respect experts and support their work; they're part of the team, perhaps not as important as they might think, but as essential as our own five senses
  • Don't depend on just one expert, and take special care to identify contrasting viewpoints; discount snarky descriptions of rivals!
  • Don't expect experts to reveal all their biases
  • Make the effort to get an adequate command of their jargon, but don't be afraid to request plain English
  • Take their recommendations into account, but don't allow or expect them to do your priority-setting work for you
  • Ask whether they are at all invested in the well-being of the people they study (it's much easier to be glib about people and places you don't care about)
  • Beware of fashions and trends in the field
  • Be at least as honest as you expect your experts to be; don't feign certainty; don't hide behind your experts when you fail
  • Above all, know your own enduring goals and values, and apply expertise accordingly.

Russian and Ukrainian Baptist leaders meet in Kiev on April 8.

Christian stewardship: Quaker "Options" (part one--excellent!) and Basil the Great, "Woe to the Rich."

"Faith for the Post-Christian Heart: A Conversation with Francis Spufford."

Irina Khrunova on the latest Pussy Riot court decision. Meanwhile, "Russia Pulls Voice of America Radio Off Air" and "American Councils Statement on NGO Status in Russia." (News story here.)

Martin E. Marty on the "End of Elite Denominational Headquarters." The article made me nostalgic for the "elite" offices of Friends United Meeting on Quaker Hill in Richmond, Indiana, USA. FUM's modest premises share a beautiful little campus with the Quaker Hill Conference Center, and now also serve the Right Sharing of World Resources program. In an odd coincidence, the Right Sharing program occupies the very same office I used in my time at FUM (1993-2000). My job before coming to FUM? Coordinator of Right Sharing! But then it was based in my home office in Wilmington, Ohio, from where it moved to Cincinnati for most of Roland Kreager's tenure.

Today's antidote to the scourge of false-witness-bearing: Big Daddy Wilson pleads, "Walk a Mile in My Shoes."

03 April 2014

Stan Thornburg

I was so tired when I got home this evening that I decided to lie down and get a couple of hours of sleep before sitting down to this homemade computer and pounding out something profound for you. Before pounding, however, I happened to notice a new item in my e-mail. I didn't even have to open the e-mail: the subject line and one-line preview were enough. It was from our yearly meeting superintendent Becky Ankeny. Subject: Stan Thornburg. Preview: "Friends, Stan passed away at 3:30 today. I know his family appreciates your p..."

There'll be nothing here coherent today.

If you knew Stan, the memories are surely flooding back at this very moment. Tears, too, mixed with laughter as we remember one of the funniest and most profound public Friends of our time.

My first memories of Stan are from a Quaker retreat in the mid-1980's, a retreat on the "future of the prophetic ministry." We met at a strange motel in St. Charles, Missouri, the Noah's Ark. Part of the place really looked like a cartoon ark, with huge fiberglas animals. The oddest thing to me was the fact that, when we were in the conference room for our retreat, the windows were decorated with animals looking at us from outside! It was at that retreat that I heard Stan talking about the "Whamo Theory of Grace," which I summed up this way in a post on evangelical machismo: "...We ratchet ourselves up according to external measures of religious adequacy while God, at the top of our stepladder, waits with a big hammer to clobber us whenever we inevitably stumble."

He also told us about the time, early in his pastoral service, when his Friends meeting back in Kansas received a donation request from a big celebrity-led church, promising that the contribution would result in tenfold blessings for the donor. Stan's little Quaker church wrote back to Big Dollar Church with their own request for a contribution, pointing out that by the original logic, that was the best way for the big church to get blessed. A mere $100,000 to the Quakers would net a million for the big one.

A few years later, Stan came to Earlham College and gave a talk "on being a safe male." Our Indiana Yearly Meeting superintendent, David Brock, was on hand for that talk, I remember; probably not a coincidence, because Stan was a speaker for our next annual sessions. The talks he gave at those sessions were extraordinary, perhaps the best conference sermons I've ever heard, and I've heard a lot! I hope they're preserved somewhere.

Somewhere along the way, Stan began writing for Quaker Life--before the advent of online archives, sad to say. I remember him writing about a visit to a hospital: seeing the "admissions" desk, he walked to the desk clerk and started confessing his sins.

For about a dozen years, Stan was pastor at Reedwood Friends Church, who are the lucky custodians of dozens of tapes of his sermons over those years. I used to listen to those cassettes while driving--practically the only reason I would look forward to long car trips. How I've wished that I'd kept my copies of those tapes.

In more recent years, Stan kept a sporadic blog, Born to East Toast, which is a good sampling of his approach to the Bible, to humor, and to surviving long hospitalizations. He also wrote a year-long blog series about "the slow but steady progress of my understanding of GLBTQ folks," which probably complicated his relationships with some in our yearly meeting.

I'm sitting here finding it hard to stop writing about Stan. If I stop writing, I'll have to sit back and actually absorb the news. Here's what I'll do: First, provide a link to the PDF article on open worship that might be the most widely-circulated piece he wrote. Second, quote Stan himself, on the Lenten journey to Jerusalem:
Everyone is invited on this journey! It belongs to no one faith or sect. We will weather the betrayal, suffering, and sacrifice together. Come, join the throngs across our globe on this wonderful, terrible, trek. We will stand stunned into silence before the tomb. We will go crazy with celebration when death’s door makes way for resurrection power.

We will be forever changed.

A Muslim who has been "active in London's faith scene for some time," writes, "We should revive the East End’s Christian spirit." Several Anglicans respond. (Thanks to Fulcrum.)

Churchill Malimo of Friends World Committee for Consultation asks, "What is eating Africa today?"

Friends General Conference launches a Web site for the New Meetings Project.

It has been years since I've written about torture, but this Washington Post report brings back all the anger, shame, and sorrow.

"The Trouble with Men." And while we're on that general topic, "Gender and headship in eschatological perspective" and "Will there be gender inequality in the resurrection?"

Stan, the circle will be unbroken.

27 March 2014

March shorts

March 19, top, and 23 (bottom, my birthday);
spring arrives again, right on time!
Earlier this month, we thought we'd received spring a month early. The thaw that usually comes in early to mid April was in full progress by the end of the first week of March. Spring fever was on our students, too; the ones who bothered to come to class pleaded with me to take the class outside. Since that would probably have taken special permission from the Ministry, we stayed in the classroom, casting longing glances through the window.

On March 18, we had an impressive snowstorm, but the snow soon melted. On March 19, winter came roaring back, with temperatures cold enough to pack the snow back down all around us. It was easy enough for me to deal with; nobody could take away those two weeks of spring preview that we'd enjoyed! Growing up in Chicago, I knew what changeable weather was all about, anyway.

Spring returned, though, just in time for my birthday on March 23. As I write, we're still enjoying it. Maybe we've not seen the last of winter for this year, but we've certainly seen most of it.

"Ain't nothing free in this world but Jesus." Once again this year, we showed our graduating students the film Ray, the story of Ray Charles. Each year, I wonder whether the film will finally lose its edge for our students, but again this year I saw that it seemed to make an impression as deep as it did the first time I showed the film here at our institute, back in fall 2007.

Here on this page of my school blog, you can see the discussion questions we used to discuss the film earlier today. We probably spent almost half the class time talking about the first question, whether the students had any memories of what their elders might have said to them "that might come back to you in a similar way when you need it..." as Ray's mother's advice came back to Ray. Our great students treated many of these questions with similar seriousness. I won't spoil the privacy of that intense session by quoting them in this public space, but, trust me, these students were more than worthy of this good material.

At the end, we talked about the vision Ray had in the drug recovery clinic, in which he saw his mother and brother. We told our students that someday, the greatest gift they may be in a position to give someone might be the same words that George told Ray: "It wasn't your fault."

I always find it helpful to compare two ways of understanding Ray's mother's words to him: "Ain't nothing free in this world but Jesus." In one of the film's dramatic drug scenes, the words come out with biting cynicism. But look again at those words without that cynicism, and suddenly they're among the truest and most precious words in the world.

What if Putin is right? As we struggle through these days and weeks of the Ukrainian and Crimean crises, not helped by waves of media disinformation, there's a frequent theme in the Western press: what does Vladimir Putin want? (Let me repeat this link to Sean Guillory's article on "infantilizing Putin.") In the service of Putin as the villain-in-chief of the Crimean drama, commentators sometimes refer back to the speech in which he said, "... we should acknowledge that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century" to prove his ill-concealed wish to reassemble the Soviet empire.

It's not my job to defend power politicians of any country. But in my ongoing quixotic campaign to confront this era's truly characteristic and major sin--bearing false witness--I'd like to insist that we read these words in their larger context. First of all, it's clear from that context that Vladimir Putin was grieving the breakup of a country, not the end of a repressive and inhumane political system. In other words, the end of the Soviet Union as a united country and the end of the Soviet communist system are two separate issues. True, some parts of the Soviet empire were welded together through sheer violence, which meant that centripetal forces were inevitable as that system collapsed, but those forces (even when labeled "freedom") undeniably caused massive disruptions in lives and economies. It could be argued that the Crimean crisis is a symptom of those disruptions. And the awkward truth is that, as much as we might worry about civil society and freedom of conscience in Russia, the situation here is much better than in some other parts of the former Soviet Union.

And, second, it's also clear that Putin's 2005 speech, from which Western commentators like to quote so selectively, has other important quotations as well, some of which Putin himself might do well to re-read.

Among the situations that cause some anxiety here: "Russia's Media Crackdown Spills into Academia" and "Dozhd Fights to Save Independent Reporting."

Quaker Spring 2014, Barnesville, Ohio, USA: "Experiencing the Inward Christ Together."

Rob Grayson: "The Powers Exposed."
Jesus did not die because God had an anger problem and needed to be appeased. ... No, Jesus died to take on the effects of our malice, rivalry and self-centredness and reflect them back at us in all their undisguised ugliness. He died because it was the only way to expose the inescapable fact that the wages of sin is death.
Open Culture: "The World Concert Hall."

In keeping with the playful mood of early spring in my high-school-age classes, we used this delightful song by Rufus Thomas in a gap-fill exercise. I've posted Hans Theessink's version before, but it's worth repeating. The music starts at about 1:10.

20 March 2014


How we greet spring.... Our institute on the eve of the equinox.

When the waves of change, instability, and uncertainty threaten to overwhelm me, that's when it is good to recover some perspective.

Our Moscow Friends Meeting has not been immune from all the swirls of assertion, counter-assertion, and sheer emotion connected with events in Ukraine and Crimea. Among us are some who are dubious about the new leadership in Kiev and support the takeover of Crimea, and some with the opposite views. But in the quiet and light of meeting for worship for business, on the eve of the Crimean referendum, we are able to re-anchor ourselves with this minute of essential unity:
Московские Друзья продолжают держать в Свете ситуацию на Украине и молятся о мире, преодолении взаимного непонимания, недоверия и вражды между отдельными группами людей.

Мы чувствуем поддержку мировой семьи Друзей, получая письма поддержки от разных собраний.

Moscow Friends continue to hold the situation in Ukraine in the Light, and pray for peace that overcomes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility between different groups of people.

We feel the support of the global family of Friends as we receive letters of support from a variety of Friends meetings.
And it's true, we feel uplifted by the many communications we've received from Quaker meetings, churches, and individuals who include us in their loving concern for peace. Perspective changes when your priority is love.

Here in Elektrostal, we've often been asked by our friends, colleagues, students--"What do you think of the situation in Ukraine?" As I said last week, our priority is not to give our opinions but to listen to theirs. After the Crimean referendum and U.S. president Obama's announcement of sanctions, some of the questions became a little more pointed. One of the cleaning staff at the Institute asked me this evening, "Is it really necessary to be so insulting to us? You know yourself that we're decent, normal people."

Just before the referendum, U.S. senator McCain said, "Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country." Of course the stupidity of such a comment rather neutralizes its offensiveness, but we have to live in the backwash. To restore a bit of perspective and provide some evidence that not all Americans interpret things quite as he does, we brought this Wonkette post to our evening class. This kind of sharp sarcasm isn't my preferred style of political commentary--it has a violence of its own--but I was actually rather relieved to show our friends that the biting humor of Russian political discourse on the Internet does have its American equivalents. Too often we Americans are portrayed here as pleasant idiots, and right now, not all that pleasant.

In all the breathless news coverage of Ukraine, Crimea, and Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, there was one major story that was an extraordinary contribution to restoring perspective. As Tuesday's New York Times headlined it in a front-page story right in between Malaysian 370 and Crimea: "Space Ripples Reveal Big Bang's Smoking Gun."

The headline states the case with more certainty than scientists themselves might use, but even the strong possibility of this breakthrough is exciting. We may have a major hint into the nature of creation itself, particularly that first instant when the universe violently "inflated" at a speed faster than light, leaving gravitational traces that we can detect even now, 13.8 billion years after they left their imprint on the cosmic microwave background.

The summary report (pdf) of the BICEP2 observations and calculations, incomprehensible to me in its mathematical details, still gives off an intuitive sizzle. The press conference announcing the findings (link here in right sidebar, mp4 file here) is riveting, full of helpful graphics for nonspecialists. And here, thanks to openculture.com, is a wonderful video showing the human dimension of these findings. We watch Russian-American physicist Andrei Linde reacting to the news of possible confirmation of his ideas on creation: "Let us hope it is not a trick. ... What if I believe into this just because it is beautiful?"

"Ukraine's Struggle: Where Heaven and Earth Have Met."

Meanwhile, as we try to cope with information wars all around us, "Russia Today's YouTube Glitch" and how it was interpreted, and "The Pros and Cons of Propaganda." (I include links for discussion, not as endorsement.)

Brian McLaren on U.S. National Public Radio, "What's Being Done to Palestinians Is Wrong," along with a brief (and not entirely sympathetic) introduction to dispensationalism in the comments section.

More perspective:  "Endless Grace: a Story of Forgiveness."

And more perspective: "Preparing for Canonization."

Are you running Windows XP? As support ends on April 8, here's an alternative. Carpe penguin!

Ten years ago, my cousin Johan Fredrik Heyerdahl and I went to a club in Birmingham, UK, to hear a teenage blues guitarist named Joanne Shaw Taylor. I'm so glad to see that she's doing well--very well, judging by the evidence:

13 March 2014

Einstein and Eddington, again

Truth through spiritual observatory (Friends meeting) and physical telescope:
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.

Composite from colbertnation.com
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.