Ukraine 2022 (Upper), West Bank 2022 (Lower)
I’m a Jewish Christian who, after thirty years as a Protestant Evangelical in various denominations, was chrismated and received into the Orthodox Church in 1998. As a former Evangelical Jewish Christian, I find in Orthodox Christianity the fulfillment of everything I learned in Judaism and Protestant Evangelicalism. However, one thing I’ve found that is very frustrating to me is the tendency of some Russophiles in the Church to be very critical of Evangelical and Pentecostal Christian Zionists while they romanticize and idealize Imperial Russia and the Romanovs.
As a Jewish boy growing up in Brooklyn, New York, I observed the one-sided narrative of Israel as a heroic David fighting an evil Arabic Goliath. In my early 20s, disillusioned with the Vietnam War and the cultural polarization in the United States, I wanted to go on Aliyah (Immigration) to Israel and serve in the Israeli Army. However, I learned that I would not be eligible to receive Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return unless I claimed Judaism as my religion, which would have been a denial of my faith in Christ. This I could not do, and I spent three years trying to sort out this dilemma. I finally traveled to Israel from 1973-1974 and spent four months there.
During my time in Israel, I discovered to my disappointment that Israel was not a Zionist Utopia, but rather it felt with the same social problems as in the United States. Years later, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, I was living in Brooklyn and developed an interest in Russian culture. My grandparents immigrated to the United States from Odessa, Ukraine, and this interest in turn led me to the Orthodox Church. In the 1990s, there was much hope that Russia and the other former Soviet republics would develop into democratic societies. Sadly, this has not happened in Russia, although it has happened in Ukraine, Georgia, and the Baltic states.
I understand that there are many Orthodox Christians, Slavic and otherwise, who have sentimental ties to Russia, just as many Jews and Evangelical Christians have sentimental ties and sympathy with Israel. However, it is necessary to recognize that just as Israel is not a Zionist Utopia, neither is Russia past or present an Orthodox Utopia. In fact, Vladimir Putin’s Russia, with high rates of abortion and divorce alongside low birth rates and church attendance, is as much a post-Christian nation as the United States and Canada. In fact, church attendance in Ukraine and Georgia is much higher than in Russia. I believe that it would have been best if Ukraine had remained part of a democratized, Mikhail Gorbachev-led Soviet Union. Yet the Ukrainian people opted for independence. They do not want to be part of Putin’s Russia. Personally, I have misgivings about Ukraine joining the European Union or NATO, but that is their decision to make and certainly not mine or Vladimir Putin’s.
To my fellow Orthodox Christians, I urge you all to consider the hypocrisy of condemning the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and seizure of Palestinian land while defending Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and the annexation of Ukrainian land. To my fellow Evangelical Christians, I urge you to recognize that the Moscow Patriarchate does not represent true Orthodox Christianity. Rather, true Orthodox Christianity is represented by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and Russian priests and faithful who resisted the Soviet regime in the past and who continue to resist Putin’s war today.
See the extensive Ukraine section in both Archives listed at the top of this page.
Martin Madansky grew up in Brooklyn in a Jewish family with roots in Ukraine. His spiritual journey has taken him through bar mitzvah at age 13, baptism into a fundamentalist Christian church at age 15, Messianic Judaism, the Mennonite Church, and finally chrismation into the Orthodox Church in his 40s. He is involved with both St. Mary’s Orthodox Cathedral and St. Herman’s Orthodox Church in Minneapolis and with FOCUS.