From Russia With Love (or maybe not)

Putin

Frank Weathers has the story. 

It seems that President Vladimir Putin is breaking new ice for Russian heads of state. He is now an op-ed author for the New York Times. Frank has nothing but praise for President Putin’s prose. I, on the other hand, look at it a bit differently. 

President Putin wrote an op-ed piece in which he discussed America’s recent foreign policy. He accurately said that we’ve gotten into too many random military encounters lately, and that we are turning too often to force in our international engagements. 

He also said that America’s way of dealing with other countries has become a matter of “relying on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan ‘you’re either with us or against us.’” I think he may have been talking about things like the obvious bullying that President Obama engaged in to coerce foreign nations to refuse sanctuary to whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

It is interesting indeed that this particular strategy backfired with President Putin, who, alone of all the heads of state in the world, took Mr Snowden in. President Obama was so miffed by this that he canceled a pre-G20 meeting with the Russian President, an action that, honestly folks, sounded personal and grade school to me. 

President Putin goes on in his op-ed to remark about something that is quite serious: Nuclear proliferation. He evidently sees this growing push to develop the bomb by impoverished countries who cannot feed their own people as a defensive measure on their part. He is right again when he says, “If you have the bomb, they can’t touch you.” 

In other words, nobody talks about randomly lobbing Tomahawk missiles at nations who have the bomb, no matter how egregious we find their behavior in other matters. 

This raises an important question: Is America’s international policy, with its bully-boy tactics and constant deployment of force against small nations who can’t fight back, actually pushing smaller nations to follow a policy of developing nuclear weapons? 

That is a discussion for another day, but it is certainly one worth having. 

Obama

Having said all this, there is one thing I want Public Catholic readers to understand about President Putin’s op-ed piece. That one thing is that President Putin is using the op-ed to side-step our president and lobby the American people directly. 

I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing. 

After all, he’s not paying a bunch of lobbyists to slime their way around the Capitol greasing campaign accounts and non-campaign pacs with their donations in order to convince our elected officials to vote against us. He is going out there in the court of public opinion and making his case in a straight-forward and direct way. We know where he’s coming from and what he’s saying. We do not have to listen to hours of lies from bought and paid for cable news talking heads interviewing bought and paid for think-tankers and bought and paid for politicians while they try to propagandize us. 

We don’t have to sort through what President Putin is saying to decide what he really thinks. It’s all there, for the reading. 

But we should be aware and never forget that he ain’t us. 

He is the President of Russia and the interests he’s promoting are the interests of Russia. That doesn’t make what he’s saying wrong, and that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t listen to him. Quite the contrary. That makes what he’s saying important and worthy of our thoughtful analysis. 

Odd as this sounds, I have a higher opinion of his motives than I do our cable news people. He, at least, is working for his country. 

Book Review: Our Place in the Order of Creation

To join in the conversation about The World is Not Ours to Save: Finding the Freedom to Do Good, or to find a link to buy a copy, go here. 


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We are the clay. God is the potter.

We are the created. God is the creator.

Our dominion over this Earth is ours by designation, not because we made it or because we can keep it. We have dominion over the Earth because God assigned it to us as a trust.  It is the same with our lives. We did not earn them. We do not merit through our own actions either life or love. We are here because God breathed the breathe of life into us and we became living souls. When that days comes that our souls are required of us, these bodies we inhabit will die and return to the dust from which they came. 

We exist as a thought in the mind of the God Who made us.

That is our place in the order of creation. We are free because God made us free. We have life because God gave us life. We are able to choose and decide and act out of our will because God gave us minds and hearts and the freedom to use them as we wish. 

But this world, this sinful fallen world with all its prevarications and cruelties can not be saved by our actions. There is nothing we can do to redeem humanity from its own willful sinfulness. Nothing we can offer that will turn back the tide of original sin that blights each of us and the whole of creation. 

What this means is that we can not play God. When we try, we fail. When we try continuously, we become weary with a Sisyphean weariness that leaves us defeated and bitter if we do not face the reality of who we are in the order of creation. 

Christians, in particular, are easy prey to the peculiar hubris of trying to save the world from itself. In my work as an elected official, I encounter people on a daily basis who profess Christ but behave as if He doesn’t exist. They battle for what they think is His cause with an angry fanaticism. But they do not have the faith to trust Him with the outcome. The less they trust, the angrier they become.

They work and worry and experience each defeat as a personal failure, until they are ready to fall over from emotional, physical and moral exhaustion. They take on the whole problem themselves. They forget that their might is nothing against the evil of a fallen world, and, more importantly, they forget that it is not, never was, never will be, up to them. 

All any of us has to do is our part. In the final analysis, all any of us has to do is what God tells us to do. In my experience, God doesn’t share His plans in detail. He just tells you what you are to do. Then, He tells someone else what they are to do. But He doesn’t tell either of you about the other. You part is to do what God wants and let Him unfold the plan.

Which He will. 

In His time and in His way, He will bring all the disparate parts of His plan together. You are a thread in the fabric He is weaving, nothing more. You may have to wait a long time to see it. You may not see it in this life. But the whole pattern will come together and when it does, it will be glorious beyond anything you could have thought of. It is not your job to see the whole of it. Your job is to trust and obey. 

You are free to enjoy the wonderful life He has given you, safe in the knowledge that He makes all things work to the good and whether or not you can see it doesn’t change that. 

As Tyler Wigg-Stevenson put it in the title of his book, The World is Not Ours to Save.

The World is Not Ours to Save: Finding the Freedom to Do Good is basically a meditation on Micah 4. Micah 4 is a prophecy of Christ and the conversion of the Gentiles, as well as the coming Kingdom of God. It contains the beautiful verses They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. 

Tyler Wigg-Stevenson has obviously thought a great deal about these prophecies. He shares his interpretation of their meaning and applies them to the work of every person who feels called to engage in the social justice battlefield on the side of the Gospels. 

The World is Not Ours to Save is a wise book with excellent advice for those who are worn slick from trying to do God’s job of saving the world rather than focusing on simply doing their part. I recommend it. 


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