LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) – A Southern Baptist theologian is pushing back against comments made by the leading Russian Orthodox priest as thousands of Russian men are fleeing the country in the face of a forced draft.
Earlier this week Patriarch Krill said, “Many are dying in the fields of internecine warfare. The Church prays that this battle will end as quickly as possible, that as few brothers as possible will kill each other in this fratricidal war.
“And at the same time the Church is aware that if someone, moved by a sense of duty, by the need to fulfil his oath, remains faithful to his calling and dies in the performance of his military duty, he is undoubtedly committing an act tantamount to sacrifice,” according to news.com.au.
“He sacrifices himself for others. And so, we believe that this sacrifice washes away all the sins one has committed.”
The comments come as Russian President Vladmir Putin scrambles to respond to Ukrainian forces driving back his army in the months-long invasion of Ukraine.
“The pronouncement of Patriarch Kirill is little different than the sort of indulgences that Martin Luther fought against in the Reformation,” said Andrew T. Walker, associate professor of Christian ethics at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “Whereas Luther was opposing indulgences for constructing buildings for Catholicism’s empire, Kirill’s indulgence is meant to bolster Russian empire.”
Walker takes offense with Kirill’s mingling Christian doctrine with war propaganda.
“It is also blasphemous to compare the meritorious sacrifice of Christ with the military operations led by a former KGB officer. Kirill’s pronouncement is as unbiblical as it is absurd,” he told Baptist Press in written comments.
More than 194,000 Russians have left the country to try to avoid Putin’s draft, according to the Associated Press.
The BBC reports Russia has carried out a “sham election” in parts of Ukraine this week to try to force Ukrainians to agree to the Russian takeover.
The remarks made by Kirill are being widely viewed as propaganda to Putin’s agenda.
Walker, who is a fellow at The Ethics and Public Policy Center at SBTS, says this is what happens when the church is run by the state.
“It is the worst sort of example of the odious effects that come when church and state get too cozy with one another – false promises, a corrupt church, and an empowered state.
“In this example and, virtually all others like it, the church ends up becoming a puppet for the state to consolidate its power. What’s left is a church with little prowess apart from the subservience it renders to the state.”