As we discussed the kingdom of God Sunday, I mentioned the complicated relationship that exists at times between the church and state. If you needed another example of the church compromising her commitment to the kingdom of God by becoming a tool for the kingdom of man, you need look no further than the Russian Orthodox church.
In exchange for prestige, public funding and government influence, the church has allowed herself to be used by Putin to legitimize his presidency. The strange relationship between the former head of the KGB and the church has been the subject of much analysis that others with more understanding of Russian politics and culture than myself can address.
That strange relationship made an awkward moment caught on tape seem more bizarre. Here’s a clip from a visit Russian president Vladmir Putin made last week to the Valaam Monastery in Karelia.
There has been a lot of speculation regarding what’s taking place here. The official line is that this priest and Putin have a long relationship and that the Russian president was “joking” when he raised his fist at the priest. (NOTE to members of BCC: If you are thinking of joking with me in this way, you should know that I usually respond to this type of humor with a fetal position rather than laughter.)
We may not ever fully understand the exchange and why it took place. What is interesting is why the event has attracted so much attention. Putin’s relationship with the Russian Orthodox church appears to be an example of a church failing to keep itself separate from the entanglements of this earthly kingdom.
The church must to love her government enough to speak hard truths to it. We do not shy away from political discussion. Indeed, we embrace the opportunity to engage our culture. But as we do so, we must not allow ourselves or our message to be compromised by political parties or the lure of political influence. We proclaim Christ and Him crucified, eagerly anticipating the establishment of His kingdom.