UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi announced this morning that two million people have now fled Ukraine as conditions worsen by the day. How did you react to this news?
I fear that you and I are becoming accustomed to this unfolding tragedy and thus inured to the suffering we see in our daily headlines. This is understandable, as humans can withstand only so much bad news.
In this sense, Ukraine may be turning into another version of the coronavirus pandemic. We learned yesterday that the global COVID-19 death toll has passed six million. If one of the six million was someone close to you, I suspect you feel very differently about this report than those who have been spared such tragedy (so far).
Humans naturally filter the news through the lens of personal self-interest. For example, when I saw a headline about a “giant spider” infestation spreading across the southern US, I scanned the article to learn whether these insects are poisonous or not. (They are, but their bite is so tiny that they are reportedly not much of a threat to humans.) I did the same with news about a COVID-19 roadmap for the future, new DNA tests to detect diseases, and a report that women who visit a crisis pregnancy center are less likely to get an abortion.
Since, like you, I engage the culture through the prism of personal relevance, an article explaining why Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the beginning of a “new Cold War” that will affect every American caught my immediate attention.
This challenge “will test our nation to its core”
Ukraine and Russia have been engaged in conflict for many centuries. (For the history of their often-fraught relationship, I recommend Mark Legg’s excellent article on our website, “Why does Russia want Ukraine?“).
However, as geopolitical analyst Elliott Abrams explains in an article titled “The New Cold War,” this time is different: “A fully rearmed, aggressive Russia and a rich, aggressive, and technologically advanced China [are telling] us that the international order that has lasted since 1945 must end, and American predominance with it.”
Abrams points to the Vladimir Putin–Xi Jinping joint statement on February 4: “The new inter-State relations between Russia and China are superior to political and military alliances of the Cold War era. Friendship between the two States has no limits, there are no ‘forbidden’ areas of cooperation.” He then comments: “This is a clear announcement of a new alliance meant to go beyond the Cold War—in part by creating a partnership that will lead to a very different outcome this time.”
In Abrams’ opinion, responding to this “new Cold War” is a challenge that “will test our nation to its core.” He believes the US should support Ukrainian resistance against the Russian invaders with money and weapons, then redeploy our European forces east to protect the nations that have borders with Russia and (now) Ukraine.
Next, he believes we should rally our allies across the globe, match China in advanced military technology, modernize and expand our nuclear arsenal, and enhance our energy production to support Europe as it weans itself from Russian energy sources.
According to Abrams, this “new Cold War” is fundamentally a battle between dictatorial autocracy and freedom. For context, he notes that Ronald Reagan “always understood that the Cold War was more than a conflict among states; it was even more fundamentally an ideological conflict between the forces of liberty and the powers that would snuff it out nation by nation until our own was in jeopardy.”
Abrams concludes: “This new struggle has been thrust upon us by Russia and China; there is no escaping it. Strength will be rewarded, and weakness will be punished. The days of easy American preponderance have come to an end; for the next few decades we will have to work hard to keep the global balance of forces from turning against us.”
Why liberty needs God
In such a global conflict between totalitarianism and freedom, you and I have a foundational role to play.
George Washington famously observed in his 1796 Farewell Address: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” Our first president added that “reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
Consensual democracy depends upon consensual morality, but as Gen. Washington noted, morality requires religion. C. S. Lewis explained why in Mere Christianity: “You cannot make men good by law; and without good men you cannot have a good society.”
The good news is that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Any of us who turns to Christ as our Savior and surrenders daily to his Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) can manifest his character (Romans 8:29; Galatians 5:22–23) in ways that empower our democracy and enrich the common good.
The bad news is that this new “Cold War” over freedom is coming at the worst time in American history for such holistic faith.
The fastest-growing religious demographic in America is that segment of our population that professes no religion. Gallup announced last year that the percentage of Americans who claim membership in a church, synagogue, or mosque has fallen below 50 percent for the first time in our nation’s history. As I document in my latest book, The Coming Tsunami, our culture brands Christians as outdated, intolerant, oppressive, and dangerous on a level unprecedented in our nation’s history.
As a result, it is imperative that you and I become the change we wish to see. We cannot give what we do not possess or lead others where we will not go. As I noted yesterday, our example as Spirit-empowered Christ-followers can attract our secular culture to the One who is transforming us by his love and grace. But if we are “conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2), why would the world want what we have?
We will continue this vital conversation tomorrow. For today, I invite you to join me in asking God to empower a great movement of believers who say to Jesus every day, “Whatever you ask, whatever it takes, whatever the cost.” Then let’s answer our prayer with our daily, holistic submission to our King.
In The Normal Christian Life, Watchman Nee observed: “Not until the Lordship of Jesus Christ is a settled thing in our hearts can the Spirit really operate effectively in us. He cannot direct our lives effectually until all control of them is committed to him. If we do not give him absolute authority in our lives, he can be present, but he cannot be powerful. The power of the Spirit is stayed.”
Is the Lordship of Jesus Christ a “settled thing” in your heart today?
If not, why not?