Vasyl Boyechko: ‘EuroMaidan, like litmus paper, reveals who we are’
Vasyl Boyechko, Bishop of the Church of Christians of Evangelical Faith in the Lviv region and former religious dissident, said that EuroMaidan was organized according to two gospel principles – do not repay evil with evil and do not choose your leaders. In his view, EuroMaidan is a divine-national resistance, and the mission of the church is to be in the “hot spots.” Doctor of theology and the host of the television show “Vichne Dzherelo” (Eternal Spring), Vasyl Boechko speaks about the role the Pentecostal churches had in the events of EuroMaidan.
— Some journalists who are analyzing the involvement of Christian denominations in the sociopolitical events in Ukraine said that Protestants are rather passive. The UGCC and the UOC-KP were the first to express their attitude toward the dispersal of EuroMaidan; the Protestants did so a bit later. In addition, neutrality reigns in some churches, while for others the only way to participate in EuroMaidan is with prayer, and clerics from others came out to Maidan, albeit belatedly. Why are there so many different positions?
— It depends on the level of spiritual awareness. When the Holy Spirit directs the people, there cannot be different positions. When the first apostolic church experienced persecution, no one said that it is necessary to compromise with the government. When Peter was imprisoned, the church prayed diligently. When the apostles were threatened by an order not to talk anymore about Christ, they asked for God's protection and openly said: “Lord, look upon their threats.” It was resistance. It was politics. It was anti-state actions. When state leaders said “keep quite,” they proclaimed the word of truth more courageously. And there were not various directions. Remember how at Pentecost, when the apostles prayed, the place where they stood moved. Not because of the cry, but because God confirmed his presence this prayer.
EuroMadian, like litmus paper, reveals who we are. To some extent, it showed how we are spiritually behind. No matter what quotations we use to hide this, there is a spiritual myopia. Today we have to repent. There are people who proclaim their prophecies and revelations about when something will happen. And you stand in the waters of the Jordan at a time when the Jordan had not retreated. For me as a prisoner of the communist regime it is especially painful, because I was the initiator of resistance to the communist government of the Central Committee and initiated the writing of a collective letter of 50 Pentecostal bishops in the Soviet Union. My signature was the first one. But when I was in prison, some senior ministers said that it serves me right. They said maybe I will learn something in prison, why did I have to disturb the Kremlin?
I sometimes think to myself what would have happened if we had done nothing, if we had not organized numerous underground printing houses that published the Gospel and hymnbooks. That’s how it was then, that’s how it is partially now. But I do not think these people represent the church. I am sure that most people have the right vision and attitude. Their prayer and activity are important.
— According to my observations, the positions of Ukrainian churches are dictated by two motives – religious motives of people who believe rallies are an anti-Biblical form of protest, and political motives under the guise of religious ones of people who actually reinforce the authoritarianism of the current government with their statements. For example, the Orthodox Archpriest Andriy Tkachov, despite his statements about the rottenness of the government and the opposition, declared that EuroMaidan is a legitimate popular anger in an illegal form. What do you have to say about this?
— Is it necessary to ask him to comment on this. This phrase is meaningless. What legal form does he have in mind when people are standing up for their dignity in a biblical way, a nonviolent way? They do not encourage bloodshed. And that may be another way? I completely disagree with these statements. The fact that some people confuse nonviolent forms of resistance with violent resistance is our spiritual affliction, spiritual ignorance, which is followed by political illiteracy.
I was asked to write an article entitled “The Church and Politics” for one of the anthologies. We often understand that the church is completely separated from politics. But then what about the hero of faith, such as Joseph, who was second only to the pharaoh? If you are endowed with the spirit of Daniel, Gideon, or Joseph, then you can subdue the whole state. Mahatma Gandhi, the spiritual and state leader of India, was not a Christian, but he deeply studied Christianity. He achieved national independence of India, relying on the teachings of Christ. It was Gandhi who said, “When I read the Gospel, I want to be a Christian, but when I look at the life of Christians, I distance myself from them.”
— Every Ukrainian should have his or her political position and the right to expression. However, some Christians are neutral. Is this not a special form of indifference to the plight of one’s people and which has an acceptable way to participate in the political life of the country?
— To begin with, some people do not fully understand the meaning of the word “to bless.” In charismatic churches it became a sort of greeting: "Be blessed." Or as they say: “God Bless our President, our government.” How can we in the name of God bless lawlessness? To bless means to speak a good word. In this case, moving to the side of the government’s tyranny. Being indifferent to bloodshed, atrocities, and corruption. People do not understand this when they use the word “bless.” When God calls on us to bless even our enemies, then in such a way it contradicts all attempts to insult or curse. We, to the extent in which we are capable, should do everything possible to make inactive people come to their senses. “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap hot coals upon his head.” And if he does not repent, then God's wrath, like hot coals, will fall on him, because that is how he will understand the precautions. In other words, awaken his conscience.
There is a difference between flirtation with the government and the wishes of a pious life of righteousness and truth, resulting in God's blessing. One must say, “Live so that God will bless you.” A person already understands whether he is blessed or not.
— So a Christian’s participation in politics is the role of a moral medic who responds to every injustice and at the same time proclaims the truth?
— A very good example is John the Baptist. To him came soldiers - the security forces of the state and asked him what to do. “Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely, and be content with your wages,” he said to them. A few words but so much wisdom. Recall the army, which the king of Syria sent to capture Elisha, and he prayed and God struck them with blindness. By God’s craft, the king fed the soldiers and let them go in peace. It is written that those hordes no longer went to the land of Israel. This turn of events was sudden and painful. John the Baptist did not encourage the army to disband, did not call for chaos, but requested, fulfilling his law enforcement activity, not to commit violence. Therefore, two options remain: either the commander will listen to your position and not encourage violence, or you will get fired from the army.
When John stood before the wicked Herod, his words were not streamlined. He spoke directly, as it were, in short, like a sword, struck at the sore spot. “It is not right for you to live with your brother's wife,” he told Herod and paid for this with his life. But he was the fearless hero of Christianity. He did not destroy the state, but exposed the defects which he saw.
The religious position of the church and the political position of each of its members are obviously different. Thus the church can officially approve the association with the European Union, but some of its members will disagree with this. However, some people are not aware of the difference, try to make the position of individuals or groups of people the position of the whole church, and vice versa. How do they relate?
— The church has no right to be apolitical and has no right to be political. This means that it has a strategic objective from the Lord. “And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.’” (Mark 16:15). This is strategy of God’s Church. Despite all the political vicissitudes, we must ensure we fulfill the Lord 's command.
Although in the sociopolitical sector the Pentecostal Church is not too noticeable, in terms of evangelization in the East it has done an incredible amount. I was there at the beginning of the evangelization in Russia. I was part of a missionary group that went to work in the Tuva Republic. Our brothers and sisters served as missionaries in the Trans-Baikal, Irkutsk Oblast, the Far East, Kolyma, Chukotka and Kamchatka. When we held in Moscow the first congress of Pentecostal bishops in the Russian Federation, there were 50 churches, but today the number has increased to almost 2,500. I will not say that the Ukrainian church has fully accomplished its commandment, but it did a lot.
Today the Lord returns it to the West, which is experiencing a spiritual decline. Why not become a light for them, why not awaken in them the spirit of Christianity? Why not stop the atrocities? They say that the West is suffering from homosexuality, but it is not true. Of the 28 EU countries, only 8 have legalized gay marriage. So our strategy is to help. We need Western states: Germany, Belgium, France – and they ask to send their missionaries. So for these reasons I prefer the European direction. Not because golden apples will fall from the trees and manna will fall from heaven, but because advancement is a spiritual matter – the salvation of the people and turning away from destruction.
What are our prospects with the Russian Empire? The state church, which has always been the most relentless toward evangelical Christians, remains so. It was repressive and never made the slightest concessions. Before the revolution of 1917, the Holy Synod blessed the suffering that the small evangelical church endured. But God’s cause does not depend on Patriarch Kirill or his entourage. Even in tight circumstances, the church is growing, particularly in Asian countries where persecution is severe.
— What do you think, is EuroMaidan a phenomenon purely of national will or an awakening from God?
— When the Israelites passed over Jordan, two generations wanted to stay. They had already settled. Moses did not forbid them, but warned: “Remember, your sin will find you.” He had in mind that if they did not go ahead and did not help those 10 generations, it would be on their conscience. To win, you must work in solidarity. Often, God educates a person through his mistakes. If a person does not want to obey God through His Word, the Holy Spirit, God allows discord. Today God has given us an independent sovereign state, but inflicted it with lawlessness. Corruption, bought degrees, unemployment, apathy – all of this has accumulated. Therefore, EuroMaidan is a divine-national resistance. If people do not listen, God will allow for there to be tight circumstances. In Egypt, the people of Israel moaned in prayer – it was so hard to work in captivity. That’s how it was until a leader came who called them to the desert. However, they did not immediately agree. If you do not want to take care of your freedom from spiritual inspiration, then you will feel oppression so you will do it. In Ukraine this time has come. Above all, the expression of will must be controlled and the process must be coordinated by honest leaders who have the Fear of God, and not the ambitious ones. Then there will be a result.