Seeing the devastation that Putin’s war is wrecking on a country and on individual lives is alarming.  Hearing the stories of just some of the 2 million persons who have been forced to flee their country and leave loved ones behind is equally disturbing.  It renders one speechless that so much suffering can happen at the hands of one person.

“Children flee under fire as Russians advance on Kyiv.” The Russian onslaught continues just north of Kyiv as Vladimir Putin’s forces advance on Ukraine’s capital. Video by BBC News.

We see images of wives and girl friends and mothers and children escaping the violence of the war while the men stay behind to fight it, some in their teens, some in their fifties.  We see old people being left behind because they cannot make the arduous journey; and others doing their best struggling to make it.  We see children crying in the basements and metro stations. 

How can life be so cruel and how can humans be so cruel to other humans? 

What price we are willing to pay for our ideologies?  What is the ease with which we surrender our humanity for…what?  Victory?  Hatred?  Power?  The thrill of seeing others suffer?  The triumph of a belief?  An idol?  What’s it all about?  How many others will suffer in the process?

To grasp the meaning of war, it behooves us to think about our relationships.  Think about just one person fleeing the country and leaving behind the following:

CNN‘s Clarissa Ward reports from Kyiv Central Station, where Ukrainians attempting to escape the country face large crowds as Russian forces hit closer to the capital.

A loved one, a husband or lover.
A parent or grandparent.
A pet.
A place.  A home.  One’s plants.  One’s photographs and memories. 
One’s possessions.
One’s yard and one’s neighborhood.
One’s job and one’s co-workers.
One’s workplace.

The list can go on and on.  It is a list of relations.

When the Lakota people pray, they always pray “all our relations.”  This is a profound way of remembering the sacredness of all relationships.

Meister Eckhart says, “relation is the essence of everything that exists.”  This is echoed by today’s physics as well.  That is why we are all “interdependent.” And it is also why we are capable of compassion which is the working out of our interdependence in both joy and sorrow. 

“All our relations” A video prayer honoring our oneness with all living things. Video by Jan Phillips.

Until we choose otherwise.  And choose to treat others as objects, not as subjects we are in in relationship with.  One cannot wage war without stepping outside the circle of “all our relations” and into a box of “us vs. them,” of subject vs. object.

Is war the opposite of relationship, the opposite of honoring the sacredness of beings and our being-with other beings? 

Evil and War are efforts to destroy the Sacred, to rupture all our relations.  What drives humans to that end?

See Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society

See also Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics, pp. 211f

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: Building attacked by Russia in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Photo by Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, Wikimedia Commons.

Queries for Contemplation

Do you see war as a rupture of relationships?  And thereby the destruction of the Sacred?  Do we still honor the Sacred?  How so?  How not?

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15 thoughts on “War as Rupture of Relationships”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, Besides your “Query for Contemplation” you pose a number of other questions as well and I would like to address them too. First the is: “How can life be so cruel and how can humans be so cruel to other humans?” Most Christians would say that human cruelty is the result of sin–Original Sin. I however see it just as the result of human selfishness and greed. Your statement: “When the Lakota people pray, they always pray “all our relations”–this is a profound way of remembering the sacredness of all relationships.” It definitely is and we should remember in all of the war and conflict we are all related. Next you ask: “Is war the opposite of relationship, the opposite of honoring the sacredness of beings and our being-with other beings?” It is as opposite as one can get. In war, we do not honor the sacredness of all beings, rather we treat them as if they are just things. And finally you ask: “Evil and War are efforts to destroy the Sacred, to rupture all our relations. What drives humans to that end?” Once again, while most Christians would attribute it to Satan or Original Sin, I feel it is just the result of selfishness and greed. In Buddhism they say the three poisons are: lust, greed and ignorance.
    And for your Query for Contemplations you write: “Do you see war as a rupture of relationships? And thereby the destruction of the Sacred? Do we still honor the Sacred? How so? How not?” Yes, I see war as a rupture of relationships–it is definitely putting a wedge between Ukraine and Russia, and it complicates everything. War does destroy the sacred in property, in lives, and even our faith. So we must motivate ourselves to continue to see the sacred in all of God’s creation.

  2. Avatar
    Isabel Stanley

    I thought of the rupture of relationships in war yesterday when I heard that the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow is preaching in favor of the war with Ukraine. I thought, how can this be? Apparently the Ukrainian Orthodox Christians feel cast aside by their Russian religious leadership. How awful in the midst of the suffering they are enduring!
    Pray for all our relations.

  3. Avatar

    Mr. Kuykendall: selfishness and greed are aspects of sin, and the powers of darkness. In the universe darkness and light, good and evil, life and death, and all polarities have a peculiar relationship with one another. Scripture declares that iniquity and grace and their interplay are both mysteries. Hard to put them on Matthew’s list of “all relationship,” but they belong there, like it or not. They’re part of the yet unreconciled universal tension between what Jesus referred to as “this world” and “My Kingdom.” Recall, he declared that the wheat and tares (polarities) are to grow alongside one other “until the harvest” (or end), when they shall be separated, with the tares burned and wheat “gathered into my barns.” So ‘original blessing’ and original sin’ are part of this mysterious electric interplay of contraries in the field of space-time, and must be given equal consideration. Not so post-harvest, when all shall be one, undivided and un-conflictial. And who knows when that shall be? Says Paul in Romans 8, the whole creation ‘groans and travails’ awaiting deliverance from its ‘bondage and corruption’ polarities. To pretend the don’t exist, or to minimize same, especially during these perilous times, does not make them go away.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Mr. Masterleo, You write in response to my comment, ” Says Paul in Romans 8, the whole creation ‘groans and travails’ awaiting deliverance from its ‘bondage and corruption’ polarities. To pretend the don’t exist, or to minimize same, especially during these perilous times, does not make them go away. Says Paul in Romans 8, the whole creation ‘groans and travails’ awaiting deliverance from its ‘bondage and corruption’ polarities. To pretend the don’t exist, or to minimize same, especially during these perilous times, does not make them go away.”
      My response is: I realize and agree with what St. Paul actually says, “For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption that is, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:22-23). What St. Paul is speaking about is our resurrection not “awaiting deliverance from its ‘bondage and corruption’. And I do not “pretend they don’t exist, or minimize the same”–in fact I believe I addressed the reality of the two polarities in my comment.

  4. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    There was a particular statement within today’s DM, that really caught my attention, that being “compassion is the working out of our interdependence in both JOY and SORROW. The BBC, reported that this morning, in Freedom Square in the Ukraine, men gathered together as an orchestra, playing not only the Ukraine National Anthem but also Ode To Joy. I was awed by this seemingly paradoxal scene… in the midst of such suffering and sorrow of this war, men were musically playing this uplifting, joyful song. However, after reading the words that caught my attention in today’s DM… I began to perceive this event as a unifying act of compassion that in some strange and unfamiliar way, was actually offering a holy instant moment of joy, amidst all the suffering and sorrow. I began to wonder how these seemingly paradoxal and contradictory experiences… when seen as apart of the whole could indeed lead to an awakening of interdependence? I find it challenging to wrap my heart, mind and soul around this… to comprehend the connection amidst all of the suffering and sorrowful images and stories of the utter separation and distruction of relationships unfolding within this war.

    As I pondered further, I wondered if humanity, through the suffering and sorrows of this war… are really starting to awaken globally, to just how interdependent we are, for example on oil and gas… and our relationship to the resources that the Mother Earth has supplied and given of herself… all be it in a ravaged and disrespectful manner by humanity. Will the awareness of this global interrelationship lead us together in making more eco-environmentally green choices, addressing the serious climate change crisis we are facing? Will the sufferings and sorrows of this war and the global awakening of interdependence cause humanity to act with compassion towards the living beingness of this planet and the beauty of the all and the everything of creation, restoring humanities relationship with not only Mother Earth, but also with all nations? Is this the hope of joy, desiring to passionately unfold, evolve and emerge in the midst of all the suffering and sorrow of this war?

    What echoes in the distance of all this pondering, are the words of Spirit whispering… “nothing is impossible with God… God can and does make something good out of what is perceived to be so tragically sinfull… My ways are not your ways, for they are much higher, beyond your limited comprehension and understanding… what God has joined together, no man can tear asunder.” For now, I simply must live in the in-between place… within the tension of the Cross we are all bearing together… with arms wide open in compassion, hoping that what is happening in this world is the unfolding, evolving and emerging Great Mystery, working out within, through and for humanity the interdependence of ALL relationships… in both JOY and SORROW.

  5. Avatar

    A prayer

    Beloved God, I hold the people of Ukraine in my heart today
    I ask you to send scores of angels to protect Ukraine’s people
    May they surround those fleeing the country
    May they surround Ukraine’s cultural treasures,
    Their glorious churches
    Their art galleries and libraries
    And keep them safe
    May the angels surround Ukraine’s nuclear power plants
    And keep them safe
    May they protect the gentle creatures caught up in the war
    The elephants and turtles, the lions and monkeys in zoos
    The house cats and dogs left behind
    Wondering why

    Protect the old
    Give them the strength to continue on their journey out of the country
    Or keep them safe in their shelters
    Give them the strength and wisdom to protect the young in their care
    Give them stories to delight the little ones
    That the children might believe that life and joy may return

    Help the Russian soldiers abandon their weapons of war
    May they fly their planes safely to the ground, abandon them
    And give them to the Ukrainians for their own use
    May they abandon their tanks and their weapons
    And join the Ukrainian soldiers in defense of their neighbors
    Give them all enough food to eat, enough shelter, enough care

    Beloved God, I do not like war
    I do not hope for anyone to use a weapon of war
    It feels desperately wrong to pray that one side prevails
    Yet I cannot yet understand other ways to fight off evil
    Of this might
    A might built on power and greed and lust
    Forgive me for these prayers Gentle God
    Lead us all in another way
    Help all your people to learn the absurdity of war
    And may we never see war again
    May this become
    What this time teaches us
    May we never see war no more.

  6. Avatar

    Let us continue to pray for God’s Spirit of Love~Wisdom~Peace~Justice~Strength~Creativity~Beauty~Joy to continue to grow in our hearts, especially in the hearts of all our world leaders and activists….

  7. Avatar

    I admire the women of the Ukraine who took their children to safety and then returned to fight beside their men and boys. While it is certainly not a popular stance here, I believe in self defense in whatever way is forced upon me.

    For us as a nation not to help the Ukrainians in every way that we can, is indefensible. Unfortunately, policies over decades has brought us to this point. I have very mixed feelings about the efficacy of sanctions, since it is the people of Russia who suffer the loss of their economy. Putin could care less. I pray for them all.

    War sanctioned by the “Church” illustrates the danger of a nationalized religion. As Matthew has pointed out, Hitler had the full support of the German church.

    As someone else pointed out, here in this crisis is an opportunity for the world to come together and to be so shocked that we begin to dismantle the structures that make war possible and even inevitable. How will we as a nation and how will the world learn this lesson that should have been learned from the pandemic and climate crises? I do not know. Clearly, seeing our interdependence, our interbeing, is absolutely necessary for any real progress to be made.

  8. Avatar

    I also do not think that we should be surprised by the extent of the evil here, once we begin to process our shock. Putin’s behavior reminds me of the story of the scorpion and the frog–it is in his nature to continue, whether he brings his own downfall or not.

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