New paganism from OCU, or How to become a member of "heavenly Ukraine"
A OCU "hierarch" formed a new theology where UOC prayer is harmful; in the Heavenly Kingdom, there's "spiritual Ukraine" whose soldiers are fighting "spiritual RF".
In early September, "Archbishop" Afanasiy Shkurupiy of Kharkiv and Poltava wrote on his Facebook page about a vision he had seen with his "spiritual sight" and dictated on a dictaphone. Shkurupiy beheld many "dead men in white shirts", all those who have ever lived and fought for Ukraine since princely times. The OCU "hierarch" realised that all these people now live in the "hevenly state of Ukraine" and are fighting "hevenly Russia". God is on the side of Ukraine, and the devil stands behind “heavenly Russia”.
What is this - a spiritual insight or something else?
Of course, visions of "ordinary" man is the sphere of professional interest of a psychiatrist. But if we are talking about who is considered a bishop in some Local Churches, then the analysis of his texts has undoubted theological interest. This interest is further heightened by the fact of the complete absence of any reaction from the representatives and leadership of the OCU. But, as we know, silence is a sign of agreement. Therefore, we have the right to consider the publication of Afanasiy Shkurupia not just a personal opinion but a theological concept, against which there is no objection from his colleagues in the OCU. Let's say more – it should be accepted in the Churches of Constantinople, Greece, Alexandria and Cyprus. Therefore, we propose to analyze it in detail and find out if it has anything in common with Christianity.
New "catechism" from the OCU.
There is no sense to analyze each sentence of the text by Shkurupiy, as he often rambled, repeated himself and picked up the necessary words. So, we highlight the main theses:
- In heaven, in a certain spiritual reality, there is the state of Ukraine, which includes also some territories of modern Belarus, Moldova and the Russian Federation: "There, in heaven, the Ukrainian state in all its ethnic lands was formed."
- Above Ukraine God "stretches out his hands and holds it". Ukraine is also guarded by Christ and the Mother of God.
- This "heavenly" or "spiritual" Ukraine consists exclusively of those who have ever fought for earthly Ukraine. According to Shkurupiy it is "Khmelnitsky, Vyhovsky, Sahaidachny, Doroshenko, Soviet soldiers with stars, 150, 000 UPA warriors, Tatars and the Krymchaks who fought on the side of Khmelnitsky".
- All of them "are now fighting for Ukraine in the spiritual world" (including Krymchaks and Tatars, i.e. Muslims). Thanks to their spiritual protection, Ukrainians managed to "win the Maidan and the first military intervention in the Donbass".
- "Spiritual Ukraine" is on the side of light, supported by God. There, in Heaven, it is opposed by "black forces called Russian, they are also spiritual". They are led by Satan.
- To connect with "spiritual Ukraine", earthly Ukrainians need to pray. But not every prayer will do. The prayer of UOC believers, according to Shkurupiy, is comparable to subversive detachments and "causes great harm to all of us".
- To defeat this harmful prayer of the UOC believers, it is necessary that "the number of praying OCU and conscious Ukrainians of other faiths" become equal, and even better – more than the number of UOC prayers.
What does the Church say about the posthumous fate of man?
So, according to Schkurupiy’s teaching, in the Heavenly Kingdom there is a branch of the earthly Ukraine inhabited by fallen heroes. How much does it correspond to the doctrine of the Church on the afterlife?
The teaching of Christianity on the posthumous fate of man is quite definite. From the numerous accounts of the Church fathers and the lives of the saints it follows that after death, a person goes through aerial ordeals, that is, a private judgment, which determines whether the soul is worthy to live in Heaven. Seraphim Rose in his book "The Soul after Death" asserts that "souls accused of unrepentant sins are thrown into hell by fallen spirits, while those who have successfully passed the ordeal trials freely ascend to heaven, guided by angels". Both are awaiting the Last Judgment.
St. Mark of Ephesus tells us about how and where this awaiting takes place: "The former are in perfect peace and free in heaven with angels and before God Himself, and already as in paradise, from which Adam went down; the latter, in their turn, being in hell, are in the bottomless pit, in darkness, in abyss (Ps. 87:7), as David and then Job say.
And the former abide in all joy and gladness, waiting already and only not yet having in their hands the kingdom promised them and inexpressible blessings; and the latter, on the contrary, abide in all tightness and inconsolable suffering, as some condemned awaiting the sentence of the Judge and anticipating their torment.
And neither the former have not yet received the inheritance of the Kingdom and those benefits, what no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived (1Kop. 2: 9), nor the latter are not yet delivered to eternal torment and burning in unquenchable fire. And this doctrine we have handed down from our Fathers from antiquity and we can easily imagine from the Divine Scriptures.”
In other words, people awaiting the Last Judgment can be in only two places, either in Heaven or Hell.
And certainly none of the Holy Fathers say that apart from paradise and hell there can exist some "spiritual states", repeating earthly political-territorial formations. This was clearly said by Apostle Paul in his famous appeal to throw off the old self and put on the new self, "which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all" (Col. 3:10-11).
None of the Holy Fathers say that apart from paradise and hell there can exist some "spiritual states", repeating earthly political-territorial formations.
If we adapt these words to Shkurupiy’s vision, we can say that in the Kingdom of Heaven isn’t and cannot be either a Ukrainian, or Tatar, or Russian, or UPA warrior, or Soviet soldier. All this remained in the "old self", in the new self only one division is possible – you are either with Christ or you are not.
Is "heavenly Ukraine" our Valhalla?
As we can see, the existence of political earthly states in Heaven contradicts both the Holy Scripture and the very foundations of Christianity. But what is then this "heavenly Ukraine", whose inhabitants are waging a "spiritual battle" for the interests of earthly Ukraine?
In Norse mythology there is a belief in Valhalla, a certain heavenly realm where after death the warriors who fell in battle go and where they continue the heroic life of their past. Valhalla is ruled by the god Odin. The warriors who live in Valhalla are called the einherjar. Each day in the morning, they don their armour and fight to the death, by noon their wounds are healed, and the dead are brought back to life. For their exploits, they are honoured by the goddess Freyja and beautiful maidens. The belief in Valhalla is still very popular today, especially in some right-wing circles. In fact, the slogan "Heroes do not die" has its roots in this ideology.
One cannot fail to notice that Schkurupiy’s theology is very reminiscent of this mythology. Both Valhalla and "spiritual Ukraine" are inhabited by warriors who died on earth. In both “states”, they continue their feats of arms. Also, it is easy to see that neither Valhalla nor "spiritual Ukraine" fits into the Christian framework.
And here an important point must be made. In the "Ukrainian heaven", there are not only Christians but also Muslims (Tatars and Krymchaks). That is, for the OCU "hierarch", the religion of the "heavenly Ukrainians" does not play any role. The only criterion for holiness is not a confession of Christ, not a righteous life, but death for state interests. And such position is not new in theology. True, it is an Islamic position, not a Christian one.
In Islam, for example, there is the concept of shahid, which is applied to believers who die in war against their enemies, fighting in the name of Allah and defending their faith and homeland.
If UOC prayer is "harmful", then who is God with?
Probably, the central part of Shkurupiy's theology is his attitude to prayer, in particular – the thesis about "harmfulness" of prayer of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church: "Prayer of UOC MP believers – representatives of the ROC in Ukraine – is like sabotage squads or military units in the rear, inside Ukraine in the spiritual world, and they cause very great harm to all of us."
What can be said to that?
The UOC is a part of the Ecumenical Church of Christ, in whose temples the Holy Spirit descends on bread and wine at the Eucharist, where sins are forgiven in confession, the sacraments of Marriage, Anointing, etc. are performed. The Gospel says, "We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will" (John 9:31). Christians know that our world still stands only because of the prayer of the righteous. Including righteous people from the UOC. Therefore, to say that prayer in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is "harmful" is a sign of some serious spiritual illness.
To say that prayer in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is "harmful" is a sign of some serious spiritual illness.
And the statement that for a spiritual shield over Ukraine the prayer of the UOC should be opposed by the "joined prayer" of the OCU and "conscious Ukrainians" of other faiths (obviously, Catholics, Uniates and Muslims), is not even an illness, it is something that has nothing to do with Christianity.
Preaching the "war of prayers", Shkurupiy, in fact, expresses the pagan ideology, according to which the gods fight, and the people, whose god is stronger, win. Based on this world view, the pagans adopted a faith that was foreign to them and submitted to the authority of those nations who had "the strongest god". They had their own, pagan logic. But what does this logic have to do with Christ, the Gospel and the Church? Absolutely nothing.
"He who does not have the Church as his mother, does not have God as his father."
The appearance of "heavenly Ukraine" in the theological thought of the OCU is not a surprise. The sacralization of Ukraine, its symbols and heroes has been taking place in this organization for a very long time, and Shkurupiy simply raised this tendency to absolute.
The phrase of Cyprian of Carthage "He who does not have the church as his mother, does not have God as his father" is not popular here. Simply because both mother and father look different here.
OCU "hierarch" Matthew Shevchuk declared back in 2016: "Our mother is our land." In 2021, the clerics and "hierarchs" of the OCU repeatedly and enthusiastically sang "Bandera is our father, Ukraine is our mother". OCU clerics "serve" in the vestments of the Ukrainian flag colours and with a map of Ukraine, and in front of the church they attach flagpoles with a Ukrainian flag to a cross with a crucifix.
These examples are not an attempt to "sting" Dumenko’s associates in any way. This is the inner mood of many clergy and believers of this structure.
Christ told us, "My Kingdom is not of this world... My Kingdom is from another place" (John 18:36). Shkurupiy’s theology declares the opposite: the Ukrainian state from this earthly world also exists in the Kingdom of Heaven. And the inhabitants of this "Ukrainian Kingdom" are not righteous people who pleased God but soldiers who died for the glory of earthly Ukraine. God, His Love and His Sacrifice for the sins of the whole world do not matter because there is a "dark" territory in the world where not even a glimmer of light can be seen. This means that salvation is not the result of faith in Christ, belonging to His Church and living a godly life, but the result of being born in a particular territory or of fighting for its independence.
And it is difficult even to say which is more in this hodgepodge – paganism, Christianity, nationalism or crude materialism. And it hardly matters that much.
Many in Ukraine say that there is no difference between the OCU and the UOC, that Dumenko’s followers, after being recognized by the Phanar, are the same part of Christ's Church. However, from time to time, we receive shocking facts from the OCU that none of this is true.
St. John Chrysostom claims that sooner or later any schism turns into heresy. And the theology of Afanasiy Shkurupiy confirms this idea of the saint brilliantly.
And those parishioners of the OCU, for whom faith in Christ is still dearer than faith in the nation, should think about this very seriously.