War and Courage

Imagine for a moment that all commercial media outlets in the United States are shut down summarily by our government. Both CNN and Fox News go dark and almost every newspaper is prevented from going to press. And then imagine that the President of the United States issues an executive order that makes reporting any news story that varies from the official government version of events punishable by up to 15 years in jail. While it is almost impossible to envision here (thank God!), this is the current reality in Russia. All independent news outlets have been shut down or intimidated into silence. Over 100 million Russians are only hearing what their autocratic ruler wants them to hear.

That’s what makes the defiant acts of Marina Ovsyannikova all the more remarkable. Ovsyannikova is a longtime reporter and news anchor at one of the Moscow’s few remaining news stations, Chanel 1 operated by TASS. Last week she walked past the guards into a TV studio with a homemade poster and held it up in the background as another newscaster reported on air about the “Special Operation” happening in the Ukraine. The sign she held read: “”NO WAR. Stop the war. Don’t believe the propaganda. They’re lying to you here.”

She was quickly apprehended by the guards and whisked away for arrest. While she was detained for two days, because of international attention (and people like us reading about her actions all over the world…) she was released. Even so, this mother of two elementary-aged kids fully expects to be sentenced to jail for her “traitorous activity.” She will join a long and sad chorus of Russians who have dared to speak out against the crimes of their country and are now being punished. For example, journalist and former presidential candidate Alexei Navalny was just sentenced to 13 years in prison.  

As the tragedy in the Ukraine continues, it is clear that there is a physical war being fought on the ground and a war of propaganda being waged online and on-air. At this point we can only hope that the lies promulgated by the Russian government will be dispelled. The more the world recoils in shock and then responds forcefully to the invasion, the harder it will be to censor the truth of what is happening.

In a world where various groups and nations have never been more powerful and interconnected, truth matters. Some semblance of objective reality is not only important but morally necessary. We see this more clearly during times like this. I am reminded of that line attributed to the Rev. William Sloan Coffin: “the world is too dangerous for anything but truth, and too small for anything but love.” Indeed!

During Fellowship Hour this Sunday we plan to hold another photo op with some of the gift cards we have collected to benefit Afghani refugees. We have done a wonderful and lovely thing with this gift card drive. Details about this are here below.

See you in church,