“Maidan Theology” in experience and reflection of the younger generation of Ukrainian Protestants

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The events on Kiev Maidan and the subsequent Russian-Ukrainian war draw one’s attention not only to its tragic nature but also to its peculiar ‘hybrid’ character. Religion has played a determining role along with political, economic, and socio-cultural motives. Christian interpretation of the events could guarantee the mobilization of religious community, represent civil protest as ‘the revolution of dignity’, and move the focus from a particular political issue relevant for the country development to some fundamental points of worldview as well as moral, spiritual issues.
In terms of Christian faith, the ‘Euromaidan’ has become the event much greater, truly revolutionary by its depth and scale of changes. Addressing the ‘students of the Maidan’ the archbishop Borys Gudziak stated that “This Maidan is all about true things. It is about the principles, fundamentals, profundity, and dignity. Living through current moments we together reveal the sacrament of our common being. People, who had a chance to ‘talk’ to the policemen and members of the Berkut police, were able to see the sacrament in their eyes” [22].
‘The sacrament of our common being’ has been revealed not only to the community but to the Church as well. The Christian community itself needed to be reoriented, to develop a new language and new theological approaches towards the events taking place in Ukraine, which was rather tentatively called ‘the theology of Maidan’.
An article with such title was published as early as on the 12th of December 2013 by a famous Orthodox author, the archimandrite Cyrill (Hovorun). He wrote about religious and political simulation of Christianity and encouraged the Church to turn its face towards average people “Ukrainian churches now have the opportunity to step out of the gray zone of collaborationism with the criminal authorities and stand on its ground as the ‘Confessing church’, which had stood against the Nazi in Germany. Nowadays churches in Ukraine can grow up to the level of society, which is rapidly growing on the basis of those values that should have been demonstrated by the churches. It is time to change our relationship with the authorities. It is time to put our relationship with people’s rights. It is time to learn from the people how to appreciate and stand for one’s dignity, decency, and humanness” [10].
In this brief preliminary text there are a few highlighted points which are going to be common for “Maidan theology” as an inter-confessional movement: focus on the community as the main subject of relationship (and not the state); ecumenical scope and interest in the resistance experience of various Churches, in particular of the Protestant ‘Confessing’ Church in Germany; lack of confidence in authorities and state-church ‘symphony’; humanistic enthusiasm; anthropological approach to theology; perception of the community as the area of divine revelation and action; critique of confined and self-sufficient institutionalized Church. These points have been developed in the writings of other ‘Maidan theologians’, such as Borys Gudziak (the archbishop of Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church), Antoine Arjakovsky (theologian), Yurii Chernomorets (publicist), Myroslav Marynovych (Vice-Rector of Ukrainian Catholic University), and many other Protestant authors.
The Russian Orthodox Church has given its credit to the potential of the new movement. Alexander Shchipkov, closely connected with the patriarch Kirill, remarked that “the ‘Maidan theology’, as promoted by Hovorun and others, may claim the status of a new religion. This civil cult is, basically, an open call for Reformation” [21]. In other words, the keepers of ‘canonical’ orthodoxy are trying to present the points of ‘Maidan theology’ as a variety of liberal Protestant theology or even as an attempt of a new Reformation. Despite the evident incompatibility of ‘a civil cult’ and ‘a call for Reformation’, the words cited above do partly depict the truth. ‘Maidan theology’ turned out to be related to the Protestant spirit, experience of Protestant Reformation and subsequent desacralization of state authority.
The Protestant factor in the events in Ukraine as well as the Protestant tendency in ‘Maidan theology’ has been specifically noticed by the leading Russian publishers. Thus, the article ‘Ukraine armed itself with theology of revolution. Maidan and the war in Donbass impacted the sermons’ (NG-Religii, March 4, 2015) emphasizes the radical character of changes in the theology of young Protestants and their influence оn the interdenominational level. “The teacher of theology and Christian ministry in Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary, Anatoliy Denisenko shares his memories: ‘What I experienced on Maidan, reminded me the words of Harvard professor Harvey Cox, that “We are trying to live in a period of revolution without a theology of revolution. The development of such a theology should be the first item on the theological agenda today.” Pastor Artem, serving as a minister in Ukrainian troops in village Peski, rendered his experience in the war as follows, “To some extent, we are changing our understanding of the Scripture and God’s word”. These words could be the keynote of the changes that have occurred in the worldview of many Ukrainian spiritual figures within the last year” [14].
While we are aware of the ‘keynote of changes’, still there is a question of how ‘Maidan theology’ was reflected in confessional matrices of various traditions, how church groups perceived it, and the way it changes the alignment of forces and emphases. For a more objective analysis, I would like to introduce two distinctions: inter-confessional and confessional.
Denoting the connection between civil protest and the Protestant spirit, ‘Maidan theology’ and Reformation theology, I intend to introduce, analyze the experience and reflections of selected figures of Protestant Evangelical community from the late November 2013 until present.
These selected figures belong to a new generation of Evangelical leaders and they have proven themselves to be informal leaders, that is, they shaped the positions of their communities without taking official posts. Therefore, my material contains the Protestant voices, these voices, however, do not compose or represent any religious systems. They form a complex polyphony of self-organized inter-church community, united by the same socio-theological challenge and appropriate intuition of the same theological response.
While the value of Protestant material in the ‘Maidan case’ leaves no doubts, the second narrowing specification of the issue requires additional rationale. The shift of attention from the statements of the confessional leaders and official documents to the stories of average people, who became field and vision leaders, is caused by the very direction of the events, when new acting figures unexpectedly have been brought to the forefront, as well as by the principles of author’s methodology, which focuses on the birth of new ideas and heroes among average believers. The members of the group of new Protestant leaders, whose opinions and testimonies are of interest and novelty, are Oleg Magdych, Oles Dmitrenko, Taras Diatlyk, Denis Kondiuk, Petro Kovaliv, Denis Gorenkov, Marina Gogulia, Olena Panich, Natalia Prostun, Ekaterina Zhitskaia, Lesia Kotvitskaia, Anatolii Denisenko, Mikola Romaniuk. The author himself took part in the events and personally met every representative of the group analyzed. Author’s conclusions are based on his personal observations and talks with other participants. The majority of the members’ testimonies were published in two books, co-authored and co-published by the current author [3; 13]. Thus, the following text is a part of a more extended context of events and discussions, observations and dialogues, testimonies of the members of the selected group and personal relationships with them.
It is worth mentioning for methodological reasons that there is a necessary distinction between high, declarative, official religiosity and low, live, unofficial religiosity. On the one hand, there were right and informative statements of All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (VRCiRO) . On the other hand, there were real people who took part in the events on Maidan, and shaped their position from within.
To the greater extent the Christian movement of Maidan was downstream, where average believers and some priests and ministers took the initiative. One can talk of alternative solidarity and alternative leaders that were formed in those events. They can be conventionally called ‘emerging leaders’. They are still being shaped and their theology is still emerging. Therefore, it is necessary to hear the voices of this new solidarity along with the official declarations and recognized leaders, to reconstruct the theology, whose spirit and intuition united and guided the members of the group under current analysis.
Following the brief description of ‘Maidan theology’ below, there are reflections and experience of the Protestant leaders of Maidan. In the end, there are clarifications and questions concerning ‘Maidan theology’ in the light of the given testimonies.

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