The invasion of Ukraine has led some to criticize the fact that the Church didn’t officially “call out” Russia, instead opting to issue a generic denunciation of war. In what cases the Church should criticize a foreign government is complex, and I don’t mean to provide some kind of a systematic, exhaustive answer here, but there are a few points that I think are important to make in framing this discussion.

First, the Nazi comparison is lazy. With 20/20 hindsight, now that we know about the Holocaust, it is clear and easy to point out that the Nazis deserved special denunciation that they did not get from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Vatican, and other religious groups. But what about before? During the rise of National Socialism and before we knew about the camps, the Nazis probably looked like a run-of-the-mill racist regime, of which there were and are many, and parsing out National Socialism from one of these run-of-the-mill regimes using a consistent set of principles is not as simple an exercise as some might think.

Of course, some might argue that the Church should simply denounce any and all regimes that are racist or otherwise illiberal. There are a couple problems with this. First, there are almost 200 countries; I just don’t think the Church needs to provide a statement on the illiberalism happening in every country, or for the statement makers to be briefed enough of the complexities and nuances of each case to be able to provide a fair judgment. They have a church to run, whereas their influence on each of these 195 countries is virtually nil, so it’s not quite clear what the practical utility would be.

Of course, some kind of running official church position on the illiberalisms happening in all 195 countries is an extreme example, but it raises the question of which cases to be involved in. There are some cause celebre cases, but what about the Bubi in Equatorial Guinea? What about the Rohingya in Myanmar? It’s not enough to simply point out that bad things are happening, but presumably there has to be some extra reason for why the Church should make a statement in that particular case and not others (and to put it bluntly, the fact that white Europeans are involved or that the media decides to care about it doesn’t cut it). Again, that’s not to say that there should never be any denunciations, just that justifying one and not the other is difficult.

While the Church making a statement would have virtually no effect on the government, it could very much affect the Church’s operations, so in pure utilitarian terms there’s not really much of an argument to be made for the Church to get involved (unless you don’t see the Church’s success in an area as an unalloyed good, which is fine but you should be upfront about your premises when having these discussions).

Some argue that the Church should take a consequences be darned approach, but again I often wonder if those making that argument are not arguing in good faith, as they don’t really care about the consequences that the Church would suffer. For those who do care, being strategic about who to criticize should not be seen as a sign of weakness. Liberation theology biblical revisionism notwithstanding, the most straightforward reading of the New Testament is that the Savior was basically apolitical during a time when a significant portion of the Roman Empire were slaves and people were tortured to death, so people thinking that the Church should become heavily involved in international politics need to somehow explain how the representative of the Christ whose kingdom is “not of this world” should now involve themselves in the kingdoms that are of this world.

That doesn’t mean that the Church should never dip its toe into political waters when it might be able to actually effect some good or when its own interests are involved, but it does raise the bar for when such action might be warranted. This is a difficult question, and it is not as straightforward as some would like to think.

Full Citation for this Article: Cranney, Stephen (2022) "When Should the Church Criticize Foreign Governments?," SquareTwo, Vol. 15 No. 1 (Spring 2022),, accessed <give access date>.

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