Resistance, Activism .

They “Had to” Go Home. Navalny to Russia; Jesus to Jerusalem. ◦

Navalny and Jesus, both under life-threat, both wanted to go to the centers – culturally, politically, biographically – of their lives.


Must go home! Navalny to Russia. Jesus to Jerusalemin their situations, personalities, thought patterns, life details. Still, there is similarity to be found in their shared human-ness, and humane-ness. Let’s look at that for a minute.

Navalny, spent some months (in 2020) in Berlin recovering from being poisoned by agents of Russia’s enemy Putin. Nearing the end of that time he said, in a social media post,

“I decided to return to Russia. People do not leave their homeland, do not give it to the scoundrels. And I will have no other choice anyway. Because you cannot give in to the murderers and the people who have ordered them.”

It reminded me of Jesus’ relation to the corruption and violence of his day. They were trying to scare him as he was on his way to Jerusalem for the last time:

At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”
He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” (Luke 13:31-35)

So I thought …


People do not leave their homeland, do not give it to the scoundrels. And I will have no other choice anyway. -Alexie Navalny
Either be murdered away from home, or risk (or choose) being murdered in the place you love and want so much to help rescue.

And in that forced dilemma, both of them chose to “go home.” Moscow is not the town where Navalny was born; but it is the central location of what he saw as home. Jerusalem was not the town or province where Jesus was born. But it was home. For both it was love, it was belonging, it was longing.


1. Both wanted to die at “home.”

Navalny: “People do not leave their homeland; do not leave it to scoundrels.”
Jesus: “I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!”

2. Neither one was a servant of empire.

Navalny was strongly promoting rule of law, a functional democracy as a way Russia could be much better governed. Jesus ignored, or mocked, the empire, taught non-violent strategies of resistance, and showed himself to be a (non-violent) alternative. He was offering himself as a non-violent, non-dominating gatherer, leader, for Jerusalem. “And you were not willing.”

3. Both were strongly critical of the way things were being run, of the “powers that be.”

Navalny focussed on top political officers, and on corruption rampant through higher levels of society. Jesus focussed more on the religious leaders, or enablers, of the corruption and violence.

4. Both “said it out loud.”

George Lakoff, linguist and progressive strategist, says, “Find and work from your truest, deepest values … Say it out loud and every chance you get.” Both Jesus and Navalny clearly, thoroughly, and very consistently did that. (See Lakoff’s best-seller Don’t Think of an Elephant)

5. Both used humor, or its twin, irony.

Humor differs widely in varied cultural and historical settings – but Navalny was known for jokes, making a couple of jokes even in his last public appearance just hours before his death.

In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem! -Jesus of Nazareth
Jesus staged a great satire (joke) at the end of his life – on Pilate and Rome – a few days before the great Jerusalem celebration of Passover – by riding a donkey into Jerusalem, with no escort or bodyguards, with the adulation of crowds of ordinary people. At about the same time Pilate, on the other side of Jerusalem, was likely riding a warhorse, in a military procession, up into Jerusalem from Caesarea, presumably being welcomed (almost worshiped) by the Powers That Be, the military, economic, and religious elites of Jerusalem and Judea. The ironic contrast would not have been lost on people. In fact it’s almost a foreshadowing of a “Saturday Night Live” mocking skit.

6. Both were targeted for death.

It was a standard procedure for dealing with dissidents, both in the Rome of the time (and Judea), and in Russia of late. They both knew the reactions they were stirring up.

7. Both knew they were targets for assassination, and went on with great courage.

Navalny had already been poisoned by these same traitors, recovered, then returned to Russia. Jesus, when warned, laid out his itinerary so Herod (etc.) would know where to find him.

See Also Here at PublicChristian:
A Church Hero Under the Nazis, from “An Honorable Defeat” (from 2005)
Resistance and Nonviolence Posts Here Prior to 2023

8. Both really did love their people, their nations, and their heritages.

Navalny: “People do not leave their homeland, do not give it to the scoundrels.”
Jesus: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together.”

9. Both were much loved by their people.

Both drew great crowds of admirers and listeners – Navalny drew more, with the benefit of great advances in technologies of communication and of travel.

10. Both scorned the shame.

There’s an eloquent remark about Jesus in Hebrews 12:2 “He endured the cross, scorning its shame” – scorn for the assassination and (with love) for the assassins and their bosses, and for their opinions of him. Navalny had a similar attitude, regularly and publicly displayed.


A. On The Strength of Their Type of Resistance:

“If they decided to kill me, then it means we are incredibly strong.” – From the documentary “Navalny”, as quoted in The Hill
“Navalny was first and foremost a Russian politician, which is why he made what felt like a suicidal choice to return to Russia after surviving the poisoning.” – AlJazeera

Jonathan Schell, in his scholarly masterpiece, The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People, emphasizes the power of certain kinds of victims. This is true, and truly hopeful.

The most powerful people seemed to be those who, whether in government or out, had the capacity to create or do something that inspired the respect, admiration, loyalty, faith – all of which, again, is to say the love – of others.
Power, according to this conception … begins with the capacity to create or discover something (including, for example, a republic) that other people cannot help but love
… about as far as one can get from A.J.P. Taylor’s “organizations for war” or Jouvenel’s “to command and be obeyed.” (p230)
The power that flows upward from the consent, support, and nonviolent activity of the people is not the same as the power that flows downward from the state by virtue of its command of the instruments of force,
and yet the two kinds of power contend in the same world for the upper hand, and the seemingly weaker one can, it turns out, defeat the seemingly stronger, as the downfall of the British Raj [India, 1947] and the Soviet Union [USSR 1989] showed.
Therefore, although it may lead to paradox and linguistic tangles to speak of martyrs as being more “powerful” than the authorities who put them to death, the exercise is inescapable.
For it is indeed a frequent mistake of the powers that be to imagine that they can accomplish or prevent by force what a Luther, a Gandhi, a Martin Luther King, or a Havel can inspire by example.
The prosperous and mighty of our day still live at a dizzying height above the wretched of the earth,
yet, the latter have made their will felt in ways that have already changed history, and can change it more. (p231)

(“A definitive reading of the last century, The Unconquerable World is sure to be one of the most important books of the century unfolding.” -from a review by James Carroll, quoted in the front of the book)

B. On The Background – Russia

For years, critics and opponents of Russian leader Vladimir Putin have fallen victim to shootings, poisoning with radioactive or nerve agents, or have plunged to their deaths from open windows. – NPR
Today, it seems the Russian society is divided into three unequal parts. Two minorities represent the staunch supporters of Navalny and Putin and a majority in the middle which is comprised of people whose support of the Russian president is tentative and pragmatic. These are people who stick with the crowd and who are always very attentive to the general mood in the country.
That means they may change their political preferences in a one-off event when opposition to the current leadership reaches a critical mass. This is what happened in 1991, when a democratic revolution in Moscow led to the collapse of the entire Soviet state. – Al Jazeera

Here is an accessible article summarizing Navalny’s life timeline: Associated Press.
And here’s an extensive article on Navalny: Wikipedia.

See Also, Here on PublicChristian:
– (on Activism) Bringing People Together — Jane Kleeb Gets $3 Million to Promote Rural Energy Justice
Naomi Klein: We Must Make Uncomfortable Alliances
What is Christian Nationalism? It Wears Christian Words & Symbols Like Sheep’s Clothing.


Questions for us:

1. In what ways might it be surprising or offensive to some of our fellow professing Christians for us to say that Jesus was not a patriotic fan of the Roman empire?
2. How am I right — or wrong — to say there are similarities between Navalny and Jesus?

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