subscribe: Posts | Comments      Facebook      Email Steve

Warning: American evangelicals are super-busy taking over Russia


I don’t like American evangelicals who are trying—with some success—to turn this country into their own theocratic dictatorship.

They’ve been busy burrowing into the fabric of our nation for a century or longer, but they entered their heyday when Ronald Reagan, a Trump precursor who realized the political value of southern evangelicals in the run-up to his 1980 presidential run, made common cause with them. Reagan, like Trump, was not particularly religious and wasn’t an evangelical. But he wanted their millions of votes, so he placated them, and they repaid him by electing him twice as president.

We tend to think of evangelicism as an American thing, and as a movement, it obviously was born here. But evangelicals aren’t content to keep their busybodying to a single country. Like the Soviet Communists and Al Qaeda before them, they aim for no less than to propagate their system to every country on earth. Democracy is of no use to them; in fact, it’s anathema. They don’t want universal suffrage, they want a religious hierarchy, which is the main reason why evangelicals are so enamored by the voter-suppression efforts of the Republican Party. The fewer people who vote, the better—and best yet is a system wherein only white Christians are allowed to vote. That is precisely the system they’re trying to promote in the 50 states.

But these evangelicals are busy little beavers abroad. I’ve long known something about their overseas efforts, especially in the Third World, Africa and South America being prime examples. But it wasn’t until I read this article, in the online publication Religion, State & Society, that I understood how much they’ve penetrated Russia, which explains so much: from Putin’s homophobia and authoritarianism to Trump’s embrace of Russia and refusal to criticize it for any reason.

The article, entitled “The rise of the Russian Christian Right: the case of the World Congress of Families,” explores the secretive activities of the World Congress of Families (WCF), which was founded in 1997 as a joint effort between rightwing elements of the former Reagan administration and Russian pro-Christian activists. The Southern Poverty Law Center, one of the leading anti-fascist organizations in America, calls WCF “an umbrella for a massive network of interconnected organizations, all pushing for restrictions to LGBT rights under the guise of the defense of the ‘natural family — defined as heterosexual married couples with their biological children.”

Homophobia is a central pillar of rightwing evangelical politics, along with abortion. We’ve seen the anti-gay movement grow increasingly violent and hysterical since the Supreme Court allowed gays to marry and to serve in the U.S. military. Some Republicans embrace gay-bashing outright: Amy Coney Barrett and Marjorie Taylor Greene are poster children for hate-gays conservatism. Other Republicans hold their noses and tolerate homophobia: Mitt Romney and the Bush family come to mind. They tend to speak in liberal, accepting tones, but when it comes to lawmaking, they support anti-gay legislation, or at least don’t actively fight against it.

The Religion, State & Society article explains how the Christian right decided, in the 1990s, that Russia—which having survived the breakup of the Soviet Union and had turned increasingly conservative and authoritarian—was a fertile breeding ground for their brand of homophobia and white nationalism. (Newt Gingrich played a central role in this “Russian Revolution.”) After establishing a “transnational” toehold in Russia in 1997 by forging an alliance with rightwing business and political circles “and the Russian Orthodox Church,” WCF took the next big step in 2014, when, with the Russian Orthodox Church, it convened its first “Family Congress,” in Moscow. The event was a huge success, attracting conservative Christian activists, including one of Russia’s leading anti-abortion groups, Sanctity of Motherhood. So successful was this launch party that one of the Russian sponsors of WCF, Alexei Komov, told a reporter, “Our American friends couldn’t believe that there was, you know, a welcome on such a huge scale in Russia.”

One of WCF’s strategies in Russia, as here in the U.S., is “interdominational cooperation”: to forge links with other anti-gay, anti-abortion Christian groups. Normally, evangelicals and Catholics would be at each other’s throats, refighting the Thirty Years’ War. But politics makes for strange bedfellows. Among WCF’s goals, in both Russia and here, are homeschooling (religiously based, and free of pesky liberal-scientific notions), and blurring the distinction, so carefully wrought in our country by the Founders, between civil government and Big Religion. In Russia, this breakdown finds special relevance, as Mother Russia historically has perceived herself as a bulwark of Christian values, such as patriarchal authority and patriotism. According to this narrative, Russia was the “true winner” of the Cold War, since it inherited the role of chief crusader against western liberalism and cultural secularism–a role it inherited from Hitler’s nazis.

The importance of the Religion, State & Society analysis is that it clarifies the conventional wisdom that Russia’s “turn to the right” was simply a reflection of Russia’s imperial past and embrace of Orthodox Christianity. Those indeed have been factors in Putin’s grip on the country, but the full-fledged “transnationalism” of the alliance with the American Christian right proved to be the tipping point that elevated the Russian Christian Right to peerage with its American counterpart. American liberals and secularists must understand how powerful this union is. Just as here in America, evangelicals can count on huge numbers of voters supporting them in elections, so too in Russia “a large constituency of conservative Evangelical Christians” has been busily inhaling the WCF fumes, and seems ready to act when called upon to defend “traditional Russian values.”

Leave a Reply


Recent Comments

Recent Posts