The bond that explains why some on the Christian right support Putin’s war
Russia has become an ally in a global movement.
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By Bethany Moreton
Bethany Moreton is professor of history at Dartmouth College. This article draws from her book, "Slouching Towards Moscow: American Conservatives and the Romance of Russia," forthcoming from Harvard University Press.
March 5, 2022 at 6:00 a.m. EST
In 1987, pastors from within the heart of U.S. evangelicalism officially incorporated 2,000 American evangelicals into the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. The mass conversion stemmed from White Protestant disillusionment with the freestyle worship, therapeutic ethos and perceived feminine emotionalism of their old church homes — what one influential critic labeled “The Church Impotent.” “Evangelical churches call men to be passive and nice (think ‘Mr. Rogers’),” explained a convert. “Orthodox Churches call men to be courageous and act (think ‘Braveheart’).” Such celebration of masculinity is one reason Orthodoxy is majority male, unlike any other American Christian denomination.
Russian Orthodox leadership in the global family values movement makes Eastern Christianity an appealing symbol for some of the most repugnant representatives of the racist right — again demonstrating the racial subtext of overt sexual conservatism. Neo-Confederates champion Orthodoxy as the spiritual home of white nationalism. Converts have played roles in the Charlottesville riot of 2017 and the Capitol insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021. The terrorist who took nine Black lives in a Charleston church had an Eastern Orthodox priest as a spiritual adviser. At the same time, the American alt-right embraced Russia as the land of unapologetic whiteness and unreformed masculinity. To the concern of many Orthodox believers, such converts are having an impact within branches of Orthodoxy in the United States.
As Russian tanks roll toward Kyiv and AFPAC speakers cheer, Putin can count on the respect many Christian conservatives in the United States have for Orthodox Russia as the international standard-bearer for family values. Certainly not all the ties between American Republicans and Russian interests are based on long-standing religious visions of traditional families and White Christian supremacy. But there is no making sense of them without that context
In 1995, Russian demographers met with the American Howard Center for the Family, Religion and Society, a project of the paleoconservative movement that mixed Holocaust deniers, Neo-Confederates and racist anti-immigrant activists. They agreed that low White birthrates were caused by the decline of traditional family forms and gender roles — and therefore the answer was the official suppression of sexual and gender dissent.
Their efforts produced the World Congress of Families, which combines funding from conservative Russian oligarchs with the organizing know-how of groups like the National Organization for Marriage — a key player in California’s 2008 same-sex marriage ban (which was later overturned in the courts). At its annual meetings, religious traditionalists coordinate policies to promote the “natural family” and combat LGBTQ and reproductive rights around the world.
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Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 03/26/2022 08:45AM by corboy.