It is no secret that America’s “Christian right” includes a great many Orthodox Christians in the US, especially certain kinds of converts to Orthodoxy. In drawing this Newsweek article to our readers’ attention Orthodoxy in Dialogue invites one or more qualified individuals to write a thoughtful, analytical response.
At a gathering of some of the world’s most virulent opponents of LGBT equality, Russian conservative activist Dmitry Komov warned of the destructive agenda underlying the spread of liberal values.
The West, he told a far-right French TV station in December, was committed to the “destruction of all of our collective identities: national identity, religious identity, gender identity,” and warned it would result in “the destruction of human identity.”
Komov was in Chisinau, Moldova, for the Eurasian colloquium, where Russian Orthodox ideologues and European far-right activists rubbed shoulders. Between 13 and 16 September they are also joined by members of a U.S. conservative Christian groups in the city for the World Congress of Families [designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center]. The unlikely allies feel that after decades of struggle, the time has come to topple Western liberal hegemony.
Relations between Moscow and Washington have been strained over allegations that Russia influenced the 2016 election of President Donald Trump, but religious conservatives in both nations have recently found common cause.
Under President Vladimir Putin, Russia and parts of the U.S. Christian right have formed an alliance that would have been unthinkable just a few decades ago, when American evangelical leaders railed against “godless communism.”
Russia has reinvented itself as a bastion of Christian values in a world beset by relativism and godlessness. As a result, conservative Christians gathering at the World Congress of Families are looking to Putin to protect Christianity from the West.
“If you take a look at the rhetoric of the more conservative elements round Putin and if you take a look at the rhetoric of the Christian right the topics are pretty much the same, and the values are pretty much the same,” Peter Kreko, director of the Political Capital Institute, a Budapest based think-tank, told Newsweek.
“Conservatives are leading in Russia and conservatives are leading in the U.S. There is a feeling that this is a zeitgeist, that governments are supporting them, that there is this historic moment to break this dominance of this liberal, tolerant, “nihilistic” worldview.”
A flashpoint for some conservatives has been Europe’s battle over LGBT rights. EU states are obliged to recognise same-sex relationships under membership rules – yet campaigns in individual nations to extend those rights and recognize gay marriage have met bitter opposition.
Some opponents look to Russia for guidance, and see its controversial laws restricitng LGBT rights as an example.
“In western Europe, many people believe that the West is collapsing and all civilisation is threatened by Islam, by demography, and by democracy,” Jean-Yves Camus, an associate research fellow at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs, told Newsweek.
“What they try to pretend is that there is only one country where Western civilisation is well and alive and thriving, and that’s Russia.”
For their part, Russian conservatives have long been hostile to the EU, which they accuse of seeking to undermine Russia with sanctions imposed following the annexation of Crimea. They see disputes over LGBT rights as flashpoints which can be exploited. Author Katherine Stewart recently wrote in the New York Times that “anti-LGBT politics are an effective tool in mobilizing religious nationalists everywhere, which is in turn an excellent way to destabilize the Western alliance and advance Russia’s geopolitical interests.”
Yet the battle is about more than politics.
“What is going on between the West and Russia is more than just a hybrid warfare aiming to achieve results through interfering in elections and so on, but also a fight for the hearts and souls,” said Kreko.
The World Congress of Families
September’s Moldova conference is reportedly being funded by pro-Kremlin Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev. The umbrella organization behind the event is the International Organization of the Family (IOF), based in Rockford, Illinois. It emerged from the U.S. Christian Right’s mission to place Christian values at the heart of public policy.
Camus described Malofeev as an “arch-conservative, who really believes in those values of Christianity, of family, fatherland,” and who, before being placed under sanctions by the U.S. and EU, forged links with European far-right leaders. He has not responded to multiple requests for comment.
The IOF says its mission is to “affirm, celebrate, and defend the natural family as the only fundamental and sustainable unit of society.” The Southern Poverty Law Center describes it as “one of the key driving forces behind the U.S. Religious Right’s global export of homophobia and sexism.”
For several decades, the group has worked with Orthodox conservatives in Russia who share its commitment to rolling back liberal legislation on issues like LGBT rights and abortion. Moscow was scheduled to host a WCF conference in 2014, which activists allege was hastily rebranded to evade international sanctions. The IOF is credited as a key influence on the Kremlin’s notorious 2013 “gay propaganda” bill, whose stated aim was to outlaw the discussion of homosexuality with children and which has been blamed by activists for a surge of homophobic assaults in the country.
Continue reading this article at Newsweek.
Tom Porter is a staff writer at Newsweek based in London UK. He writes about politics, crime, and extremism.
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