I deplore the anti-gay violence taking place in Russia today. Defending traditional Christian values does not require this kind of violence; in fact, by beating up gay people and their supporters, anti-gay protesters are transgressing traditional Christian values. It is wrong, period, and I endorse pressuring Russia to stop the violence.
But I endorse it only to a point. I agree with Pat Buchanan when he says that Vladimir Putin’s Russia is defending traditional Christian moral standards and actual Christians more than America is:
The Post weeps for the “young women of the persecuted rock band Pussy Riot,” who engaged in half-naked obscene acts on the high altar of Moscow’s most sacred cathedral.
Had these women crayoned swastikas on the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., would the Post have been so sympathetic?
Putin suggested the ladies try the same stunt in Mecca.
In our late Mideast wars, America has fought for secularist democracy. Yet Christians have suffered horribly, with the murder of priests, the burning of churches, terrorism and wholesale flight.
According to LifeSiteNews, Putin, meeting with Orthodox Christian leaders, urged the world to come together to stop these violent persecutions.
Especially in the Middle East and North Africa … the rights of religious minorities are infringed, especially Christians and Orthodox Christians. … This pressing problem should be a subject of close attention for the entire international community.
Urging America and the West to join with Russia in saving Syria’s Christians, Orthodox Patriarch Kirill said their expulsion from Syria would be a “catastrophe” for civilization.
Has Obama ever spoken out so forcefully for international action to save Christians? Has The New York Times ever exhibited a fraction of the concern for persecuted Christians it daily exhibits for harassed homosexuals?
The West is post-Christian. We know that, or we should know that. Buchanan’s column highlights this reality. What an embarrassment that post-Soviet Russia, for all its grievous flaws, is, in important ways more conscious of its Christian history and character than the United States, a nation that still likes to think of itself as culturally Christian, but which is becoming ever more anti-Christian. That’s why I give 1.5 cheers to Putin. He is anti-liberal in ways that are morally objectionable, but also in ways that are morally praiseworthy. The Christians of the Middle East have a greater friend in Vladimir Putin than they do in Barack Obama — or that they did in George W. Bush, for that matter.
UPDATE: Look, I think Putin is a cynic. As I wrote in the Pussy Riot controversy, I think those women should have been punished for doing what they did in the church, but that the trial was a sham and the prison sentences excessive. And, the Russian Orthodox Church, of which I am a communicant, did not acquit itself well in this episode. But to say that is not the same as saying that Putin & Co. had the basic principle wrong.
An analogy from American history: Huey P. Long, the governor of my state, was a tyrant, a demagogue, and a thug. He was also right about some things, and not only right, but necessary. Where does that leave us? If you were in Louisiana under the Long domination, would you have supported him, or not? That is to say, would you have backed him, despite his excesses, because on balance you thought he was good for the state? Or would you have opposed him, even though prior to Long, this was a state controlled by the very few, and the poor, white and black, had very little? It would have been much better had the people of Louisiana been governed by an enlightened, honest, uncynical liberal committed to fair play. Those weren’t the choices back then.
Huey’s brother, Earl K. Long, was a loon. When he was governor, he stood in the well of the Louisiana legislature and gave a brave speech against the hardline segregationists in which he said, ranting at an arch-segregationist state senator, “You got to recognize that niggers is human beings.” He was a racist, but the New Yorker writer A.J. Liebling judged Earl K. Long as the most effective white civil rights politician in the South. He was also spectacularly corrupt, and seriously crazy. Would you have voted for him?
If I were Russian, I probably wouldn’t vote for Putin, because he is too illiberal. But I don’t know that for sure.
Also, there was this good (satirical) dissent in the comments:
I condemn wife beating. It’s horrific, and as a wife and survivor of abuse, not to mention a Christian, I staunchly condemn it. So I abhor that my neighbor beats his wife and will not let her take a job outside of the home in order to keep her isolated.
But man, he is really keeping his family intact. She stays home with the kids, and they’re all very well behaved in public. One and a half cheers for him.
What? I said I deplored the violence. Have you no sense of nuance?
To which I replied:
I don’t think this is the correct analogy. If it were, you would say that the solution to stopping the wife beating is to abolish marriage. What is wrong with saying that stopping wife-beating requires stopping wife-beating? The defense of traditional marriage and family does not require defending wife-beating. If defending it required approving of wife-beating, or pogroms against gays and their supporters, then I would decline to defend it. But I think that’s a false choice.
UPDATE.2: While I was posting that, Carlo put two great responses in the comments thread:
1. Del Noce, 1971:
“Anyway, it is unquestionably true that Russia constitutes the last bastion of the sacral mindset in the field of politics. [...] On the contrary, Europe believed that it could renew itself by adopting the ways of the affluent society, in which well-being is the only political-social goal and then whoever wishes to believe that such well-being will continue or increase in another life is free to do so (but, in fact, who thinks about that any longer?). It would be easy to show that if this kind of civilization triumphed completely – which, however, is impossible – every form of faith or hope in another world would disappear. To tell the truth, Europe went down this road following in America’s footsteps, but after America itself, during the last quarter of a century, was strongly influenced by European intellectuals, so that its traditional Puritan mindset has been decisively undermined, even in mainstream culture. Do these considerations shed any light on the current political situation? Contrary to the common opinion, “the sacral principle is triumphant” still today. This is why, so far, Russia has been left more or less unscathed by the process of self-destruction that is affecting, without exception, the European countries and the United States themselves, although in a different form.”
2. Engineer Scotty: “As I understand it, the law seeks to ban “pro-gay propaganda”. In practice, what this seems to mean, is any attempt to portray homosexuality as anything other than abnormal and deviant, is illegal.”
What about all the European countries (and Canada, and many US public institutions) where “any attempt to portray homosexuality as abnormal and deviant, is illegal?” Is that less illiberal? Why is liberal illiberalism acceptable?
I am reminded of the gay mob a few years back that set upon the Evangelicals in the streets of San Francisco. It required the police to protect them, and to get them out of the Castro safely. At the time, some liberals said that was unfortunate, but those Christians asked for it, and the gays were only defending their neighborhood. Illiberal liberalism? Yes.
UPDATE.3: Erin Manning writes in the comments thread, and I agree with her:
I kind of don’t think people are getting Rod on this at all, but that’s sort of predictable here. Honestly, I find it interesting that most of the self-described conservatives here are willing to ponder nuance while the liberals seem to have a lot of knee-jerk positions which they take for granted are automatically nuanced because liberal. Example: our recent Millennials thread, where everybody was thoughtful and engaged *except* on the question of whether Obamacare might harm young working people, because of course it can’t and won’t and isn’t going to praise the Lord and pass the premiums…sigh.
Look at it this way: in America, if you are a serious Christian and your kids attend public schools, you know that your kids will be taught beginning in the fifth grade or so that sex includes a variety of pleasurable physical activities most of which require the use of condoms to avoid pregnancy and/or disease (unless you’re into self-pleasuring, which is *also* fine and your choice) but is otherwise harmless and fun, and pretty much expected of them whenever they decide it’s time to start experimenting. The choice and gender and number of partners is entirely up to them, though some people have vague, undefined “values” about this stuff–but it’s not the school’s job to teach you about “values” or encourage you to have any; it’s the school’s job to make sure you know how to use condoms and where to get them, and also, for the girls, how to get other forms of birth control and/or abortions when those things are necessary.
That is not in any way, shape, or form what serious Christians think sex is or how it should be taught, but serious Christians also know that the public schools in a completely secular nation not only do not exist to help religious parents reinforce their values but are actively engaged in attacking them in any school subject where morality or virtue might be relevant. That ship sailed so long ago that it’s halfway to circumnavigation.
All that being said, when serious Christians hear that in Russia there’s a law that would keep minors from being given homosexual propaganda including public school classroom instruction in gay or lesbian sex practices and would also keep the kiddies from seeing nudie floats at gay pride parades on public streets, etc., we can’t help but think that even if such a law goes way too far from a free speech perspective, the intention of such a law (e.g., not teaching minors in graphic detail about gay and lesbian sex and how to experiment with it if they’re interested) is arguably more supportive of the values of Christian parenting–even if this societal support in Russia is deeply flawed–than our own culture and society, which treats Christian values pertaining to sex as nothing but deplorable bigotry which ought to be attacked and eradicated from Christian children’s minds by voices in the public schools, in culture, in entertainment, and in society, regardless of the physical, emotional, psychological, familial or moral costs of doing exactly that.
I suspect that many readers here will read what I just wrote and think automatically, “But Christian values about sex *are* anti-LGBTQ bigotry, and they *should* be eradicated from society, especially from the minds of children who can’t help it that they have Christianist bigots for parents.” And, further, that those who think that will not see anything negative, biased, discriminatory or wrong about thinking such things.
What’s funny, but so typical, is all the liberals acting as if I gave three cheers to Putin, when in fact I give him a half-hearted endorsement. I think he’s wrong on free speech, and that his government ought to be vigorously defending the rights of gays, lesbians, and their supporters to demonstrate in public without fearing physical assault. This shouldn’t be up for debate. That said, I live in a country in which the law and the culture is changing quickly in the direction of making Christians and others who believe in traditional marriage into outlaws and pariahs, no matter how nuanced our beliefs on free speech and tolerance towards gays and lesbians are. And I’m supposed to despise Putin without qualification?