No, Putin Isn’t a Defender of ‘Christian Values’
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has pitted much of the world into two teams, as war tends to do. The prevailing sentiment in the West appears to be pro-Ukraine. But among certain corners of the chattering classes, there’s somewhat of a third team: one that isn’t anti–Ukraine, per se, but also isn’t anti-Russia. There is one foe, and it is America.
Its loudest adherents, ironically, are arguably U.S. nationalists—who to varying degrees admire Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempt at cultivating what they say is a more moral nation. “I actually support Putin’s right to protect his people and always put his people first but also protect their Christian values,” said Lauren Witzke, the Delaware GOP candidate for U.S. Senate in 2020. “I identify more with…Putin’s Christian values than I do with Joe Biden’s.”
Though Witzke took the fringiest route, she is not alone in her overall approach. Steve Bannon, once an adviser to former President Donald Trump, noted approvingly on his podcast this week that at least “Putin ain’t woke.” Fox News host Tucker Carlson similarly admonished his audience: “It might be worth asking yourself…what is this really about? Why do I hate Putin so much?” he probed as he pushed back on the idea that the U.S. should intervene. “Is he teaching my children to embrace racial discrimination? Is he making fentanyl? Is he trying to snuff out Christianity?” (The monologue was later recycled by RT, Russia’s government-controlled television network.)
It may be true that Putin isn’t “making fentanyl.” But to defend an isolationist position, one need not make light of the Russian president’s moral atrocities—which have less to do with critical race theory and more to do with allegedly jailing and murdering dissidents.
Perhaps most ironic about Carlson’s last question—and also per Witzke’s comments—is that Putin, while a self-avowed adherent to Russian Orthodoxy, has been no friend to religious freedom. In 2016, he passed a law criminalizing evangelical efforts outside of church walls—a measure that hamstrings religious life in public, in the home, and online, and thus targets many Christians for displays of faith. Those displays don’t have to be overt: In 2019, a Baptist pastor was charged with illegal missionary activity for having the audacity to lead a B
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