‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill clears Florida Senate awaiting signature of Governor Ron De Santis (March 08, 2022). Texas attorney general Ken Paxton issues legal opinion classifying gender-affirming medical care for trans children as child abuse. Texas Governor Greg Abbot issues executive order affirming Paxton’s ruling declaring that doctors, nurses, teachers and citizens at large who fail to report such “abuse” to authorities are subject to criminal penalties ( February 23, 2022 ). Idaho’s House of Representatives passes bill criminalizing gender-affirming medical procedures for transgender youth as a felony punishable by life imprisonment for anyone who helps a child travel across state lines for gender-affirming healthcare (March 08, 2022).

What do these anti-Gay, anti- sexual minorities, anti- Queer, anti-Freedom legal measures in USA have to do with Putin’s War? Sadly: A Lot !

Lauren Witzke , GOP candidate for the Senate in Delaware, at Conservative Political Action Conference ( February 23 – 27, 2022) : “Here’s the deal. Russia is a Christian nationalist nation. … I identify more with Putin’s Christian values than I do with Joe Biden.” (Anthea Butler, MSNBC, March 02, 2022.)

“Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers (R) was only one of the speakers at the Feb. 25 America First Political Action Conference to voice support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But her meme-ready remark — urging more tanks and using a crude term to call for fewer transgender people — reminds us that many on the American right see Russia as an ally in the culture wars.” (Bethany Moreton, The Washington Post, March 05, 2022.)

In her forthcoming book, “Slouching Towards Moscow: American Conservatives and the Romance of Russia (Harvard University Press),” Bethany Moreton, professor of history at Dartmouth College, examines how many American White Evangelical Christians, who once considered the Soviet Union and Russia the embodiment of evil, now see Russia and Putin as partners in a global Christian family movement that counters the “existential threat” of homosexuality and other subversions of traditional gender roles and conventional sexual morality.

Through this lens, the materialistic West is seen as a civilization in the process of moral decay in which homosexuality and other non-conformist sexual orientations pose an “existential threat” to the dominance of White Christian culture by decreasing the White birth rate and by recruiting heterosexual youths to homosexuality and sexual promiscuity.

In his Sunday March 06, 2022 sermon, Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, blamed liberal western values — particularly gay pride parades — for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (Natalie Prieb, The Hill, March 08, 2022.) In the same sermon, he asserted that Russia invaded the Donbas region of Ukraine in 2014 to support the Russian and Ukrainian peoples opposed to gay pride parades imposed by the West to destroy their traditional culture and values.

Throughout his 22 years ruling Russia, Putin has masterfully manipulated Russian civic and religious piety as well as the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church in support of his efforts to make Russia great again. And, he has had a lot of support from USA White Evangelical Christians. Let me share with you just a few headlines from the time-period when Russia passed its first legislation in “defense” of “traditional” sex roles (courtesy of Human Rights Watch):

→ “Russia Anti-Gay Bill Admired By Some U.S. Conservatives” [Associated Press, 7/1/13]

→ “How America’s Right Wing Helped Russia Craft Its Anti-Gay Laws” [Salon, 10/4/13]

→ “Why American Social Conservatives Love Anti-Gay Putin” [Daily Beast, 8/1/13]

→ “6 American Conservative Groups Publicly Support Russia’s Anti-Gay ‘Propaganda’ Law” [Huffington Post, 9/5/13]

→ “How US Evangelicals Fueled the Rise of Russia’s ‘Pro-Family’ Right” [The Nation, 1/27/14].

Franklin Graham: Commenting on an article he wrote in 2014, “In my opinion, Putin is right on these [family and sexual ] issues. Obviously, he [ Putin ] may be wrong about many things, but he has taken a stand to protect his nation’s children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda.” ( National Catholic Reporter, August 08, 2018.)

Elements of the American Evangelical Christian churches have pushed the cultural wars to an extreme that scholars have named “American Christian Nationalism.” In their groundbreaking work, “Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States (Oxford University Press, 2020) ,” Andrew L. Whitehead and Samuel L. Perry investigate the nature of USA Christian Nationalism and document the extent of its hold on USA Christians.

In this book, Whitehead and Perry focused on White Evangelicals because they found that the overwhelming majority of Black and Hispanic Evangelicals do not hold the beliefs associated with Christian nationalism.

American Christian Nationalism is an ideology, a political ideology, about American identity that fuses its version of the Christian religion with its understanding of American history and of what it means to be an American. Whitehead and Perry, through various statistical instruments focusing on self-identified White American Evangelical Christians, conclude that 19.8 % of American Christian Nationalists strongly affirm and 32.1 % are in sympathy with the following beliefs:

1) that the US Constitution is inspired by God and therefore a type of Sacred Scripture like the Bible;

2) that the USA is the new Israel, the promised land of biblical prophecy; and

3) that Americans are the chosen people destined by God to show the world how to live in accordance with God’s plan.

Contrary to the explicit teachings of Jesus that his kingdom is not of this world and in spite of the explicit declaration in US founding documents of the separation of church and state and of the affirmation of religious liberty, these Christians believe and work for the imposition of their understanding of God’s law on abortion, homosexuality, conventional marriage, birth control, public display of religious preferences on public governmental property, among a host of other government intrusions into the personal lives of US citizens.

It is a great irony, among many other contradictions and paradoxes, that in the name of religious liberty, the Christian nationalists deny religious liberty to everyone other than themselves.

They assert the primacy of parents to determine the education and welfare of their children, yet deny that right to parents of trans children. They refuse vaccinations as unlawful government interference in the sacred realm of their bodies, yet deny women the right to choose medical care and LGBTQIA persons the right to their own sexual identities and orientations.

Perhaps: Hypocrisy is the Defining Predicate of Christian Nationalist Religion.

*UPDATE: March 11, 2022: Texas Court Judge Amy Clark Meachum issues injunction against Governor’s order investigating parents of trans children for ‘medical abuse.’

Nick Patricca is professor emeritus at Loyola University Chicago, playwright emeritus at Victory Gardens Theater, and a member of Freedom to Write Committee of PEN International.

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Published 15 March 2022 Windy City Times