He rules a land which is rapidly returning to its faith, while Americans abandon theirs
Patrick Joseph Buchanan, paleo-conservative columnist, broadcaster, and senior aide to three Republican presidents (Reagan, Ford and Nixon) would scoff if anyone were to seriously propose adorning him with another title, notably that of prophet. Nonetheless, he seems far ahead of the pack in discerning a tendency in the ongoing Culture War, which could result in one of the most astonishing flip-flops ever recorded.
For about five years, Buchanan has been calling attention to an implicit though unintended coalition between social conservatives in America, in fact all over the western world, and the explosion of Christian growth across eastern Europe, particularly in Russia. My friend, the Toronto columnist Jonathan Van Maren, just back from a month-long visit to Russia, gave in four words what he found there. “The churches,” he said, “are packed.” Not with old people, but with young adults, particularly men.. And not with social revolutionaries, but with born-again Christians. He described it as “astounding,” and no doubt will be writing about it in Life Site News.
But there is another puzzling implication to this. The figure
behind the rebirth of eastern Christendom, and widely identified with it, is none other than President Vladimir Putin. He was baptized by his mother secretly, because his father was a senior official in the KGB. Putin has been a weekly church-goer through most of his life. He regards the secularist repudiation of Christianity in the West — with its unrestrained promotion of formerly forbidden sex practices and an educational philosophy totally alien to Christianity– as ultimately spelling the doom of America. and he does not shrink from saying so.
On Christian grounds he opposes gay rights and gay marriage, He refuses to allow abortion centres to advertise and, in one unsubstantiated account I’ve heard, constantly carries a message to Russian young people — “Have babies!” Otherwise, the Russian people and Russia itself will rapidly disappear. He has also ordered a vast program of church reconstruction throughout the country. Always Orthodox churches, of course, because a tie between state and church goes back to the Byzantines who brought the Slav peoples into the faith one millennium ago.
As traditionalist American Christians come to see this, they are understandably bewildered, After all, for most of the 20th Century, Russia stood solidly on its Marxist atheism, executing Christian clergy in the tens of thousands. Meanwhile America, as the champions of Christian democracy, vigorously opposed and prevailed over Marxist Russia and its attendant atheism for about 50 years.
Now, as Buchanan seemed to spot before anyone else, a complete reversal is occurring. Russia increasingly emerges as the Christian leader, while America’s officialdom strives relentlessly to divorce the country from its Christian origins. What would happen, one wonders, if some massive American Evangelical rally were to hear, say, Putin’s culture minister address them with a call for a united Christian front against moral squalor and secularist subjectivism? At a minimum, it would soon become evident that Russian Christians were getting far more sympathy and support from their government than American Christians were getting from theirs.
Or what would be the response of American Christian missions in Africa, when American financial aid was made conditional on acceptance of gay marriage and unrestricted access to abortion?. Meanwhile, Russian and other Orthodox Christian missions (of which there are already many in Africa), were standing firm on Christian teaching?
“Is Putin one of us?” asks the headline on a Buchanan column five years ago. He quoted Putin directly: “In many countries today, moral and ethical norms are being reconsidered They are now requiring not only the proper acknowledgement of freedom of conscience, political views and private life, but also the mandatory acknowledgement of the equality of good and evil.” He’s right, says Buchanan, “To equate traditional marriage and sam-sex marriage means equating good with evil.”
The rejection of Christian teaching by western nations, says Putin, was not in response to a popular demand from the people. “The destruction of political values comes from the top. It is inherently undemocratic because it is based on abstract ideas and runs counter to the will of the majority of the people.” Thus he assumes the role of defender of America’s Christians against the predatory activities of their own government.
Buchanan wholly endorses this. “America was de-Christianized in the second half of the 20thCentury,” he writes, “by court orders over the vehement objection of a huge majority of the country that was overwhelmingly Christian.” It is assumed now to have virtually unanimous support world wide. This is a long way short of the truth. When he wrote this column only 15 of the world’s hundred or more nations had accepted it. It is now under consideration in about ten more.
Many, particularly in the media, would certainly regard Putin as a dubious champion of Christianity. He is an autocrat, suspected (among other things) of arranging the assassination of three journalists, But Buchanan sees the Culture War of the 21st Century as very different from the East-West clash between Russia and the West in the 20th. The latter was what he calls a “vertical” struggle — nation against nation. “The 21st Century struggle is shaping up as horizontal, with conservatives, traditionalists and nationalists of all continents and countries standing up against the cultural and ideological imperialism of what Putin sees as a decadent West.”
Events since Buchanan wrote that in 2013, events have consistently fulfilled his expectation. There’s a reason. Putin knows his history. When Soviet communism openly and brutally sought to destroy Christianity in Russia, it utterly failed. America with less brutality but also less honesty now pursues the same goal. It too will fail — and Putin knows this. We may about to find it out.
Yet a way to freedom existed and was discoverable. “Perfect freedom,” says the old Anglican prayer book, lies in “the service of God.” Which might mean: Get married, have children, and actively seek servitude to God. Then one day you will realize that in abandoning all hope of freedom, you have actually acquired it.
Ted Byfield was founder and publisher of Alberta Report news magazine, general editor of Alberta in the Twentieth Century, a 12-volume history of the province, and general editor of The Christians: Their First Two Thousand Years, a 12-volume history of Christianity. His column on education appears in The Christians.com, a web journal. He has recently authored two little books on modern pedagogy: Why History Matters and The Revolution Nobody Covered. You can order both copies here.