Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Russia and America: Destined to Conflict, Religion



Russia and America cooperated in World War II because both were threatened by a common enemy. But like our alliances with other wretched dictatorships, it was an alliance of purpose, not based on any fundamental agreement. The Cold War immediately following World War II is proof enough that the Soviet Russian empire and America had little in common but a mutual desire to beat the Nazis, then to beat each other at every turn.

Now influential people in our government, led by Steve Bannon, dream of a white empire that will stand against the Muslim world. They assume that being a white Christian means some sort of common political goal and heritage.  Even in the West you would be wrong to say this. From the late Roman Empire until the 19th Century, Christianity was a state religion in much of the west and in direct conflict with religious freedom for nearly all of that time. The Reformation and the subsequent wars of religion all the way to the terrorism in Ireland in the 20th Century show that unity is not Christian political virtue.

And Russia throughout its history has very little in common with the west except a Christian label. Even the way that Russia became a Christian nation is utterly different than in the West.  In Rome, Christianity was accepted over time after waves of persecution.  The sheer number of Christians eventually led the government to accept the followers of Jesus. The Christian label on the Roman Empire came as that Empire collapsed.

In Russia, Vladimir the Great interviewed representatives of the leading religions in the world around the year 988: Islam, Western Christianity, Judaism and Eastern Christianity all made a presentation. Vladimir picked Eastern Christianity because the head of the Church was the head of the state. The monarch and the head of the Church were the same person for nearly half a millennia, but even after the prelate was separated from the monarchy, the Church was an organ of the Russian state.

In Russia, half the population was effectively in slavery until 1863. Russia never had an Enlightenment. It never had a Reformation.  From 1863 until 1917, Russia had a Jim Crow sort of freedom for its serfs, but then the Communist Revolution enslaved most of Russia more deeply than the Tsars. The state Church was abolished, but Anti-Religion became as much required as the former state religion.  Now under Putin, religion is fashionable again, but it is state religion, with rising repression of other faiths.

The Founding Fathers of America were unified in their commitment to Enlightenment principles and in their disdain for state religion. America has stood for religious freedom since well before it became a nation.  The idea that we are natural allies with a repressive regime with a state religion because it is white and has a Christian label is ludicrous.

Russia is in a slow, grinding process of becoming a fully authoritarian state with a state Church. America is still the favored destination in the world for people who want to practice their religion freely, or to be free to not practice religion at all.

In World War II America and Russia made an alliance to stop the Nazis, but were in a global fight for dominance as soon as that war ended.  The white supremacist dream of a global white alliance is simply a sick vision that will turn into a nightmare, especially for those who treasure freedom.