White American Evangelicals have been among Putin's Biggest Fans – Will Invasion Change Things?Roundup
tags: conservatism, Vladimir Putin, evangelicals
Anthea Butler is a professor of religious studies and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Her most recent book, White Evangelical Racism: The Politics of Morality in America, was published in March.
While the world looks on in horror as Russia's invasion of Ukraine unfolds, one group has been praising Russian President Vladimir Putin. It turns out Putin has a fan base in America’s right-leaning evangelical politicians and pundits.
At this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, which wrapped up over the weekend, Lauren Witzke, a GOP candidate for the Senate in Delaware, said: “Here’s the deal. Russia is a Christian nationalist nation. They’re actually Russian Orthodox. ... I identify more with Putin’s Christian values than I do with Joe Biden.”
This isn’t an uncommon stance among some Republicans and white American evangelicals today, who have previously admired Putin because of the alignment of their beliefs with his about homosexuality, authoritarianism and fealty to former President Donald Trump. Many believe Putin’s nationalism, coupled with their Christian belief, is the way America should be.
A few months ago, it’s likely that not much attention would have been paid to a statement like Witzke’s, nor would her support for Putin be so closely connected to her support for Trump. But in light of Russia's current actions, more pro-Putin American evangelicals are coming into sharp focus. Televangelist Pat Robertson proclaimed that Putin is “being compelled by God” to invade Ukraine — his take on Putin’s motivations is questionable at best, but his support for Putin as part of a divine plan is notable.
As things escalate in Ukraine, evangelicals and Republicans alike are faced with a hard choice: How do they support the authoritarian policies of Putin while Ukraine and its evangelical population face the horrors of war? I suspect it will be difficult for evangelicals and Republican officials to continue to be as effusive as their idol, Trump, has been about Putin. Because if they indeed believe in the so-called family values of the church, the images we’re seeing of Ukrainian parents’ being separated from their children to escape Russian forces is much harder to justify.