Vladimir Putin, Defender of the Faith

If Pat Buchanan has any social utility in his declining years, it’s his willingness to come right out and say what some conservatives only hint at, or perhaps haven’t even thought through. He has a new Townhall column that helps explain the semi-covert U.S. conservative appreciation of Vladimir Putin in terms that go well beyond the Russian’s homophobia and bare-chested machismo style of “leadership.” Indeed, it’s what you might expect from the man who popularized the term “culture war:”

Crimea, said Putin, “is the location of ancient Khersones, where Prince Vladimir was baptized. His spiritual feat of adopting Orthodoxy predetermined the overall basis of the culture, civilization and human values that unite the peoples of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.”

Russia is a Christian country, Putin was saying.

This speech recalls last December’s address where the former KGB chief spoke of Russia as standing against a decadent West:

“Many Euro-Atlantic countries have moved away from their roots, including Christian values. Policies are being pursued that place on the same level a multi-child family and a same-sex partnership, a faith in God and a belief in Satan. This is the path to degradation.”

Heard any Western leader, say, Barack Obama, talk like that lately?

Indeed, it’s clear the more Pat Buchanan hears from Putin, the more he sounds like, well, Pat Buchanan.

Putin is entering a claim that Moscow is the Godly City of today and command post of the counter-reformation against the new paganism.

Putin is plugging into some of the modern world’s most powerful currents. Not only in his defiance of what much of the world sees as America’s arrogant drive for global hegemony. Not only in his tribal defense of lost Russians left behind when the USSR disintegrated.

He is also tapping into the worldwide revulsion of and resistance to the sewage of a hedonistic secular and social revolution coming out of the West.

In the culture war for the future of mankind, Putin is planting Russia’s flag firmly on the side of traditional Christianity. His recent speeches carry echoes of John Paul II whose Evangelium Vitae in 1995 excoriated the West for its embrace of a “culture of death.”

What did Pope John Paul mean by moral crimes?

The West’s capitulation to a sexual revolution of easy divorce, rampant promiscuity, pornography, homosexuality, feminism, abortion, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, assisted suicide — the displacement of Christian values by Hollywood values.

What’s not to like?

Now Buchanan’s hymn of praise to Putin is hardly unprecedented. Last December, Harold Meyerson drew attention to Buchanan’s increasingly universal appreciation for any authoritarian regime, regardless of the particular Angry God it happens to embrace or which side of the Cold War it once took, that is willing to take a stance against the Decadent West:

For Buchanan, Putin’s abhorrence of secularism apparently outweighs his suppression of political dissent. His imprisonment of rock musicians who performed an irreverent concert in a cathedral apparently outweighs — well, his imprisonment of rock musicians who performed an irreverent concert in a cathedral. If it comes down to a fight between democracy and religious orthodoxy, as was true in Franco’s day, so is it true in Putin’s: Orthodoxy must prevail.

The Intolerant International. Bigots of the world, unite.

Meyerson viewed Buchanan’s pan-traditionalism as more in line with the contemporary European far right than with anything happening in America. But I dunno: you have to wonder how many Christian Right leaders have at least privately thrilled to the deeply reactionary strains of Putin’s rhetoric. It might be wise to keep an eye on U.S. conservative religious tourism to the New Russia Putin is building, along with strong efforts to ensure that Americans don’t forget the Enemy at Home.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.