For years, Russian President Vladimir Putin was a poster boy for some conservative Christians in the U.S. and Europe. They considered him a cultural ally and defender of the faith.
But Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine has shocked former allies and the tide has been turning against the Russian autocrat as the invasion goes into its second month.
“Putin has gone beyond decency and doesn’t behave like a Christian, but an aggressor of Christianity, like a war criminal,” wrote Peter Costea on the conservative portal, the Informed Christian this week.
In an op-ed headlined “Why Christians must get rid of Putin,” he wrote: “Putin is not the redeemer or the messiah. He attacked Ukraine, a Christian country. He’s killing innocent people, women, children, the young and the old. He is destroying schools, hospitals, infrastructure of an independent and sovereign state.”
“Putin’s war comes from his obsession and his personal megalomania. It is not a just war. It is a war of aggression,” he added.
In the years leading up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a number of prominent Evangelical leaders in the United States expressed a shared sense of identity with Russia and sought to connect with Russian leaders including Mr. Putin.
Right after Russia’s attack on Ukraine, televangelist Pat Robertson said Putin was “compelled by God” in his decision to invade Ukraine.
The attraction stemmed from White Protestant disillusionment with the freestyle worship and perceived ‘feminine emotionalism’ of their old church homes.
Russian Orthodox leadership with its family values movement makes Eastern Christianity an appealing symbol for some representatives of the right, the Washington Post reported. Some Neo-Confederates champion Orthodoxy as the spiritual home of white nationalism.
The religious right have broadly overlooked the Russian leader’s authoritarian tendencies because of his culture war stances, until the invasion.
Since then, J.D. Greear, the former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, praised Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s leadership, Slate news wrote. The National Association of Evangelicals declared that the invasion was unjustified.. Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University lit up its “Freedom Tower” in Ukrainian blue and yellow and the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary did the same.
Prominent theologian Russell Moore called Putin a “murderer and a tyrant.”
Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association who in the past defended Putin and praised Russia’s anti-gay laws, praised Ukrainians as fighting for a “Christian revolution.”
In the most recent Economist/YouGov Poll, Americans were asked who they are more sympathetic toward in the conflict: Russia or Ukraine? The vast majority of American adults (73%) sympathized more with Ukraine, while only 6% chose Russia.
A similar share (5%) of those who identify as Evangelical Christians sympathize with Russia. Among Evangelicals, there is no apparent racial divide regarding Russian sympathies; white Evangelicals and non-white Evangelicals share similar opinions on the conflict.
Russia is no “Christian powerhouse.” That narrative is little more than an easily falsifiable propaganda campaign by its kleptocratic governing class,” said an article in the Public Discourse which is funded by the conservative Witherspoon Institute.
„Russia struggles not only to preserve its ancient faith tradition—in spite of significant government expenditures to the Orthodox Church—but also to protect and preserve its families in the face of substance abuse, domestic violence, and unmitigated cronyism,” it said.
The Christian and anti-Western Alliance for Romanian Families sent out its weekly newsletter on March 24 titled „Godless Putin.”
„Christians are beginning to realize that Putin is not a man of God, but a man with no God. It’s a month since Putin’s aggression of Ukraine today and relentless atrocities were carried out against citizens,” the group wrote.
„Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine shows that the lie about all the stupid dreams that he is a pillar of Christian and conservative values.”