Russian President Vladimir Putin
Associated Press/Photo by Mikhail Klimentyev (RIA Novosti Kremlin/Presidential Press Service)
Russian President Vladimir Putin

Does God take sides?


In a column titled “Whose side is God on now?” Pat Buchanan makes the point that as Western civilization swirls down the drain, Russia and its president Vladimir Putin are emerging as the defenders of family values. According to Buchanan, by aligning with the Orthodox Church, limiting abortion, and banning the promotion of homosexuality, “Putin is planting Russia’s flag firmly on the side of traditional Christianity.”

This is an interesting take, but not totally out of the blue. I’ve heard grudging admiration for Putin from the mouths of Christians and conservatives: “He’s tough,” “At least he’s not wishy-washy,” and “Next to our leader, he looks pretty good.” Unlike George W. Bush, I never looked into the former KGB agent’s eye and got a sense of his soul, so I only have his actions to go on, and Putin’s actions suggest a ruthless pragmatist. He may be deluded about the possibility of restoring the old Soviet empire—if that is truly his aim—but he is fairly savvy about how the world works.

For instance, whether or not he feels it himself, he seems to know that the religious impulse is one of the strongest and most enduring motivators of mankind. Alexander Solzhenitsyn believed Russian Orthodoxy was rooted too deep in the heart of Mother Russia to be eradicated, and Putin seems to agree: His alliance with the church may be no more than political expediency, but the church is no stranger to politics, either. It may be a marriage of convenience for both, but no less effective for that. Putin also sees the effect of long-term state atheism because it’s right in front of his nose: sky-high divorce and abortion rates, rampant alcoholism. If the church can shore up Russia’s population and self-discipline, the church is Putin’s ally (even while he files for divorce).  

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As Western civilization comes apart, strange bedfellows appear. Dinesh D’Souza’s 2007 book, The Enemy at Home, posed the startling thesis that the cultural left is a far greater threat to our nation than radical Islam—that the left had, in fact, encouraged that very radicalism, and we should foster alliances with moderate Muslims on moral grounds. This wasn’t the way to talk while our troops were fighting house-to-house in Fallujah, and D’Souza got dumped on. But he had a point, and so does Pat Buchanan, and yet …

A few millennia ago, outside the walls of Jericho, Joshua encountered a man with a drawn sword and a heavenly aspect. “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” Joshua asked, obviously wanting divine reassurance. The “man” didn’t give it: “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD.” The Lord is not a pet God—“not a tame lion.” We must be careful who we align with, whether in body or in spirit. Family values are not God’s ultimate purpose; His kingdom is.

Janie B. Cheaney
Janie B. Cheaney

Janie lives in Missouri, is a columnist for WORLD, writes novels for young adults, and is the author of the Wordsmith creative writing series. She also reviews books at RedeemedReader.com. Follow Janie on Twitter @jbcheaney.


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