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Wednesday, 23 July 2014 07:55

Ukraine Under Siege by the Religious Right

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A wooden Russian Orthodox church just south of Kiev, Ukraine. (Photo:<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/mattsh/5481601274/in/photolist-9moD5N-k5f3rc-7WVVAg-7YxHBW-9PX5oW-ie4ov7-4jnTLR-7tFnwJ-8DwRYZ-iuHppx-AHZ32-7Wqzg1-jC3iFS-ePfwhz-4ci53F-dexowA-8HizkN-8yyNU9-aBLVk1-fxGSML-8q9diT-8mN7Md-ooRj1e-dWrFB7-9K8WkH-ogq1Vt-bNwCM6-mym9Ga-bYAS5S-9UgBsm-n6Ethr-7Hx1z8-9zv5rz-dB37K7-kfDhVh-6fkxb7-kfANYR-kfDhwb-iQnPos-hyNEQr-kfAGxV-8dazip-dYd8mg-kfDjgy-mEAjxv-9cfNgu-kfDey7-bisSax-fJGUWP-fBhFB6" target="_blank"> Matt Shalvatis / Flickr</a>)A wooden Russian Orthodox church just south of Kiev, Ukraine. (Photo: Matt Shalvatis / Flickr)Combat the epidemic of misinformation that plagues the corporate media! Make a tax-deductible donation to Truthout and BuzzFlash today.

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The World Congress of Families, an anti-gay Religious Right operation with an international focus, had been planning to hold "World Congress of Families VIII – the Moscow Congress" in Russia in September. According to a WCF Press Release, the conference has been suspended because of the "situation in the Ukraine and Crimea (and the resulting U.S. and European sanctions) [which] has raised questions about travel, logistics, and other matters necessary to plan WCF VIII."
The "situation" in Ukraine, however, isn't scaring off numerous Religious Right leaders from visiting Ukraine and pitching their wares.

As the late Actor/Comedian/Pianist, Jimmy Durante often said: "Everybody wants to get into de act." Now, it's David Barton's turn. People for the American Way's Right Wing Watch recently reported that Barton, ersatz historian and genuine Christian nationalist had also spent some time in Ukraine, where he met "with members of the government and various religious leaders in order to teach them how to build a proper government based on the teachings of the Bible."

Last week, Buzzflash ran a piece about the American Pastors Network involvement with government and religious entities in Ukraine. However, over the past fifteen years, the Religious Right has launched numerous projects aimed at the Ukrainian people. A list, compiled by Political Research Associates' Cole Parke, includes:

* "The Trinity Broadcasting Network has been in the region since 1999."

* Pat Robertson's "Christian Broadcasting Network launched a Ukrainian version of 'The 700 Club' in 2010."

* "In 2004, Peter Wagner, one of the leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation, assembled a gathering of evangelical leaders in Kiev where he prayed for the day when 'the government of the Church and the political governments will enter into a harmony.'"

* "In 2008, former Exodus International board member, Don Schmierer, conducted a seminar in Donetsk, Ukraine, promoting his anti-LGBTQ, ex-gay theories."

* "Earlier that same year, Kay Warren, Rick Warren's wife and co-pastor of Saddleback Church, visited Kiev, Ukraine to preach at a women's conference."

* "Mike Bickle of the International House of Prayer spoke to an evangelical revival in Kiev in 2010."

* "And the infamous Scott Lively traveled through Ukraine just last October."

Barton recently appeared on James Dobson's radio program – yes that Dobson, the founder of the once super-powerful Focus on the Family, and one of the old-line Religious Right leaders still humping away on the radio – "where he revealed" some details of his trip.

"They were absolutely shocked to find out how practical the Bible was," Barton told Dobson's audience. "They had no clue that all of these things [pertaining to government] were in the Bible ... We talked to them about all sorts of things, about education in the Bible, about all sorts of things, so they were alive and on fire."

Right Wing Watch reported that "Since returning to America, Barton revealed that he has been contacted by several other members of the Ukrainian government, asking him to return and deliver his presentation to the entire parliament, as well as from government leaders in neighboring nations who want him to come and present his message there as well."

"The Religious Right's ongoing fascination with countries like Russia and Ukraine underscores its contempt for democracy, true freedom and basic human rights," Rob Boston, Director of Communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told me in an email exchange. "Some Religious Right leaders are all but slobbering over Vladimir Putin, and they seem to seriously look to Russia as a bulwark against the decadent, gay-friendly West. Rather than an open, democratic system, some Religious Right activists yearn for a strongman who pledges fealty to 'traditional values.'"

According to Boston, America's Religious Right "is attracted to these countries in part due to these nations' generally anti-gay attitudes and their historical ties to the Orthodox Church, which has undergone a resurgence since the collapse of the Soviet Union. As Western Europe becomes more secular and Americans embrace a theology that is increasingly less dogmatic, fundamentalist zealots are casting about for a country willing to implement their extreme social agenda. Some have focused on African nations, and they've caused quite a lot of problems in places like Uganda. Unlike African countries, nations like Ukraine and Russia offer certain advantages: They're largely Christian already, and their culture mimics many aspects of Western society as it existed 50 or so years ago in that it's patriarchal, anti-gay and conservative."

Boston pointed out that this interest in exporting its brand of Christianity is nothing new. In the early 1990s, TV preacher Pat Robertson latched on to Frederick Chiluba, the president of Zambia. "Chiluba declared his country officially Christian, which Robertson thought was just great. Christian Reconstructionists were excited as well; some of them even talked about Zambia becoming the first 'reconstructed' country and a base for evangelizing the rest of the world. It didn't quite work out that way."

"The Religious Right keeps making the same mistake. Its leaders and activists have a naïve belief that some political leader will rise up a la Constantine the Great and lead the world to 're-Christianization,'" Boston added. "Human nature being what it is, it never quite works out that way. I suspect the Religious Right's current love affair with Ukraine and Russia will come to a similar end of heart-break and acrimony."