A friend of mine responded to the headline as follows: “Hitler said the same thing in 1933.”
Lest you get concepts confused, I don’t think Putin is talking about riding in shirtless on a horse to defend the rights of Christian bakeries and florists, nor to save the would-be victims of Christian-hating gunmen. But the threat he references is not insiginificant, existing mainly of course in the Middle East and coming from radical Islamist sources. The Christian Post reports that many Christians in Syria are pleased to see Putin intervening on Bashar Assad’s behalf because they figure their lot is better with Assad then it would likely be with whoever might replace him. The subsequent presentation of Putin as a big supporter of Christians in general is a bit rich to say the least:
After delivering the facts, Metropolitan Hilarion asked Putin to make protection and defense of Christianity around the globe a major part of his foreign policy.
And, as reported by Interfax, Putin replied, “You needn’t have any doubt that that’s the way it will be,” assuring Hilarion that Russian foreign policy would defend Christians from persecution abroad.
Putin’s recent actions seem to confirm his promise. Last week, Putin vetoed a U.N. motion calling for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to step down. Syrian Christians received this as good news. Assad is of the Alawite sect of Islam. Alawites and Christians are both religious minorities in Syria. Syrian Christians feel that sharing this minority status means Assad will provide them with protection. A Syrian Christian woman even told The Global Post, “Thank God for Russia. Without Russia we are doomed.”
Putin has long been a supporter of Christianity and Christian values within Russia. He has called for the Church to play a larger role in citizens’ social lives, better religion classes in schools, and television programs emphasizing religious values.
It’s news to me that blatant land grabs, crony capitalism and suppression of political dissent were Christian values, but maybe the Russian Bible translations are a little different.
But here’s what you can’t deny: People who feel threatened will gravitate toward someone they think might have the strength and the temerity – if not necessarily the virtue – to protect them. Who’s going to do that in Washington? Obviously not Barack Obama, who can’t even bring himself to mention that the Oregon mass shooter targeted Christians, but will be only too happy to castigate Christians over stuff that happened more than 1,000 years ago.
People will look to a strongman when they feel there is no virtuous, principled leader available. You hear a lot of American conservatives offering expressions of respect for Putin because, unlike Obama, he’s serious and aggressive in the pursuit of his geopolitical goals – which are always in the service of Russia’s strategic interests at least as he sees them.
I’ve long said this is a mistake. It’s one thing to give grudging respect to your adversary for his obviouus skills, but it’s quite another to cross the line into admiring the guy just because he stands in such stark contrast to your own weak and disappointing leader. Putin is still a force for malevolence around the globe, aligning himself with the mad mullahs in Iran, the despot in Syria and even the monster in North Korea. If he had his way, we’d say the reconstitution of the Soviet Union – and does anyone remember how that worked out for Christians the first time around?
Also keep in mind: Putin is ordering bombing raids in Syria, but he’s not targeting ISIS or its allies. He’s targeting the rebels who were trained by the U.S. Tell the next Christian who’s about to be beheaded by ISIS that Putin is there to protect him.
The bottom line is this: There is no substitute for American global leadership, and when it’s AWOL – as it is right now – we often make the mistake of seeking subsititutes that come in the form of pretty unsavory characters. And remember: Barack Obama may not be willing to stand up for Christians, but God is. I don’t always know how He’s going to do it, but I’ll take His protection over that of Vladimir Putin any day – and you should too.