I Love a Parade

When we look at history, it is clear that Hitler was a madman, and that, combined with his antisemitism, had horrific consequences for Europe and the world.  Surely if he rose to power and unleashed violence today, we’d recognize this, condemn him and his actions, and no one would “justify” his warring and murdering, least of all Christians.  We — the world — have learned our lesson:  hate begets violence, violence begets death.  Hitler is a sad chapter from the past.  We won’t be fooled by the likes of him again.

Or will we?  Or, more accurately, will some?

Patriarch Kirill is the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, a denomination of Christianity.  He is, if you will, the “pope” of Russian Orthodoxy — the difference between the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Western or “Latin Rite” (Catholic) Church is both historical and theological, and a far more complex topic than I can or want to get into here, but both take as their starting point Jesus of Nazareth, both believe he was the son of God and the messiah, and both believe in a life after death lived out for eternity in one of two places:  heaven or hell.  Patriarch Kirill took the occasion of the Orthodox holy day, Forgiveness Sunday (for Orthodox Christians, the day before the season of Lent begins), to suggest in his sermon at the iconic Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow that the invasion of Ukraine was necessary to reject the “fundamental values” of those who would “claim world power” by demanding "that you hold gay pride parades as a test of loyalty.”  He went on to suggest that countries and political leaders who fail this test are ostracized, sanctioned, and denied access to things like Visa, Mastercard, and Netflix.

In the past eleven days, there have been plenty of rationalizations offered for Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine — everything from “Russia needs a buffer zone between itself and NATO” (every Kremlin apologist) to “Russia is trying to ‘denazify’ Ukraine” (no one except Putin himself).  But Patriarch Kirill added a new, bizarre explanation in his sermon:  to save Ukraine from the gays and their parades:

For eight years, there have been efforts to destroy what exists in the Donbas. What exists in the Donbas is a rejection, a principled rejection of the so-called values that are now being offered by those who lay claim to global domination. Today, there is a certain test for loyalty to that power, a certain pass into that “happy” world, the world of excessive consumption, the world of illusory freedom. Do you know what that test is? It’s very simple but also horrific: it’s a gay parade. The demand to hold a gay parade is in fact a test for loyalty to that powerful world, and we know that if people or countries resist this demand, they are excluded from that world and treated as alien.

Yowza!  “What exists in the Donbas,” according to Human Rights Watch, is Moscow-backed “armed groups” that rule the region and frequently detain people on bogus charges of espionage or treason, as well as detainees, including pregnant women, being “held incommunicado, in appalling conditions,” denied medical care, and in some cases tortured.  I would hope that Christian believers, even conservative ones who frown on gay pride parades, would agree that routinely kidnapping and torturing people is worse, way worse, than a once-yearly street fair with marching bands, disco floats, and dykes on bikes.  The patriarch did not have anything to say about his fellow Christians under fire in Ukraine, but he did mention, more than once, the evil gay parades and asserted that resistance to gays and their demands is opposed by violence (what, by that notoriously violent, world-renowned gay “army” that we unleash whenever and wherever we don’t get our way?) which amounts to “forcible imposition of a sin condemned by divine law,” making the invasion of Ukraine, “not a physical but a metaphysical struggle.”  Wait, what?

It is a common claim made by pro-Kremlin conservatives in the United States that the real reason liberals and progressives hate Putin and Putin’s Russia is the homophobia.  This argument was most recently made by political commentator Richard Hanania in a Substack post which argued that liberal elites in America viewed Putin with relative indifference until 2013, when Russia, in his words, “passed a law banning gay propaganda towards minors,” but in reality, restricted any gay-themed content in any place where minors could see it, including public events promoting gay rights.  Can it be argued that some in the liberal/progressive West were more upset by Russia’s “gay propaganda” law than by the brutal suppression of peaceful protests, the election interference, and the rest of the Putin regime’s systematic assault on civil liberties?  Yes, sure, absolutely.  But Putin’s cheerleaders in America, like one-time Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan and one-time Republican presidential advisor Steve Bannon (who just last month praised Putin on his podcast for not being “woke” and pointed out that “they don’t have the Pride flags” in Russia), are obsessed, and downright giddy, with the idea of Putin and his regime as comrades in the culture wars, particularly in the fight against LGBTQ rights.

The sad irony in this is, perhaps, that Ukraine was no West Hollywood or Palm Springs — the country still bans same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples, and only about one in five Ukrainians (similar to the numbers in Russia) believe that homosexuality should be accepted by society.  One can debate whether American liberals and progressives are too intolerant toward people who subscribe to traditional sexual morality, such as Christian bakers and florists who refuse to provide services for same-sex weddings.  But the willingness of some on the Right (and not just the fringes) to see brutal anti-gay repression as the silver lining of an authoritarian regime illustrates the ugliness at the heart of the conservative culture warriors and their push for a return to “traditional” values.  Patriarch Kirill’s obscene, and frankly bat crap crazy, wartime sermon would have you believe the dreaded “gay parade” is a greater evil than a war of aggression.

Ukraine heart
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