Excerpts from “How the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, a Putin enabler, spins the war.”
by CATHY YOUNG, at the Bulwark, MARCH 9, 2022
Blaming the Ukraine Invasion on … the Gays?
In the past ten days, plenty of rational-izations have been offered for Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine—everything from “Russia needs a buffer state to keep NATO at a distance” (just about every Kremlin apologist) to “Russia is trying to ‘denazify’ Ukraine” (just about no one except Putin and his minions).
But in a Sunday sermon, Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, offered a startling new explanation that is sure to resonate with the Sohrab Ahmari wing of the modern American right: It was to save Eastern Ukraine from the gays.
The patriarch—who, it should be noted, began his clerical career in the Soviet era when the church was a loyal handmaiden to the atheistic state and who was reportedly a KGB agent, like the rest of church hierarchy—summed up the situation as follows:
For eight years, there have been efforts to destroy what exists in the Donbas [a region of Ukraine where armed conflict has been ongoing between Russian occupation forces and Ukrainian defenders since 2014.] What exists in the [Russian-occupied parts of] Donbas is a rejection, a principled rejection of the so-called [pro-gay] 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.”
Alternatively, one could say that “what exists in the Donbas” is an enclave ruled by armed gangs of separatists controlled by shadowy people with likely ties to the FSB, the Russian state security service. Freedom is nonexistent even by the standards of Putin’s Russia (Freedom House gives Eastern Donbas a “freedom rating” of 4 out of 100, ahead of only North Korea, Syria, Tibet, Turkmenistan, and South Sudan.
Human Rights Watch has reported that the Moscow-backed “armed groups” that rule the region frequently detain people on bogus charges of espionage or treason and that detainees, including pregnant women, have been “held incommunicado, in appalling conditions,” denied medical care, and in some cases tortured. Surely even religious believers who frown on gay pride parades should agree that kidnapping and torturing people is worse.
During his fifteen-minute sermon on the Eastern Orthodox holiday known as Forgiveness Sunday (the last day before Lent), the patriarch did not say a word about fellow Christians under fire in Ukraine outside Eastern Donbas. He did, however, returnmore than once to the evil of gay parades:
There is a rejection in [Russian-occupied] Donbass, a fundamental rejection of the so-called values that are offered today by those who claim world power. Today there is such a test of loyalty to this power, a kind of pass to that “happy” world, the world of excessive consumption, the world of visible “freedom”.
Do you know what this test is? The test is very simple and at the same time terrible — it’s a gay pride parade. The requirements for many to hold a gay pride parade are a test of loyalty to that
to the most powerful world; and we know that if people or countries reject these demands, they do not enter that world, they become strangers to it.”
The Patriarch recalled that homosexuality is condemned by the teachings of the Orthodox Church, thus it turns out that the special military operation that the Russian Federation has been conducting in Ukraine for the tenth day meets the interests of the ROC [Russian Orthodox Church]. “If humanity recognizes that sin is not a violation according to God’s law, if humanity agrees that sin is [merely] one of the variants of human behavior, then human civilization will end there. And gay pride parades . . . are called to demonstrate that [this gay] sin is [merely] one of the variations of human behavior. That’s why in order to enter the club of those countries, it is necessary to hold a gay parade.
Not to make a political statement “we are with you”, not to sign any agreements, but to hold a gay pride parade. And we know how [when] people resist these demands and how this resistance [is] suppressed by force. It means that we are talking about forcibly imposing a sin condemned by God’s law, which means forcibly imposing on people the denial of God and His truth” – that is, those with weapons in the hands of the opposing forces of the Russian Federation . . . .”
Young: [this sermon] made me think, too, of fairly common claims by pro-Kremlin conservatives in the United States that the real reason the libs hate Putin and Putin’s Russia is the [regime’s] homophobia. . . .
Were some Western progressives more incensed by Russia’s “gay propaganda” law than by the brutal suppression of peaceful protests, the crushing of the independent media, the election-rigging, and the rest of the Putin regime’s systematic assault on civil liberties? No doubt. But the Putin-loving “trads,” in Russia or in America—be it Patriarch Kirill, Pat Buchanan, Steve Bannon (who recently praised Putin on his podcast for not being “woke” and pointed out that “they don’t have the Pride flags” in Russia), . . . are at least as obsessed with the idea of the Putin regime as [their favored] nemesis of LGBT rights.
The real irony, perhaps, is that [recent] Ukraine was not exactly San Francisco. The country still bans same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples, and only about one in five people (similar to the numbers in Russia) believe that homosexuality should be accepted by society.
However, for all its problems, Ukraine is sufficiently hospitable to free expression that thousands of people have been able to march under rainbow flags year to year—in contrast to Russia, where attempts to hold such events have ended in violence from both police and anti-gay vigilantes.
One can debate whether the American liberals and progressives who have decisively won the culture war on gay rights are too intolerant toward people who still subscribe to traditional sexual morality, such as Christian bakers and florists who refuse to provide services for same-sex weddings. But the willingness of quite a few traditionalists to see brutal anti-gay repression as the silver lining of an authoritarian regime rather dramatically illustrates the ugliness at the heart of the “trad” mindset.
And Patriarch Kirill’s obscene wartime sermon shows us one place where this path leads: the place where the dreaded “gay parade” is a greater evil than a war of aggression.