Scott Lively and the American Evangelical Attraction to Russia

On July 18, Ruth Graham wrote in Slate “Mariia Butina’s cozy relationship with the Christian right makes total sense.” Butina is the Russian national who was recently indicted on charges of conspiracy and acting as a agent of the Russian government.

For certain, Butina had an easy time making friends with Christian right leaders such as Eric Metaxas and organizers of the National Prayer Breakfast.  Graham also wrote about why  that”cozy relationship” make sense:

Much of the Christian right views contemporary Russia with a surprising fondness, and it’s a coziness that predates the Trump administration.

Graham then mentions Pat Buchanan, Bryan Fischer, and Franklin Graham as evangelicals who have praised Putin’s hard line on gay and abortion rights. Despite Putin’s authoritarian tactics, some Christian nationalists like the morality he legislates.

Enter Scott Lively

Although there have been many influences on the development of current policies in Russia toward gays over the years, one simply cannot overlook the role of current GOP candidate for governor in MA, Scott Lively. In 2006 and 2007, Lively toured 50 cities in seven former Soviet bloc countries, including Russia spreading his anti-gay message. In a 2013 blog post, Lively celebrated the passage of a Russian law which banned teaching about homosexuality in schools.

On January 25th of this year the Russian State Duma, its highest legislative body, voted to prohibit homosexual advocacy to children, following the enactment of similar legislation in a number of Russian cities including St. Petersburg, and Novosibirsk (the capitol city of Siberia).

http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/59099.htm .  Go Ruskies!

I am personally very pleased to see this development, having called specifically for legislation of this sort in my speaking tour of the former Soviet Union in 2006 and 2007.  During that tour, which began in the Russian Far East city of Blagoveschensk and ended in St. Petersburg, I lectured in a variety of venues including numerous universities, churches and conference halls, and met with numerous government leaders at various levels of influence.  The entire tour spanned approximately 50 cities in seven countries: Russia, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine, and Belarus (we also passed through Kazakhstan but didn‘t speak there).

Toward the end of the tour I published, from St. Petersburg, A Letter to the Russian People (see below) which summarized my central message that I had shared in well over 300 lectures, sermons and media interviews during the prior year.

My pro-family message was warmly welcomed by the people of each of these countries, and to varying degrees the homosexual agenda has been slowed in all of them.  To my knowledge the only two Eastern European countries to pass pro-family legislation designed to curtail the spread of homosexuality are Russia and Lithuania, which are coincidentally, the only two countries to whose people I wrote an open letter.  My Lithuanian letter can be viewed online at www.defendthefamily.com.

Here you can watch Lively in action speaking in a Russian church. Notice how the audience begins to clap when Lively says a gay man dies.

He also appears in this Russian documentary.

Although it might giving Lively too much credit, he certainly deserves some responsibility for giving Russian leaders a wedge issue to use to compete with the West. In an interesting twist, American evangelicals who have excused Donald Trump’s moral failings have had practice by praising ruthless Putin for his support for traditional morality in Russian law.

Those waiting for an uprising of Christian leaders to condemn Donald Trump for softness toward an authoritarian dictator in Putin can keep waiting. Many evangelicals of the Christian nationalist persuasion think  evangelical morality can and should be legislated, even if you have to overlook some things.

 

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Over U.S. Intelligence, Donald Trump Accepts Putin’s Strong Denial of Russian Election Interference

Social media is ablaze with outrage over Donald Trump’s answer to a question about who he believes regarding Russian meddling in the 2016 election. In short, he said he has confidence in Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats but he believes Putin. Watch:

Let it sink in what Trump told the world. Russia mounted a cyberattack on the U.S. and he still sided with Putin. His rambling, tangential response deflected the question and yet still placed him in defense of Putin’s “strong denial.”

Ronald Reagan is dying many more deaths somewhere today. For an American president to cozy up to a former KGB agent, blame America for our poor relationship, and then to throw U.S. intelligence under the bus is collusion in real time. No need to prove anything covert. In my opinion, it just happened on the world stage.

Some readers may disagree. Let’s discuss.

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Leaker or Whistleblower? It Depends on Your Point of View

It has been fascinating to watch the differences of perspective play out in the controversy over possible improper links between Donald Trump’s campaign and people associated with Vladimir Putin. Two illustrations follow. First, listen to Evelyn Farkas described her efforts to alert colleagues in the Obama administration about the need to preserve information pertinent to possible Trump collusion with Putin loyalists.


The Trump supporter who tweeted this video claims Farkas’ statements establish that she helped Obama spy on Trump. Her statements are being played on right wing outlets this morning as evidence that Obama really did spy on Trump. For instance, Hugh Hewitt played the video for White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and tweeted this:


Farkas didn’t say she or anyone spied on Trump. In the context of discussing Russian interference in our election, she said there was intelligence about possible connections between Trump’s staff and Russia. Farkas didn’t say how they got the information but she was clear that she didn’t want Trump’s people to keep it from seeing the light of day. Trump supporters are focusing on the possibility that Trump was being surveilled. However, what I think is much more important is the core of Farkas’ claim. She said intelligence exists which ties the Trump campaign in some manner to the Russians. Is the leaking of such information a problem or is it whistleblowing?
Second, watch Speaker of the House Paul Ryan explain Devin Nunes’ decision to brief President Trump about information he received from a “whistleblower-type person.” Keep in mind that Nunes and the Republicans have been quite critical of those who have leaked intelligence to the press. Apparently, whistleblowing is fine but leaking is bad, even though one must leak to blow the whistle.


Trump apologists see in Farkas’ words an admission of spying and vindication for Trump’s claims of being “wiretapped.” They seem more outraged about Trump surveillance than the possibility that Trump’s people colluded with Putin’s people. In contrast, if there was collusion between Trump and/or his campaign staff with the Russians, then I am glad the previous administration found out and preserved the intelligence.

And Today's Twitter Winner Is: Senator Chuck Grassley for His Ask Putin Why the Dead Pols Tweet

So many questions and so much material just from this one tweet.


Did someone hack Sen. Grassley’s account?
If not, it is noteworthy that before church this morning a U.S. Senator implied Vladimir Putin has had his political opponents killed. It is also noteworthy that a Senator is reaching out to the President through Twitter.
Apparently, Grassley hasn’t been paying attention because Trump monitors his own Twitter account. Can’t find an answer yet.
Can you imagine the phone call? “Hey Vlad, Chuck Grassley wants to know why you’re killing off all your political opponents?”
I think we should all tweet an “Ask Putin” tweet.

Do Evangelicals Leaders Still Care about Ukraine?

Ukraine flagWhen Barack Obama was president, evangelicals and conservatives cared about Ukraine. They believed Obama was weak and unwilling to confront Vladimir Putin’s expansionism into Ukraine.
Now, evangelicals are largely silent about President Donald Trump’s warm words toward Russia’s leader and confusing rhetoric about Ukraine.
An early signal of this shift was obvious at the GOP National Convention when Trump’s supporters watered down a key pro-Ukraine plank in the party platform. I was told by a GOP delegate that the only proposal Trump’s observers spoke up about was the one which encouraged the U.S. government to arm Ukrainians against Russian aggression. Trump’s people in the room succeeded in significantly softening the proposed language with little if any resistance from the large contingent of evangelical delegates.
Now, despite Trump’s assurances that Russia would leave Ukraine alone, Putin’s forces are again bombing Eastern Ukraine while Donald Trump defends Putin and even compares his Russia to the U.S (see the recent Bill O’Reilly interview).
On this point, the following tweet caught my attention.


And…


Do evangelicals leaders still care about Ukraine?
If they did, I hope they will use their clout with Trump in order to educate him about the dangers of trusting the Russian leader, especially given his recent actions. If anything, Trump’s rhetoric is more in lines with a desire to Make Russia Great Again than #MAGA.
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5O9Giu4Vx50[/youtube]
According to my Grove City College colleague Paul Kengor, Trump is heading down the dangerous road first traveled by FDR with Stalin and then by Obama with Putin. In a 2016 article, Kengor wrote:

Stalin showed that “like” of FDR by rolling over Eastern Europe, hammering everything from the Ukraine to Poland. He abused the hell out of FDR. Not until literally days before he died, just weeks after Stalin preyed upon his trust at Yalta, did FDR finally learn and admit he had been wrong about Stalin.
“Averell [Harriman] is right,” FDR sighed to Anna Rosenberg on March 23, 1945, less than three weeks before he died. “We can’t do business with Stalin. He has broken every one of the promises he made at Yalta.”
FDR’s tragic mistake was thinking that the Russian leader liked him and thus would “work with me for a world of democracy and peace” (yes, FDR actually said that about Stalin).
The “Putin-likes-me” attitude of Trump is a fatal conceit, and it’s something that Donald Trump should have learned from watching two terms of Barack Obama’s naïve statements and attitude toward the Russians. It is also the polar opposite of Ronald Reagan’s statements and attitude toward the Russians.

As we have seen repeatedly, Trump hasn’t learned anything by watching Obama.
Putin has now again moved on Ukraine with no real response from Trump. If anything, Trump confused the matter. Evangelicals have been silent; will they remain so?
For the sake of the Ukrainian people, I hope not.

Trump and RussiaGate – Some Good Things to Read and Consider

The latest news to hit involving Donald Trump is potentially the most troubling. A leaked report (available to read at Buzzfeed) from a retired intelligence operative claims Vladimir Putin authorized a scheme to cultivate Trump as an ally and conspired with Trump’s campaign to undermine Clinton. There are accusations of sex tapes involving Trump and treasonous behavior. At least, it will function like the Trump-fueled birther conspiracy. At most, the document reveals treason and impeachable offenses.
There are so many distractions about the story on social media. A major distraction is Trump who earlier this morning went on a major tweetstorm.
Trump Russia Tweetstorm
Trump’s denials are disturbing because they fly in the face of other information coming from credible sources.  I recommend an article by Benjamin Wittes, Susan Hennessey, and Quinta Jurecic and published at the Lawfare blog which provides a dispassionate analysis of the situation. Trump claims the document was leaked by “intelligence agencies” whereas Wittes and associates say that the document has been in wide circulation for weeks and isn’t even classified.

And this material, in fact, does not come from the intelligence community; it comes, rather, from private intelligence documents put together by a company. It is actually not even classified. (source)

Trump did not win the election easily and didn’t win the popular vote. We don’t know that these stories are true but we don’t know if they are totally fake either. The point of Wittes, Hennessey and Jurecic is that the intelligence is unverified. It may be true or it may be false. Clearly, it is in Trump’s interests to deny and reframe the report as an attack piece. However, it is not in our interest as citizens to look the other way. There is circumstantial evidence to make some of the claims seem quite credible. Instead of believed or disbelieved, the claims should be investigated and since Trump won’t do it, Congress should.
Since Trump won’t release his personal and business tax returns, he does not deserve the benefit of the doubt when the security of the nation is at stake. The report alleges shady dealings around the world but not necessarily in Russia. A release of those tax documents could provide insight into the allegations. On Russian investments, Trump and the report agree – he wasn’t able to score a big deal.
The Trump Campaign and Russian Opposition Research
During the election, we know that Trump recited false information about Kurt Eichenwald which would have been available via Russian sources. From Eichenwald’s Newsweek report dated 10/26/16:

Updated | I am Sidney Blumenthal. At least, that is what Vladimir Putin—and, somehow, Donald Trump—seems to believe. And that should raise concerns not only about Moscow’s attempts to manipulate this election but also about how Trump came to push Russian disinformation to American voters.
An email from Blumenthal—a confidant of Hillary Clinton and a man, second only to George Soros, at the center of conservative conspiracy theories—turned up in the recent document dump by WikiLeaks. At a time when American intelligence believes Russian hackers are trying to interfere with the presidential election, records have recently been fed to WikiLeaks out of multiple organizations of the Democratic Party. But now that I have been brought into the whole mess—and transformed into Blumenthal—there is even more proof that the Russians are not only orchestrating this act of cyberwar but also really, really dumb.

Eichenwald’s report (read the whole thing) demonstrates how Russian sources placed disinformation into the Russian press which was used by the Trump campaign. It was almost as if the campaign had the information before it was published in the Russian press.
Regarding the credibility of the current Buzzfeed document, Eichenwald’s report cuts both ways. On one hand, it lends credibility to the charge that the Trump campaign had a working relationship with Russian intelligence sources who sought to undermine Clinton. On the other hand, Russian disinformation efforts could also be behind some of the more salacious aspects of the Russian intel memo. Given the relevance to national security, Congress should investigate.
Sitting here as a citizen, I am worried about the implications of this story. To me, it is obvious that Trump is stretching the truth to defend himself which doesn’t inspire confidence. I am worried that Republicans are going to roll over just to make nice with the incoming administration. I am thankful for Republicans like John McCain who seems to be taking this matter seriously. Given the consequences, we should be able to agree that an investigation is warranted.

Dinesh D'Souza: Putin Loves Russia and Fights for Its Interests

Yesterday, Christian right film maker Dinesh D’Souza (Hillary’s America) tweeted:


The alt-right is also alt-reality and alt-morality.
Make sure you read the responses to D’Souza’s tweet. D’Souza is supposed to be the celebrity public intellectual but these commenters are taking him to school. In addition to oppressing his political opponents, Putin and his government have recently cracked down on religious liberty and evangelizing in Russia.
Christian right political types in the US cry big tears about religious liberty but praise Putin’s leadership in a nation where religious liberty is truly under attack.
Human Rights Foundation chair and former chess world champion Gary Kasparov tweeted in reply:


Trump’s supporters in the Christian right may someday wonder how they were duped so badly. I hope they aren’t wondering this after a Trump administration deals away American interests to a Russian dictator. Rather I hope it comes later after Trump and Clinton lose in a history making electoral college win for a third party candidate.
Perhaps I am alt-reality too. But at least my conscience is clear.
UPDATE: Mr. D’Souza goes full Trump and makes fun of my name. Classy argumentation.


To Gary Kasparov, D’Souza concedes:


If defending America’s interests looks like Putin, then no, we couldn’t use such a president.

Matt Drudge: Putin Is Leader of the Free World

I first saw this posted over at Little Green Footballs…
Matt Drudge says Vladimir Putin is leader of the free world.

This is same Vladimir Putin who is leading the charge against various freedoms in Russia (speech, assembly). And the same Putin who leads a government which persecutes religions other than Russian Orthodox (including Christians).  Despite some efforts to limit abortions lately, Russia subsidizes legal abortion and has one of the highest abortion rates in the world.
Even a cursory analysis of Russia’s problems makes it clear that Russia’s leaders must do something to address their many problems. However, stigmatizing gays and limiting freedoms is unlikely to do much to help. It is certainly bizarre to see conservatives here rally around the former KGB officer.
LGF tipped the hat to the New Civil Rights Movement.