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Christopher Stroop @C_Stroop
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1. I don't know how many people who teach in Christian schools or Evangelical colleges have spent time on the Russian mission field, but I do know those groups overlap. Whatever the numbers, the broader context around international collaboration in the culture wars is important.
2. @Beachbumjules, I'm not sure if you were worried about Russian influence on American schoolchildren, or American culture warriors' influence on Russians, but both countries have hardline right-wing populist/conservative utopian traditions of their own to draw on.
3. While to varying degrees at varying times Russian Orthodox Christians and American Evangelicals can be at odds with one another, in recent years they have often collaborated at a high level toward the pursuit of "culture wars" goals internationally. There's a long backstory.
4. American interest in conservative Russians, and in the conservative potential of the Russian people, goes back in the twentieth century to interwar and Cold War anti-Communism. Here's a little background:

academia.edu/5949640/The_Ru…
5. Heritage Foundation founder Paul Weyrich, who did much to lay the groundwork for today's Christian Right in the decades before Falwell's Moral Majority was established, took a particular interest in conservative Russians. Here's an example:

russialist.org/archives/5509-…
5-a. H/t @grantstern and @patrickLSimpson for digging into Weyrich's ties to Russians.
6. Many people aren't fully aware of, and are confused by, the emergence of Putinist Russia as perhaps *the* global standard bearer for "traditional values." But there were always anti-Communist Russians, and they worked closely with Western Christians in the twentieth century.
7. They were drawing on an older "conservative utopia," to use historian Andrzej Walicki's phrase, associated with Slavophilism and later with Eurasianist philosophy. Putin has replaced Marxism-Leninism as a mobilizing ideology with, if you will, Christian Russian exceptionalism.
8. And thus, while, in its influence campaigns, post-Soviet Russia still tries to appeal to extremist, anti-democratic forces both Left and Right, we have entered an era of primarily right-wing fellow travelers:

academia.edu/27600336/Bad_E…
9. Before our widespread concern over Russian disinformation and interference in the U.S.'s 2016 election, human rights advocates were looking at Russia in terms of a site for the exportation of American culture wars. Which in a sense it was.
10. American Evangelicals (and some from Australia, New Zealand, and Britain) rushed to expand their presence on the newly open Russian mission field after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. They helped build up Russian anti-abortion infrastructure, etc. static1.squarespace.com/static/54d0df1…
11. The World Congress of Families, however, a key locus for international organizing to oppose LGBTQ and women's rights, was a Russian-American project form its founding in 1997.

politicalresearch.org/2016/02/16/rus…
11-a. The WCF is now headed up by Brian Brown, a Catholic who is still president of the similarly hateful National Organization for Marriage, who founded the International Organization for the Family to be a more powerful lobbying group around WCF: rightwingwatch.org/post/brian-bro…
11-c. Here's more on Brian Brown and the International Organization for the Family's intimate connections with Russia: splcenter.org/hatewatch/2016…
12. Anyway, prior to 2016, it was tempting for many to look at Russia in terms of radical Right Americans exporting our culture wars, as in this video presentation by @HRC, but the reality was always more complicated.

13. Before going on to discuss that more complicated reality, let me address how our Christofascists exporting the American culture wars abroad is very much a real thing. Uganda's notorious "kill the gays" legislation is a case in point:

latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/…
14. Americans involved with helping to spur Ugandan anti-gay legislation include not only radical pastors Rick Warren and Scott Lively, but also politicians associated with an organization known as the Family, or the Fellowship.
15. The Family is associated with the National Prayer Breakfast and similar prayer breakfasts in other countries. Radical American Christians cultivate ties to leaders around the world to push for theocracy.
16. There is one absolute must-read book in this regard, and it is @JeffSharlet's The Family. The book is engaging, frightening, and thoroughly documented. And The Family's efforts go back decades.
16-a. Here's a link to the book: amazon.com/Family-Secret-…
17. Now back to the case of Russia. @PRAEyesRight's @coleparke was ahead of the curve when, in 2013, they asked, regarding Russia and America, "When it comes to the culture wars, who’s exporting and who’s importing?”

politicalresearch.org/2013/10/17/u-s…
18. Perhaps the height of Americans exporting our culture wars to Russia--this will bring us back around, @Beachbumjules, to the issue of missionaries--was achieved with a massive missionary effort known as Co-Mission, which took place from 1992-1997.
19. We have @brucewilson to thank for providing meticulous research on what Co-Mission, a large coalition of Evangelical organizations spearheaded by Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ (now "Cru"), was up to:

twocare.org/how-antigay-am…
20. What Co-Mission was up to was providing an anti-LGBTQ, crypto-Evangelical "ethics curriculum" to Russian public schools, a project it framed very differently to Evangelicals back home than to its Orthodox Christian partners in Russia. Also converting Russians on the side.
21. The Orthodox Christians wised up, causing the project to come to an end in 1997. But this is where the story intersects with my own personal experience. My Christian elementary school librarian went to Russia with Co-Mission. She then returned to work at my Christian school.
22. In addition, I was recruited for a short-term mission trip to Russia by the K-12 Christian school's middle school orchestra director in 1999. I didn't really know him, but all the teachers knew each other, and my mom taught (still teaches) in the elementary.
23. He was working with OMS International, a Greenwood, Indiana based missionary organization that was once known as "Oriental Missionary Society," was then known only by its initials, and has now rebranded as "One Mission Society." OMS supports an Evangelical seminary in Moscow.
23-a. Link, if you want to do your own research on OMS today:

onemissionsociety.org/give/moscow-ev…
24. Anyway, the man who recruited me for that trip had a brother-in-law who was both the brother of our high school ethics and study skills teacher, and also an alumnus of Co-Mission. And he was also part of our mission trip.
25. I went twice to do "English camps" - we "tutored" local students in the Vladimir Oblast in English by reading from an English translation of the Bible, because that's pedagogically sound (not) - in 1999 and 2000. We shared testimonies, etc.
26. The first year, an Orthodox priest was present at some meals and led prayer services for the Russian students, despite the tensions caused by Co-Mission. But the second year, we had no more connection to Orthodox organizations.
26-a. I've written a little bit about my missionary experience in this essay, "Bad Ecumenism: The American Culture Wars and Russia's Hard Right Turn":

academia.edu/27600336/Bad_E…

#EmptyThePews #HowToEvangelical #Exvangelical
26-b. If you want to know more about the ideological climate of the Christian school I went to and the surrounding milieu, check out my essay on Evangelical anti-intellectualism from my blog, #NotYourMissionField:

chrisstroop.com/2017/03/06/edu…

#EmptyThePews #Exvangelical
27. Now then, Already in the 1990s Russian social conservatives were already reviving and drawing on their own Russian tradition of hardline nationalist Christianity.
28. I once had an awkward dinner conversation with the family of a friend. Her aunt, knowing I had worked in those missionary summer camps and that her niece had almost converted through them, took me to task, insisting "We have our own ancient Christianity!"
29. So, American Protestants and Russian Orthodox Christians have their tensions, and that remains true on the ground, where in Russia today proselytizing outside officially sanctioned church services is illegal: publicorthodoxy.org/2016/10/25/yar…
30. This has not deterred many on the American Christian Right, including Franklin Graham, from continuing to admire Russia and to seek to work closely with Russians through high-level contacts:

religiondispatches.org/pence-meets-wi…
31. Russia has also been widely embraced by the likes of David Duke and the fascist alt-Right. The key person to read and follow on this is @cjcmichel, now of @thinkprogress:

washingtonpost.com/news/democracy…
32. And as for religious education in Russian public schools, while Russia is supposed to be offering an approach that doesn't proselytize, there is almost certainly a lot of malpractice on the ground:

srch.ranepa.ru/node/482
33. In terms of ideological affinities and direct institutional ties, we should also be aware of how elite Russians have cozied up to the NRA. See this excellent MSNBD spot:

msnbc.com/rachel-maddow/…
34. Meanwhile, if you like, have a listen to Putin himself discussing "traditional values" and linking the discussion to geopolitics. Warning, the uploader of this video shares toxic far Right ideology, but it's a good short clip with decent subtitles:

35. I'll end this by re-upping an old thread on the similarities between Russians and Americans. The analysis should help, I think, to understand the affinity between our radical right-wingers and theirs:



End thread. #EmptyThePews #TrumpRussia #Resist
*MSNBC
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