Who said religion and politics don’t mix? Religion is one of the failsafe of any politician – lie and cheat and abuse people, and if you say that your actions are motivated by religion, everything will be forgiven. Trump was even sent to us to save Israel!
Religious groups themselves are happy to indulge the worst kinds of politicians, as long as they feel it will give them a bigger platform to do as they want. How Evangelicals can support a man like Trump, with his track record of doing everything their Bibles tell them not to, is one of the great ironies of the US political system. But they do it because they feel his sort of outsider politics gives them a bigger platform to spread their message from – they are still “voices crying in the wilderness” (John 1:23), but when that wilderness is the White House, they might be heard.
All of which makes it so much sadder that the US is so determined to fight religion as a matter of policy. The same Bible-thumpers who claim moral superiority by displaying their faith in public (Matthew 6:5) are not prepared to allow religion to inform the policies of other nations.
Whenever faith rears its head to the US and its allies, this has to be a bad thing, to be cut off it its root. We are told that Islam equals terrorism; despite the fact no Quranic scholar accepts that. Judaism equals Zionism, trying to undermine Christianity, while Christianity itself is a negative force trying to undermine secular values, as if there can be any secular values without religious ones to form a blueprint.
But it is not hard to see why this position is taken. Both common faith and tolerance of other faiths bind nations and populations together. They form a large part of individual identities and of national culture – the very things which make people believe they have value, and should be respected and listened to, and not blindly fulfil the role a greater power has assigned them.
Remember those big parades in Communist countries, where people carried banners of the leaders and demonstrated their military might and the force of their ideology? This was the only way these Godless atheists could try and supplant religion – using all the externals of religion to try and convince the public theirs was the only one—and they had been drugged with these fake religions.
The US always claimed it was anti-Communist and wanted to change these countries. Yet it has promoted every attempt to “modernise” former Soviet states, and many others, by cutting the religious values and identity of their people out of their political life.
This means of course that people cannot make a free choice, but only one from the range of inadequate options presented to them. The greater gulf between the people and the politicians, the less the people expect their politicians to serve them, not their US paymasters.
Freedom for slaves
One aspect of “modernisation” we are all very familiar with is the Gay Pride movement. Most, if not all, religions regard both male and female homosexuality as sinful, behaviour not permitted for their adherents (Romans 1:27). Every nation on earth is also built on religious values, and a culture which sprang from these, so this position is part of every culture on some level, irrespective of the tolerance shown to individual gays.
Yet for many years there has been a concerted attempt to introduce ever-wider acceptance of homosexuality as a practice and a culture. No one is arguing that homosexuals should be persecuted, or suffer any discrimination in law. But the continual promotion of homosexuality has created a powerful political Gay movement whose influence dwarfs, for example, that of the Women’s Movement or advocates of black and ethnic minority rights.
At one time homosexuality was seen as a mental illness. This public service film from the 1950s reflects the official attitudes of that time. But if anyone now used exactly the same words used in the film, they themselves would be told that they are mentally ill for not having the right mindset towards homosexuals.
Both of these “clinical judgments” cannot be correct at the same time, but we are told this policy is “science” rather than politics. In a largely secular country, this may not matter. But when you condemn whole cultures for having the contrary view, and deride their people for not being “tolerant”, “modern” or “enlightened” enough, you maintain those people are too ignorant to have a voice, and cannot therefore challenge your own “scientific” reasoning.
Georgia in the mind
In the light of the above, you might expect that the Republic of Georgia, the CIA dirty tricks capital of Eurasia, to be on the frontline of the struggle between national traditions and someone else’s idea of “modernity”. Indeed it is: Via USAID, NED and other front NGOs, the US has long funded groups that take exception, in the name of Gay Pride, to its religious institutions.
The Georgian Orthodox Church has always been a beacon of national identity, even for those who are non-religious or belong to other faiths. The members of Georgia’s minority faiths (largely Islam, Judaism and Armenian non-Chalcedonian Orthodoxy) identify themselves as Georgians within a minority religion, and happily acknowledge that most fellow Georgians are in the majority.
In 2010 there was a riot at Tbilisi State University. The students were protesting against a book called “Holy Crap”, apparently written by a fellow student, being launched there. The book was a vile attack on religion, which directly equated prayer with masturbation, amongst other things. It was designed to cause the maximum offence, and the students were not happy with their names being dragged through the mud, as they saw it, through association with the book
However the student who wrote it was long gone by the time the book was launched, enjoying a nice holiday in another country, and it was paid for by mysterious benefactors. The book was defended by an organisation called the Liberal Institute, which insisted that Georgians were being harmed by religion, and this book was a necessary means of dragging them into the modern world. Of course no one would ever be allowed to publicly attack an institution of the “modern world”, such as the Liberal Institute, in this obscene way, as many of its enemies found.
The Liberal Institute had strong links with Mikheil Saakashvili and his United National Movement regime. This was funded by the US, as protection for allowing the CIA to smuggle arms and drugs through the country, torture opponents and develop biological weapons, to name but a few of its well-documented local crimes.
Saakashvili was sometimes seen in church on state occasions, but spent the rest of the time attacking the institution. It was he who first introduced Gay Pride marches to Georgia. These take the form of processions through the central streets, in which gays act like conquering armies, not celebrating their existence but the fact that they have been given political recognition as a cultural group.
Most Georgians have long felt uneasy about this, despite being told they will “get used to it”. Not because they are anti-gay, although these events have often been disfigured by violence from their opponents, but because they know what is going on.
Gay Pride means attacking the religion and culture which have kept the Georgian people together through the darkest years of foreign domination. It means attacking Georgians for being Georgian, and thinking that is a good thing. If it didn’t, the US would not be interested in promoting it, when there are many other things – such as respecting democratic pluralism and rule of law, and improving the material well-being of the local population – they could be interested in.
Laws can’t change everything
The Georgian Orthodox Church issued a strongly worded warning against Tbilisi Gay Celebration, calling Tbilisi Pride of June 18-23 “absolutely unacceptable” and a “sodomite sin”, calling on the government “not to allow” it. It remains interesting that Gay Pride groups overseas are well funded by USAID and European countries, when there are apparently so many gays, who do not fund any children, that these events should be self-financing, if not outright money-spinners.
People may ask why there is any need for religion. Why organise around something which cannot be proven by “scientific” methods? Well maybe this is because those same “scientific” method are used to justify all the wars and killing which are usually blamed on religion itself. Political calculations dressed up as “superior reasoning” lie behind evil activities, and the more areas in which this can be done, the greater acceptance there is for the practice.
Trump now wants religion to be taught in schools. His motivation is pandering to his political base. However he also advocates the decriminalisation of homosexuality in countries where it is illegal.
The question of whether homosexuality should be subject to legal penalties is a different one from whether the practice should be promoted and celebrated. During the last UK parliamentary election Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron was believed to have cost his party a lot of votes by refusing to say in interviews whether he, as a Christian, considered homosexuality a sin. Yet he consistently voted for every pro-gay, anti-discrimination measure in parliament because he was a Liberal, and this should have been enough in practical terms.
But why does Trump want to interfere in the gay-related legislation of other countries? The US still has the death penalty for certain crimes, many other countries do not. The death penalty is a religious tenet, if you believe some interpretations of the Bible Trump is fond of invoking to justify ignoring it.
So why isn’t Trump calling for every other country to adopt the death penalty, or Christian national holidays, or monogamy, or any other practice the Bible advocates? Could it be that he knows these measures would not criminalise anyone else’s values, and thus deprive them of a voice at the “sophisticated” tables of power the US always chairs?
Some of the people, some of the time
The gay community is not served by the US and its allies promoting Gay Pride rallies in the name of human rights—quite the contrary. Gays are being pitted against their fellow countrymen in a fight for control of their countries, a fight most of them have no desire to be part of.
Most people in the world are religious, and practice their religion to a greater or lesser extent. When you demand by government dictate that a country embraces values contrary to its dominant religion, you undermine the whole country, condemn its people as backward and thereby say that they and their aspirations are not worth anything.
Religion has played in important part in the historical and cultural development of nations and individuals. Whether a member of a particular nation is religious or not, they wouldn’t be what they are today without it—and that is well understood!
If nations are going to grow and prosper as sovereign entities they need to rediscover and promote the values of their peoples, whatever those may be. It is no coincidence that when the United Kingdom was at the height of its power in the nineteenth century, the Church of England built ever larger churches which seem incongruous today.
The aggressive public promotion of Gay Pride, which always comes with political and financial strings attached, is simply another means of gaining control of resources. Those same US politicians who seek support from the religious right are happy to ignore mainstream religious leaders on this issue, and any other which gets in their way. Apparently prosperity can only flow one way, and that involves excluding as many people as possible from the pipeline by calling them deviant.
Saint Anthony the Great told us all this long ago “Who has greater authority, him or Donald Trump?”
Henry Kamens, columnist, expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.