Vladimir Putin is smarter than Stalin, God-booing Democrats and God-eschewing Republicans.
On March 2, the Russian leader introduced into his parliament amendments that called for “homage to ancestors who bequeathed to us their ideals and a belief in God,” and recognition of marriage as “a union of a man and a woman.”
This in a week when, in the U.S., a socialist atheist and an abortion-approving Catholic who had difficulty in a Houston speech finding the word “Creator” in the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence were vying for their Party’s nomination for the presidential race.
It would seem things are being turned upside down with the president of Russia (and a former KGB agent at that) calling his lawmakers to more official recognition of God and what many would consider a biblical view of marriage and family.
Putin proves the frailty of stereotyping. By the same token, let us hasten to add that not all Democrats boo God and not all Republicans are God-eschewing, even among the Rinos.
It should also be noted that some Putin-watchers think he might be maneuvering for another term as Russia’s chief of state.
However, Putin knows his country’s history — better, perhaps, than some American politicians know theirs.
The Bolsheviks who came to power under Lenin in 1917, like some of today’s American barricade-stormers, were out to build utopia. Humans have a longing for Eden and the reign of God’s Kingdom whether they acknowledge it or not. The Lenin-led Communists created the opposite of paradise.
This is always the outcome when we try to build the kingdom without the King.
According to the Marxists’ strategic theory, things in the way of their brave new world had to be removed. God, the Church, and the Family had to go. In 1927, Communist ideologue Anatoly Lunacharsky wrote: “The so-called sphere of private life cannot slip away from us, because it is precisely here that the final goal of the Revolution is to be reached.”
The Gulag could take care of religionists and social traditionalists, but how to destroy the number one obstacle to a Communist “paradise” — the family? As Oliver Figes, a Russian history scholar, notes, the Marxists viewed the “bourgeois family” as “socially harmful” because “it was inward-looking and conservative, a stronghold of religion, superstition, ignorance and prejudice…”
In 1918, the new Soviet rulers imposed a “Code on Marriage and Family Life” to destroy the “bourgeois family.” Rather than going to the Church to marry or seek permission for divorce, all a couple had to do was register their decision with the bureaucracy.
Anything-goes sexual behavior was encouraged, and abortion was legalized. Children were no longer regarded as belonging to the family, but were the property of the state, to be raised in collective institutions. Orphans proliferated and were placed in grim wards where they were denied affection, resulting in disturbed children. Many Americans found this out directly when they adopted Soviet bloc orphans after the 1989-1990 collapse of Communism.
With the collapse of church and family, chaos swept over Soviet society. In 1920, Russia became the first nation to allow abortion for any reason. Yet orphans proliferated, sexually transmitted disease spread, the workforce shrunk, population rates plummeted, and lives were shattered. But to correct the problem all the state had were more tools of oppression, resulting in stern laws aiming to tame the social wildness unleashed from the restraints of church and family.
By the time of Stalin, the chaos had become so destructive he imposed what some regarded as draconian measures, banning all abortion, making it more difficult to get a divorce, and outlawing homosexuality.
Yet the spiritual and moral chaos led to Russia having the world’s highest divorce rate— a trend that continued into the present, along with a dangerously declining birth rate.
Thus, Vladimir Putin is truly “woke” to the crises facing his nation and knows something must be done.
There are cautions regarding Putin’s proposals. For one thing, it is easy for politicians and their sycophants in religious institutions to use the church simply to sanction a transitory political order and its policies, or to preserve a particular culture rather than that of God’s universal Kingdom of righteousness-justice, peace, and Spirit-given joy. (Romans 14:17)
Russell Kirk, the twentieth century American political philosopher, went to the heart of the problem when he wrote that “spiritual disorder brings on political anarchy.”
For spiritual order to prevail, the church must not be a nationalized institution, but the “embassy” of the Kingdom of Heaven within nations, universal in scope. It must be regarded as foundational, not merely a convenient prop for a particular political agenda. It must be at the core of society, not simply the gilded edge. It must give definition to the nation, society, and culture, not defined by them.
Yet, whether wily or wise, Putin seems to be on the right track. He has done his society a favor by pushing for a return to belief in God, along with honoring those in the past who held strongly to faith.
That will include individuals like the old peasant encountered by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who asked, “What’s gone wrong with our country?”
The old man answered simply but profoundly: “Men have forgotten God.”
Wallace Henley is a former pastor, White House, and congressional aide. He served eighteen years as a teaching pastor at Houston's Second Baptist Church. Wallace, the author of more than twenty books, now does conferences on the church and culture, church growth and leadership. He is the founder of Belhaven University's Master of Ministry Leadership Degree.