Vladimir Putin and God

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Vladimir Putin has taken it upon himself to lecture President Obama and the American people on the doctrine of God, and God’s relationship to human history.

Mr. Putin apparently did not care for the part of President Obama’s address Tuesday night on Syria when President Obama made a reference to “what makes us exceptional” as Americans.

Writing in the
New York Times,
Mr. Putin counters,“God created us equal,” as he argues that it “is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional.”

When I read Mr. Putin’s editorial, however, my first question was, who is the “us” in “God created us equal,” Mr. Putin? For example, does that include the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender citizens of your country?

How exactly does “God created us equal” work in Russia, Mr. Putin?

Masha Gessen, a journalist in Moscow and the author of
The Man Without a Face
, a biography of Vladimir Putin, has written about “Russia’s New Normal,” also for the
New York Times
. In Russia, the “new normal” when it comes to equality is a run-away homophobia in both law and social relationships.

Gessen, as a concerned lesbian parent, writes about how “cruel” this is for her and her partner’s kids. Their kids feel “nervous” when, for example, Russia’s “most prominent homophobic politician attacked our family directly.” Gessen writes that as a family, they are also getting support, as “the parents of my son’s best friend and classmate immediately got in touch asking if they could do anything to help protect us.” Will that be enough, she worries, to protect their children from this insanity that is now the “New Normal” in Russia?

Where is the equality that comes from God in your Russia, Mr. Putin, when kids get scared by homophobia propagated by Russian politicians, including yourself?

In Christian theology, “God created us equal” also means we are each accountable to God as our creator. How does that work, Mr. Putin, when your editorial cynically absolves the Assad regime for the use of poison gas, instead arguing “there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists.”

That’s not the direction that the U.N. Inspectors will point when they issue their report. According to a recent article in
Foreign Policy
, the U.N. report “will provide a strong circumstantial case — based on an examination of spent rocket casings, ammunition, and laboratory tests of soil, blood, and urine samples — that points strongly in the direction of Syrian government culpability.”

Equality before God means equality of judgment; it is my view, as a person of faith as well as an American citizen, that you, Mr. Putin, as well as your government, should be held accountable for the actions of Syria, including gassing its own citizens. Syria is your client state.

You come out strongly for “peace” in your editorial. Peacemaking requires truth-telling, Mr. Putin. Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) You need to tell the truth about the obstructionist role Russia has played in the United Nations Security Council in regard to Syria. You are not believed when you pontificate about how the United Nations Security Council is so important in “preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world,” given Russia’s recent role.

Yes, American exceptionalism has functioned, from time to time, to convince Americans that God loves the United States best. This has tempted us to regard our own national interest as innocent, as I have written.

Is that the case here, in regard to the use of banned chemical weapons, as investigation is showing, by the Assad regime?

Perhaps in part, but in part it can be that we as Americans are also horrified by a state gassing its own citizens, especially children.

You claim, in your editorial, to be getting to know President Obama better. One thing you should know about this man, Barack Obama, is that he has shown himself to be a dedicated father. “Protecting children” has been a theme in his presidency, especially in regard to protecting them from senseless violence. When children are callously gassed to death, this person, this human being, is clearly horrified.

This is the whole of what our president said about “American exceptionalism.”

When “we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.”

While I personally do not agree with the president that bombing Syria is the best way to achieve those ends, there is an important point the president is making here.

Values are just words, even words used cynically, when you do not try to live up to them in deed as well as word.

So, show us you believe that “God created us equal,” Mr. Putin. End homophobia in your country, repeal the discriminatory legislation already in place, and work with your citizens to make equality in deeds and then in words.

Do that first, and then we’ll talk about God, creation and equality.

Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, M.Div., Ph.D., is Professor of Theology and immediate past President at Chicago Theological Seminary. She is the author, among other works, of Dreaming of Eden: American Religion and Politics in a Wired World.

  • MarlboroStan

    Bravo!

  • LibertyBell777

    Well said!

  • Yaarov Skimaan

    God created us equal but when you spy on people on friends, read their email, or listen to their private phone calls, you are evil.

  • SimonTemplar

    Regarding Putin’s quote, we should consider the source before we let ourselves get all worked up about it.

    Regarding Obama’s quote, again we should consider the source.

  • frjohn1

    For a theologian, you have a rather strange view of morality. How is it more immoral to kill someone with gas than it is to kill someone by shooting them? The rebels have killed thousands of people.You also ignore the nature of the opposition to Assad, which is highly infiltrated with radical Islamists whose goal is to turn Syria into a Muslim state governed by Sharia Law, which treats all non-Muslims as inferior with fewer civil rights and fores them to pay tribute to their Muslim oppressors. You also ignore the strong ties with Al Qaeda of the opposition. Finally, you ignore the atrocities committed by the rebels against the Syrian Christians. The rebels have desecrated and destroyed Christian churches and monasteries. They kidnapped the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan and Syriac Orthodox Bishop of Aleppo and murdered their driver while they were on a humanitarian mission. They tried to assassinate the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch by firing on St. Mary’s Cathedral in Damascus while the clergy were distributing food to the needy. Most recently they terrorized the nuns and orphans at St. Thekla’s Monastery and the people of Maaloula. The Christian community of Syria has written President Obama urging him not to intervene on behalf of the rebels because they know what will happen to them if the rebels are victorious. The Christian community of the Middle East is facing extinction partially as a result of the policies of the U.S. The Christian community of Iraq has suffered horrible persecution after the US invasion and has almost disappeared. The Christians of Egypt have been subjected to oppression by the Muslim Brotherhood. If the rebels are victorious as a result of American intervention, we will be guilty of helping destroy one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. How is it our American national interests to support radical Muslims with ties to Al Qaeda in their effort to take over Syria?

    Archpriest John W. Morris, PhD

  • Tkr835

    Susan Thistlethwaite better stick to theology because her science is pretty shaky. There is NO conclusive scientific evidence that people are born irrevocably homosexual. The few studies that point to a genetic link are flawed in their methodology and even if taken at face value they do not support the notion that genetics are the only causal factor in homosexuality. Let’s not blame God foe “creating” gay people.

  • jay2drummer

    Nobody BLAMES God for creating gay people, they just recognize that God created all people, gay or straight, and loves all his children.

  • retiredcolonel

    While you’re wringing your hands over the outrageous, unjust, and ungodly use of chemical weapons in Syria, Dr. Thistlethwaite, take a long look in the mirror of your soul and then see whether your support of unlimited abortion of unborn children in America–often by chemical means–squares with your conscience.

  • wisemom

    Putin can lecture Obama, and so can China, because this incompetent, indecisive weakling who started his Presidency with an apology tour has painted America into a corner by ratcheting up our debt, golfing when he should have been solving our economic problems, trying to reduce our own nuclear weapons, blocking any realistic attempt to make us energy independent (ie, Keystone, fracking, offshore drilling), undermining the credibility and the power of the greatest country on earth. Therefore, he has lost the bully pulpit in the world, and has handed it over to those who know how to lead, decide, and wield economic and military power.

  • wisemom

    Tkr855, why are you so geared up to proclaim that there is no conclusive evidence that people are born irrevocably homosexual? Sounds like a veiled justification for homophobic religious beliefs.

  • frjohn1

    Wisemom is wrong. Several studies of identical twins have shown that a tendency towards same sex attraction is not genetic.
    Dr. Thistlethwaite seems to lack a basic knowledge of the history of Christian theology. All historic Christian churches teach some form of the doctrine of ancestral or original sin. Luther and Calvin taught the doctrine of total depravity, which means that we are born incapable of good and totally corrupted by sin. As Eastern Orthodox, I reject the doctrine of total depravity, but do believe that we are born corrupted by ancestral sin. If a person is born with same sex attraction, this is a manifestation of original or ancestral sin.
    You have also forgotten another standard Christian doctrine, the doctrine of sanctification or as we Orthodox call it deifcation. That means that God’s graces changes the believer from sin to righteousness. That means that if a person has problems with homosexual sin, the grace of God can change them by helping them resist the temptation to commit homosexual sins and eventually over come the tendency to commit homosexual sin.
    Thus your theology is highly defective shows a rather serious rejection of traditional Christian doctrine.

    Archpriest John W. Morris, PhD

  • jay2drummer

    And a large number of studies show that there IS a biological link towards attraction, same sex or other.

  • sciencelady1

    Tkr
    You believing that homosexuality unnatural is your opinion. It is not fact.
    Each of us self identifies. It’s personal. Someone else should not impose what a person is or is not, whether it comes to sexual preference, religion, or creed.

  • sciencelady1

    ‘no true Scotsman’ fallacy.

  • Renew

    Why must everything be seen through the prism of gays and lesbians? Even in foreign policy some will bring up this subject even when it has nothing to do with the topic at hand.

  • jay2drummer

    Because it IS related to the topic at hand, when a person makes claims about everybody being equal just weeks after passing a law that says gays and lesbians are second-class citizens with fewer rights that straights.

  • Secular1

    Wisemom, your pseudonym is indeed very ill chosen. The pre-fix ought be made of letter “umdb” not necessarily in that order. Your birther canard of President Obama went on an apology tour is indeed a lie. Whether you like it or not our country does have a reason to apologize more than a few times for what was done by our leaders in our name. So stop being an arrogant. Just one instance our over throwing of Mogazedh of Iran in 1953 (now admitted by our own CIA) should be a case for which we need to apologize, as people, because we are a representative democracy, so our leaders wrong doings are our responsibility. So stop this nonsense.

    Coming to your false lament about ratcheting up the debt. Where were you under the other fellow racking up trillions of dollars in debt and increasing at a rate of over a trillion a year. You are all a bunch bigots who cannot stand Obama being a president while being black. Shame on you – I sincerely hope your children do not catch the sick contagion you carry in your heart and in your consciousness.

  • Catken1

    How about your support for your right to unilaterally decide to murder any child who needs to use your organs or blood or bone marrow to survive, when you don’t want to give?
    Oh, right. Pregnant women aren’t people, therefore we don’t have to consider their wishes or the consequences to them when we demand the co-optation of their bodies, their work, their pain and their risk for others’ good.

  • Catken1

    Doesn’t matter, though I really don’t think being gay is a choice. We don’t restrict people’s rights in this country based on the idea that they COULD have chosen to conform their lives to other people’s wishes but chose not to do so. We allow people the freedom to live and believe and run their families as they see fit as long as they don’t hurt other people or unfairly interfere with their well-being and liberties.

  • Catken1

    As for “Christian theology,” FrJohn, if you want to believe that your god tortures people forever and ever for falling in love with the “wrong” person and not trying to give up everything joyous about love, sexuality, and family in their life, that’s your business. If you insist on continuing to flatter, fawn on, and kiss the rear of the god who tortures your siblings for such horribly cruel and unfair reasons, in order to keep him from torturing you, too, that’s your business, too, though it does not speak well for your moral sense or compassion. However, evidence shows that efforts to “convert” gays to heterosexuality work far less well than efforts to “convert” left-handers to right-handedness, do no more good than those, and do quite a lot of harm and psychological damage.
    And the Constitution says that you cannot force people to abide by your religious beliefs in order to have civil rights.

  • retiredcolonel

    Re your rant: “your right to unilaterally decide to murder any child . . .” What on earth (and under heaven) are you talking about? Are you seriously comparing blood donors (or non-donors)–either male or female, by the way–to women who destroy the unborn children in their wombs?

  • retiredcolonel

    Or is possible, Catken1, that the last part of your comment (“when we demand the co-optation of their bodies, their work, their pain and their risk for others’ good”) means that you view the child conceived in a mother’s womb as an intruder, a threat, a hostile force to be resisted and destroyed–in other words, “other,” with all the alienation and degradation that term entails?

  • retiredcolonel

    Catken1, you are obviously carrying some serious spiritual baggage, perhaps a terrible or unfortunate religious experience. Counseling might help.

  • jay2drummer

    An unborn child in the womb IS an intruder. By definition, it is a parasite. It survives by stealing nutrients from the woman whose body it is inside, and can be very harmful to her wellbeing. And “unborn” child is a fetus. It cannot survive outside the womb, cannot survive without leaching off the body of another person.