Russian President Vladimir Putin’s endorsement of legislation to ban “homosexual propaganda” attempts to distract his country from rampant corruption, foreign policy mishaps and stagnant economic growth. Thanks in part to Putin and despite his bravado, Russia is unsure of itself. It has lost its way in a new, ever-changing world order.
The Orthodox Church has been aggressive in its support to outlaw any form of homosexual debate, identity, or discussion. Yet the Church has been spiritually compromised for centuries and has not approached the issue with Christian ethics or a healthy scriptural foundation.
Russian Orthodoxy has functioned as an abused subordinate to numerous inept or ruthless tsars more concerned about power than justice. It languished under communism, where bishops became willing participants in a tyrannical state apparatus. In exchange for government favors they reported their own priests as potentially disloyal to the Soviet state.
Patriarchs, comparable to Roman popes in the West, could not be selected without the signoff of the notorious KGB, the Soviet secret police. Today, the Orthodox Church is the second hand of the Russian government which, as one example, influenced foreign policy in Syria to prop up a dictator slaughtering his own people.
Russia has a demographics crisis stemming in large part from poor health care, high infant mortality, limited economic opportunities and mafia-like corruption undermining the government and overall economy. It's not surprising people want to flee Russia.
It’s easier for the political and religious establishment to demonize what seems different, like homosexual relationships and peaceful demonstrations for rights and liberties, than blame itself for the nation’s massive problems.
Ongoing Western diplomacy to stop this bill must be leveraged with international medical societies, long supporters of LGBTQ civil and human rights. These societies have documented through study that homosexuality is a “normal variant.” Medical professionals within these groups need to make their voices better heard among medical counterparts in Russia.
Furthermore, according to World Travel and Tourism Council, “[t]he Travel & Tourism industry in Russia is bigger than the size of automotive manufacturing industry and directly supports almost as many jobs as the financial sector.”
Travel companies that help bolster the Russian economy need to speak out, noting they will find other destinations for tourists. Western travel companies may wish to start faxing and emailing Russian embassies and consulates as to the impact homophobic laws will have on travel and business to Russia.
Continued attention must be given to the sickness within Russian Orthodoxy and whether it has the moral compass it claims. No one should forget the scandal of the Russian Orthodox patriarch and his $30,000 watch. Russian society also should be reminded that in 2006, the patriarch’s personal worth was estimated to be $4 billion.
Although ongoing discussion of this primitive legislation shows a backwardness for a nation perceived as a cultured, world power; it reflects an unhealthy society. Nothing justifies or excuses the physical and emotional harm this bill will cause LGBTQ persons should it become law. International pressure to stop it needs to be more strategic, calculated and pragmatic. Trade and tourism might be the strongest angle. Diplomacy is important, but money talks.