One of the things I’ve noticed about religious traditions is that, just as the tend to produce their own unique sort of saints also, when they go bad, give off their own unique smell.
Protestant saints don’t look or sound like Catholic saints who don’t look or sound like Orthodox saints. Catholicism and Orthodox could not have brought forth a William Wilberforce, a Jim Eliot, a C.S. Lewis, a General Booth, a George MacDonald, or a Billy Graham. Neither of the other two traditions could have produced a St. Francis, an St. Edith Stein, or a St. John Paul. And likewise, nobody but the Orthodox could have produced the amazing saint of the Orthodox tradition with their bear wrestlers, cave dwelling monks and profound mystic.
But likewise, only Catholic culture could have produced a Hitler or a Himmler, an Alexander VI, or a Machiavelli. Only Protestantism smells like Elmer Gantry, or Bultmann, or Bill Clinton with his Big Ol’ Bible, or the ridiculous New Age flummery of idolatry that used to attend Obama. And likewise, only Orthodoxy gone bad could give us Rasputin, or former seminarian Stalin–or this nutty apotheosis of Byzantine Caesaropapism currently being floated re: Putin.It’s interesting to me that bad Catholicism (which also has a strong authoritarian streak) also has a bad Catholic take on Putin as Constantine Redivivus: the strong man who will chase away Teh Gays, and privilege the Church so that she can get back to the imagined Good Old Day of kicking ass and taking names. The longing for earthly power is a permanent temptation, no matter what tradition you hail from.
By the way, I suspect that the principle holds outside the Christian tradition too, of course. Good Jews, Buddhists or Muslims are good in different *ways* from one another, and bad ones go bad in different ways from each other. Not sure what to make of that, but it interests me.