According to Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins and Brittany Pheiffer Noble, the Progressive West and the Christian West are locked in a civilizational struggle in which the Christian West is gaining an ally with Russian Christians (Orthodox Church). The common enemy for Christians is apparently Islam:
“If we do not bind together as partners with others in other countries then this conflict is only going to metastasize,” said Steve Bannon in 2014. He was referring to a conflict he perceived between “Judeo-Christian values” and “Islamic fascism.” Speaking to a conference held at the Vatican, he seemed to call for Christian traditionalists of all stripes to join together in a coalition for the sake of waging a holy war against Islam.
The rhetoric of a looming civilizational war has proved persistent. Recent years have seen religious leaders from both the American Christian community and the Russian Orthodox community coming together to bemoan the decline of traditional values. One example is the 2015 Moscow meeting between Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, and Franklin Graham, son of the evangelist Billy Graham. The Patriarch lamented to Graham how, after decades of inspiring underground believers in the Soviet Union with its defense of religious freedom, the West has abandoned the shared “common Christian moral values” that are the bedrock of a universal “Christian civilization.”
But even as Bannon and various religious leaders seek to pit the values of Christianity against those of Islam, there is also an internal competition to decide who gets to define Christian traditionalism. Two of the main players in this competition, American Christian traditionalists—including conservative Catholics like Bannon as well as evangelicals like Franklin Graham—and Russian Orthodox, are united in their desire to save Christendom from the perceived threat of radical Islam. But buried underneath that superficial agreement is a complex disagreement as to what Christendom even means.
Not to be missed is that the Christian West is also at odds with the Progressive West:
According to Steinmetz-Jenkins and Noble, this alliance among Russian and Western Christians is a striking instance of resistance to the Progressive West:
Here is where the [Russian Orthodox Church] and ultra-conservative Russians have found allies in the West, and in particular among evangelicals: In a global fight for traditional families, it falls to them to promote heterosexual marriage, childbearing, and adoption as part of an overarching defense of “civilization.” Masha Gessen recently wrote about how the World Council of Families has found an eager audience in the post-Soviet world (namely Russia and the Republic of Georgia), where wealthy conservatives have joined forces to promote the traditional family and to slow or repeal pro-LGBT legislation. The scholar Kristina Stoeckl has charted how the ROC has become involved in issues of religious freedom in the EU. These Russian-led efforts, Stoeckl noted, are not unlike other international groups promoting a clear set of values and trying to enact corresponding legislation; the difference here is that we’re seeing an emergence of Christian traditionalist, rather than progressive, global coalitions.
The possibility of a new global resistance to the values that have become stays of the mainstream progressive West raises the question of who will lead this resistance. While there are obvious connections between Trump and Bannon, Bannon and Dugin, American evangelicals and Russian Orthodox, there is no clear social, political or ideological framework tying them all together. And the gap between conservative and extreme right seems to be rapidly widening. Many devout young evangelicals don’t recognize fringe conservative groups as part of their tribe, and the anti-Islam and anti-immigration concerns of far-right groups do not resonate with mainstream evangelicals who are more concerned with family values and “biblical” principles guiding legislation.
So if Christians are opposed to the Progressive West because that iteration of the West has lost its bearings on the nature and importance of marriage and the family (with marriage as the proper outlet for sex and parents as the best vehicle for socializing young humans), does this mean the Progressive West and Islam are part of the alliance opposed to Christian traditionalists? Muslims, whether politicize or assimilated, are no fans of sex outside marriage, divorce, or gay rights. That means Muslims are no fans of the Progressive West (think President Obama and drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemem). And yet the Progressive West somehow fails to see that Islam is part of a global resistance to progressive values. Of course, the Christian West also fails to see that Islam could be an ally in opposition to the family-indifferent Progressive West.
But are we really supposed to think that the Progressive West is alarmed by the Christian West’s opposition to Islam? Do Progressive Westerners really believe Muslims have their backs?
Chances are, Progressive Westerners’ sympathy for Muslims is only skin deep — based much more on prejudice against the Christian West than genuine empathy for Islam. For this Christian Westerner, that’s a tell.