If There’s a Difference Between Putin’s Patriarch and America’s Right Wing Preachers I Can’t See It.

If There’s a Difference Between Putin’s Patriarch and America’s Right Wing Preachers I Can’t See It. March 22, 2022

Kirill, Patriarch of Russia. Source, Wikimedia Commons, attribute www.kremlin.ru.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and Pope Francis of Rome held a virtual meeting a few days ago. In that meeting, the two leaders of different branches of Catholicism disagreed sharply about Putin’s war of conquest against Ukraine.  

Patriarch Kirill is all for Putin and his slaughter of innocents. He has used his position of Patriarch to deify what amounts to mass murder in the Ukraine.

There is no big surprise in this. Kirill, who has called Putin a “miracle of God“, is Putin’s boy, not Christ’s. He’s been backing Putin’s depravations throughout his tenure as Patriarch. The idea that Patriarch Kirill might be so moved by the suffering of Ukraine’s people that he would suddenly start speaking as a man of God instead of a political operative is unlikely at best. 

Pope Francis, on the other hand, gives every indication of being willing and able to stand against powerful politicians and speak for the Gospel. He said early on that then presidential candidate Donald Trump was “not Christian.” The American right wing recognized that Pope Francis was someone they couldn’t control and therefore must destroy from the moment we heard “habemus papen.” 

As soon as Jorge Bergoglio took the name Pope Francis and stepped out on the balcony to ask us to pray for him, right wing pundits such as Rush Limbaugh began firing volleys of criticism at him. Seditionist right wingers like Steve Bannon have worked with their cohort of priests and bishops, as well as right-wing funded Catholic media and blogs, to attack the Holy Father from inside the Church.

Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill could not be more different in terms of their individual morals. One possesses the independence that comes from following Christ. The other is just Putin’s whore in a goofy-looking hat. 

Patriarch Kirill wasted no time backing his master when Putin invaded Ukraine. He has done his best to use his office to redefine Putin’s atrocity as a holy war ordained by God. He does this in spite of the fact that it is a brutal war of conquest and annihilation that is being waged against civilians with tactics that are war crimes. 

It was inevitable that Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill would disagree about Putin’s war against Ukraine. One prelate is working to end the war, the other is the servant of the mass murderer who is waging it. 

The difference between the two prelates is darkness and light.

There is a parallel in American political life, one that most people are loathe to discuss, but that is too obvious to ignore. 

Patriarch Kirill has sold his witness for Christ to be a political operative. He backs whatever Putin does, and is willing to ignore both factual reality and the Gospels of Christ to do it. 

Most American Christians look at the Patriarch’s sell-out to Putin with disgust. But the truth is, many of our own faith leaders are just as much cold-blooded political operatives as Patriarch Kirill. 

If there is a difference between the Patriarch’s serving Putin instead of Christ, and right wing clergy here in America serving the Republican Party instead of Christ, I do not see it.

Both of them have sold their vocations to political powers. Both of them use their prophetic and moral voices as religious leaders to give a moral gloss to whatever their political bosses do. Both of them appear to be willing to attack anyone their political masters tell them to attack. Both of them excuse and ignore any immorality those same masters may commit. Kirill calls Putin a “miracle of God,” America’s right wing clergy calls Trump “God’s anointed.”

They are both bought and owned by the powers of this world. There is nothing of Christ in either one of them. 

Patriarch Kirill’s whole purpose as a priest appears to be serving up the church to Putin and his evil. Instead of regarding this with self-congratulation, American Christians should see it as a cautionary tale. 

The question is not whether many of our religious leaders are political operatives who are hellbent on serving up America’s faithful to right wing power brokers. Anyone with half a brain knows they are. 

The question is, what are America’s faithful Christians going to do about it?

I think the simplest answer to that question for us pew sitters is one that James Garner’s character gave to a troubled child in the movie Murphy’s Romance. A little boy in the story had come to the realization that his father was a dishonest wastrel. James Garner’s character listened while the boy described his father’s failings. Then, he answered him.

“Be like him or don’t. It’s your choice,” he said. 

Many of our religious leaders have sold their souls and their witness for Christ to be political operatives and wolves in sheep’s clothing, just like Patriarch Kirill. 

This presents those of us in the pews with a choice. 

We can be like our political preachers and equate Jesus Christ with right wing politics and demagogues. Or we can believe the Gospels and follow Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  

It’s our choice. 





Note: The line from Murphy’s Romance is as accurate as I can remember. I haven’t seen the movie in years. 

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