Mirroring Russian Christian Nationalism

Mirroring Russian Christian Nationalism June 11, 2024

Mirroring Russian Christian Nationalism

Mirroring Russian Christian Nationalism?

Is American Christian Nationalism mirroring Russian Christian Nationalism? Or, are both running on parallel tracks, both propelled by respective resentments? Researcher Sarah Riccardi-Swartz at Northeastern University concludes, “Americans who subscribe to Christian nationalist ideology are attracted to Putin as a strong man and ethno-nationalist leader just as they were with Trump.” Really? Could American Christian nationalists admire both Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump at the same time? The MAGA-Moscow wing of the Republican Party finds widespread American support, to be sure. But what might be the connection?

Well, Charles Bausman’s coverage of the World Russian Peoples Council (WRPC) gathering at the Kremlin on November 28, 2023 makes me sit up and listen. In “Putin’s Astonishing Christian Speech to Christian Nationalist Movement in Russia,” Bausman describes anxiety within the Russian Orthodox communion. This anxiety might look home grown to an American Christian nationalist. Rife among Russian Christians is fear of Central Asian immigrants taking too many jobs in Russia’s growing economy; moral impatience over the widespread practice of abortion; and the loss of Christian cultural glory belonging to the era of the Tsars. Has the moment come to remarry the Russian Orthodox Church with Mother Russia?

After visiting online religious dating sites looking for cultural ballast, Vladimir Putin now seems to be courting Patriarch Kirill. Kirill,  along with 6,000 kalimavkion [Камилавка] headdress wearing clergy and other prelates, listened attentively to a Putin barn burner asserting that the elites in power in the West are clearly evil. NATO nations, allegedly, are bent on dictatorship, world domination, conquest, the destruction of humanity, and the destruction of freedom. Who will stand up to this threat? Mother Russia will! Russia is the main force blocking the West with an alternative, humane vision of how the world should be ordered. Russia is our planet’s last hope to save the world from Western evil.

Mirroring Russian Christian Nationalism?

Bausman reports that Putin used a choice metaphor to describe this Western hegemonic dictatorship — comparing it to a ‘batty and decrepit old woman’ who has ‘lost control of herself’ and is a ‘danger to those around her.’ In short, NATO is defecating on Mother Russia.

Bausman tells us that Putin is willing to overcome the separation of church and state. Putin answered a question on this matter.

“It’s impossible to separate the church from society and mankind. With this I completely agree. And therefore I reiterate the importance of religion in education and upbringing of our youth and, of course, in strengthening spiritual, moral, family values. This is of eternal importance, the participation of our priests.”

Fox News and Tsargard TV

Mirroring Russian Christian Nationalism in America?

Just as Americans rely on Fox News to foster xenophobia along with American Christian nationalism (ACN) [see: Turning Point USA], Russia has Tsargard TV. Do you spot the word, tsar, in this name? Tsargrad has substantial influence in Russian politics and society, reports Bausman. This is because Tsargard TV produces a very professional and high quality product which effectively expresses a Christian conservative view on many daily political and social issues. It is staunchly patriotic, anti-immigrant, and pro-Christian.

Ruskii Mir (The Russian World)

Just as the anti-Christian nationalists are the loudest voice in America, so also the worldwide voices of Orthodox Christianity are being raised in harsh denunciation of the Putin-Kirill courtship. Outsiders fear a developing state theology in Moscow called Ruskii Mir. In a previous Patheos post, I provided this summary of the barely coate state theology of Ruskii Mir.  “Mirroring Russian Christian nationalism” (source: Public Orthodoxy).

Kirill and Putin. Are we Americans mirroing Russian Christian nationalism?

“Putin and Patriarch Kirill have used Russian world ideology as a principal justification for the invasion. The teaching states that there is a transnational Russian sphere or civilization, called Holy Russia or Holy Rus’, which includes Russia, Ukraine and Belarus (and sometimes Moldova and Kazakhstan), as well as ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking people throughout the world. It holds that this ‘Russian world’ has a common political centre (Moscow), a common spiritual centre (Kyiv as the ‘mother of all Rus’’), a common language (Russian), a common church (the Russian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate), and a common patriarch (the Patriarch of Moscow), who works in ‘symphony’ with a common president/national leader (Putin) to govern this Russian world, as well as upholding a common distinctive spirituality, morality, and culture.”

Now, Ruskii Mir is thought to be heresy by Orthodox prophets elsewhere in the world.

“Therefore, we reject the ‘Russian world’ heresy and the shameful actions of the Government of Russia in unleashing war against Ukraine which flows from this vile and indefensible teaching with the connivance of the Russian Orthodox Church, as profoundly un-Orthodox, un-Christian and against humanity, which is called to be “justified… illumined… and washed in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ…”

Orthodox anti-Christian nationalists worldwide are opposed to Ruskii Mir. Even if it’s contained in one country, Russia, CN risks justifying unspeakable violence such as the invasion of Ukraine. In two of my previous Patheos posts–Moscow: The Worst Public Theology and Moscow Again: The Worst Public Theology–I employed discourse clarification to analyze Ruskii Mir. 

Mirroring Russian Christian Nationalism

Anxiety over the great replacement leads to religious nationalism

Is American Christian nationalism mirroring Russian Christian nationalism? Almost, but not exactly.  What both movements share is anxiety prompted by uncontrollable social and political upheaval. In previous posts on this topic, I’ve given this particular manifestation of anxiety the name, ressentiment. The word is French. In ressentiment we re-feel a past injustice in such a way that it incites resentment.

With ressentiment we add nuances, connotations, political ideology, scapegoating, and mob violence. German philosopher Max Scheler (1874-1928) describes what traditionalists in France, America, and even Russia are feeling.

Ressentiment is a self-poisoning of the mind… It is a lasting mental attitude, caused by the systematic repression of certain emotions and affects which, as such, are normal components of human nature. Their repression leads to the constant tendency to indulge in certain kinds of value delusions and corresponding value judgments. The emotions and affects primarily concerned are [as quoted above] revenge, hatred, malice, envy, the impulse to detract, and spite.” (Scheler 1915, 1994). Cited by Martin Marty.

Martin Marty. University of Chicago.

What many Christians feel in both Russia and America — and in much of Europe — is a cold loss of moral control in the public schools, in the media — especially cell phone social media that influences children — and in politics. What rises up are the feelings of “revenge, hatred, malice, envy, the impulse to detract, and spite.” That’s what  public theologian Martin Marty observes.

“These are not new in politics, religion, or culture, but, taken together, they appear to be grounded in profound, bone-deep, soul-destorying, resentment, and are efficiently mobilized by modern media, on the internet, and with expensive advertising. The analysts point to the special character of our current explosions and often render their view technical by using the French word ressentiment.”

Ressentiment is like a hot pop corn kettle exploding with chaotic kernals bouncing in all directions. Christian nationalist leaders come along and try to channel the energy of chaos into a delusional ideology invested in national power. The result can be nothing but idolatry leading to tragedy.

Religious nationalism is global, not only local

Gionathan Lo Mascolo has been tracking the rise and influence of religious nationalism in Europe. “Russian Christian Nationalism….presents Russia as a defender of Christian values against the morally corrupt West, a narrative repeatedly used by Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church to justify the invasion of Ukraine,” he told Kristin du Mez in a very informative interview. There be danger here!

“Today, religious nationalism is central in aggravating three of humanity’s greatest challenges: the climate crisis and the resulting poverty and conflicts, rising social inequality, and the decline of democracy, with severe consequences for refugees, religious freedom, and human rights.”

Jesus is my savior, Trump is my president.

Is America mirroing Russian Christian nationalism?

If ressentiment provides the soil and fertilizer, what grows are symbols of ultimacy that provide a sense of empowerment. What we see in America is a merging of religious and political symbols. Watch for T-shirts and caps and posters with dicta such as “Jesus is my Savior, Trump is my President” or “God, Guns & Trump.”

Even if full-fledged ideologically-informed Christian nationalists are relatively few in number, eight out of ten evangelicals voice some level of support for Donald Trump. Either by ignoring or justifying Trump’s blatantly immoral personal character, they hope that a Trump election could “Make America Godly Again.”

To what extent is America mirroring Russian Christian Nationalism?

Mirroring Russian Christian Nationalism?


In America, both CN and Anti-CN mirrors Russian Christian nationalism. Both are afflicted with ressentiment and both are lashing out. While CN fears the loss of values such as the traditional family, Anti-CN fears the loss of recent progressive gains in racial equality, gender equality, and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community. Anxiety is rife.

Anti-CNers in America foresee tragedy coming. This prophetic warning is healthy, I believe. I thank my liberal and progressive friends who announce the warning.

What is not so healthy, I have repeatedly observed, is the vehement self-righteousness of many anti-CNers, especially Christians Against Christian Nationalism (CACN). CACNers clobber mercilessly those who have crawled into a CN snuggery. But perhaps a pause for fuller understanding might be called for by Christian leaders. A pastoral pause to ask: what could relieve this anxiety and unplug ressentiment’s power source?

In my own theory of violence, it appears to me that anxiety provides the nursery within which sin grows into cursing, scapegoating, and then violence. When mirroring Russian Christian Nationalism in America, one can almost predict the tragedy ahead.

Oh, yes, this is a moment for the prophets of the true God to renounce nationalist idolatries. Yet, it’s also a moment to cultivate anxiety-relieving faith, hope, and charity.

Resentment vs Compassion. PT 3223. Mirroring Russian Christian Nationalism

PT 3200 Christian Nationalism Resources

The Voice of Public Theology. Click here to buy.

For Patheos, Ted Peters posts articles and notices in the field of Public Theology. He is a Lutheran pastor and emeritus professor at the Graduate Theological Union. He co-edits the journal, Theology and Science, with Robert John Russell on behalf of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, in Berkeley, California, USA. His single volume systematic theology, God—The World’s Future, is now in the 3rd edition. He has also authored God as Trinity plus Sin: Radical Evil in Soul and Society as well as Sin Boldly: Justifying Faith for Fragile and Broken Souls. See his website: TedsTimelyTake.com. His 2023 book, The Voice of Public Theology, has been published by ATF Press.


Scheler, Max. 1915, 1994. Ressentiment. Marquette: Marquette University Press: file:///C:/Users/Ted/OneDrive/Documents/My%20Research/Scheler%20Max%20Ressentiment.pdf.


About Ted Peters
For Patheos, Ted Peters posts articles and notices in the field of Public Theology. He is a Lutheran pastor and emeritus professor at the Graduate Theological Union. He co-edits the journal, Theology and Science, with Robert John Russell on behalf of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, in Berkeley, California, USA. His single volume systematic theology, God—The World’s Future, is now in the 3rd edition. He has also authored God as Trinity plus Sin: Radical Evil in Soul and Society as well as Sin Boldly: Justifying Faith for Fragile and Broken Souls. See his website: TedsTimelyTake.com. His new 2023 book, The Voice of Public Theology, has just been published by ATF Press. You can read more about the author here.

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