The World Congress of Families, taking place this weekend in Moldova, brings together a once-unlikely coalition of conservative religious groups: Russian Orthodox ideologues, European far-right activists, and American conservative Christians.
They are allies in the ideological war against the liberal West, which they believe is leading the world down the path to ruin.
Relations between Moscow and Washington have been strained over allegations that Russia influenced the 2016 election of President Donald Trump, but religious conservatives in both nations have recently found common cause.
Russia has reinvented itself as a bastion of Christian values in a world beset by relativism and godlessness. As a result, conservative Christians gathering at the World Congress of Families are looking to [Russian President Vladimir Putin] to protect Christianity from the West.
In recent years, such conservative theological viewpoints have risen to prominence among political leaders, bringing many in the U.S. to perceive the time has come to save America — and indeed, the world — from liberal secularism.
“If you take a look at the rhetoric of the more conservative elements round Putin and if you take a look at the rhetoric of the Christian right the topics are pretty much the same, and the values are pretty much the same,” Peter Kreko, director of the Political Capital Institute, a Budapest based think-tank, told Newsweek.
“Conservatives are leading in Russia and conservatives are leading in the U.S. There is a feeling that this is a zeitgeist, that governments are supporting them, that there is this historic moment to break this dominance of this liberal, tolerant, “nihilistic” worldview.”
The ideological battle over same-sex marriage and LBGTQ rights in general has conservatives in the EU and U.S. seeing Russia as a point of light:
Some opponents look to Russia for guidance, and see its controversial laws restricitng (sic) LGBT rights as an example.
“In western Europe, many people believe that the West is collapsing and all civilisation is threatened by Islam, by demography, and by democracy,” Jean-Yves Camus, an associate research fellow at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs, told Newsweek.
“What they try to pretend is that there is only one country where Western civilisation is well and alive and thriving, and that’s Russia.”
For Russia, the divide among conservatives and liberals in the West over issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion is a convenient tool for subverting Western governments bent on continuing punishing sanctions against it.
They see disputes over LGBT rights as flashpoints which can be exploited. Author Katherine Stewart recently wrote in the New York Times that "anti-LGBT politics are an effective tool in mobilizing religious nationalists everywhere, which is in turn an excellent way to destabilize the Western alliance and advance Russia’s geopolitical interests."