In which we study the similarities between Make America Great Again and Make Russia Great Again
We all watched the outcome of MAGA (Make America Great Again) in the United States of America. Four years of MAGA propaganda by the Trump Administration led to an insurrection against the nation by a manic mix of pro-fascist “demonstrators” claiming the 2020 election was stolen.
That was a horrific moment in American history. But the worst part of the Trump years was the support provided by the Christian evangelical community who cheered on Trump’s often lawless campaign to use the office of President as his personal stomping grounds for whatever enemies he chose to attack. All of Trump’s vengeful behavior was dismissed as necessary because he was ostensibly acting for the “greater good” by literally carrying out the will of God. According to populist notions of Trump’s rise to power, he was the one anointed to advance the idea that the United States of America is a Christian Nation under God.
That was one of dog-whistle (or God-whistle) messages driving Make America Great Again. It carried with it the promise to ban abortion and block gay people from civil rights, two key social issues to conservative Christians tied to the anachronistic dogma of the religion when it dominated American society. And this despite its demonstrated history of supporting institutional slavery and racism in the likes of ‘Christian-based’ groups like the KKK.
MAGA’s ugly underbelly
MAGA’s ugly underbelly revealed itself during Trump’s first campaign for president as he embraced racist organizations, complimenting them as “good people.” Those groups and others coalesced into the aggressive branch of MAGA whose militias broke down barriers, attacked police, and threatened to murder the Vice President, Mike Pence, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
And while all this happened, the evangelical leadership in America either remained silent or cheered on the events while justifying Trump’s reign of terror by claiming that “God works with flawed people.”
The terrifying fact of the religious rationalization is that it is now being extended, in a brutally ironic fashion, to the leader of Russia, Vladimir Putin, during his military invasion of Ukraine. And here’s the kicker: Putin is carrying out this mission for much the same religious reasons that the American evangelical community wanted to Make America Great Again. Putin views Ukraine as a necessary iconic element in the re-establishment of a Christian-dominated Russia and for all we know, the rest of Europe. This war in Ukraine is an attack on a sovereign nation that values free and fair elections just like the United States of America and other democracies around the world. But Putin wants to install his Christo-fascist version of power over the nation’s people and its resources and call it Russia+. This is Putin’s version of MAGA. So we can legitimately brand it MRGA: Make Russia Great Again.
American Christian’s support for Putin
Thus it is no coincidence that America’s evangelical Christian community and their conservative friends seem to support Putin. There are also whispers in the halls of End Times Theology that “this is the big one,” because religious zealots hoping for the end of the world and the return of Jesus Christ to rule it all pray that this is their moment of vengeance against the heathens and humanistic believers who want to solve the world’s problems, not turn them into an excuse for Armageddon.
Even Israel can’t make up its mind what to do about Russia, because Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky is himself a Jew. There are political and economic striations to consider as well, so the nation perpetually caught between Jewish and Christian interests is now stuck between the rocks of conflicting ideologies, convenient loyalties, and funding to protect its own people.
MRGA and the Taliban
But MRGA will stop for no one under Putin’s direction. His army might be exhausted by the time he overcomes Ukraine, but the people of that occupied nation will keep fighting back. The frightening truth is that if anyone else gets involved beyond sanctions, Putin has threatened nuclear retaliation, even aggression. He also took control of nuclear power plants in Ukraine, and he’s such a despot that he might just let some radiation leak to cow people to his will.
The really sinister part here is that MRGA has been cheered on by some of Trump’s high-profile fans and supporters, including Tucker Carlson at Fox News––and others. In an interview on Fox News, retired Army Colonel Douglas McGregor, who served under Donald Trump and apparently remains loyal to the cause, opined on behalf of Putin telling host Stuart Varney: “The first five days Russian forces I think frankly were too gentle. They’ve now corrected that. So, I would say another ten days this should be completely over.”
Macgregor went on to say that the war could have “ended days ago” if Zelensky had acquiesced to what Russia wanted.”
Those statements drew a rebuke from a noted Republican purist Liz Cheney: “Douglas MacGregor, nominated by Trump as ambassador to Germany; appointed by Trump as senior advisor to the Secretary of Defense, says Russian forces have been ‘too gentle’ and ‘I don’t see anything heroic’ about Zelensky,” Cheney wrote. “This is the Putin wing of the GOP.”
So we can see that the militaristic nature of the latter-day GOP willingly dismisses any notion of international principle in favor of personal opinion, purpose, and priority. It is the classic example of the “ends justifies the means” approach to gaining and retaining power.
This fealty to power when fueled by aggressive conservative and Christo-fascist instincts is devastating to the health of democracies around the world. It is also brutally ironic given the resistance in the Christian sphere to similar efforts by conservative Muslim sects to establish religious control over entire countries. The entire American occupation in Afghanistan, the “war” that lasted more than twenty years–– was driven in part by attempts to rid the country of the religiously driven motives of the Taliban, an arch-Right brand of Islam. And the United States of America failed to quell that influence.
None of this surprises us because the ugly convenience of justifying social control and even conducting wars on religious grounds is as old as civilization itself. But consider the irony: It was Jesus that resisted the legalistic control of society by the religious authorities of his day. They killed him for trying to promote a more liberal and socialistic brand of religion based on love, compassion, and a personal relationship with God. None of that was evident in the conduct of the MAGA revolution in America, whose selfish conduct resounded in the halls of Congress when thousands of fascist-minded people beat the police and raided the Capitol.
Nor is there any sign of Jesus Christ in the Russian MRGA attack on Ukraine. This is also a selfishly narcissistic and vainglorious attempt by Putin to grab respect through brute force rather than earn it by respecting international law and having the confidence to build a nation that does not depend on corruption, dirty dealings, and graft to survive. Like Trump, he’s both immensely calculating and lazy at the same time, and sure enough, Trump initially complimented Putin’s military move into Ukraine as “savvy.” God Forbid if Trump was still President. He’d probably be cheering Putin on as Ukrainians died because Trump no doubt has a chip on his shoulder toward Ukraine’s President, who stood up to his corrupt effort to bribe him into doing some political dirty work on Trump’s behalf. To Donald Trump, there is no sweeter feeling than gaining revenge, and now we can see how bad the situation would be if Trump were still in control.
Functionally, we now recognize that MAGA and MRGA are essentially the same thing, twisting religion to serve despotic needs. That is the Red Letter commonality between two equally fascist movements. It also bears strong resemblance to the motives behind the second World War. And that’s bad news for everyone in the world.