The principle of celebrating diversity has always been the calling card of our church and our denomination.
If you have ever thought that chord has been strummed long enough, think again. Think again and listen to these words which were spoken last week by dictator Vladimir Putin about those who offer a dissenting point of view in Russia:
“The Russian people will always be able to distinguish the true patriots from the scum and the traitors, and just to spit them out like a fly that accidentally flew into their mouths…I am convinced that this natural and necessary self-cleansing of society will only strengthen our country, our solidarity, cohesion, and readiness to meet any challenge.”
Chilling words indeed! In conjunction with other comments he has made, Putin was one step away from calling Russian people the “master race” like a previous dictator before him.
Anytime a leader uses the word “cleansing” in reference to their own society or other countries, nothing good lies ahead. That is the state of Russia today. It is not a place where the celebration of diversity is avoided, it is a place where it is actively sought out and eliminated.
No, far from toning down the need to celebrate diversity, the UCC and our own church need to turn up the volume.
What is happening today in Russia is a sad masterclass in freezing out dissent (or as it is being framed in Russia: “Disrespect for Russia”). It is an intentional return to the worst of Soviet times. It is also a dark example of what can happen in any country when patriotism runs off the rails and is replaced by blind allegiance to fabricated “truth.”
Could such a thing happen here? Sadly, yes. In fact, the wind gusts from that direction anytime lies are parroted as truths; anytime indisputable facts are summarily dismissed as “fake news”; anytime peaceful protesters are given labels like “thugs,” “terrorists,” or a “wild, illegal mob,” as happened under our previous administration.
I think we need to be alert to this.
While opposition to the invasion of Ukraine has seen refreshing unity between the right and left in our country, right-wing news outlets have begun to parrot some of Putin’s lies about Ukraine. Putin himself has adopted the term “fake news” to label journalists for arrest. It is a term that was coined here during Trump’s time in office and is still used to help people disengage from reality when they don’t like what is being said.
Yes, it could happen here and there are those who are trying to lay the groundwork for it to happen here.
There is no question that we need to build on what unity we have right now and that is why I am so grateful to belong to a church that has always had a deep respect for all people and differing points of view.
We should never take that for granted. In fact, now is the time to lift that banner even higher.
See you in church,