Protestants and Orthodox alike are mostly hopeful about America’s new president.
Russian evangelicals would have loved to listen in on the first phone call between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin this past weekend—but for opposite reasons from many Americans.
As the recent presidential campaign turned US attention to Russia—with reports of Trump’s alleged ties to the Russian president as well as alleged hacking by Russian operatives in hopes of influencing the election—Russians were following American politics too.
“The hope for a new understanding between Russia and the USA is very strong, especially for evangelicals,” said Wiliam Yoder, spokesman for the Russia Evangelical Alliance.
Russia’s evangelical minority, roughly 1 percent of its population of 143 million, finds itself living and serving in the East-West tension between its nationalistic government and the outside evangelical groups that support its gospel work in the heavily Orthodox country.
Yet Putin’s popularity spans across religious groups in Russia, and so did Trump’s. According to campaign polls, Russia was the only country among the top 20 economies in the world that favored Trump over Hillary Clinton, and evangelicals generally sided with their compatriots.
“They see [Trump’s victory] as turning back to more traditional values, and that’s a good thing,” said Sergey Rakhuba, president of Mission Eurasia and a former Ukrainian missionary to Moscow.
Russia’s Orthodox Christians and evangelicals share concerns over traditional marriage and family; they were among the harshest critics when the US legalized gay marriage in 2015. Under a regime known for fusing politics, religion, and morality, Russians viewed Trump as the family values candidate, he said.