Only five weeks ago, Jehovah’s Witnesses were banned in Russia, a decision approved by their Supreme Court. Since then, a wave of persecution has ensued, not unlike the wave of persecution once launched against American Witnesses in the wake of an unfavorable Supreme Court decision here - a wave that was even more intense - granted that it was during the more inflammatory times of World War II. Brothers in Russia have been assaulted, fired from their jobs, seen their property destroyed, seen their children bullied by teachers. Ordinary, respectable people have felt licensed to behave as a mob, as happens everywhere in such circumstances.
And now comes a completely unexpected development from on high.
“May 31, 2017 in Moscow, at a meeting in the Kremlin, the president handed Valery and Tatiana Novik, Jehovah's Witnesses from Karelia, the Order of "Parental Glory". At the awarding ceremony was also attended by all six children Novikov.
“The Order is awarded to parents of large families, who are setting an example to strengthen the institution of the family and the upbringing of children, form a socially responsible family and lead a healthy lifestyle, provide a full and harmonious development of personality of children, a high level of care for their health, education, physical, spiritual and moral development.
“In reply, referring to the spiritual and moral development of children, Valery Novik quoted text from the Bible, which serves as a reference for it, both for the parents: "Train up a boy on the right path; he will not depart from it, even when you are old "(Proverbs 22: 6).”
Look, I am probably all wet here, but it is just possible he is doing it to soften the blow against us and/or send a signal to intolerant ones that he is not with them.
We err when we vilify him, IMO. When we do that, we are simply following the lead of the media, and they are doing it mostly to undermine Trump. They never cared about it much before.
If you watch Putin through any eyes other than the Western media, he comports himself well. He does not come off as bellicose, sinister, or unreasonable. He has a quite appealing sense of humor. He is not a shoe-pounding Kruschev, by any means. He heads a system of government that restricts some freedoms, so he is loathed in the West, and all the more so on account of Trump.
Of course, these guys all have PR machines - we mustn't be naive - but he simply does not display the appearance of a thug, given the authoritarian form of government he heads. The unbridled freedom of Western democracy has not worked well for Russians, and his actions reflect a pushback against some of it. To be sure, I tend to think well of all persons, but he just does not strike me as a thug, notwithstanding that he can play hardball when he thinks he has to.
I remain hopeful, perhaps naively so, that he is not at heart one of the instigators - that he has gone along for the ride, but is troubled by the wave of violence against people he, as a career person, doesn't care for, but as a man, has nothing against and perhaps even regards with favor. Perhaps he is like the Persian king, suddenly taking interest in what he has paid scant attention to before, pondering what good thing should be done for Mordecai.
"How can he have paid scant interest to it before, what with 48 million letters?" someone wonders. Well, it's not as he though he has nothing else to do. Like all world leaders, he is beset by crises on all sides. And he must allow time for hockey. Imagine! Sixty some-odd years old and he plays hockey, smashing the younger players into the boards. No wonder they like him over there.
He is careful to keep ties close with the Orthodox Church, but he may, at some point, no longer want to rubberstamp everything they do. Russia is painted in a bad enough light internationally as it is - he does not want to supply proof positive that the neanderthal reports are true. He wants his country to take its rightful respected place among nations. He doesn't want to play hardball when there clearly is no reason for it.
A treasured theme among those who oppose us in Russia is that 'Jehovah's Witnesses break up families.' This is said because persons can be expelled from the religion for extreme or persistent, unapologetic violations of Christian modes of life as recorded in Scripture, and they cannot comprehend how people could possibly get so worked up over religion, which ought to be 'kept in its place.' It is all in what you value. Those same people can understand how people can get so worked up over politics, and they frequently did with regard to the latest Hillary/Trump election.
Does the Witness religion break up families? The President of Russia has perhaps declared where he stands on that issue. The appeal of Russian Witnesses to the Supreme Court is to be heard in July. Perhaps it will not be the rubber stamp most people anticipate. Perhaps it will follow the pattern of the U.S. Supreme Court in the days of Gobitus. I fact, I have little doubt the dignitaries in Russia are planning to overturn the ban right now, thinking that in so doing, they will screw up my announced book on the topic. Let them not be too smug. I am versatile and can adapt to any ending. Let them overturn the ban because it is the right thing to do, and not "Hey! Let's turn the tables on that idiot Tom Harley."