A hate-crime trial taking place in California may also be revealing a new and more global front in the culture wars.
The trial concerns the assault and eventual killing of a man by Slavic immigrants that prosecutors charge was motivated by anti-gay sentiment. The Christian Science Monitor (Jan. 4) reports that gay leaders in Sacramento say that the incident followed several years of escalating tensions with Slavic immigrants who are largely evangelical Baptists and Pentecostals. Sacramento has a Slavic community of about 100,000, many of whom gained entry to the U.S. as Christian asylum seekers after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Gay activists and hate-crime monitors particularly focus on a group known as Watchmen on the Walls, which is led and promoted by American and Slavic evangelicals, such as Scott Lively and the charismatic Latvian-based New Generations Church. Lively is the author of The Pink Swastika, an anti-gay book with a wide circulation among Slavic evangelicals in the U.S. and abroad. The group has led street demonstrations in response to gay parades in Sacramento A gay rights demonstration in Oregon has likewise met counter-protests from Slavic evangelicals, mainly Russians and Ukrainians, though they are not necessarily connected with Watchmen on the Walls.
Watchmen conferences in the U.S. and abroad often feature anti-gay themes, sometimes using militant language, calling Christians to fight anti-Christian influences in their countries. The New Generations Church, which has branches in the U.S. and other countries, belongs to a network of charismatic megachurches that has emerged in former Soviet nations, particularly Ukraine (the church has close ties with the Kiev-based megachurch, the Embassy of God).
These churches are increasingly seeking to influence their respective societies. Spokespersons say the Watchmen does not teach hatred or approve of violent actions against gay people. Observers say that some in the Slavic community in Sacramento who grew up persecuted in the Soviet Union and see their children’s progress thwarted by officials feel that U.S. educators look down on their Christian children, Ben Arnoldy writes.
The Intelligence Report (Fall), the newsletter of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors far right (and increasingly Christian right) groups, cites an editor of a Russian newspaper in Seattle who claims that God is bringing Slavic evangelicals to West Coast cities to fight gay influence.
(The Intelligence Report, http://www.splcenter.org/intel/intelreport/article.jsp?a id=809).