Maria Butina was recently deported back to Russia. The spy who came to the United States to penetrate both the NRA and evangelical organizations was strongly defended by Eric Metaxas. This post looks at the relationship between Metaxas and Butina. This blog remains concerned that the Russian government or intelligence agencies could penetrate evangelical ministries due to their stance on the culture wars.
“I have been in touch with Maria Butina via phone many times in the last months. What the Mueller investigation has done to this woman is so scandalous and horrifying that I will not stop talking about it. Here is a primer on the situation from the New Republic. Please PLEASE pray for her. Her faith has become VERY strong throughout this painful ordeal, but she needs our prayers.”
Eric Metaxas on Russian spy Maria Butina
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12 NIV
On October 25, 2019 Maria Butina was released from a correctional facility in Tallahassee, Florida and turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement who promptly had her deported. From Miami she flew Aeroflot which is a Russian airline and amid the flight was transferred from coach to business class and treated like a hero. Russian media, which is controlled by the Putin government is praising her in glowing terms. When she arrived in Moscow she was photographed and hugged her father and was given flowers. The other day I learned something that deeply concerned me about Eric Metaxas but before I look at his support for a Russian spy, let’s look at Maria Butina first.
Who is Maria Butina?
Born in 1988 Butina was an assistant to Aleksandr Torshin who served in the upper house of the Russian Assembly. Torshin is of the same political party of Vladimir Putin. She led a Russian gun owners association and eventually came to the United States after she befriended and became romantically involved with Paul Erickson. Paul Erickson is a conservative deeply involved in the National Rifle Association (NRA) who also was involved it appears in Russian politics. Butina first participated in an NRA convention in Houston, Texas in May of 2013. Butina who didn’t register as a foreign agent started to participate in conservative activities in the United States. She was involved in the NRA and then uses a student visa to attend American University in Washington, D.C. full time in 2016. It appeared that her academic desires were more of a front to engage in other activities that were deeply questionable. At American University Butina got drunk on at least two occasions and bragged to fellow students about her connections to the Russian government. This was reported to law enforcement. Eventually she graduated from American University. In addition to the NRA she was also involved in the National Prayer Breakfast. As the United States Senate Intelligence Committee was investigating Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election Maria came to the Committee’s attention. She was requested to testify but refused. The FBI investigation of her became hot and on July 15, 2018 the FBI arrested her and charged her with being an unregistered foreign agent. Considered a flight risk Butina was held until trial. In December that same year she pleaded guilty to spying for Russia as part of a plea deal. When she was sentenced to 18 months in prison one person who was outraged was Russian President Vladimir Putin. You can read about that here.
Eric Metaxas and Maria Butina
This blog has already written about Eric Metaxas. Metaxas for those of you who do not know is a popular evangelical Christian author. He has penned biographies on Martin Luther and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Earlier I wrote a post about his comments on school shootings and impeachment. You can read that as well as a biography of Metaxas in, “A Closer Look at Eric Metaxas and His Comments on Mass Shootings and Impeachment. Plus the Fallacy of Intellectual Evangelicalism.” Eric Metaxas had Maria Butina on his radio show in July 15, 2015. The radio show was subsequently removed so I have no way of listening to it. Despite all the concerns about Butina Eric Metaxas remained in close contact with her multiple times by phone. Unfortunately I am blocked by Metaxas on Twitter so I can’t see his Tweets where he defends Butina and claims that she is not a Russian spy but a genuine Christian with sincere faith. He also defended her on Facebook as well. Metaxas called the prosecution of Butina “shameful” and claimed that the full truth would get out and people would learn the full story. What Metaxas did was take the Russian government’s side of the story and peddle it and convince American evangelicals about it. That is what Warren Throckmorton wrote in, “Eric Metaxas Sides with Russians over U.S. Dept of Justice in Maria Butina Case (UPDATED)” Metaxas ties to Maria Butina were covered in a couple of Christian blog posts and news sites. I will have them listed below for you to read.
- The Christian Post, “Why is Eric Metaxas defending alleged Russian spy Maria Butina?”
- John Fea, “Court Evangelical Eric Metaxas Says Maria Butina is Probably Innocent.”
- John Fea, “Maria Butina Duped Eric Metaxas.”
- Warren Throckmorton, “Eric Metaxas Defends Russian Agent; Says Maria Butina’s Plea Agreement Was Forced.”
- Queerty, “Why a Russian spy was able to dupe Christian conservatives with God and guns–and sex.”
- New York Magazine, “Alleged Russian Spy Was Working to Infiltrate Religious Right As Well As Gun Groups.”
Former KGB operative describes Butina’s tradecraft
Espionage is Serious and is the Russian Government Working to Influence Evangelicals?
I must have missed some of the original blog posts about this topic. It caught my attention when I was scanning Twitter and I saw Andy Rowell of Bethel in Saint Paul retweeted this issue as Butina was being deported. This blog has raised the question previously if the Russian government or intelligence agencies such as the GRU are penetrating evangelical organizations. Franklin Graham has met with Russian president Vladimir Putin and praised him for his stance on families and gays even while the Russian government is driving Baptists and others from the country. Graham is fixated on homosexuality and can’t seem to move past that issue at all. Graham’s political involvement make him a good candidate to be manipulated by a Russian intelligence service. I wrote about this issue in, “Franklin Graham’s Affection for Vladimir Putin, Plus is Franklin Graham a Modern Day Charles Lindbergh with His Love for Authoritarian Leaders?“
Espionage is not a laughing matter, it actually is a deeply disturbing issue. This writer believes that the political involvement and fringe movements of some political actors make Christian evangelical ministries good targets to be infiltrated and used. Is that what happened with Eric Metaxas? Those who are familiar with counter-intelligence issues would know that what Butina was doing is called a honey pot. And while its highly unlikely that Metaxas got sexually involved with Butina, his blatant defense of her shows how he was involved emotionally. But now that she has been deported will Eric Metaxas admit his error and say that he is wrong to have defended her? No, because evangelicals seldom admit error and say that they have made a mistake. Its highly unlikely that Metaxas was the only evangelical who Butina manipulated. If possible this blog would like to find out if Butina had contacts and a presence with Focus on the Family, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and much more. As I explained in my previous post I have no respect for Eric Metaxas and this news of him only lowers my opinion of him further.