Pussy Riot Went to Church (August 2012)

A Prayer to the Theotokos (Mother of God)

Pussy Riot went to church – at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow. They prayed to the Virgin Mary, asking her to oust Vladimir Putin as President of the Russian Federation. Seems to me (an Orthodox Christian) that that’s OK, but here’s how they did it:


Included in the “prayer,” as you can see, was criticism of the Russian Orthodox Church and its Patriarch, Kirill Gundyaev, for their public support of Putin.

In form, content, and manner, the “prayer” – conducted in front of the iconostasis and just outside the sanctuary – constituted an act of desecration and blasphemy. However, representatives of the Church stated that the sin was immediately forgiven. (Hmmm…. Was there – has there been – repentance by PR?)

This became a fairly big story when three of the Pussy Rioters were arrested by the state authorities, put on trial, kept in jail for more than five moths, and then – yesterday – convicted of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” and sentenced to two years in prison (minus the five months already served).

Lots of sympathy for Pussy Riot in the West, including from such predictable and usual suspects as McCartney, Madonna, Sting, and other celebrities. Some but not much sympathy for them inside Russia, especially not among the Orthodox.

Even among those not at all sympathetic to what Pussy Riot did, there is virtually no support for the two-year prison sentence or for the already-completed five-month incarceration. Most seem to feel that the punishment is not proportionate to the gravity of the crime. That also is how I feel about it.

However, Pussy Riot’s action in the cathedral was not right, was it? It was not a legitimate exercise of “free speech,” was it (contrary to that legal scholar, P. McCartney)? Even in a place like the US, at least relatively more “liberal” than Russia, an action like that would result in some kind of legal action by the state, wouldn’t it? It is not protected by the First Amendment provision on freedom of speech, is it? It might even be a “hate crime,” mightn’t it? Or is it simply OK in general for musical and other groups to take their politics in that way into, not only churches, but also synagogues, mosques, mandirs, temples, monasteries, convents, Quaker meeting rooms, and other places regarded as holy by their adherents?

Just wondering….



P.S. Down with Putin!