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!

Islam and the US Constitution

Three foundations of Islam are the Qur’an, the Hadith (sayings of and teachings about Mohammad), and Sharia Law (of which there are several traditions). Institutionalizing/implementing all aspects of these Islamic foundations in the US would be in conflict in many ways with the Constitution. However, the authors of this article say that many (most?) American Muslims have no desire to institutionalize/implement all aspects of Islam in the US or anywhere else.

Judao-Christian law and teachings, if institutionalized/implemented in the US, would also be in conflict in many ways with the Constitution. Long ago, most Jews and Christians “made peace” with the Constitution by giving up any notions they may have had about institutionalizing/implementing their full belief-and-practice systems in the US. It seems that many/most American Muslims are following suit.

There are already two Islamic Members of the House of Representatives, and I know of nothing they have done to violate their oaths of office in which they affirmed their support for the US Constitution. Maybe one of them will run for president some day. If that happens (and if I am still around), I will examine his positions and, if he seems to be a Burkean conservative with libertarian inclinations, then I will vote for him. :)

One thing: I have reservations about the authors of the article. I do not find Aslan completely reliable in the works he has so far published, and Zafar is a representative of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, and unorthodox sect of Islam. However, this article seems to me to be generally accurate.

Re: the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. The sect arose in India in 1889. That movement split into two sub-sects in (I think) 1914. Over the years since then, Ahmadiyya communities have arisen in many other parts of the world. Ahmadiyya Muslims hold that Jesus survived the crucifixion and traveled to India to minister to the Lost Tribes of Israel. They also claim that Jesus died in India and that his tomb – AND his body – have been recently found in India. They say that these beliefs are supported by the Qur’an, by the Hadith, and by the Bible. Sunni and Shia Muslims see the Ahmadiyyas as heretics or even as non-Muslims.

Of course, virtually all of the other religions of the world would also be found incompatible with the Constitution were they proposed to be legally-officially institutionalized/implemented (established) in the US. But the First Amendment won’t allow that, nor would various other parts of the Constitution. Almost all religions are free to run around and act up in the US, but no one or more can be legally established. That is, not by Congress….

Various states had established religions in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, but they all gradually gave them up. However, it was not until some time in the late 1940s that a Supreme Court decision held that the 1st Amendment Establishment Clause applies to the states. But the issue is still not completely settled and will continue to be argued about. Stay tuned…. :)

Humbert Returns!

Here’s something for Father’s Day.

When my three daughters were kids, I used to tell them stories I improvised. At the time, we were living in Haledon and, in the evenings, bats would fly out of garages, attics, etc., and zoom around in the yard. I told them that a particular bat, named Humbert, lived in our garage; and over time, I made up tales about his adventures.

That was quite a while ago, and my daughters grew up, married, moved away, and now have children of their own.

Then, on July 26, 2011, the event described below happened, and I sent them the following email letter:

Hello, dear girls.

Last night, I went out to dinner with Aunt Sherry to Cortina Ristorante on Berkshire Avenue in Paterson. Great place. Like the classy old restaurants that used to be in and around Paterson. Very good time.

After dropping Aunt Sherry at her house, I drove home, went into the bedroom to lie down, watch TV, and wait for Sherida to get home from her sister’s house. The house lights were on, but I had only the TV on in the bedroom where I was relaxing.

All of a sudden, something flew back and forth in front of the TV screen and, in fact, also flew right at me before veering away like a kind of silent jet plane! Scared the *@!?*#@ out of me. I thought it was a big bug (ugh!) or perhaps a bird. I got up and went out into the living room. Again, I saw something flying around, this way and that, silently, no flapping of wings. Just speedy gliding and veering.


I closed this door, that door, another door – trying to isolate whatever it was in the living room, dining room, kitchen area. Sherida phoned to say she was on her way home. I screamed, “COME RIGHT AWAY! SOMETHING’S FLYING AROUND INSIDE THE HOUSE! I NEED YOU TO DEAL WITH IT!” (Sherida was a Biology major in college and when she started graduate school. Comfortable with animals, I thought. Like Amanda is with BUGS (horrors!).

I waited, waited, and waited for Sherida to get home. The THING kept soaring around and around, in and out, up and down, to and fro, at me and away from me. Just when Sherida got home and opened the front door, the thing set down, landed, on our kitchen floor. It looked like a brown mouse, but it had substantial webbed wings, which it proceeded to wrap around itself. It sat there on the floor. I thought it might have been looking at me. Then I realized at last who it was. IT WAS HUMBERT! HUMBERT THE BAT! He had come back after such a long time.

I thought I would try to catch him by throwing a T-shirt I was holding down on him, but as soon as I moved to do that, off he went in a flash, up, here, there, gliding, soaring, and (it seemed) flying AT ME! YIKES!

Sherida kept the front door open. But she did not come in. She waited outside. She said that the bat would find his way to the door and fly out into the night. After a while, he did just that.

I have a feeling he is living in our attic. I wonder if he’ll come again for another (exciting) visit. Actually, I’m not really anxious to have him here again too soon.


Humbert has returned….

Tell the little ones (if and when they can take it in).


Inexplicable Violence

Another old memory:

C. 1960. Greenwich Village. Bleeker street bistro/coffee shop. I and a couple of buddies standing on the corner. Some motorcycles standing on the sidewalk near the curb.

A convertible with two military guys pulls up and bumps one of the motorcycles, knocking it over. When the bike owner is called out of the shop, eyes blinking in the late afternoon sun, the bigger military guy (hope not a marine), shouting “combat!,” leaps out of the convertible and runs at the much smaller bike owner and pummels him with thunderous blows, sending the little guy bleeding to the sidewalk.

The military giant then jumped back into the convertible, and he and his buddy drove away.
No cops on the scene. All there were stunned and dumbfounded. Several there gave some assistance to the little bearded biker. He was no Hell’s Angel….

Great Falls National Park – CHASM!

Click here

When I was a kid, my friends and I would go down into and swim in the CHASM. The thing itself was awesome with its roaring and booming when the falls were falling. I was always frightened or at least uneasy when we went down there (but I went because I didn’t want to be “chicken”).

I was also fascinated by the word CHASM. I could hear roaring and booming in it. I think that most of us pronounced the word with a soft ch as in “child,” but I knew also that it could be pronounced with a strong ch as in “chaos.” I now know that the hard ch is correct, derived through the Latin hard ch from the Greek X, which is pronounced “Kai.”

The word and the thing itself are both still ominous to me.

Star Spangled Banner

Had you seen this story (in January 2012)?


Bill Press (hopeless liberal) dissed the singability and the lyrics of the SSB. I don’t mind the lyrics, but I agree with Press on the singability issue. The defenders of the anthem mentioned in the article are all professional singers. I think Press’s point was that the song is not (easily) singable by ORDINARY people. Of course, (some) pros can sing it without difficulty – but, notoriously, quite a few pros are unable to manage it. “America the Beautiful” would have been a better choice for the US national anthem.

By the way, it was not Woodrow Wilson who made the SSB the national anthem (as the article states). It was Herbert Hoover in 1931.


P.S. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yaetvTj5DE