Jailing Pussy Riot in Russia

Russian judge Marina Syrova just handed down a sentence of two years in jail for the Russian feminist punk rock band Pussy Riot as a result of their "hooliganism" motivated by religious hatred.  Judge Syrova called their behavior "blasphemous" and described it as a "gross violation of public order showing obvious disrespect for society."  She also said, "The girls' actions were sacrilegious, blasphemous and broke the church's rules." 

The group staged a protest against President Vladimir Putin inside the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, a Russian Orthodox church in Moscow.  Their "punk prayer" spewed hate-laced anti-Christian lyrics as they stood on the solea (platform in front of the altar).  From the concealment of their balaclava masks, they "courageously" followed the PR example of fading American singer Madonna -- knowing that the quickest way to generate a flood of media attention is to launch attacks against religion, and the more heavily laced with profanity, crudity, and vulgarity, the better.

According to a Fox News story, the band members -- Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23; Maria Alyokhina, 24; and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29 -- "said they did not mean to hurt anyone's religious feelings" during their "punk prayer."  Right.  That sensitivity toward believers is, of course, why they called the church an "abscess" and condemned its "vertical power structure."

Found on a website that claims support for the band, the lyrics that supposedly were not meant to offend Christians included these gems: using scatological words to describe the Lord, claiming that "gay" pride was "sent to Siberia in chains," objecting to women forced to give birth "in order not to offend His Holiness," begging the "Virgin Mary, Mother of God" to "become a feminist," and complaining about the "Church's praise of rotten dictators."

The Council of Orthodox Public Organizations released a statement about the incident, and this passage sums up the problem with the media's attempt at creating a groundswell in favor of leniency:

We do not understand those as well, who appeal to the Holy Patriarch, our brothers and sisters to 'forgive' the blasphemous women, and ask the state to not condemn them and not punish them.  If the Patriarch will forgive them today, will it not lead tomorrow to a tenfold multiplications of blasphemous 'acts,' and to the very displacement of the Orthodox people from the public space, as wells [sic] turning of holy church spaces into places for mockery and arrogance of non-believers?  It is especially crucial to not even mention forgiveness without redemption, without commitment to never return to the already done monstrous sin.  Our God Jesus says: 'If ... your brother commits a sin against you, you should rebuke him; if he redeems, then forgive him' (Luke, 17:3).  This is what is said about personal relationship among Christians.  So how can we justify our expectations of redemption from those who insulted the very God and the whole of Church?

Have the women repented or taken responsibility for their actions?  Their formal statements about the incident reveal their utter lack of morality, embrace of a "blame everyone but us" ideology, and disdain for capitalism and individual responsibility.  Like their U.S. counterparts, they want "human rights, civil and political freedoms" for themselves but not for Christian believers or anyone else with different beliefs.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova's closing statement said in part, "Who is to blame for the performance at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour and for our being put on trial after the concert?  The authoritarian political system is to blame.  What Pussy Riot does is oppositional art or politics that draws upon the forms art has established.  In any event, it is a form of civil action in circumstances where basic human rights, civil and political freedoms are suppressed by the corporate state system."

Yekaterina Samutsevich's statement said in part, "During the closing statement, the defendant is expected to repent or express regret for her deeds, or to enumerate attenuating circumstances.  In my case, as in the case of my colleagues in the group, this is completely unnecessary.  Instead, I want to express my views about the causes of what has happened with us."  Further into the statement she said, "In the end, considering all the irreversible political and symbolic losses caused by our innocent creativity, the authorities decided to protect the public from us and our nonconformist thinking.  Thus ended our complicated punk adventure in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior."

The third member, Maria Alyokhina, wishes to turn religious truth into clay which can be molded to her taste; thus the moral relativism dressed in postmodern garb in her closing statement.  "I think religious truth should not be static, that understanding of immanent ways of spiritual development, human adversities, his dualism, his sejunction is required, that all these experiences are essential for development, that only through these experiences a human can achieve something and keep achieving, that religious truth is a process and not accomplishment which can be tuck anywhere.  And all these things I mentioned, all these processes are reflected upon in art and philosophy, modern art included.  An artistic setting can and in my view must contain inner conflict.  And I'm very annoyed by the phrase 'so called' the prosecution uses in modern art's regard."

Christians around the world are facing intolerance of their beliefs and sometimes violence as well.  In spite of the Constitution, religious liberty is under attack in the United States, with the federal government telling religious institutions that they must violate their beliefs and support homosexual "marriage," homosexual adoptions, contraception, and abortion or face penalties.  Individual citizens are being forced to pay for abortion and contraception through their taxes, regardless of their individual consciences.

In recent remarks, "Intolerance against Christians in Russia in 20th and 21st Centuries," Alexey Komov, head of the Family Policy advocacy group in Russia, described the destruction over the past seven decades of communism in Russia of 80 percent of Russia's churches and the deaths of dozens of priests and monks.  He also showed the dramatic growth in number of Russian Christians in the last 20 years of Christian revival, which has produced the recent backlash of anti-Christian activism.  Russian leaders like Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Kirill; Natalia Yakunina, head of "The sanctity of Motherhood" Program, and Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), Head of the Synodal Department of Foreign Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, are working to counter the anti-faith and anti-family forces that are trying to undermine recent progress in restoring those foundations of  the Russian culture.

The media -- both in Russia and in the U.S. -- ignores the religious bigotry directed at Christianity and, instead, jumps to the defense of anyone who shows intolerance towards the church.  It is apparent from the closing statements of the three Russian feminists on trial that they are not sorry for their actions and, in fact, view themselves as the victims, not the Christians whom they denigrated.  The punk rock group entered the sanctuary with the intent to insult Christians, and when they were held accountable, they claimed that it was someone else's fault.

If you want to rage against that which you perceive to be unjust or unfair, it would go a long way toward credibility to also accept responsibility for your actions.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Janice Shaw Crouse, senior fellow of Concerned Women for America's Beverly LaHaye Institute, is a leader in the World Congress of Families movement that recently co-sponsored the Moscow Demographic Summit.

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