Guest / Limited Access /
Sacrilege Is Real
Image: Yevgeny Feldman / AFP / Getty
Sacrilege Is Real

In February, Pussy Riot, an all-female Russian punk band, entered Christ the Savior Cathedral, the largest Orthodox church in Moscow. They disrupted the service and staged a mock "punk prayer." "Virgin Mary, Mother of God, put Putin away," they sang, adding, "Virgin Mary, Mother of God, become a feminist, become a feminist, become a feminist." They were arrested, tried, and found guilty of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred." In August, they were sentenced to two years in prison.

Not since Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was sent to Siberia has the West paid so much attention to anything on the Russian cultural scene. Pussy Riot has been extolled as champions of conscience and free expression in the tradition of Joan of Arc and Martin Luther. Support for the band has ranged from secular media elites and aging artists like Madonna and Paul McCartney to the U.S. State Department. Why did this punk prank become a catalyst for international protest?

First, those who believe in democratic reform within the former Soviet Union find little to cheer in the increasingly brutal government of Vladimir Putin. Second, the cozy ties between Putin's state and the Russian Orthodox Church hamstring the church. With all due respect for the Eastern tradition for church-state relations, the Russian Orthodox Church will not become a real voice in civil society until it disentangles itself from state power. Finally, there is the legitimacy of dissent itself. Yet something else is at stake that ought to concern followers of Jesus, something violated by Pussy Riot's antics and almost ignored by their cheerleaders in the West: the sanctity of sacred space.

Orthodox writer Frederica Mathewes-Green ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedShould Churches Display the American Flag in Their Sanctuaries?
Subscriber Access Only Should Churches Display the American Flag in Their Sanctuaries?
Observers weigh in on patriotic piety.
TrendingReligious Freedom vs. LGBT Rights? It's More Complicated
Religious Freedom vs. LGBT Rights? It's More Complicated
The legal context for what's happening at Gordon College, and how Christians can respond despite intense cultural backlash.
Editor's PickMeet the Failed Pastor Who Ministers to Other Failed Pastors
Meet the Failed Pastor Who Ministers to Other Failed Pastors
J. R. Briggs sympathizes with church leaders who don't live up to expectations.
Comments
Christianity Today
Sacrilege Is Real
hide thisNovember November

In the Magazine

November 2012

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.