Standing with “Pussy Riot” in Defiance of the Church

Today, I stand in solidarity with the Russian, feminist, punk-rock, art collective known as “Pussy Riot.”   And as I do so, I do it as one who professes faith in Jesus Christ and as one who stands in defiance of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Allow me to explain.

Earlier this year, on the 21st of February, several members of “Pussy Riot” staged an impromptu concert at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, Russia.  Less than 60 seconds into a tame-by-their-standards[1] opening song, “Putin Got Scared,”[2] they were escorted out of the cathedral and were ultimately detained by the Russian police.  Their crime?  Pleading with the Virgin Mary to save Mother Russia from Vladimir Putin.  Now, earlier today, word comes that three members of the band have been convicted by a Russian court on the charges of  “hooliganism driven by religious hatred.”[3]  For the next two years, these three women, some of whom are mothers, will sit in jail for daring to publicly defy a deeply controversial figure.

To be fair, as the President of Russia serving in the aftermath of the collapse of the Iron Curtain, Vladimir Putin has achieved something that very few believed could be accomplished in such a short span of time.  By focusing on the energy sector, and oil production in particular, he revitalized the national economy, halving the rates of unemployment and poverty even as real wages were tripled throughout the nation.

Nevertheless, these achievements have been overshadowed, in the eyes of many, by the “long process of [Russian] regression culminating in a move from a hybrid [form of government] to an authoritarian regime.”[4]  In fact, according to an American diplomatic cable leaked by Wikileaks:

“Russia is a corrupt, autocratic, kleptocracy centered on the leadership of Vladimir Putin, in which officials, oligarchs, and organized crime are bound together to create a ‘virtual mafia state.’”[5]

So where does the Russian Orthodox Church stand in regards to this protest of Putin and his “mafia state?”  Sadly, according to the Huffington Post, “many believers” were backing the government’s actions out of a belief that the performance was “blasphemous.”  Indeed, the Post goes on to report that the official position of the church is as follows:

“The head of the church, Patriarch Kirill, has made no secret of his strong support for Putin, even praising his presidential terms as “God’s miracle” and has described the performance as part of an assault by “enemy forces” on the church.”

This, of course, should raise all manner of questions in the hearts and minds of believers around the world, and particularly believers living in a democratic society.

How is it that the local expression of the universal church can publicly support the two-year sentence of a punk band that was protesting the actions of a man even internal, nationalized critics consider to be a “street thug?”[6]

How are we to weigh the blasphemous, vulgar actions of a marginal group with limited influence against the unjust actions of a statesman who has potentially seized power through allegedly rigged elections?  Which is the greater affront to the church?

How can the church ever legitimize the actions of a such a man by referring to his reign as a “miracle of God” without losing its calling to be a prophetic, counter-community that stands in defiance of imperial aggression?

And finally, are the political, ethical and religious compromises made by the Russian Orthodox Church all that different from the compromises made by the American church, when we seek to “bless” certain candidates that back our issues of choice?

So what do you think?  Can you stand with me today in support of the free speech of “Pussy Riot?”  Can you do it and stand with “blasphemers” that bear prophetic witness against the weakness of the church?  Can you do it in support of punishments needing to fit the nature of the crime?  Can you stand with “Pussy Riot?”

This video captures the performance in question.  It is “safe for viewing.”


[1] As one might expect, “Pussy Riot” is provocative act that celebrates sexual theatricality and vulgarity as a tool to bring about a social agenda.  Many performances include publicly staged sex-acts designed to inflame the audience and escalate their noteriety.

[2] According to the NPR report, “Putin Got Scared” is a “delicate” translation of the song’s title.  http://www.npr.org/2012/02/08/146581790/in-russia-punk-rock-riot-girls-rage-against-putin

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33 Responses to Standing with “Pussy Riot” in Defiance of the Church

  1. Rebecca says:

    I’m kind of shocked by your response, but then I guess I shouldn’t be. As an Orthodox Christian, I understand that our churches themselves are Holy, they are to be honored and respected. To have a band, with an offensive name, mock the faith (and let’s be serious, there was no serious entreating of the intercessions of the Theotokos going on) and our sacred spaces is unacceptable and beyond the pale.

    Should they go to prison? I doubt it. But should they protest in the Church in that way? No they should not.

    Regarding the Moscow Patriarchate’s support/silence re: Putin, it is much more complicated than I could profess to understand and certainly more than you or the secular Western media could get your head around. Putin is certainly not the best choice and likely a problematic leader. But he is Orthodox and I have no idea what his priest tells him. The state of his soul is not mine to judge.

    Also, I get really, really aggravated when Western Christians criticize the “weakness” of the Orthodox Church, particularly in lands where it has been heavily and tragically oppressed. The Holy Orthodox Church in Russia is still waking up from years of violent oppression, of having its’ fathers and mothers murdered, banished and tortured, of having its bishopric infiltrated by KGB spies. We, in the west, especially Protestants, cannot put a timeline on how it is going to take itself to heal and move past the structural damage we cannot possibly understand.

    No offense, friend, but you’re wrong on this one. Especially since we in the West are blessing the reigns of those just as crooked and just as corrupt. I offer you Dick Cheney as an example. How would you feel if your sacred space, where you worship with your family before the throne of God, was violated by say, a group called “Fudgepackers” protesting Cheney’s corruption and potential as a war criminal? You still cool with that?

  2. The shock actually goes both ways on this one, Bec. Quite honestly, I am a somewhat amazed that you could dismiss the widespread and multifaceted allegations against Putin by suggesting that “the state of his soul is not [yours] to judge.” While I agree that I do not know the state of his heart, the reports of his willful embrace of corruption cannot be dismissed under the banner of not being privileged to know what he does or does not believe. Furthermore, I suspect that if he was an evangelical Republican President in the United States, you would not afford him the same benefit of the doubt that you do in this particular case because he is a self-professed member of the Orthodox church.

    As for the appropriateness of “Pussy Riot’s” act in “sacred space,” I made no bones about it in the article. I openly referred to it as blasphemous, which is pretty strong language. Nevertheless, the blasphemous and sexually stunted actions of a local punk band in no way compare to the actions of a man that is shaping that entire nation. So if it comes down to choosing between your hypothetical “Fudgepackers” profaning a church versus a sitting President running a country into ethical ruin, I will stand with your “Fudgepackers” every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

    Free speech is a vital component to any democracy, as is the relationship between justice and crime. What Russia has done is abhorant; and the church, no matter how put upon it may have been, has dropped the ball on this issue.

    • Rebecca says:

      You misread me, or we’re just on completely different pages. It’s not my place to judge the state of Dick Cheney’s soul either. That’s between him, God and whatever spiritual adviser he may have. I disagree completely and rue the election of George W. Bush. But he purports to believe in Christ, so that makes him my brother. Putin does the same. It is not my place to say they do not. Period.

      I’m not commenting here as a member of a democracy (which is not God-ordained btw). I’m commenting here as a member of the Church. If Pussy-Riot wants to bare its ass in protest of Putin, they can do it outside the Church. If they’re arrested out there, we can have a different conversation. They trespassed, horribly, and there are consequences to that. If you can’t do the time…

      You did not address my comments re: the criticisms of the Church in general. And I fail to see how Putin is much worse than his American oligarchic counterparts. And I don’t believe for two seconds you would be OK with a protest in your church by those who do not belong there or chose not to belong there.

      I put the Church above the democracy. Keep your protests off my altar, away from my icons and the place where every single Sunday we pray for the leadership, the prisoners, the civil servants and the oppressed. It is not the place and it is never right.

      Are you a Christian first or a citizen of a democracy first?

      • Believe it or not, I actually think that this has the potential to be a good conversation. In some ways, I suspect we are closer in alignment than it might first appear. By the nature of your closing question, I presume that you are arguing that you are a Christian first, and a citizen of democracy second. If my assumption is accurate, than you and I are in alignment, for I too would see myself first as a Christian and secondly as a citizen of any country.

        But here’s where we diverge. You say, “Keep your protests off my altar” as if to suggest that politics and the church can’t overlap in the sanctuary. But I would argue that when the head of the Russian Orthodox Church publicly endorses Putin by arguing that his Presidency is a “miracle of God,” he is openly inviting political dissent into the church. In fact, I daresay, he is not only inviting political dissent, but he is inviting religious dissent as well for he has directly inferred that the Putin’s Presidency is an act of God. In so doing, he has opened the church up for criticism, including criticism that subverts the imagery of the church to bear prophetic witness against it.

        As for my being okay with people protesting the church … I don’t know what to say that would convince you that I would be okay with it. When the church fails as badly as the Russian Orthodox Church is failing, when it fails in the way that the German church failed during World War II, I think it is not only okay, but absolutely necessary for believers to invite the prophetic voice into our midst. Remember, prophets are rarely comfortably people to be around and they’re not always from within the people of God. I think the church does itself a great disservice when it fails to listen to critical voices from the outside.

        One last thing. You stated the following: “You did not address my comments re: the criticisms of the Church in general.” Can you help me understand what you are pointing to? I’m not sure what I have failed to address? If it’s my failure to go into depth regarding the need to understand a church that has been oppressed, I’m afraid you and I are going to disagree on this matter. I would point to Dietrich Boenhoeffer and the Confessing Church in Nazi Germany. No matter how oppressed it may be, the Church has always retained the right and the power to proclaim the counter-cultural Gospel of the Messiah. This was true when Nero burned the matyrs to light the way into Rome. It was true when the pastors and elders arrived brutalized and beated at Nicea and Chalcedon to fight for the hypostatic union and the Trinity. And its true of the persecuted church around the world today. Oppression does not give us the right to cease speaking for matters of justice, mercy and grace.

        • Ryan M. Mahoney says:

          Even if the Patriarch did not invite politics in the church, the Church is a polis, a new polis. The gospels and especially Paul’s letter to the Ephesians are, in part, political protests literature. In short, they declare Jesus is Lord and Ceasar is not.

          • To say nothing of Revelation and its numerous critiques of “the city on the seven hills.”

          • Rebecca says:

            And how exactly are they not saying “Jesus is Lord?” And your argument goes about as far as me tossing a piano from the hip in this country where we absolutely deify any politician who squeaks out the right tone on abortion and “the gays.”

            We in America need to be shutting our pie holes on this right about now.

          • Rebecca says:

            His All-Holiness Metropolitan Kyrill has repeatedly spoken to the dignity of human people and the Gospel of Christ. He has stood against consumerism, is adamantly opposed to abortion and the sexualization of women in today’s culture. He probably pities Pussy Riot, and he’s right to do so.

          • Ryan M. Mahoney says:

            @Rebecca . . . I think you may have misunderstood my point; I was not criticizing the Patriarch. But, since you brought it up, I do believe the Patriarch, for his support of Putin, is missing the opportunity to embody the critique of Caesar that the gospels, Pauline letters and Revelation call us to.

            This is not some Western Protestant rant here. I very much appreciate EO theology, as evidenced by the fact that my blog’s name is Christus Victor. Also, I think Western Evangelicals are just as bad, maybe worse, at rightly questioning power structures in and out of the Church. Our eyes are just as blackened due to the marriage between the GOP and Evangelicalism.

      • Rebecca,

        I see your points about Putin not being worse than American oligarchs. I understand a lot of your points and agree with them. I too agree with the fact that it’s not okay to desecrate holy spaces, especially of those whose faith you do not hold. I don’t think I’d ever have the guts or reason to do so!

        However, the Pussy Riot (ugh I HATE their band name. Not because I’m prude about vulgar language–I’m not and I’ll drop a few choice words often, but the feminist in me protests. I’d rather they were the “Vagina Riot”, but I digress…) has a point. They were calling out the church on it’s sin. The sin of supporting the head of an oppressive regime. Perhaps I should restate that: IF their intention was to call out the church and Putin for being in “bed” together, to use their chosen metaphor, then they had a point and a good one. And the most sensational way to make their point was to get up on that altar and sing their song that mocks Putin. If we can get past the offense to the intent, then there might be some good takeaways for the church to learn. Would there have been a better way for them to make their point? I cannot say. But if that was their point, I have to say, their statement was brilliant.

        Now let me put the shoe on the other foot. If something similar was done her in the US in my church, to make a point, something sensationally offensive–might I have a very hard time seeing past the offense to the point in order to listen to it? Um, most likely yes. But I would hope humility would prevail to help me think through whether or not a valid point was made and to consider whether or not I, as a member of the American Church and the Church Universal, would need to make some changes. All that to say as an outsider yes, it’s easier to see the plank in someone else’s eye. That’s always the case. Does that make Pussy Riot wrong? I can’t really go there. I think they made a very strong, valid political statement (albeit offensive to the church, and apparently to Putin). I think they have a right to say what they wish. Should they be offensive? Only if there is not other way to get the church to listen.

        • Rebecca says:

          A couple things here: 1. There is a trend in culture to be as offensive/sexually inappropriate as possible for the purpose “making a point.” Just today, some topless woman chain-sawed down a crucifix in Poland, dedicated to martyrs, in support of Pussy Riot. That is absurd.

          2. I do not expect Protestants to understand this, because they have spent their entire religious existence as iconoclasts and deriding the use of Holy icons, symbols as ways to connect with the divine, and any kind of mysticism in worship. They do not have a Eucharist, a Great and Holy Communion, per se but rather a lovely shot of wine or Welch’s, a piece of cracker and a prayer.

          You cannot possibly overestimate the level of offense such behavior is to Orthodox Christians. It is unnecessary, regardless of the point they were trying to make. They were being cute. They sneaked in, were asked to leave, pushed aside a security guard, and sang a vulgar song before the ALTAR, before the Eucharist in the temple, before the Icon of the God-bearer with her Child. They were wrong. If they were doing so outside, there is no problem. That’s free speech. This is a hateful assault on a religion. They were no likely familiar with Orthodoxy, probably Baptized themselves. They knew EXACTLY what they were doing.

          There’s a great line in the movie Hoosiers, about there being two kinds of crazy. First there’s the guy who gets drunk, gets naked, goes outside and barks at the moon. The second one is the guy who does the same thing in your living room. The first one you can ignore, but the second one you kind of have to deal with.

          • Ryan M. Mahoney says:

            I do get the offensive nature of this band’s performance within sacred space. I even winced when I received the email notification for Scott’s new blog post. Nevertheless, while their methods are well out of bounds, the support of a tyrant is as well. What troubles me is that more Christians will be disturbed by the band and their actions than the abuse of power by Putin.

            It reminds me of my Christian college professor that said, “1000 children will die of starvation today, and you don’t give a shit. What is most disturbing is that all of you were more shocked by my use of language than the fact that children are starving.” Christians have their pet sins, and abuse of power is not even on the radar screen.

          • I’ll give you point #1. Particularly if other avenues of discussion haven’t taken place beforehand. Their actions are extreme, and absent of context, very inappropriate. I’d be curious to know the band’s history and relationships with church and state to help me know what would drive them to such lengths. It’s hard to imagine such actions came out of left field, but that is possible.

            Point #2: I think you’re being a bit harsh. Yes, as a whole Protestants view icons with my less reverence, yes by some, derision. I myself don’t have a problem with the use of icons though I don’t use them myself. Religious art does move me though. And for me there is a certain about of “mysticism” welcome in my faith. This is my issue with your point: while my views of the Eucharist are no doubt different than yours, I find it no less significant or no less an encounter with God than you do. “…a lovely shot of wine or Welch’s, a piece of cracker and prayer” is just as much a demonization of your “sisters’ and brothers'” way of worshipping as you find theirs of your church to be.

            I can tell you’re very hot about it this and greatly offended. I appreciate that you share your views. It helps me see the world from another Christian perspective.

          • Rebecca says:

            Jennifer, thank you. You are absolutely right. I am a bit hot about this, and I absolutely should NOT have gone there re: Communion. As a former Protestant, I longed for the depth of Eucharistic experience I now find in Orthodoxy. But it was wrong of me to minimize the experiences or beliefs of others. Please forgive me any offense in that regard.

  3. Greg says:

    Scott–you’re posing a question that has no answer. You’ve created an either/or paradigm that does not exist.

    There is no free speech in Russia. Russia is not a democratic republic.

    So you’re standing in solidarity with some young women who are protesting rights that they don’t have, to the detriment of their families and children.

    Both sides are wrong.

    • You are presupposing that rights are granted by the state. I would suggest that human rights are based upon the dignity of human beings, which is granted through the imago dei that is infused into our very nature. States do not have the power to grant human rights. Dignity is given by God, and the state can either affirm that which God has given or seek to suppress it.

      The fact that Russia does not recognize the right to free speech does not mean that these women, made in the image of God, do not possess the right to speak. The question is: will they be punished for it or will their voices be heard.

      The church, which as a mission of being a counter-cultural force against imperial aggression – a mission of restoring the created order that has been broken – should, at all times, be a force in favor or recognizing basic human dignity and the right to speak one’s mind.

      Now, as for whether these women chose an “appropriate place” to voice their concerns … That can be challenged. But if they were opposing both Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church’s refusal to speak for justice, then perhaps they did choose the right venue.

      In either case, my concern is not so much with “Pussy Riot” as it is with a church and its ability to speak to the powers of this world.

      • Rebecca says:

        Can you PLEASE explain to me why it is ever appropriate for a Christian to advocate the desecration of our sacred spaces? Heck, anyone’s sacred spaces?

        It’s fine Pussy Riot protested the Church. But the where is not defensible.

        • Bec … I can tell that you are angry with me over this post, so I’m trying to take appropriate caution in responding. My intent is not to offend you. But I think, as someone who follows this blog, you can see that I have a well-documented history of calling out the church on its failures. In my eyes, you and I live in a time where the church has become extremely vulnerable precisely because it believes it can be in bed with those that wield the power of the state. This problem began with the crowning of Charlamagne, and it has plagued believers ever since.

          So please know that my interest here is not the particularities of Eastern Orthodoxy, so much as it is in discussing how a local expression of the universal Church is, in my opinion, failing to address the issues of power and state.

          As for your question regarding the desecration of sacred spaces, I think that conversation is substantially more involved that quick back and forths really allow. In short, I would argue that we, the corporate body of Christ, are the sacred space of the New Testament. When God’s Spirit left the Temple (as described in Ezek. 10), it never returned to a physical geography. Instead, with the tearing of the curtain and with the advent of Pentecost, the Spirit entered the people and we are moving to a time when all of creation is a Temple.

          As for it being appropriate for a Christian to desecrate a holy space (either ours or others), I would suggest that the Old Testament is filled with examples of God’s people tearing down the holy spaces of others; and others tearing down the Temple of God. In either case, He used these events to further His purposes and His Kingdom.

          • Rebecca says:

            I’m not “hot” with you. I am just gobsmacked at your inability to see this.

            Using your own examples: God created us to understand Him, to discover His Mysteries and worship Him through symbol. The OT is chocked full of, and so was the Church He left behind. There is a difference between the conquest of a people, i.e. the 12 tribes tearing down the idols and killing everyone, and the intentional disrespect to make some social point. Apples to oranges, brother.

            There is no way that a band called “Pussy Riot” dancing at the altar of a sacred place is furthering “His purposes and His Kingdom.” If you can’t see that, I can’t help you.

            You and I have deep philosophical differences in what constitutes the Church, what constitutes the practice of faith, and even Salvation. That’s fine. We can have these really fun discussions and debates at family gatherings or even here. But you are advocating the desecration of a place my people consider sacred. You are somehow saying that this vile and vulgar behavior, which has no Scriptural parallel (Christ did not defile the Temple, Paul did not defile the pagan places, even–he stood outside and taught), is justified by the behavior of a secular government, behavior you have not even come close to justifying with concrete examples.

            If we want to speak American to American, that’s fine. They committed a crime. They trespassed. They can do the time. American has NO business complaining about Putin’s oppressive regime when we behave the way we do: drone strikes, rendition, Gitmo, squelching political dissent at the local levels.

            But Christian to Christian, you’re wrong. Others here have said it. It’s not just my opinion.

      • Greg says:

        If God’s priorities are as you project them, then why didn’t Jesus, any of the apostles, or Paul, take a stand against tyranny, oppression, and the freedom of expression. To the best of my recollection, they were too busy doing other things.

        Our human lives are such an inconsequential blip in eternity…that perhaps there is a far bigger picture here. God used political oppression repeatedly to break His people from the oppression of their own self-will.

        So let me play devil’s advocate: Who are we to short change this process. It would have been far better–and more effective–for these young women to submit themselves entirely to the Holy Spirit, and allow them to be used as tools in God’s master plan. On the contrary, this was a self-idolatrous publicity stunt.

        And you got suckered into it.

        Sucker.

      • Greg says:

        And if you’re arguing that “freedom of speech” (in a political sense) is an inalienable right granted by God…then I’d have to rebuke you and say that you’re wrong.

        God grants is the freedom to express ourselves to Him. Freedom of expression in a humanitarian sense can (and is) fully tainted by the sin of man.

        Again–you’re whole premise is wrong.

        And then, you’ll use passivity against nazi Germany as the counter.

        And then, I’ll just shrug my shoulders, because I will have stopped caring…

  4. Rebecca says:

    There really is not a comparison to the churches in Nazi Germany and the oppression of the Orthodox Church since the time of Christ–first of all, by duration and second, by scope. The churches of Germany by and large said little as Hitler kept an iron fist on the country. That was not the case in Communist countries for Orthodox Christians. They were not beaten from without, so they were attacked from within. There is NO equivalent in the number of Christians killed under Nazi Germany. And while there were thousands killed–they were largely in countries OVERRUN by the Nazi’s, i.e. Poland and Holland, vs. Germany itself. (and they seemed to be largely Apostolic churches–Catholic, Orthodox, etc.)

    A brief history of ONE place mentioned in Wikipedia:
    In 1922, the Solovki Camp of Special Purpose, the first Russian concentration camp and a former Orthodox monastery, was established in the Solovki Islands in the White Sea [1]. Eight metropolitans, twenty archbishops, and forty-seven bishops of the Orthodox Church died there, along with tens of thousands of the laity. Of these, 95,000 were put to death, executed by firing squad. Father Pavel Florensky was one of the New-martyrs of this particular period.

    Western Protestantism, because of its youth has little in the way of martyrs to point to and is largely devoid of a history comparable to the Apostolic Church. And because of its youthful exuberance is quick to equate the few martyrs it does have, such as Bonhoffer, with the history of the majority of the world’s Christians. And Orthodox Christians lost people to Hitler too! My sister’s patron saint Mother Maria of Paris was martyred in Ravensbruk I believe, having been caught forging baptismal certificates to get Jews out of the country. But the western use of those few doesn’t make it a fair comparison. And even though Protestants cite the ancient martyrs of the Councils, because Protestants don’t claim the totality of that history, to me it is cherry-picking for the sake of trying to validate an argument.

    The Russian Orthodox Church is not “failing” and I resent your assertion that it is. What it is doing is recovering. Putin provides them with cover to keep out Western missionaries and heretical groups who are poaching sheep from their tired flocks. That’s a pretty hard stand against religious freedom, but if the Church wants to protect itself in that way, I am not going to tell them they can’t do it. I remember sitting in class at TU and talking about how Western Christians should go evangelize in Russia. Our arrogance! That is. A. Christian. Country. A nation with a heritage more soaked in the Gospel for much longer than ours. We do NOT get to tell them what to do while they sort this out for themselves. It’s going to take a long, long time. The Church moves really slowly, which in its history has been for its protection. Metropolitan Kyrill became a priest in the 1970’s…because of the ethos of that time, he himself could be too tied to the old KGB structure. He could be corrupt. I don’t know. However, the Church itself has never stopped preaching justice and mercy, unless you’re privy to some super-secret report that says otherwise. I’m a member of an OCA parish, operating from a distance under the banner of the Moscow Patriarchate. They do some stupid things and this may have been one of them. But I submit to the leaders of the Church, in accordance with the vows I took at my Chrismation, as men appointed by God.

    And I’m telling you, protesting in front of the altar of a Cathedral is NOT going to win you any points. You are not going to get any of the babushkas to come to your perspective, and probably not the younger, less-institutionalized-to-USSR priests either. What they did was stupid, and ultimately not helpful, unless of course the goal was to belittle a people of God, and that is not something we as Christians should ever tolerate, especially a Church who preaches the absolute unvarnished Gospel of Christ to its people, even in the face of horrific persecution.

    Sorry so long.. :/

    • The thread above didn’t let me reply, so I will do so here. I have to say, that I too long for depth and I too am drawn to more Orthodox expressions of our faith. If I had my druthers, I’d go to an Anglican church, but for the sake of my husband and family, I stay where I am. And I am not satisfied. I too often keep my mouth shut about what I really think about things because a wide swath of my brothers and sisters don’t or won’t understand why (other commenters on this blog exempted from that statement, though they may disagree with one, many or all of my views).

      All this to say, I appreciate your perspective though I may not agree with all your points. Your apology is humbly accepted, sister.

      Dona nobis pacem.

      • Rebecca says:

        Thanks. I must say that Christianity never made any sense to me or felt like home to me until Orthodoxy (and I grew up the granddaughter of a preacher and the daughter of the church pianist).

        May God bless your journey deeper into His mystery.

  5. Bob says:

    Ok, so I have two questions:
    @Scott- how does one determine whether something is a prophetic voice against the church? We all remember the unfortunate statements by men like Pat Robertson when tragedy has struck this nation. While this demonstration is different from natural disaster or terrorism, it made me wonder why you see this as such? Hope that question makes sense.

    @Rebecca- what exactly does the Orthodox Church believe about sacred space and where do its teachings derive from. I know this was touched on above by comments that Scott made, but he didn’t even mention Genesis 1 and 2 as a temple text where in all of creation is Gods sacred space that is now being redeemed to function as such. Why the focus on the walls of the church? The church is a called out group of people, do we agree on that point? Really just curious.

    • Rebecca says:

      Historically, until the radical Reformation, the Church understood it’s role to be the new “Children of God” a.k.a the new Israel. First of all, we of course recognize that all of Creation is God’s “sacred space,” which is why our leaders, such as the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, have spoken to the need to protect and care for the environment.

      But you don’t have to look much further beyond Genesis 1 and 2 to see that God repeatedly instructed those who followed Him to build altars, monuments, tabernacles and temples. He dictated extravagance in how those places were constructed and decorated. This is because He created us to better understand Him in symbol (which means to join together), to have physical things that serve as touchstones or, to use a Harry Potter reference, a kind of “port key” to the Divine. We do not merely worship Him with our intellect, but also with our physical person–we pray, we bow, we venerate, we light candles and incense, and we write icons–because these things convey the Truth of the Gospel and help us better enter into worship. If you look at diagrams of the OT Temple and Tabernacle, you can instantly see the similarities between those and an Orthodox Church. There are reasons for that.

      So, since that has been the practice of the Church for the majority of its history, the question is not really for us to answer as to why we do this, but why Protestants do not. It is a new invention and practice.

      Yes, we would agree that the Church is a “called out group of people” and we can certainly worship Him anywhere, but just like in the OT, we know that those places where we come together corporately, we put it all together when we can. Even in times of great persecution, i.e. the Catacombs and under Communism, these Holy things have been a part of worship. There is a group of people, the Bride of Christ, and then there is the place where we gather.

      To address something I said above, because we believe that the presence of God is in the Bread and Wine, the place where that is a part of the service, i.e. the altar, is an especially sacred place. Women are not allowed behind the iconostas, except in very rare occasions.

  6. Earlier this week, Rebecca sent me this article on my Facebook timeline. It’s an excellent read, and well worth your consideration, as it provides some much-needed historical context to the current circumstances.

    http://www.realclearreligion.org/articles/2012/08/20/the_new_soviet_league_of_militant_godless.html

    • Rebecca … As I said on Facebook, much appreciation for passing this along. Having said that, I think my original critique stands on these grounds. First, oppression of the church does not validate comments equating Vladimir Putin to a “miracle of God.” Much as I have openly challenged the notion that America is a “Christian nation,” I would challenge any church that attempts to legitimize secular authority in this way.

      In the early days of the church, Christians were being sewn into dead animal skins, soaked in oil, and lit as torches to light the roadways leading into Rome. The Apostle John himself knew something of what it meant to be persecuted, and yet he did not suddenly relent on those grounds and legitimize the power of Rome. Instead, he subversively writes of the “city on the seven hills,” undercutting the authority of Rome, even as he served time on Patmos.

      Ultimately, when it comes to a situation such as this, I suspect that endorsing the actions of Putin, (and endorsing the “show trial” and the 2-year imprisonment of a punk band) will do more to harm the witness of the church then allowing this to pass would have done. While I understand that you see this is profaning the body and the blood of Jesus Christ, I think we would both agree that such desecration has already occurred in an absolute sense when he was beaten and nailed to a cross.

      So in my mind, I weigh the slight against Christ and his church against the churches failure to speak out on issues of justice, even as they legitimize the very source of that injustice.

      Thoughts?

      • Duane says:

        Hmm, wonder why Jesus Christ, Peter, John or Paul never said anything against slavery. Want to know why? Because they they weren’t preaching a social gospel but belief in Jesus Christ. And do you know what Paul said to Timothy? He said “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” (2 Tim 2:4).

        • Duane …

          Appreciate you stopping by to leave a comment. Out of curiosity, do think the New Testament is entirely devoid of political commentary? Personally, I can’t see that. John’s Revelation alone is full of indictments against Rome – “the city on the seven hills.”

          • Duane says:

            Scott, it appears you don’t want to comment on how Jesus, Peter, Paul and the other apostles didn’t try to fix the social issues of their time (slavery for example). Doesn’t that suggest we are not here to fix the injustices of the world but to proclaim Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of sins through His blood? And as far as the the city on the seven hills, where do I find that in Revelations? Chapter 17? Please enlighten me.

      • Rebecca says:

        Scott, your above statement “While I understand that you see this is profaning the body and the blood of Jesus Christ, I think we would both agree that such desecration has already occurred in an absolute sense when he was beaten and nailed to a cross” is completely ridiculous. I don’t even know how to respond to it. I know you don’t mean to be demeaning and dismissive of historic Christian beliefs about Communion and sacred spaces, but you are.

        I absolutely disagree with you on this with every fiber of my intellectual and spiritual being. You have offered nothing in the way of evidence to justify why such a protest could even be considered appropriate (and I don’t think it could, ever). You did not answer the above comment about the relative silence in the NT on political issues. (Revelation was barely considered canonical back in the day, so I’m not counting that one anyway). The OT records the death of poor Uzzah for touching the Ark. This is no different. I encourage you to go to Ancient Faith Radio and listen to Frederica Mathews-Green’s podcast on the matter.

        With this comment, I leave this particular conversation.

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