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Pussy Riot, Jeremiah & Jesus

It’s childish I know, but my initial reaction to the trial of Pussy Riot last week was stifled laughter. I giggled at the sound of the band’s name in the mouths of sombre, poker-faced news journalists. The trial though, was a serious one. They were jailed for two years for performing a protest song in a Russian Orthodox Church.

These artists, if you want to call them that, stormed the Church of Christ the Saviour and offended many believers with so-called lyrics which I’ll not report here, but which insulted the One for whom the church is named, and also the President of the country, Vladimir Putin.

It was some words from the judgment, which took three hours to deliver apparently, that made me stop and think a bit more. Judge Marina Syrova said, ‘What they did was offensive to believers and a crude violation of the social order’. It was the connection between offense to believers and the maintenance of social order that caused me to pause.

The Old Testament prophets were always suspicious when the State was in too cosy a relationship with the faith community.

The prophet Jeremiah made and wore a wooden yolk around his neck, and told a nation settled and sure of itself that they were about to go into exile. Not only that, but he told them their religious leaders were also a burden around their necks, who by their false preaching supported the delusion that everything was fine. Grossly offensive to believers and subversive of public order? Absolutely. So guess what happened to the man who performed this symbolic act of rebellion? You got it, Prison.

Even Jesus, when confronted by a man who was blind, and who social and religious convention dictated was thus afflicted because of sin in his life or that or his parents. Made some mud from dust and spittle, smeared it on the man’s eyes and sent him to wash in a pool that had special religious significance. And all of this done on the Sabbath. The man was healed and the leaders were offended. Judge Marina Syrova might well have said if she had been there “What he did was offensive to believers and a crude violation of the social order”. And his sentence? Imprisonment, torture and death. Funny that, isn’t it?

So, am I right to be at least suspicious when faith and state come into cosy proximity? Could it be that our churches, chapels, and cathedrals, far from being the sanitised, respectable and inoffensive places we often struggle to make them, are instead the most appropriate places for punk rock protests against the social order? I’m just asking.

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BBC NI Good Morning Ulster Thought for the Day
Broadcast Monday 20 Aug 12

2 thoughts on “Pussy Riot, Jeremiah & Jesus

  1. Couldn’t agree more… and on that theme, do you fancy being part of an online reading group looking at Brueggemann’s “The Practice of Prophetic Imagination: Preaching an Emancipating Word”?

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