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October 2017
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Some R&T readers may be following this story about the Russian punk (Riot-Grrrl-inspired) band, Pussy Riot, and their February “punk prayer service” protest against Putin in a cathedral in Moscow, as a way of protesting (among other items) the close link between church and state of late in Russia. This is a rare example of a band staging a protest in a church. At least some of its members were jailed immediately and have not yet been released.

Here is some video apparently from the protest, where they apparently performed their song, “Virgin Mary, Mother of God, Expel Putin!”

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In many cultures, attempting to occupy a church for a political protest, especially one undertaken with electric guitars, conjures up a powerful symbolic conflict, with allegations of desecration and sacrilege not far behind. The exact contents of that symbolic conflict in Russia, I don’t know, but if it bears any resemblance to Western countries, it would have to do with an imaginary of self-assertion or aggression, license and sexuality on the one side, and an imaginary of peace, order, hierarchy, and respectability on the other.

Here is a report from the New York Times in early March, and here is one from later March.

Amnesty International calls for the band’s release here.

A BBC report from today is here.

Are the Pussy Riot perhaps intentionally or accidentally helping the church meet its own potential theological goals of distinguishing Christianity from state power? The many who are clamoring for their release would seem to be sympathetic to that theological position. And although I am admittedly no expert on the Russian church, I would agree with them.

Tommy Beaudoin, Hastings-on-Hudson, New York

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