A Different Spin on the Whole Pussy Riot Story

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Photo by SJR

The conservative world likes to put a big spin on the culture wars, discussing the war against Christianity.  Yet, when there is a huge social development, a massive world-wide discussion about supporting the artistic value of a group of skin-head inspired twits who have the vocal equivalent of a cat in heat, they are MIA.   This is a huge story.   The Pink Flamingo suspects it is far more important than the Todd Akin insanity and the far right anti-abortion plank in the GOP platform.  This is one of those stand up for what you truly believe.  I fear many are going to be found wanting.

Yes, a church is just a building.  We can worship God anywhere we chose to worship.  A building is just a building.  We bring into it what is in us.  BUT, it is more than that.  I defy any person who worships – no matter what their faith, religion, or creed, to say that they are not attached to some specific piece of real estate.  We all have a right to worship in peace.  We have a right not to see our houses of worship desecrated for the sake of “artistic freedom”.   And – we should have an assumption that people with an iota of intellect should know the difference.

The artistic world is up in arms because a group of talentless young woman have pulled a stunt that desecrated a very special house of worship, and were arrested for it. They are now going to do prison time for their activities.  Let’s leave the term “Christian” out of it for awhile.  Maybe by not connecting the location in question with the “Christian” faith, the artistic world might be a bit more selective in who they defend.

The usual artistic sources are rushing to defend alleged freedom of speech and expression.  They are ignoring the fact that people the world over have a right to worship without being harassed and having their house of worship desecrated by that artistic freedom.

Do the arts and free speech trump the right to worship and not be disturbed, harassed, or have your choice of worship be insulted and desecrated by your artistic freedom?

Which freedom is more important?

Is this even a matter of freedom, or a matter of respect and decent civilized behavior?  Do a group of people who are basically devoid of manners have a right to disrupt a church – or any activity for that matter? These individuals  have no consideration for the sensitivities for others. They are basically nothing nothing more than  self centered attention whores. Why should they be given world-wide attention and approval for their actions? In many ways, it says more about the culture protecting them than their pathetic and childish actions.

Where are our conservative culture warriors in all of this?  Why are they silent about this? Are they so busy pandering to the extreme right that well, they really don’t know what is going on in the rest of the world.  Let’s face it, they don’t.

Several weeks ago, when I noticed the news about the Russian punk group Pussy Riot, I found what they did to be offensive.  I am a Christian.  I’m sick and tired of Christian churches and my faith being desecrated for the sake of expression and political expediency.  It’s perfectly acceptable to desecrate and trash a Christian church, no matter where.  You can’t desecrate a mosque.  If you do, it’s  a hate crime.  If a synagogue is desecrated, it’s a hate crime. And  – those should be hate crimes.  If so, then why is it okay to trash and desecrate a Christian church.

Yes, I am well aware we are to turn the other cheek.  We are to lover our enemies, and return bad with good.  Christ did, though exhibit just a little righteous indignation every once in awhile.  In fact, the actual translation for what he told the delegation from the temple, which was sent to make him look bad was, well, SHUT UP!  So, I think we can express a little righteous indignation every once in awhile.

When does freedom of speech morph into vandalism?
When is it acceptable for political protest to turn into the desecration of a church?
Is it okay to desecrate a holy site for art?
Where do you draw the line between “artistic” expression and desecration?

“...”It’s absurd that people should be arrested for art.” Inaz, a protestor in Berlin told The Local on Friday afternoon. “Pussy Riot’s whole artistic action has obviously really shaken Putin.”…”

UK Guaradian

These “sweet” young women desecrated a church.

If The Pink Flamingo had not seen three stories about this within five minutes, I would have ignored it.  I guess it’s a sign that I’m not going to ignore it.  Several things caught my attention.  First, I discovered that Pussy Riot is based on the Oi! skinhead movement.  (As in skinheads, white supremacists, white nationalists – neo-nazi…)

The second thing that caught  my attention was an interview with  my favorite opera singer, Dmitri Hvorostovsky. (sigh)  I admit the fact that I am a baritone junkie.  I attended so many of the great Sherrill Milnes’ recitals that he refused to sign another photo for me, saying I had enough to wallpaper my bath room!  There are times when just the right thing will get our attention.  This slapped me in the face like a breath of fresh air, or a well sung version of anything Verdi.

Vangardia

 

Fyodor Klages (1812-90). “Interior of the Cathedral of Christ Saviour in Moscow” (1883

This is the what the church once looked like, before the Soviets blew it up.  The church was restored, starting in 1990.  The act that the four women from Pussy Riot did was deliberate.  It was an act of disrespect, anger,and desecration.  This was not an act of innocent protest, or artistic expression.  This was not political discourse.  This was a deliberate violation of a holy site.

Pussy Riot owe their inspiration to “Oi!” music invented by far right skin heads in England.  Yes – skinheads – you know, the kind of people who like to do hate things over here.  The Pink Flamingo had never heard of this stuff.  I like opera. I like classical music.  I like oldies.  My idea of protest music is Ziggy Marley, I’m that out of it.  Then, when I started looking into this “Oi!” movement, it takes me right back to what we are fighting over here – white supremacists.

“…Some fans of Oi! were involved in white nationalist organizations such as the National Front (NF) and the British Movement (BM), leading some critics to identify the Oi! scene in general as racist.  However, none of the bands associated with the original Oi! scene promoted racism in their lyrics. Some Oi! bands, such as the Angelic Upstarts, The Burial, and The Oppressed were associated with left wing politics and anti-racism. The white power skinhead movement had developed its own music genre called Rock Against Communism, which had musical similarities to Oi!, but was not connected to the Oi! scene. Timothy S. Brown identifies a deeper connection: Oi!, he writes “played an important symbolic role in the politicization of the skinhead subculture. By providing, for the first time, a musical focus for skinhead identity that was ‘white’—that is, that had nothing to do with the West Indian immigrant presence and little obvious connection with black musical roots—Oi! provided a musical focus for new visions of skinhead identity [and] a point of entry for a new brand of right-wing rock music.”

The mainstream media especially associated Oi! with far right politics following a concert by The Business, The 4-Skins, and The Last Resort on 4 July 1981 at the Hambrough Tavern in Southall. Local Asian youths threw Molotov cocktails and other objects, mistakenly believing that the concert was a neo-Nazi event, partly because some audience members had written National Front slogans around the area. Although some of the skinheads were NF or BM supporters, among the 500 or so concert-goers were also left-wing skinheads, black skinheads, punk rockers, rockabillies, and non-affiliated youths. Five hours of rioting left 120 people injured—including 60 police officers—and the tavern burnt down. In the aftermath, many Oi! bands condemned racism and fascism.

These denials, however, were met with cynicism from some quarters because of the Strength Thru Oi! compilation album, released in May 1981. Not only was its title a play on a Nazi slogan—”Strength Through Joy”—but the cover featured Nicky Crane, a skinhead BM activist who was serving a four-year sentence for racist violence. Critic Garry Bushell, who was responsible for compiling the album, insists its title was a pun on The Skids’ album Strength Through Joy, and that he had been unaware of the Nazi connotations. He also denied knowing the identity of the skinhead on the album’s cover until it was exposed by the Daily Mail two months later. Bushell, a socialist at the time, noted the irony of being branded a far right activist by a newspaper that “had once supported Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts, Mussolini’s invasion of Abyssinia, and appeasement with Hitler right up to the outbreak of World War Two.”

Another subsequent source for the popular association between Oi! and a racist or far-right creed was the band Skrewdriver, a first wave punk act that had broken up in 1979. Lead singer Ian Stuart Donaldson was recruited by the National Front—which had failed to enlist any actual Oi! bands—and reconstituted Skrewdriver as a white power skinhead act. While the band shared visual and musical attributes with Oi!, Bushell asserts, “It was totally distinct from us. We had no overlap other than a mutual dislike for each other.” Donaldson and Crane would later go on to found a magazine, Blood and Honour, and a street-orientated ‘skinhead’ club of the same name that arranged concerts for Skrewdriver and other racist bands such as No Remorse. Demonstrating the ongoing conflation of Oi! with the white power skinhead movement by some obervers, the Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organizations refers to these groups as “‘white noise’ and ‘oi’ racist bands”….”

Just what have these innocent and fun loving young women done in the past?

“...The entire series of depraved acts in which they engaged—group sex in a Biological Museum, attempts to desecrate Elokhovskaya Church and the actual desecration of the church Christ the Savior—in the end achieved the desired effect: bringing the band popularity in Russia and abroad. Moreover, an array of celebrities, liberal politicians and public figures in the West expressed support and sympathy for Pussy Riot. So the band became famous and got what it wanted… 

In the end, the Pussy Riot trial became a large-scale event skewed to the advantage of the defendants who had overstepped all moral and good-character boundaries. Neither the Church nor the religious-oriented civil organizations had comparable international connections despite the existence of powerful European and especially American conservative and religious activists who wield vast influence over public opinion (consider the role and influence of U.S. evangelicals in political life in the U.S.) that could have been activated to counter-balance the unbridled campaign in the liberal media in the West in support of Pussy Riot..”

There are very real reasons what these young artists did was considered so deplorable.  They were deliberately desecrating a church that had been destroyed by the Soviets.

This what these young “artists” did. Frankly, The Pink Flamingo thinks they should have been arrested for crimes against humanity because they are vile. Music? I think not.

Life Site News

Philip Jenkins wrote, in Real Clear Religion:

“...Through the 1920s, the Bolsheviks systematically wiped out the church’s leaders. Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev perished in 1918, shot outside the historic Monastery of the Caves, while Bishop Hermogenes of Tobolsk was drowned in a Siberian river. Archbishop Andronicus of Perm was killed the following year, followed by most of his clergy. In 1920, Bishop Joachim of Nizhni Novgorod was crucified upside down from the iconostasis in his cathedral. In 1922, a firing squad executed the powerful Benjamin, Metropolitan of Petrograd/St. Petersburg. The repression was indiscriminate, paying no attention to the victims’ records as critics of Tsarist injustice and anti-Semitism.

Persecution claimed many lives at lower levels of the church, among ordinary monks and priests. We hear of clergy shot in their hundreds, buried alive, mutilated, or fed to wild animals. Local Red officials hunted down priests as enthusiastically as their aristocratic predecessors had pursued wolves and wild boar. The number of clergy killed for their faith ran at least into the tens of thousands, with perhaps millions more lay believers.

The regime also rooted up the churches and monasteries that were the heart of Russian culture and spiritual life. Officials wandered the country, vandalizing churches, desecrating saints’ shrines and seizing church goods, and murdering those who protested the acts. Militant atheist groups used sacred objects to stage anti-religious skits and processions. Between 1927 and 1940, active Orthodox churches all but vanished from the Russian Republic, as their numbers fell from 30,000 to just 500.

In the process of dechristianization, the crowning act came in 1931 with the obliteration of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. For the Bolsheviks, it was the ultimate proof of the Death of God.

But, of course, Resurrection did come, so that a new cathedral would stand to mark a new century. The long nightmare was over.

Yet Russia’s new religious freedom is a very tender shoot, and the prospect of future turmoil has to agonize those believers who recall bygone horrors. These fears are all the more pressing when modern-day activists seem to reproduce exactly the blasphemous deeds of the past, and even in the precise places. When modern-day Orthodox look at Pussy Riot, they see the ghosts of Alexandra Kollontai and her militiamen, or the old Soviet League of Militant Godless. Are they wrong to do so?

I just offer an analogy. Imagine a dissident group opposed to the current governments of Poland or Hungary. In order to grab media attention, they take over one of those countries’ recently restored synagogues, and frame their complaint in the form of a pseudo-Jewish prayer. Horrified, the authorities arrest them and threaten harsh criminal penalties. Not only would international media fully support the governments in those circumstances, but they would complain bitterly if police and courts showed any signs of leniency. However serious a group’s grievances, there is absolutely no justification for expressing them with such mind-boggling historical insensitivity, and in such a place. Anywhere but there!

So no, I won’t be giving to any Pussy Riot support groups….”

Wikipedia

The Pink Flamingo can’t quite understand the uproar over the actions of four obnoxious and socially repulsive women who will do anything for the shock value of more attention.  They are nothing but attention whores.  They deliberately broke into the Cathedral during a service.  They violated the altar.

There is something almost sacred about a consecrated altar.  The only time I have ever walked up to the altar and past it is when doing Altar Guild duty.  And, then it was done with reverence.  I always bowed and crossed myself.  I was approaching a special location.

I think about how I would feel if something like this happened at Holy Mount.  I’d be livid.  If it were to occur at St. Paul’s Tombstone, I would be more than livid.  It would be a violation of something special, dedicated to the Lord.

If St. Paul’s were invaded and desecrated in such a way, I would be in tears.  I’m the one who literally wrote the book on the history of the building of the little Episcopal church there in Tombstone.  It took me a decade to get my hands on Endicott Peabody’s diary and get permission to transcribe and publish.  I guess I just look at things through his eyes.

I’d be in tears, but I’d also be praying for the souls of these women who have no respect for themselves for the Christian faith.  I simply cannot imagine anyone standing up for what they did, and defending it.  They violated a cathedral. Doesn’t that even matter these days?

What I can’t get over is the way the so-called “artistic” community has spoken out, defending these young woman, and their right to desecrate a Christian church.   They have a right of freedom of expression and freedom of speech.  They have rights….

What about we Christians?  Don’t we have rights to protect our churches from such desecration?  I will guarantee that, had these same individuals had violated a sacred kiva on the Hopi Reservation, or disrupted a religious ceremony on the Pine Ridge Reservation, these same concerned artists would want them put under the jail!

Don’t Christians have rights?

The one thing that truly pleases me, to no end, is the fact that the second greatest baritone in the history of opera, Dmitri Hvorostovsky spoke up, defending the church.  He is a worthy successor to the greatest baritone in the history of opera, Sherrill Milnes.

Thank you, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, for being one of the very few leading (and I do mean leading) luminaries of the artistic world to have the courage to defend the church, and the sacredness of the Christian altar. May God Bless!

For those who don’t know who Dmitri Hvorostovsky is…

“...Mexico City (apro)-baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky returns to Mexico after seven years to give a masterful concert the 22nd of this month at the Palace of fine arts. Dressed as a rocker, the Russian singer born in Siberia does not correspond to the old stereotypes of opera singers. Torn jeans, white shirt, leather jacket, deep Tan, body of athlete, long white hair and iridescent red glasses marked his style. Doing the typical “Danish” sign of the rockers, the singer seemed fun before the lights of cameras during the press conference it was carried out in the room Adamo Boari, the Palacio de Bellas Artes. Accompanied only by a translator, Hvorostovsky explained that for the concert which will give the city of Mexico construed Rachmaninof, with Rubinstein, Mozart and some well-known arias. With his perfect teeth he further explained, that the fundamental instruments that uses as an artist are his honesty and sincerity on the stage. He also spoke of holidays that happened in Florida doing watersports and Ambassador of Russian culture around the world how feels. ..”

A clip from Dmitri Hvorostovsky’s concert in Phoenix last winter.  I love the cowboy hat.  It’s a wild west thing.

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3 thoughts on “A Different Spin on the Whole Pussy Riot Story

  1. Thank you, Pink Flamingo, for such an informative post. We have not been hearing much about the incident in the US. Everyone seems to come to the defense of these young women. Their protest in front of an altar was certainly disrespectful if not obscene. The Cathedral of Christ the Savior is the largest Orthodox church, so it is equivalent to St Peter’s in the Vatican. Christianity is always being targeted these days. It is not politically correct to be a Christian. This incident reminds me of the acts of desecration on the Altar of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris during the French Revolution. I only hope there will not be any copy cats of this incident in US churches.

  2. You brought something up that truly bothers me. We are now so invested in propping up and changing the history of Jefferson that no one wants to even discuss his duplicity in helping to “inspire” the Reign of Terror. One only wonders if his anti-religious leanings may have been part of the terror and the things that transpired during those horrible years.

    SJR

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