The Common Good

Punk Protesters Sentenced to Two Years in Russian Jail

An update from CNN on the previous story about the Russian punk trio standing trial for protesting against President Putin in a Russin Orthodox church:

"Three members of Russian female punk rock band Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in prison Friday after they were found guilty of hooliganism for performing a song critical of President Vladimir Putin in a church.

The five months they have spent in detention since their arrests in March count toward the sentence, Judge Marina Sirovaya said.

The judge said the charges against the three young women — Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich — had been proved by witnesses and the facts."

Hooliganism seems a fairly vague charge, given the possibility of something more specific, like criminal trespass. However, I wonder if someone can be considered a trespasser in a church that is open to the public. I certainly understand why some church stewards may have found their demonstration in poor taste or even blasphemous, but that hardly qualifies their act as criminal.

Perhaps I’ve missed something about Russian law, but it seems to me that it’s a conveniently trumped up charge to keep the women sequestered until (hopefully for the Putin Administration, at least) the attention blows over and the perpetually-distracted news cycle moves on. In short, I can’t imagine, at least from my cultural context, that such a sentence could be justified as anything less than government bullying.

As for the location of their “Punk Prayer” at the altar of a Russian Orthodox church, this state church has been in the pocket of the government for quite a long time, it turns out. In reading up a little more, the choice of such a church for their protest seems less shocking and more concertedly poignant, given the church’s complicity in promoting the agenda of the Powers that Be. Rather than standing up in the face of authority as an advocate for the poor and oppressed (arguably one of the principal responsibilities of a church), they have joined in the subjugation of human rights in Russia.

So, where better to turn the tables over than in the so-called house of God, turned over time into a gilded bed for political opportunism?

So yes, I’ve changed my tune a bit with respect to the Punk Protest Prayer. Not only was the band protesting against Putin and his minions; they were calling the church out for falling well short of their Gospel-centered mission. Further, they had to know full well the risks they were taking in performing such an act (which can carry a sentence that stretches into the decades). Rather than pulling a dramatic public relations stunt, they were risking not only their professional careers, but also a significant chunk of their lives to bring attention to the oppressive regime controlling their nation.

Never let it be said that I can’t change my mind. Though I still cringe a little at the band’s name, I have to stand in solidarity with their commitment to the cause of freedom. They knew what they were getting into, and they did it anyway, because they believed it was right.

Sounds a lot like Gospel to me.

Christian Piatt is an author, editor, speaker, musician and spoken word artist. He co-founded Milagro Christian Church in Pueblo, Colorado with his wife, Rev. Amy Piatt, in 2004. Christian is the creator and editor of "Banned Questions About The Bible" and "Banned Questions About Jesus." His new memoir on faith, family and parenting is called "PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date."

Photo: Fan protests the sentencing of the band Pussy Riot: Elena Rostunova / Shutterstock.com

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