On Aug. 17, three members of the Russian feminist punk band/performance art group Pussy Riot received the verdict in the criminal case against them: Guilty of "hooliganism" motivated by "religious hatred." Each was sentenced to two years in prison.
As a faith-based community organizer, I spend a great majority of my time trying to get political issues into the church so that the gospel can be relevant to the reality of those on and off the pews.
Therefore, I believe the best place for a “pussy riot” is the church. Although this may seem sacrilegious, here's why:
1. When the church ignores social and political issues it silently blesses injustice. (See slavery, the Holocaust, lynching, and child sexual abuse.) Testimony Time is a set time in many Black Churches when congregants can speak of their pains and triumphs and how God brought them through.
Testimony time is democratic and a time of raw honesty. I call what Pussy Riot did protestifying because they protested by testifying about the political conditions of their country.
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.
The all-female Russian punk band whose name shall not be mentioned (kind of like Voldemort in Harry Potter) was arrested following an uninvited “punk prayer” of protest against Russian president Vladimir Putin and his iron-fisted grip on the forthcoming election. Their boisterous prayer-performance was offered to the Virgin Mary at the altar of a Russian Orthodox church. They’ve been serving five months in jail since the event, and on Friday were sentenced to two years — time served credited against the sentence.
On the surface, I appreciate the demonstration. One could argue that even Jesus engaged in rather shocking prophetic displays inside temple walls to make a powerful point. And I appreciate that the band members were willing to go to jail (not a surprise they got arrested, really) for what they believe. On one level, it’s exactly the kind of thing that the punk ethos is all about: shocking people into awareness about the injustices around them, stirring people to action.
Does anybody else feel this weight?
I woke up this morning in tears. I don’t know why today is different, but I do know the weight is for my brothers and sisters who are in pain.
I imagined what the night was like for folks in my neighborhood who had to fend off threats last night.
I imagine the young girl in a car — against her will or against her first choice — with the guy named John, and I lament for her soul.
I imagine the young guy standing out all night selling death so he can have a little life — whether it’s in the form of food, dignity or just to feel like he is meeting some need, somehow.
I imagine the mom lying in the bed next to someone she would rather not touch, but because he pays the bills for her kids to eat and sleep, she puts up with his abuse and doesn’t say anything about the other woman he also lies with around the corner.
A Westboro Baptist Church protest was overshadowed last Friday when demonstrators dressed as zombies gathered at a DuPont, Wash. military base to counter the radical group's efforts.
After members of the controversial Kansas-based church announced plans to picket Joint Base Lewis-McChord, a military base south of Seattle, 27-year-old Melissa Neace decided to organize a counter-protest, launching a Facebook group titled "Zombie'ing Westboro Baptist Church AWAY from Fort Lewis!"
"We wanted to turn something negative around, into something people could laugh at and poke fun at," Neace told the News Tribune. "It was the easiest way to divert attention from something so hateful."
About 300 counter-protesters showed up in varying degrees of zombie garb, far outnumbering the picketers from Westboro. According to KIRO in Seattle, just eight protesters from the controversial group showed up.
"I think that their message is very hateful, and Jesus was not a hateful person. He loved everybody," one of the counter-protesters told KIRO.
Watch video of Zombies vs Haters inside the blog ...
As reported by Cathy Lynn Grossman for USA Today:
The annual National Day of Prayer, mandated by Congress in 1952, is upon us and the usual folks are out with proclamations, prayers -- and protests. President Obama issued his annual proclamation on Monday, making special mention of prayers for the military as befitted his surprise visit to Afghanistan.
Read the full article here
South Korean Christians are trying to pray away Lady Gaga.
According to AFP, a group of Christians gathered Sunday night to pray and protest Gaga’s concert, scheduled for April 27.
People lined the steps of the Supreme Court once again today, asking for their voices to be heard on the ongoing healthcare debate. Justices on Monday began their three-day review of President Barack Obama's 2010 Affordable Care Act, which would require U.S. citizens to purchase health insurance or face a penalty.
Thousands gathered starting on Friday for a ticket inside for oral arguments and to stand outside the court in protest, both for and against the plan.
VATICAN CITY--Two weeks before Pope Benedict XVI was scheduled to touch down in Cuba, a small group of protesters occupied a church in central Havana, asking that a message with their requests be delivered directly to the pope.
Their action was swiftly condemned by church authorities as "illegitimate and irresponsible." The group remained in the church for two days, and only left Thursday (March 15) after being assured by a top church leader that they could return home without police interference.
The episode illustrates the challenges that Benedict will find in Cuba during a March 23-29 trip that will also include a stop in Mexico. But it also highlights the good relationship that the Catholic Church has built in recent years with the island's communist regime.
The trip will be the pontiff's second visit to Latin America, which is home to almost half of the world's Catholics. Benedict visited Brazil in 2007.
During his trip, the pope will meet political leaders from both countries and, according to the Vatican's top spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, he might even have a brief encounter with longtime Cuban leader Fidel Castro, though it is not on the official agenda yet.
There has been a lot of anger levied at the very wealthy since the Occupy movement began back in September. There is no doubt that much of this anger is justified – righteous indignation, if you will.
The ways that people have become extremely wealthy have often been corrupt or immoral, whether or not they are technically "legal." Part of the reason that the Occupy movement sprang up was because people felt that there were different rules for "us and them." People who lost millions of dollars in what was effectively high-stakes gambling were pardoned with little more than a slap on the wrist, while regular families lost everything in a crisis they had no hand in.
As I say, there has been, and still is, much anger. But out of that anger must come something new, something tangible and real.
It didn’t take long — after news broke this afternoon that President Obama had indefinitely kyboshed the climate-killer Keystone XL pipeline — for my phone to ring.
“Hi Rose, I’m calling from White House on behalf of President Obama," the voice on the other end of the line said. "We wanted to makes sure you’d seen the president’s executive order postponing the permitting of the pipeline until another environmental impact report can be done, especially focusing on sensitive environmental issues in Nebraska.
"And we want to thank you for your good work on this issue. We’re just reaching out to let you know that the President hears you and we hope you’ll continue to help us focus on the really critical issues that are facing us right now.”
This afternoon President Obama made an official announcement on the Keystone XL Pipeline that so many of you have been working on these last several months.
This Sunday (11/6), is precisely one year from the 2012 General Election where the next U.S. President will be elected, and to mark the date, thousands of people from across the country plan to gather at the White House.
But we're not gathering to celebrate, have a sit-in, or even march in protest. Instead, we plan to surround the White House -- literally -- in a Circle of Hope that could be as large as a mile or more in circumference.
From our Circle of Hope we will call upon President Obama to reject the dirty-oil, Keystone XL pipeline Big Oil wants to build from the Canadian tar sands in the Alberta province 6,000 miles south -- straight through the American Heartland -- to the oil refineries along the Gulf Coast of Texas.
With the opening of the G20 Summit in Cannes, France today, an idea that's been around for awhile is in the news again and gaining more attention as a result of the #OWS movement: The so-called "Robin Hood tax," a minimal tax on all financial transactions with the resulting revenue dedicated to anti-poverty programs....Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, in his response to the occupation of St. Paul's Cathedral in London, endorsed the Vatican proposals. Williams observed that "people are frustrated beyond measure at what they see as the disastrous effects of global capitalism," and urged a full debate on "a Financial Transaction Tax
Occupy Wall Sreet, false idols and a moral economy. Breaking the cycle of poverty. Poorest poor in U.S. hits a new record: 1 in 15 people. As poverty deepens, giving to the poor declines. Arianna Huffington: Shakespeare, the Bible and America's shift into a punitive society. Peaceful Occupy Oakland march followed by late-night clashes.
On November 6, I will join Jim Wallis, staff members from Sojourners, and 15,000 others in Washington, D.C.'s Lafayette Park to tell President Obama to stop the Keystone XL pipeline project.
If approved by the Obama administration, the pipeline would transport non-conventional tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, 1,700 miles south -- through the American Heartland -- to the oil refineries in Texas on the Gulf of Mexico.
Week end's latest news as well as a few pieces you might have missed from the past few days. Check back on Sunday for a review of "The Mighty Macs," a few longer essays from SoJo staff and friends, and the latest news on the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq after nine years of war.
Bold leadership means that Mayor Bloomberg should do what he can to allow these protests to continue, even if he doesn't agree with them. As an elected official, it is essential that the mayor find a way to protect demonstrators' free speech and right to assemble.
The freedom to protest is one of the things that has made this country great and its abridgement is an affront to us all.
As Christians we have a decision to make. In times of hopelessness and long periods of waiting for things to get better, will we let ourselves be cast into the all-consuming fires of idolatry?
Or, will we stand up against the false gods and catch the flame of the Spirit in our hearts and minds?
Our nation may very well be on the threshold of a crucial change. Who will you be standing with?
As we waste time fanning capitalism's raging inferno, the best parts of ourselves remain frozen.
Produced by Cathleen Falsani for Sojourners/God's Politics
Photos by Heather Wilson and Carrie Adams/Sojourners
Music by Jason Harrod (used with express permission from the artist)
Song: "For Your Time" from Jason Harrod's album Bright As You, 2006
All Rights Reserved
#OccupyWallStreet (the New York-based protest against social and economic inequality, corporate greed, and the influence of corporate money and lobbyists on government) has moved to a new location, a street where the air is far sweeter than on Wall Street.
Won't you tell me how to get, how to get ... there?
That's right, folks, the occupation has taken over Sesame Street.