Protest

Why the Church is the Best Place for a Pussy Riot

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.

Punk Protesters Sentenced to Two Years in Russian Jail

Elena Rostunova / Shutterstock.com

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

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.

Russian Band’s Punk Protest Prayer: Prophecy or Blasphemy?

AFP/GettyImages

Members of the all-girl punk band sit in a glass-walled cage after being sentenced in Moscow. AFP/GettyImages

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.

The Weight

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.

QUIRK: Westboro Baptist Haters vs. Zombie Counter-Protesters (Guess Who Won?)

From Huffington Post:

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 ...

 

National Day of Prayer Marked with Prayer... and Protest

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

SCOTUS: Voices form the Healthcare Debate

Parker Haag/Sojourners

Protestors march outside the Supreme Court as oral arguments are heard inside. Parker Haaga/Sojourners

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.

Pope to Find Challenges, Opportunities in Cuba

Cathedral of San Cristobal, Pedro Salaverría, Shutterstock.com

Cathedral of San Cristobal, Pedro Salaverría, Shutterstock.com

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.

Praying for (and Engaging with) the One Percent

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.

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