Pussy Riot’s Appeal for Justice

Exclusive: A Russian judge has sentenced three female “punk” rockers from the group “Pussy Riot” to two years in prison for performing a protest song at a Moscow cathedral, what the judge called anti-religious “hooliganism.” But Ray McGovern sees the protest as in the spirit of Mary, mother of Jesus.

By Ray McGovern

The song to which the punk band “Pussy Riot” danced on Feb. 21 in Russia’s iconic Christ the Savior Cathedral ends with a prayer asking Jesus’s mother Mary to “become a feminist,” but Mary always was a feminist through and through, with a voice speaking strongly for justice.

Centuries of saccharine portraits and iconography have obscured a more reality-based appreciation of this gutsy young woman. But recent scripture study throws light on how Mary implanted a vision of inclusive justice into the heart of Jesus.

Members of the punk band, Pussy Riot. (Photo credit: Igor Mukhin)

Though Mary is not given a lot of airtime by the men who wrote the scriptures, it is not hard to figure out where she was coming from. Just give her a brief sound bite and those within earshot would have found her profoundly subversive of a corrupt system not unlike that existing today in the punk band’s Russia.

In Mary’s time, the religious authorities in Palestine were working hand in glove with the Herod-type sycophants of Caesar — and doing quite well, thank you very much. (No invidious comparison with Emperor Putin and the successfully co-opted Russian Orthodox prelates is intended, of course.)

Mary is thought to have been several years younger than the courageous women of “Pussy Riot,” but she clearly shared both their outspoken exuberance and belief that God was, in the end, a God of justice and would deliver. Here’s Mary upon learning she was to be the mother of Jesus, who might just deliver the Jewish people from their oppressors:

I am bursting with God-news; I’m dancing the song …

God has shown strength,

Scattering the bluffing braggarts.

God knocked tyrants off their high horses,

Pulled victims out of the mud.

The starving poor sat down to a banquet;

The callous rich were left out in the cold. …

It’s exactly what God promised, beginning          

With Abraham and right up to now.”

(Luke 1: 50-55 – Eugene Peterson translation)

As the passage shows, Mary was outspoken in her advocacy of inclusive justice — the biblical precondition for Shalom, which can be defined as peace, completeness or the elusive moment when everything is right. For in the biblical perspective, peace is no more nor less than the experience of justice.

Mary was in good company. Indeed, her views fit within the tradition of Miriam and other women prophets. Those familiar with the Hebrew scriptures may recall the part of Exodus recording the song and dancing of Miriam right after the Israelites make it to dry land just ahead of the ill-fated “horses and chariots of Pharaoh”:

The prophetess Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, while all he women went out after her with tambourines, dancing; and she led them in the refrain:

Sing to God gloriously triumphant;

Horse and chariot he has cast into the sea.

(Exodus 15:20-21 – The New American Bible, Saint Joseph Edition)

Bible accounts include a long line of courageous women celebrating freedom, justice and Shalom. These stories of women include what is perhaps the first celebration of highly imaginative, as well as bold, nonviolent civil disobedience.

Who remembers Shiphrah and Puah from the first chapter of Genesis? Okay, here’s a brief refresher. They were the two midwives who defied Pharaoh’s order to snuff out the lives of all male Hebrew babies at birth. “Despite Pharaoh’s command,” says Genesis, “they feared God and refused to kill the boy babies.”

When Egypt’s homeland security operatives told Pharaoh of this defiance, he called Shiphrah and Puah on the carpet. They provided an artful alibi: “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women. Hebrews deliver their babies very quickly, before the midwives can get to them.”

Obstetrics at the time being at their infancy, so to speak, it is possible that Pharaoh’s physicians concurred. I am no biblical exegete and have read no biographies of that particular Pharaoh, but it seems to me equally possible that he was so bemused by their grit and imagination — and perhaps even by their instinctive rejection of infanticide — that he decided to let them off the hook.

In any case, without the fabled courage of Shiphrah and Puah, as the story goes, Moses and his big brother Aaron would never have gotten anywhere near the Red Sea. It strikes me as of a kind with the example set not only by “Pussy Riot,” but also strong American women witnesses for justice — in the Catholic Worker movement, for example, and in Code Pink.

And so back to the witness of the three women of “Pussy Riot,” sentenced to two years of prison for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.” The facts strongly suggest that it was not “religious hatred,” but rather hatred of the undisguised, pandering role to which the Russian Orthodox Church has reverted in giving unqualified political support for President Vladimir Putin, as it did for the Tsars.

This can be seen in the following verses of their offending song, which clearly refer to Tsar Putin, formerly a senior official in the KGB and later head of the FSB, a successor agency to the KGB:

“Black robe, golden epaulettes

All parishioners crawl to bow

The phantom of liberty is in heaven …

 The head of the KGB, their chief saint.

Leads protesters to prison under escort

In order not to offend his Holiness …”

The punk musician JD Samson, interviewed on “Democracy Now,” shared this word of praise for the courage of the young Russian women in standing up to the highly authoritarian Russian government:

“One of the things that’s really strong for everyone is that they are staying so incredibly confident and strong. They’re standing there in handcuffs in a cage smiling, because they know that what they’ve done is ignite a fire in the rest of the world, and they’re extremely happy to have done so. And, yeah.”

And yeah.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington, DC. He has a M.A. in Russian from Fordham and holds a Certificate in Theological Studies from Georgetown. He is a radical feminist.

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24 comments on “Pussy Riot’s Appeal for Justice

  1. Kolokol on said:

    The head Jewish Rabbi and the chief Muslim cleric in Russia also supported Putin at the same meeting that Kirill did. Why no invasions of synagogues and mosques?

    • John Chrismatist on said:

      perhaps because those aren’t known as Russian Orthodox Judaism and Russian Islam. There’s a price to pay when your branding is ruined by association with things that detract from it or serve as the antithesis of what your brand is supposed to stand for. Like Catholicism, the brand is tainted with the corruption of wealth, vice, abuse and pridefulness.
      The Christian churches rarely stand for Christ-they are co-rulers of the earthly realm with the corrupt oligarchs, Princes of this world allied with the fallen angel whose pride saw him cast out of heaven.

  2. Female Punk is NOT Saint Mary. And Saint Mary did not teach her son to fight a proxy war for foreign powers against his own country. Russian Christians, Muslims and religious Jews know who is behind anti-Putin protests.

    Putin’s victory, like Iran’s conservatives’ victory in parliamentary elections, – has scared the hell out of the western Jewish lobby groups. The Zionist-controlled mainstream media in the US, Canada and Europe has called Russian election “fraud”, “rigid”, and “scary” – even though hundreds of western oservers have testified that Russian elections were as much transparent as could be in any other European country. The anti-Putin source most western media has quoted is Russian-born American Jewish journalist and author Mash Gessen, who in her book ‘The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin’, called Putin “a street thug”.

    The western hatred toward Putin boils down to his challenge to Zionist-controlled world domination espectially his stand against western military interference in Syria, Iran and Pakistan.

    http://rehmat1.com/2012/03/06/russia-putin-wins-western-zogs-fret/

    • dahoit on said:

      Agree 100 percent with your assessment.
      These feminazis could have shown a little respect for the church by not putting their politics in their face,in the church,but chose provocation,a Nazi like act.
      And of course the Ziomonsters hate Putin,as he put a crimp in their ill gotten gains.
      Would that America had such a nationalist!
      I pray to Allah,God or Yahweh for such a gift!

  3. I thought Ray McGovern was too intelligent to support such a shallow bunch of opportunists. Apparently I thought wrong. I am confident that Ray will demonstrate his sincerity by organising a punk rock tour of his local churches and synagogues, best of luck with that one Ray!

    As for ‘Pussy Riot’, they have accomplished their mission, they are famous, for the present at least, and presumably hope to cash in at some time in the future. I am sure that they are dreaming right now of leaving the authoritarian land of the ‘callous rich’ behind them and travelling to the land of the caring, sharing, warm hearted and not at all authoritarian west. How very sweet.

    As Rehmat has already pointed out, Putin was elected president by a majority of the voters and the legitimacy of the elections is not in any serious doubt. If further confirmation was required, Putin has the sort of approval ratings that current western leaders can only dream of.

    Having said all that, a two year jail sentence does seem harsh, perhaps some sort of deal could be arranged. What if Putin were to offer them their freedom in return for taking up citizenship of another country (the US for example)? The Russians would get rid of some pests, the girls would get their freedom and the US would gain a dull, leaden, tuneless, ham-fisted garage band of the sort that went out of fashion 30+ years ago. Now thats what I call a win-win situation.

    • Even Paul Roberts agree with me.

      “The President of Russia, whose thermo-nuclear ballistic missiles can remove the US from the face of the earth, stated for all the world to hear that Washington has the entire world in fear of its hegemonic drive. “No one feels safe,” said Putin. And certainly not the Russians with American missile bases on their borders and a Washington-funded disloyal and traitorous political “opposition” which serves as Washington’s fifth column inside Russia,” wrote Paul on August 20, 2012.

      http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2012/08/20/amerikas-future-death-paul-craig-roberts/

    • Kolokol on said:

      Their legal team is already trying to enforce copyright on Pussy logos and branding. Anarchists? LOL

    • Krapotkin on said:

      @MarkU! One of the girls has a permanent residence in Canada, one or two others were educated in USA, and possible y had students residence then, and multiple visas to travel to the Land of the Free!

  4. Kolokol on said:

    Ok, I can understand why my previous posts were deleted because they linked to other actions by Voina/Pussy Riot which can be considered not only deranged but pornographic. I hope Ray and other Pussy Riot admirers know about it because I don’t see it in the bog media. By the way it should also be noted that the Pussies legal team is paid for by Alex Goldfarb, Berezovsky’s good buddy who said of the Orange “Revolution”: “You know you work behind the scenes and do things and suddenly people are in the streets, that’s amazing. It’s like science you know. We do the experiment in test tubes and a little tinkering and then something big comes out of it”. And, regarding the 2 year sentence it is reduced by time served, and time served is counted double which amounts to approximately a sentence of 14 months. Perhaps it’s too harsh, perhaps not. The Pussies have only succeeded in delegitimizing legitimate Russian opposition.

  5. Thanks Ray for this excellent article that puts the Pussy Riot political art in a biblical context. When you read their court statements you realize what incredibly intelligent and sophisticated action these women have taken. The dare to claim the Orthodox culture as a liberating force for the Russian people rather than the puppet of a repressive regime. Read more here: http://sojo.net/blogs/2012/08/17/pussy-riot-sentencing-cant-jail-female-fury

  6. Kolokol on said:

    Here is the original Pussy display at the church, all the audio was dubbed in.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=yEvSvolkJo8

  7. Kolokol on said:

    A radical feminist analysis of the Pussy Riot controversy. What do you say, Ray?
    http://radicalhub.com/2012/08/20/pussy-riot-whose-freedom-whose-riot/

  8. charles caruso on said:

    Don’t tell me you’re falling for an obvious CIA/NGO provocation. Thot better of you.
    And as far a ‘the spirit of Mary’ – ah, come on.

  9. F. G. Sanford on said:

    Strange. Israel runs over Rachel Corrie with a bulldozer, but Pussy Riot grabs the headlines. I’m glad they offended some sensibilities. I think that’s what it will take to underscore the hypocrisy of “moral” institutions. The comments made by those ‘stuffed shirts’ who would condemn the supermarket stunt with the frozen chicken have one thing in common: they’re jealous of the chicken.

  10. Russian Jewish dissidents living in exile in the West and Israel are running a campaign for the ouster of Russian-strongman, Vladimir Putin. The campaign is financed by Jewish billionares, who were squeezed out of Russia by Putin to the great delight of the Russian public. The Americans Jeffrey Sachs, Andrei Schleifer, Robert Rubin, Larry Summers and the Russians Yegor Gaidar, Anatoly Chubais who played a major part in introducing capitalism in the USSR were all Jewish.

    http://rehmat1.com/2011/03/05/jewish-dissidents-want-regime-change-in-moscow/

  11. Krapotkin on said:

    @Rehmat!Jews as well, all founders of the Bolshevick State, except Stalin and Lenin, in the case of Lenin it’s still under investigations, as it’s possible his real father was Jewish

  12. charles caruso on said:

    I’m betting on Putin against those emigre slimebags. Is that Vegas casino dirtbag part of the cabal?

  13. Robert Charron on said:

    I have always admired Ray McGovern for his devotion to the truth. However, he does not tell the truth about what the three girls really did. In his report he is putting out a slanted version of what actually took place, just the type of thing he fought against the governmnet for having done. And for one who claims to be a Catholic to imply that the obscene antics of these girls,in an area considered sacred by many orthodox Russians could be construed as they were following in the footsteps of one who Catholics revere as the Mather of the incarnate Christ makes one wonder if Ray has not lost his bearings. And for a self described feminist to accept an obscene gutter description for women shows a com;plete lack of respect for women. Ray how could you?

  14. Nice blog here! Additionally your site rather a lot up fast! What web host are you the usage of? Can I am getting your affiliate link in your host? I wish my site loaded up as fast as yours lol

  15. Kolokol on said:

    British PR firm Bell Pointinger is offering artists, rock stars, etc up to 100,000 EU to issue a statement of support for the Pussies.

  16. Linda Girard on said:

    I want to forward this very interesting page but cannot find a way to do so. Can you help?

  17. Kolokol on said:

    You can download the page to your desktop, or forward the URL. Copy and paste?

  18. dahoit on said:

    I read today that two members of PR were allowed?to leave Russia,as they were afraid of prosecution.What,in diplomatic bags from the Israeli embassy?No mention of their destination,though.