No, really. Whimsical title aside, I’d like to talk about why Putin’s Russia is wrong and why opposing it is so very right.
For one, Putin is an open bigot and also transparently corrupt; this has never been more clear than in the past year or so.
He is in bed with the Russian orthodox church, an unsurprisingly wealthy organisation that is very much into political influence, not about organising people in the peaceful worship of an all-loving deity, and certainly not following in the footsteps of Jesus of Nazareth. They are a political organisation, not a religious one; most organised religious groups get this way, unfortunately, and it does little for their people. Look at the concerted attempts in recent years in the United States by religious groups, despite legally mandated separation of Church and State.
So Pussy Riot performed in a church and their songs had ‘profanity’ and topics the church didn’t want to have brought out, such as their close affiliation with Putin? Too bad! When you affiliate yourself with the government, then your business becomes available to public criticism. If you don’t want people criticising you, if you want to keep your premises private, then don’t basically make yourself into a governing body. In a democracy, people should have the right to assemble, to speak, to use government property — as it is belonging to those people — exactly as they see fit. As long as they’re not actually physically causing damage to it (which Pussy Riot were not), there is no legitimate reason why they cannot. And when you start throwing in with the government, your business becomes public. Prepare to be criticised, and openly, and viciously. If you can’t handle it, don’t do it.
Pussy Riot were punished too harshly — they should not have been punished at all, especially since they were accused of homosexual promotion — and it becomes even more apparent that Putin is now using his anti-gay law (which is already of questionable legality anyway) to punish anyone that disagrees with him or calls him out on his…well…bullshit.
And now supporters are trying to sue Madonna for ten million dollars…does anyone else see a transparent grab for money here? It’s ridiculous. So Pussy Riot get excessively punished on charges that had nothing to do with what they did, yet the church as an organisation escapes from any accountability for the things it has done, painting itself as some sort of tragic victim of Madonna telling people to be, you know, decent human beings?
The irony of this — a singer named Madonna clashing with a church about being a decent human being — is pretty amazing.
No, Madonna should not have ‘left her politics at home’. She’s an international celebrity operating on a global stage. That is her home. And frankly, it’s home for the rest of us too. It’s time people stop being lazy and just saying ‘it’s not my problem’. You don’t fix a problem by looking the other way. I’m not a fan of hers particularly, but what she did was right. She went in, took a stand, and empowered people, knowing that she would be put in danger because of it.
And people need to stop viewing the church as the victim and misguidedly leaping to its defence. It doesn’t need your help to defend itself. The organised church is never — ever — a victim. Churchgoers may be victimised, people of that religion may be mistreated and discriminated against, but the church as an organisation itself is never, ever a victim. It is a wealthy organisation, in every case of every denomination, and usually powerful on a political scale as well.
In other words, it ain’t gonna just vanish anytime soon, for better or for worse. And the Russian orthodox church is doing its followers around the world a huge disservice, bringing them all necessarily into the situation of political corruption and unethical behaviour in Russia, no matter where they live. That isn’t the action of a loving, benevolent organisation.
Basically the situation in Russia is this: corrupt politicians are using their love for gay-bashing to cast anyone they deem as dangerous or challenging to be ‘promoting homosexuality’, whether or not they actually are. Instead of trying to pin real crimes on them, they’ve artificially inflated being gay into some sort of major offence. It doesn’t matter whether you’re gay or not, this is something that needs to be opposed by everyone. Because they don’t care whether you’re gay or not, or whether you’re actually promoting homosexuality (more like tolerance) or not, when they accuse you of it. They just use it as a convenient catch-all to try and remove any criticism of their policies.
Which the Russian orthodox church is completely in on; they’ve helped influence this whole movement.
And even if you’re not in Russia or anywhere close, this is something that everyone needs to see and to learn from. It happened so quickly and so suddenly in Russia. It could happen anywhere. And that is yet another reason why standing up for our rights, and keeping religious organisations and political ones separate, are so crucial.
Religion doesn’t belong in politics. Politics don’t belong in religion. ‘Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give unto God what is God’s.’
Russia is now a poster child for how not to do things, and how important it is that we don’t let it get any worse than it already is in the United States and elsewhere, for that matter. This is such a crucial point. We need to keep pushing for equality, irrevocable and irrefutable. And we need as well, more than anything, to keep an attitude of connection and solidarity with others, to help them as much as we can by speaking out on an international level.