An indignant indictment descended once again on the Russian Federation from that moral height of the West’s press when a locally known provocateur à la Pussy Riot eventually managed at last to do something sufficiently offensive to have him granted his greatest wish: attention.
A two month penalty cements his status as atheist martyr devoured by the merciless maw of the “church-and-state behemoth.” No hyperbole here, clearly.
Well? Is this a descent into the Middle Ages? The author of the particular article paraphrased himself hardly knows.
In one breath he’s nodded derisively in the direction of the schoolmen, the emergence of the university, La Divina Commedia—and in the next he is alluding to a few decades ago in the Soviet State.
Here there is a not a little insensitive insinuation that the Russian Orthodox Church is about to mirror policies against atheists that a State enforced atheism very recently inflicted on us.
Then there is the appeal to the irrelevant, which only more markedly underlines with how poor a grasp he handles the issue in hand. There are indeed very deep differences between the Orthodox theological understanding of sacred space and the contemporary Jewish.
All the other examples enumerated as supposed symptoms of the problem alleged to be arising in Russia have nothing to do with the Church or pokemon and as such do not hold my attention.
Then there are all the assumptions left unpacked and unexamined by the author.
Why is the harmony of Church and State unmodern? It seems to me that in the actual current global context the claim religion and government can’t cooperate or shouldn’t—is rather an antiquated idea.
But, let’s focus on the substantive rather than wander off into the tangential together with him.
I’ll pose a question.
If a student were to run on-stage during a school assembly to catch an imaginary creature with their phone, would they be punished? Yes. And deservedly.
Suppose they did so during a parliamentary session or a court case? The answer would be the same but the punishment would be severer. And again, deservedly so.
For even atheists as well, you see, there are such sacred things, in a manner of speaking, of law and government that are inviolable—the deliberate violation of which is punishable by State law.
Why should the Church (or any place of sincere and serious worship) not be included among them? Should not be counted as sacred space to the relevant body of citizens of that State which one cannot at whim insult and interfere in? That is, when the interference is recognised by the worshipers as offensive and out-of-place (pace, apparently, some Jewish synagogues). To insist otherwise makes as much sense to my mind as insisting theft from a church ought not to be covered by State law either.
In any event, irrespective of whether or not one feels it should or should not be the case: in Russia—it is. State law does constitutionally cover arrant violations of what the overwhelming majority of Russian citizens believe is actually and literally sacred. The author of the article who occasioned my own is aware of this, since he cites it in his.
The State authorities did not use secular law as Church law. They implemented a State law in an instance where the violation took place in a church. Precisely because the Church has no separate law or internal independent recourse to prevent or punish such acts as these. Not anymore than it has its own police force to catch or separate courts to sentence thieves who break into temples.
To claim that the State should not intervene to implement civil or criminal law when it is a question of a religious body or building that has been violated is in the last analysis a call to deprive them of all legal protection and rights in a given State. That happened once. It was called the Soviet Union.
So? Is Russia entering in upon an epoch of militant anti-atheism?
I’ll let that the case rests on the fact that a well-known self-publicising delinquent got in trouble for playing pokemon where he knew better, serve as a refutation all by itself.
And end by putting on record my personal preference in favour of a public, nationally televised, spanking as best suited to the offender in question.
Martin Kalyniuk is a young man of letters and semi-regular contributor to the Oriental Review and the Soul of the East.