While this blog doesn’t aspire to be a clearing house for Russian news items, I couldn’t pass this one up. It further illustrates the great irony and contradictoriness of life in present-day Russia.

Several weeks ago in Moscow, some members of a female punk-rock band with a vulgar name crashed the Russian Orthodox Church of Christ the Savior, went up to the altar, and sang and danced there, mocking Christian worship. They took a traditional Russian Orthodox hymn and parodied the words, calling on the Mother of God to drive out Putin. All this they did for effect, notoriety, and political gain, recording it on video. (If you have a strong stomach, you may watch it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALS92big4TY. You may find related videos there, some perhaps with English.)

Of course, the women were apprehended by security after some minutes. Two members of the band are now in prison, facing a charge of “hooliganism,” which carries a penalty of up to seven years—one year short of half the sentence my drug-addict neighbor received for murder.

This event is huge here. Even after the passing of several weeks, entire TV talk programs are devoted to discussing it. Opinions about this are all over the map. Some think that these women are getting what they deserve. Others think the sentence is too harsh. Still others wonder what all the fuss is about. Many are concerned that the incarcerated women are mothers of young children.

I’m probably as torn as anyone. The strong currents that are raging about the nation are also swirling in me. What this group is and what they’ve done in desecrating the altar of God is so thoroughly repulsive that I can hardly bear to contemplate it, let alone write about it. A stiff penalty seems in order, but a multi-year prison term? I’m not so sure. Then I’m struck with the irony that only decades ago it was the government itself that was defiling churches. Finally, there’s the issue of the church’s confession before the world. I heard one of the priests from that church say on television that of course forgiveness would be offered the women if they were repentant. In terms of forgiveness of sins before God, of course, repentance must be present, but if the church supports stiff prison sentences for the unrepentant, how does this represent Christ? Should these irreverent women be made “martyrs”—which is possibly what they’re aiming at?

We’re all waiting to see how it will play out. In the meantime, the storm refuses to abate.