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Sacrilege is Sometimes Hard To Spot

Jesus warned his followers against double standards in morality. “Take the log out of your own eye first,” he said, “then worry about the splinter in your neighbor’s.”

That advice has never seemed more apposite. In the last couple of weeks we’ve seen mobs burning and killing to demonstrate their righteous wrath over a sacrilegious video attacking Mohammed; mob violence in the name of religion is, of course, far more reprehensible than an ugly and inaccurate video. Log, meet speck.

But we are seeing another example of the same thing in Russia, where the Russian Orthodox Church is telling the imprisoned members of girl-band-gone-bad Pussy Riot that it will ask for clemency if they will “repent” of their so-called punk prayer in a Moscow cathedral.

The girls do have a splinter or two in their eyes, to be sure. Disrupting worship services is not as cool as they think — or thought — it is. And the materialistic, hedonistic culture that the band appears to promote is not what young people in a poor country like Russia really need. But in fairness to the young women, Russian authorities with the full backing of the church are crushing civil liberties across the country. Even a punk rock band gains some moral dignity when attacking true injustice.

More than that, if anybody in Russia is guilty of atrocious sacrilege, it isn’t a handful of punk rockers. It is the upper ranks of the clergy who bask in the wealth that comes from their close connections to the power structure. In Soviet times, the KGB made sure to stuff the higher ranks of the church with loyal collaborators and bootlickers; to a very large extent these people and their handpicked successors carry on as before, rendering unto Putin that which they formerly rendered unto Brezhnev.

The rewards of their collaboration and sycophancy are plain to see — or, rather, they are so obvious and so discreditable that church officials struggle to hide their tokens of wealth from the faithful. Last April we ran a story (Would Jesus Wear a Rolex on his Television Show?) about an airbrushed photo of the Patriarch of Moscow from which some incompetent lackey had scurried to remove the image of the Patriarch’s $30,000 Breguet watch. Unfortunately, this well meaning but poorly trained servant of Christ had failed to airbrush the reflection of this obscenity from the Patriarch’s desk, so Russian bloggers were able to show their fellow citizens how their Patriarch actually dressed for work, as opposed to the image he sought to project.

This, we submit, is a much greater sacrilege than anything Pussy Riot committed. If anybody should be repenting and begging forgiveness, it is the hierarchy of a church which is brazenly enriching itself by participating in the huge ripoff of ordinary people that is Russia today. Patriarch Kirill damaged the Church and insulted his faith far more gravely than the punk rockers.

The father of the prodigal son didn’t wait for his son to announce his repentance. He ran out to meet him on the road and was ready to embrace him before he heard one word. That the Church is demanding an apology from the band members before it asks for clemency is outrageous.

The real and appalling sacrilege in Russia today is the gross profit church leaders reap from their excessive embrace of the state. The Patriarch should repent and the Church should have never pressed charges against the girls.

Somebody has a log in his eye, and it’s keeping him from seeing straight.

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