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Pussy Riot and the Threat to God

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Don't know whether you saw this - but God appeared and spoke to someone the other day. I'm surprised it didn't get wider coverage, but that's aggressive secularism in the modern world for you. Anyway, he spoke to a member of the Russian Orthodox Church. The famously reclusive deity, dubbed the JD Salinger of the Supreme Being Community, has seen no reason to issue any kind of comment or statement on any human activity, no matter how morally questionable or indeed challenging to the whole idea of His/Her/Its very existence, for the last several thousand years. (The last appearance was possibly when he whispered in Mohammed's ear and told him that people who didn't worship Him in the same way as Mohammed did, needed to be killed immediately.)

Well, after two or three millennia of completely refraining from any further spiteful shit-stirring in human affairs, God finally showed up again about 10 days ago. Some speculate it was a pre-emptive attempt to counter-spin imminent proof of the existence of the Higgs boson, which in turn disproves the existence of God in anything but metaphorical terms: An existential crisis of such severity that God decided to contact a Russian Orthodox Priest called Vsevolod Chaplin and express his opinion on the punk band Pussy Riot. That's right, no new commandments or dietary stipulations; no additional ambiguous moral precepts open to hair-splitting and murderous multi-interpretation; no apologies or even explanations for the holocaust, homophobia or Mark Lawrenson. No, God breaks hundreds of years of silence... to slag off some musicians.

Pussy Riot are a feminist political music collective who in February, dressed in colourful balaclavas, mini-dresses, and tights, stormed into the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow to perform their song Punk Prayer, which denounces human rights abuses in Russia and calls on the Virgin Mary to save the country from Vladimir Putin. Vladimir Putin: a man who understands the fragile nature of post-dictatorship Russian democracy better than any other Russian ruler. Which is why he never lets anyone else have a go.

Three members of Pussy Riot - Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina Samutsevich - were arrested shortly after the protest and have been in detention ever since. If they get convicted they face a seven year sentence. Mind you, given the illegality of their arrest and continued postponements of trial dates, it looks like they face a seven year sentence even before they are convicted. In fairness to the Russian authorities, though, there is a hearing going on as I write; proceedings were suddenly rushed forward to ensure both speedy carriage of justice, and that the defence lawyers have not nearly enough time to properly review the prosecution case.

Chaplin said that God "revealed to me just like he revealed the Gospels to the Church" that He condemns the band and "that their sin will be punished in this world and the next."

It's not known what form God's appearance to the priest took incidentally; whether he went for something traditional - turning himself into shrub form and setting himself on fire, or if he mutated into an angel and wrestled with the priest before passing on his message, or if he manifested himself as a disembodied finger and wrote the message on a wall. Given the harsh penalties for graffiti in the Russian Federation, it's unlikely he risked that. Perhaps He went for a more contemporary approach, appearing as a bribe, threat or memo from the Ministry of the Interior, or in Morse code.

Some cheap shots have been made, suggesting he appeared merely as a paranoid voice in the twisted imagination of the priest who in any sane society would be getting treatment for his evident schizophrenia in a kind and caring environment. But those kind of cynics never see the big picture: God has intervened in this issue because the very soul of Mother Russia is at stake. A terrible power struggle is going on. On the one hand, the ex-secret policeman three-time President and his security forces (numbering barely two million with only a hundred years' experience of brutal repression behind them), together with his ideological allies in the Church, and his oligarch business supporters who own most of the economy, all doing their best to match the power on the other side... the terrifying, horrifying might of three young women with guitars and colourful balaclavas.

At the time of writing, the Virgin Mary was unavailable for comment.