Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Oh those Lutes

I cannot describe how much I enjoy this story.  I have no problem understanding why folks are offended by the punk band Pussy Riot staging their protest in a cathedral.  Religious people invest a lot in their buildings and consider them sacred places.

On the other hand, there are many devout Christians who agree with the lyric, "The patriarch believes in Putin / Bastard, better believe in God."  Wittenberg is the place where Luther touched off the Protestant Reformation by nailing his religious "heresies" to a church door.  So when the good folks of Wittenberg nominated Pussy Riot for their (tiny) Luther Prize, they had sound historical basis for their act.

What we have here is a debate between the church ladies (of both sexes) who live to enforce the canons of proper behavior facing off against the folks who believe it is their duty to remind people that protest is the first two syllables of Protestant—and why that is important.

I spent the first 18 years of my life trying to please the church ladies.  So put me down on the side of the historians this time.  I think it a good thing to take on the symbolic behavior of the religious types once in a while.  Because as the Reformation demonstrates, sometimes offending them leads to historic progress.

Outrage Over Planned 'Luther Prize'

German Town Nominates Pussy Riot for Award

Would Martin Luther have approved of Pussy Riot?

The German town of Wittenberg is under fire for nominating Russian punk group Pussy Riot for a prize to honor the three members who were jailed for protesting against President Vladimir Putin during a church service. Theologians and politicians say the band shouldn't be rewarded for offending Christians.

Historically, the German town of Wittenberg is no stranger to controversy. Martin Luther launched the Protestant Reformation here by nailing his 95 theses to a church door in 1517.

Half a millennium later, the church authorities are up in arms once again, this time about a plan by the town council to award this year's "Luther Prize" to Russian protest punk band Pussy Riot, three of whose members have been jailed for staging an anti-Kremlin protest in one of Russia's holiest sites, the Christ the Savior Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Moscow, in February.

Friedrich Schorlemmer, a theologian and civil rights activist based in Wittenberg, criticized the plan. "One should support the young women," he told the national daily Die Tageszeitung in an interview published on Tuesday. "But not for the crap they were singing."

He said they could have performed "on Red Square, in a swimming pool or wherever, but not in a church."

Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Maria Alyokhina, 24, were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred after storming into the cathedral and shouting out a "punk prayer" asking the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Putin.

'A Luther City Should Not Honor Blasphemy'

The lyrics included the following: "Mother of God, Virgin Mary, drive Putin away," "Holy shit, shit, Lord's shit," and "The patriarch believes in Putin / Bastard, better believe in God."

"Imagine if the that kind of performance had happened in the cathedrals of Magdeburg or Cologne," Schorlemmer said. "A Luther city should not honor blasphemy."

The chairman of the German parliament's foreign affairs committee, Ruprecht Polenz of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party, called the nomination "absurd."

Heiner Friedrich List, leader of the two-member Citizen's Alliance in the Wittenberg town council, told the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung newspaper that the musicians were "chaotic shrews who break into a church wearing masks and make discriminating and offensive statements." He said he would try to get the award nomination revoked.

The alliance of Luther Cities has presented the €10,000 ($12,926) award every two years since 1996. It is due to be presented in April 2013.

In September, a committee of the Wittenberg town council voted by a large majority to nominate Pussy Riot for the award. Volkmar Joestel, a historian who has written books on Luther, defended the town's decision, saying the band had protested against a fusion of religion, church and state power that ran counter to the principles of the Enlightenment. "That alone deserves all honors." more

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