Patriarch Kirill on Friday re-emphasized the importance of the ties between church and state in Russia, saying that it gave “clear and very definite support to state authorities.”
Reuters took this to indicate a reaffirmation of its support expressly for Putin, basically regurgitating the subtext of jailed punk rock sluts Pussy Riot when it sacked the Christ the Savior Cathedral last February to play a really bad “punk moleben,” which cost three band members two years in prison.
[Full disclosure: I used to be a Reuters correspondent, in Vilnius, Lithuania, not far from Russia. I might as well have joined Putin’s torture squads underneath Red Squad with my differences with them on this one.]
Here’s what the Patriarch actually said, as quoted by the Reuters reporter (italics are mine):
“The institution of power appeared in the world, in a society prone to sin, to safeguard this society so that people could live together. So, clear and very definite support by the Orthodox Church for the institution of state authorities does not amount to an assessment of this or that politician or state figure by every representative of the church. But it is indispensable to understand that safeguarding the institution of power is a guarantee of a flourishing society.”
In other words: power institutions are instituted (he would imply by God) to help protect a society already beset by sin from itself. In a sense, this is correct: If you take away government, given human nature, you are left with looting and shooting. Reuters is trying to imply that Patriarch Kirill is furtively fingering its big-stick support for Putin without actually saying so. But if you read carefully the statement that Patriach Kirill made, you’ll see that he specifically avoided mentioning specific politicians. I’m sure he had his reasons.
The other part of the article discusses proposed changes to Russia’s criminal code, partially due to the Pussy Riot cases. The Reuters article said:
The lower chamber of Russia’s parliament, the State Duma, is now working on changes to the criminal code that would introduce jail sentences of up to three years for anyone guilty of offending religious feelings.
Critics say that this would blur the line between the state and the Russian Orthodox Church, and that the new law could be used to stifle Putin’s critics.
The parliament, which is dominated by Putin’s United Russia party, has already passed measures that the opposition considers repressive, such as increasing fines for protesters who step out of line and toughening the punishment for defamation.
Here’s the opinion of Tents of Sinners on this: Patriarch Kirill and the Church has its rights to support the state authorities. And why not? Is Russia the West? Did Russia ever have a Protestant Reformation and a separation of church and state? It did in a sense during the nightmare of communism. That’s called the demolition of the Church. This is also an Orthodox blog, so we hold that Russia would not ever want a Reformation. It wouldn’t need one either. The Orthodox Church does not believe it needs a Reformation. It doesn’t want nor seek Western-style theological constructs. And if it continues to import too many western values, pity on that society. It might as well detonate all its remaining nukes right in the Kremlin and head straight home to God.
But let’s go back to the sane part of this argument: Putin holds the reins, fair or unfair, for now. Sure, Patriarch Kirill thinks that Putin’s government is making the best of a challenging situation. The Patriarch has called him a “miracle of God” and in a sense we at Tents of Sinners agree. Putin as President of Russia has done a helluva lot better job than certain of his predecessors. Of course, the West liked Yeltsin better, partially perhaps, because an avuncular drunken hero was a lot easier to handle than a coolheaded, icon-kissing, former KGB agent. The former was weaker but softer, the latter was a hardbody, unpredictable, and perhaps worst of all, maybe even a bit anointed.