This Ruthless World

Adventures in absurdity

Religious Fervor Is A Gift That Just Keeps On Giving

And so is Russia. Put the two together, stir, and you’ve got yourself a portal to medieval Muscovy and the blessed times of the oprichniks — albeit with cars and cell phones, this time. Which, as scary as it is to contemplate, may be just what the majority of today’s Russians actually desire.

I apologize to the reader that I can’t find an English-language source to link here, as this development apparently hasn’t yet made its way into the Western media’s field of vision. In any event, as reported by a number of Russian sources, including Argumenty I Fakty (AIF), volunteer bands of Russian Orthodox religious enforcers, organized by the fundamentalist movement “Holy Russ”, have begun patrolling the streets of Moscow.

Although the leaders of this … hell, why beat around the bush, religious police have assured the public that they do not intend to clamp down on Pussy Riot supporters or target atheists, the enforcers

‘reserve the right to take appropriate action against any individual caught acting disrespectfully towards objects of Orthodox worship, insulting the Russian Orthodox faith, or exhibiting aggression against the clergy,’ Ivan Otrakovsky, who organized the bands, told Interfaks.

A side note: the bands are called “druzhiny” in Russian, a word that does not have a precise English equivalent. Suffice it to say, the term “druzhina” originated in the Middle Ages to refer to military units. It shares the same root with the word “drug”, meaning “friend”, which has led some folks to translate “druzhina” as “fellowship”. Make no mistake, however: you and your friends aren’t a “druzhina” if you merely organize a Bible study group. The term has unmistakable bellicose connotations, indicating that the “fellowship” is paramilitary in nature. As the photo accompanying AIF article shows, the enforcers wear military-style camouflage. No word on whether they are, or will be, armed.

The leader of the movement added that the enforcers will act strictly within the bounds of the law and coordinate with the [secular] law enforcement.

Wow.

I learned of this development this morning, while listening to a Moscow radio station. The station took calls on the subject, and it became clear that none of the callers had even the vaguest understanding of the concept of slippery slope. But notice how the organization does not limit its authority geographically — they reserve the right to accost people anywhere, not just in the immediate vicinity of a place of worship or a crucession. In fact, they aren’t even restricting themselves to public places. Moreover, they define the type of activity to be curbed in a shockingly broad fashion — anything that “insults the Russian Orthodox faith” or counts as sacrilege can trigger their involvement. Criticizing the Church, or religion, in any way, shape or form; eating a hot dog on a fast day; worshiping a different god; wearing pants while female, or walking around without a veil; displaying physical affection towards someone to whom you are not married — all of these things arguably “insult the Russian Orthodox faith” (and offend the increasingly thin-skinned fundmentalists) thus making people fair game for suppression by these religious enforcers. Within the bounds of the law, of course. And in coordination with secular police.

Meanwhile, per the same AIF report, the Russian Orthodox Church — which, you may remember, so magnanimously “forgave” Pussy Riot last week — has instructed its lackeys in Duma to push through amendments to the Penal Code imposing tougher penalties for blasphemy. The amendments will be introduced this fall.

No doubt they will pass.

“May you live in interesting times.” ~ an ancient curse

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3 thoughts on “Religious Fervor Is A Gift That Just Keeps On Giving

  1. I had no idea this was going on. You are right, it is like stepping right back into the middle ages. Yet no one is reporting on this!
    Thanks for posting, it is very enlightening.

  2. Hi! They must be missing the Soviet Union right now, just a little bit.

  3. How sad a state of affairs–a throwback to medieval repression and torture! But is it really a question of religion somehow inevitably bound to be disastrously cruel or an issue of a deep-seated cultural and political ethos– so insecure in a population again brainwashed, this time not by a communist, atheistic elite, but by notions of authoritarian religion that these people cannot think for themselves as free, rational human beings in the cause of celebrating life, comedy, laughter, a life-affirming faith as well as a striving for justice in a great pluralistic society? I opt for the latter. Martin Buber a long time ago in “I and Thou” was well aware of the horrible crimes committed in the name of God or religion. Still, this did not stop him from being a great mystic–and, in fact, practising a “presence of God” that, much like Albert Schweitzer, deepened his experience of the world and his relationships with others with unconditional acceptance, respect, and wonder. So, again, the question is not always religion versus no religion, but often: what God, or conceptions of God and how these either enhance or villify humanity?

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