Russia: Madonna and the Church

Global Voices Online
Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Madonna is giving a concert in Moscow on Sept. 11, and Russian Orthodox Christian and Muslim representatives have already issued statements criticizing the upcoming show.

Well-known gallery owner and once notorious political consultant Marat Guelman (LJ user galerist) isn't a fan of the clerics' position (RUS):

And now the popular American singer Madonna hasn't yet arrived in Moscow, but has encountered, in absentia, harsh criticism from the Russian Orthodox Church (RPTs).

[link to a Russian-language news story omitted]

And this is okay - it's the church's duty to recommend its followers not to attend concerts, films and exhibitions. Like, art and the RPTs are incompatible.

In the comments section, there is quite a lot of passion and no unity in opinion - neither on the church's stance, nor on Madonna, nor on Marat Guelman:

warsh: Father Vsevolod Chaplin [head of the Moscow Patriarchy's department for external relations, who issued the Madonna concert statement] also spoke in the news about the not-so-obvious incompatibility of the RPTs and the internet.


mcparker: Well, Guelman, you folks over there in [Moscow] have gone completely nuts. To call your gallery and Madonna art - that's not even funny. Despite all my respect to Madonna.

aenocyon: This isn't a simple issue. Even La Gioconda's creator couldn't find a home for her for a long time, and there are many other examples - say, Faberge was considered tacky by contemporaries. As for me, I am indifferent to Madonna, but what matters is that the RPTs has remained a loyal branch of the [CPSU's Central Committee], only today they can [kiss] in public with members of the [United Russia] and award them with medals.


gugomat: Yes, yes. It's also time to start burning artists on the stake en masse. Traitors of the faith!! :)

salnikov_vova: Madonna ain't an artist. Her songs are poo. She herself is a Coca Cola.

gugomat: Oh! Here come the artists. We'll start with you :)))

sergelin: Madonna is the best.

mr_quietest: A silicone fool. There're [plenty] of "artists" like her in any music school.


gubalance: What makes you feel uneasy? The believers will pay attention, and atheists and people of other faiths will do as they see fit. What's wrong with parents correcting their children's ways, for example, and explaining why?

galerist: Church instead of parents and adult believers as little kids?

kubedinov: For most people this is how it works, more or less: the Church provides reference points, which is normal and good. Most people are, of course, not as smart, successful and independent as you are, Marat. Please forgive them for it.

gubalance: As far as I understand, you don't believe in God?

galerist: I do believe - but without intermediaries.


narodzash: Oh well, here begins Guelman's new promotion campaign.

Another blogger - LJ user plushev, a radio journalist - understands the church's position, but doesn't necessarily agree with it (RUS):

I don't understand why everyone is so surprised by the [Orthodox Church's] recommendations, announced by Vsevolod Chaplin, to ignore Madonna's concert. This is the church's internal business. It does not ask the government to cancel or ban the show, so we are not talking about interference in the worldly affairs here. And no matter how critical we may be of the RPTs, it's probably not good for us, laymen, to interfere in the church's affairs.

This is an absolutely normal and the only correct practice, for the church to voice its opinion on various issues and to recommend or not recommend its followers to do something or not to do it. Moreover, why the hell should there be the institute of the church if not for recommendations like this? This is basically what a pastor's for: those who for some reason don't have a position of their own, they can adopt the position of their spiritual leader. A person [capable of independent thinking] will, of course, ignore such calls, but the congregation isn't known for critical worldview and needs specific reference points: these ones are good and those ones are bad.

And although, if you count the heads, we have a great number of Orthodox [Christians], baptised as children without consent, this is nothing but a formality and the real faithful in our country are very few. And so Chaplin's call has nothing to do with the majority of the people.

There's some arguing in the comments, too, much of it irrelevant to plushev's post. A few bloggers in his audience, though, seem to believe that the clerics' public criticism of Madonna will only boost her popularity:

boroda_v_nature: This is exactly what Madonna is counting on: the ones who are curious because something's forbidden.


spiridonov: I think that many suspect that the tour's organizers have this line in their "Advertisement Expenses": "Negative comment on the concert from [the Russian Orthodox Church] - $N000."

One commenter recalls another person not welcome in Russia and by the Orthodox Church:

lovekraft: What I don't understand is why the Pope isn't allowed into Russia :-(
(they let everyone but him in...)

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