Orthodox Christian activists interrupted a play, pointing out the blasphemy and calling for viewers to leave in protest. Part of the audience got up and left.
Translated by Katie Gleason
Orthodox activists interrupted the play "The Ideal Husband" at the Chekhov Moscow Art Theater, having stepped on the stage at the moment when the actor who played the homosexual priest was praying to a naked woman hanging above the stage, portraying the crucified Jesus Christ.
They went up to the stage and, for about 5 minutes, told the audience that what was happening on the scenes was blasphemy, and it could not be acceptable in public space.
The activists concluded their speech with a call for caring viewers to leave the play in protest. Part of the audience got up and left.
After that, security guards of the Moscow Art Theater began to beat the young people, forcibly removing them from the scene.
Orthodox public organizations filed lawsuits and wrote applications to the internal affairs bodies for insulting the feelings of believers. That initiated a collection of signatures, seeking the termination of the performance and the termination of employment for all those guilty of blasphemy on the stage of the Moscow Art Theater.
The play “The Ideal Husband” was staged by director Konstantin Bogomolov based on the works of Oscar Wilde. Bogomolov is known for his radical and provocative performances containing elements of satire on reality.
In this presentation there is homosexual propaganda, pedophilia, debauchery, drug addiction, and also frank blasphemy. For example, one of the main characters is the "Orthodox" priest Father Artemy, who participates in homosexual acts, sells children, blasphemes Holy Communion, and is engaged in cannibalism.
We asked several leading Orthodox priests the following question:
How do you assess this performance, and the actions of these Orthodox activists?
Igumen Vitaly (Utkin), priest in the Ivanovo-Voznesensk diocese, head of the diocesan department for interaction between the Church and society:
I consider all this to be direct, blatant blasphemy. I think that this is a direct violation of the law on the protection of religious feelings of believers. Therefore, from my point of view, such performances should be prohibited.
I support the courageous act of the Orthodox activists, who denounced these blasphemies. I consider it confessional.
It is a pity that many Orthodox Christians respond with indifference to the abuse of their faith. Such lukewarmness, in my opinion, will only contribute to an increase in the number of blasphemies.
I was particularly upset by the publication on the website “Orthodoxy and Peace” of the article by Valeriy Troshin, in which, as far as I know, the events that took place in the theater were distorted. Some people are slandering those who boldly directed accusations to the blasphemers — I am convinced that these slanderers are unworthy to be called Orthodox Christians.
Archpriest Andrei Strebkov, rector of the Holy Trinity Cathedral in the city of Zains:
What these young people have done on the stage of the Moscow Art Theater during the performance of blasphemous scenes is admirable. They were not afraid to turn to co-religionists with words of admonition.
Indeed, at that moment the audience, and the majority — who I am sure bear the image of the crucified Christ and are baptized in the Orthodox Church — simply swallowed the pills demeaning their own faith.
You know, when one of the soloists of the legendary Beatles group declared that they were more popular than Christ, then Christians around the world began throwing out their albums. I think that any action causing an insult to our holy places should be resented by baptized Christians, just as much as this statement from John Lennon.
And regardless of how frequently a person goes to church, if he has been baptized, then he is already counted among the members of the Orthodox Church. For any baptized person to go to such a spectacle, is like spitting on his own soul.
If this were shown in our city where I serve, I would publicly urge all residents not to go to this performance, or to any works made by this director.
Archpriest Dimitry Smirnov, a well known priest and public figure, rector of the Church of St. Mitrofan of Voronezh on Khutor and seven other churches in Moscow and the Moscow region:
I generally cannot stand what is now shown in theaters. I think that we have two theaters left — the “Chamber Stage” and the “Glas” Theater, which are guaranteed to be decent. All the rest, as a rule, put obscene scenes in their performances.
I do not support the existence of such theaters. They should fade away. Propaganda of sin has never been peculiar to the Russian theater. Of course it's disgusting!
Therefore, it is not surprising that the young ones reacted in this way. I hope they will not be sent to jail. They did not do anything improper, unlike the troupe and director. They said on TV that they did not even derail the performance — it unfortunately continued.
Archpriest Oleg Stenyaev, priest of the Church of the Nativity of John the Baptist in Sokolniki, missionary, writer, publicist:
When Orthodox people go to a performance in the municipal building, which is dedicated to the memory of Chekhov (a real Russian intellectual who would not have allowed such a performance to even come close to being associating with his name), and when people suddenly see a flood of dirt and propaganda about the sort of lifestyle that killed Wilde himself, and when they too had paid for a ticket, why can't they go out and speak?
Why can't they speak out about being deceived? What is this? This is definitely not the play that Oscar Wilde wrote! In his play there is no priest who commits homosexual acts, nor who prays to a woman hanging in the form of a crucifix. This is fraud on the part of the director and the whole team. And it does no honor to Moscow.
This theater is famous: Great Russian actors performed there, staging Russian and foreign dramatic classics. But when everything slips to such a low level, and when there are reviews approving of it, I think we are entering an age of intellectual degradation. This is an age, for many morally fallen people, when all possible resources have been exhausted, and it is time to take a good look at the reality that surrounds them.
If there were people in the hall, still adhering to classical European-Christian values, and they could find the strength to stand up and say: “What is this? We were deceived! This is not the product we paid for!”, and at the same time a part of the audience defiantly left the hall after hearing this, then of course persecution against these Orthodox activists will begin.
In my opinion, these activists fulfilled a very noble mission, warning people about the danger of an act of fraud.
Fr. Michael Frantsev, Rector of the Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker of Inta, and the Church of the Holy Prophet Elijah
When the news initially reported the incident that happened at the Moscow Art Theater, they acted as if Orthodox Christians were being hooligans, not allowing people to innocently participate in cultural events and have a good time. They suggested that the protestors were being self-righteous to express their worldview in this way, and they said the Church has no right to criticize what happens on stage and in the theater.
But in this case, I recall the words of St. John Chrysostom:
“If you hear that someone is at a crossroads or in a square blaspheming God, come and give him reproof. And if you want to hit him, do not think twice: hit him on the face, crush his mouth, sanctify your hand with a blow; and if you are accused, and brought to court, go." (As far as I know, this will indeed go to court, and a trial will be held on the 11th.) “And if the judge before the trial demands an answer, feel free to say that he blasphemed the King of angels, for if you should punish those who insult an earthly king, then how much more if they insult the Heavenly King."
"Crime is of one kind — public insult — and anyone who wants can be a prosecutor. Let both the Jews and the Greeks know that Christians are the guardians, protectors, rulers and teachers of the city; and let the libertines learn the same thing, that they should be afraid of God's servants, so that if they want to say something like that, they would look around and consider even the shadows, fearing that a Christian would overhear, attack, and severely beat him."
(St. John Chrysostom, First Homily on the Statues, paragraph 32)
By protesting in this way, our brothers in Christ have set an example for us, showing us how to properly confess the Faith. As Jesus himself said:
"Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 10:32)