Now, I'm not asserting that Madonna's performance is in good taste, or that her assertion that the AIDS epidemic can be layed in the Church's lap is entirely fair. In fact, her actions are not the point of my telling this story. The bigger concern for me is our reaction to all of this. The church in Moscow, apparently, made quite a stink with extensive protests that included a church spokesperson referring to Madonna as "a 50-year-old whore." This is the impression these actions made on the reporter I quoted above:
"Thanks to the Russian Orthodox Church, most of the public was aware that one of the songs in the concert would be performed with the singer suspended on a giant luminescent cross. What I — and, I assume, most casual observers — did not know was what the song would be and what the point would be. The song was "Live to Tell," her 1986 hit, and the point was not subtle. Flashing behind her (and the cross) on a giant video screen were the faces of children and some statistics: the number of children orphaned by AIDS in Africa and the fact that without help they will all die before the age of 2. And then there was a long quote from "The Sheep and the Goats" story from the New Testament.
'I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink' — I think the words are familiar to most of us, even those of us who are not Christians, right through the 'as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.' The point of this passage is that Christianity is measured not by faith alone but by good deeds. It was not a point that Madonna made subtly, or in good taste, but it is the sort of thing that ought to disarm any protest, simply because at the end of the song she makes an appeal for
donations to help the children. "
"In the Russian Orthodox Church's view, [the performance] was a satanic ritual. Which serves to prove, yet again, that the Russian Orthodox Church is as dogmatic as is a 40-year-old when it comes to new music. It is as crude as its spokesman's 'whore' remarks. And most of all, it is mean."
Once again, I fear, Christians will be known more for what we are against than for whom we serve and what we stand for. What a pity.