The above picture appeared in a UK newspaper just before Christmas last year. It was an ad for the firm Gregg’s who sell pastry products on the High Streets of most cities and towns in the country. As a result, some Christian groups were up in arms because they said that the picture insults Christianity. When asked if they were making a big deal over nothing, their response was, “Other religions wouldn’t have tolerated it if the insult had been directed at their religion.”
What they were talking about is Islam. Over the past few years we have seen Islamic attacks in Paris and Denmark which have resulted in death because some Muslims had taken offense at cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed or another aspect of their religion. While some Christian leaders and politicians have said that Muslims shouldn’t cry “foul” over everything and I see their point, other Christian groups have used it to take offense over anything they see that might “insult” Christianity. Does everybody see the dangerous circle this might lead to?
Religious persons taking offense at something they see which might insult their religion is nothing new. My first experience of this was back when I was nine. In 1970, I loved to watch a comedy programme called “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.” I mentioned this to a friend whose family were staunch Catholics. Sadly, my friend stated that he wasn’t allowed to watch the programme because his parents said it made fun of the Catholic religion. While it could be said that the parents might have gone a bit over the top, it could also be said that they did the right thing by simply not allowing their children to watch it. I don’t remember any outcries from the Catholic Church to ban the show or any death threats against anyone in connection with it.
Roll on nine years later when a film came out which many Christians cried foul at. I am talking about Monty Python’s “Life of Brian.” Christian groups in both the US and UK protested against the film coming to their local cinemas and one local council in the UK banned it totally. Even the minister at my local church told the congregation not to go see the film. The thing was, I already had and I saw nothing blasphemous in the film. True, Jesus gives his sermon on the mount early in the film but scene focuses more on people standing at the back who might have had problems hearing him. Remember, there were no PA systems back in 31 A.D. The film also poked fun at the religious fanaticism of the Jewish Pharisees but I don’t remember hearing any cryings of foul from the Hebrew faith at the time. What I found most amusing and accurate was how it poked fun at left wing groups. In the film it was the Judean People’s Front or was it The People’s Front of Judea. Either way, while these groups had the same cause, they didn’t like each other.
A full decade later, another film got up the noses of Christians in both my birth and adopted countries to the point there were threats of bombing any cinema showing the film. This film was “The Last Temptation of Christ,” a film by Martin Scorcese, which is an alternative look at the life of Jesus. I never saw the film all the way through and I’ll get to why in a minute but apparently, there’s a scene when Jesus is on the cross, he has a fantasy about having sex with Mary Magdalene. I don’t know because when I saw the film, I only watched up til his baptism by John the Baptist. After that, I switched it off, not because of any perceived blasphemous content, I turned it off because I thought the movie was a complete pile of crap. Furthermore, I bet if there hadn’t been such an uproar over the film by Christian groups, then ten people world wide might have gone to the cinema to see it.
Shortly after the furor over “The Last Temptation of Christ” the first account I know of Muslims taking offense came about. The book, “The Satanic Verses” by Salmon Rushdie caused a lot of stir with Muslims stating that the book blasphemed the Prophet Mohammed and was an affront to Islam. Death threats were made against the author who had to go into hiding for his own protection.
A few years ago, the creators of the TV show South Park, wrote a play called “The Book of Mormon.” The play is about two Mormon missionaries in Uganda and it does poke fun at some of the core beliefs of the LDS faith. While the church’s response to the play was ‘measured’ and I don’t doubt that individual members might have taken offense to it, there were no death threats or cryings of “blasphemy” from Salt Lake City. In fact, one of the leading general authorities of the church when asked about it responded, “Hey, it’s free publicity for the church.” The church even bought advertising space when the play was on Broadway.
This leads me to my point. Maybe all faiths, Christian, Muslim, Thor worshiper etc. should follow the example of the Mormons. Things would be better if those who follow religion don’t seek to take offense at things said about their faith, especially if it was meant as a joke. Develop a sense of humour and maybe there might not be so much spouting of hate from religious groups.
One final point: There is an episode of South Park where a Mormon family moves into the town. The young son tries to be friends with one of the main characters, Stan. However, Stan is all caught up in the authenticity of the Book of Mormon and tries to prove it’s not divinely inspired. Yes, the show comically makes the point that the story behind the origin of The Book of Mormon might be dodgy but they make a very good point at the end. In the final scene the Mormon boy says to Stan, “So what if Joseph Smith made it all up, The Book of Mormon gives me guidelines to live by and it makes me happy. All I wanted to do was be your friend but you couldn’t see past my religion. Stan, you have a lot of growing up to do.”
The point here is to not judge people by their religion or be quick to take offense at any perceived blasphemies against their own. The world would be a better place.
To buy He Was Weird, go to: https://www.amazon.co.uk/He-Was-Weird-Michael-Lefevre/dp/1909740942/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1532371935&sr=1-1&keywords=he+was+weird