Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Laughing at our sacred cows

I've been trying to think of what to say about the whole furor over the anti-Muslim cartoon going on in Europe. I thought that my paper's local cartoonist, David Fitzsimmons, wrote a good editorial about it. I like how he drew the line:

I censor myself. All cartoonists do from time to time. Would I have drawn Muhammad? No. To draw a likeness of Muhammad is to ridicule a core, heartfelt belief of many Muslims.

I would no sooner do that than I would gratuitously mock I'itoi, yarmulkes or the Book of Mormon. It is hurtful. And it doesn't address issues in a meaningful way....

When it comes to religious icons, I draw the line at the point where the banner of rigid belief enters the public square.

When religion is dragged into the public arena to wrestle with reason, it is fair game. Whether it's a school board in Dover, a pope in the pulpit or an extremist in Tehran.


I think decent people (of faith or not) should try to err on the side of respecting what is sacred to others. I agree with Fitz that when someone starts pushing their religions agenda in the public square, it's fair game, but for the most part, we really should try not to make fun of other people's deeply held beliefs.

But what I really think is more incumbent upon us, especially people of faith, is to learn how to laugh at our own sacred cows. We shouldn't be so quick to take offense at every poke at our faith. I'm convinced God has a way better sense of humor than we do. I'm not crazy about Darwin fishes, for example, not because I have a problem with Darwin or think he's incompatible with Christianity, but because they've taken a symbol used specifically to represent Christ and put someone else's name into it. That kinda bugs me (way more than the feet added onto the fish, incidentally). That said, I have a bunch of good friends who have Darwin fishes and I understand why and get the statement they're making, so I can laugh it off. It just isn't worth frothing up at the mouth over, let alone setting embassies on fire.

What I have a lot more trouble brushing off is the offensive, ugly, hateful stuff that comes out of the mouths of people claiming to represent my faith. (Yeah, I'm looking at you, Pat Robertson!) That's a lot more blasphemous than the pokes that come from outside from people who don't really understand my faith.

Jesus said that what we put into our mouth can't make us unclean, but what comes out of our mouth can. So the Darwin fish or the belittling Muhammad cartoon, that's just us swallowing something from outside. But the stuff we say in Christ's name? That's where we'd better be really, really careful.

3 Comments:

At 9:34 PM, Blogger Questing Parson said...

Oh, how I can identify with your thoughts here. I recently wrote a blog following an event where a Christian leader in the area I live, said that Catholics were not Christians. I took personal offense in that my deceaqsed wife was Catholic.

 
At 2:45 PM, Anonymous John B said...

Christians do & say stupid things. I know, I'm one of them. The pain and anger questing parson expresses is completely understandable.

I do wonder if we Christians are too easily offended. A slap in the face whether it is figurative or literal is never fun to take. But it seems to me that is exactly what Jesus was referring to when he said, "turn the other cheek."

God, the Father, Son & Holy Spirit really doesn't need us to defend His honor. God is quite capable of that. What God needs us to do is show to the world a love that doesn't retaliate.

 
At 2:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bad Methodist,
Shame on you. Your choice of language "sacred cows" is insulting and demeaning to Hindus that hold all life sacred. I have many co-workers from India that would be offended with your use of this phrase. Remember not everyone has a Western perspective and there is much pride, insensitivity, and racism built into the English language particularly the American dialect . When Americans take a foreign word or concept to meet their own ends, they justify it by economonic or worst case, political or military might.

The ironic thing is Americans claim to caring and inclusive on their terms. Most Americans have a distorted world view.

More people have died in the name of God, in fact in the name of Jesus Christ than Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot ever killed.

The Western church and the Eastern church mutually excommunicated each other over the "Filoque" clause of the Nicene Creed. They did not formally apologize for this until the 1980s.

The various Catholic Popes and Kings of England and France lead the various Crusades to liberate Jerusalem from the Muslims. The Popes made it an indulgence to kill a Muslim for Christ and those who fought for the Pope had their sins forgiven. (So was the claim)

Roman Catholics led persecution against Jews and early Protestant Reformers.

Martin Luther united the German Princes to seize Roman Catholic churches, monasteries, and universities and kill those that would not swear to Protestantism.
Luther tried to convert the Jews in Germany. When they did not convert to the Evangelical Church he wrote his infamous work "On the Jews". It was one of the most anti-Semitic writings in history. In fact, Hitler often quoted Luther in his attacks on the Jews. One might say, Luther was the spiritual Father of the Nazi party.

John Calvin set up a theocracy in Swizterland and imprisoned and persecuted those that did not subscribe to his Reformed theology. He was very harsh on the Anabaptists.

Henry the 8th declared himself head of the Anglican Church and had the Roman Catholics imprisoned or tourtured if they did not swear allegiance to him.

Queen Mary tried to re-instate the Roman Catholic Church in England and imprisoned or executed many Anglican bishops, priests, and laypeople. For this she was nicknamed, "Bloody".

John Wesley, Charles Wesley, and let's not forget George Whitfield founded the Methodist Societies. John Wesley did preach the love of Christ but ...

Both Wesleys referered to Roman Catholics as "Papists", "Romanists", and the Papacy as "Popery". The Roman Catholic doctrine of pugatory was held as Article 14 of the Articles of Religion, "The Romish doctrine concerning purgatory, pardon, worshiping, and adoration, as well of images as of relics, and also invocation of saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warrant of Scripture, but repugnant to the Word of God".

John Wesley really like his friend George Whitfield but despised his Calvinist theology. Whitfield wrote Wesley back and said he could have his opnion just not be so open and mean spirted about it. Welsey continued to love his friend but kicked his preaching up a notch and set the tone for the next 300 years or so to call Calvinism and Presdestination, "Docrines of Devils". The Calvinist responded equally in their hatred for the doctrines of James Arminius. The Calvinists said that the Arminians were hertics and infidels.

Arminius wrote:

"There does not appear any greater evil in the disputes concerning matters of religion, than the persuading ourselves that our salvation or God's glory are lost by every little difference. As for me, I exhort my scholars, not only to distinguish between the true and the false according to Scripture, but also between the essential articles of faith, and the less essential articles, by the same Scripture."

Calvinist and Arminian theology still hold each mutually exclusive of the other and label its followers as following "demonic doctrine and unscriptual". The doctrines are still held, the voices have quieted some. It is a good thing that Wesley came after Arminus so the theology he had did not bear his name.

Or we would hear Calvinists like John MacArthur and RC Sproul preach against the allegendly false doctrines of "Wesleyanism".
But John Welsey is spared the shame and blame that the Calvinists place on James Arminius.

Questing Parson -- Roman Catholics are more Christian in my eyes than the liberal Protestants like Episcopalian Bishop Spong and United Methodist Bishop Spraque would deny the inspiration of the Bible, the deity of Christ, the blood atonement of Christ, His literal resurrection, and His Second Coming. I do not know how these men and their "new doctrine"
can be called Christian. I will leave their judgement to the Lord.
There are those that are Bishops of equal rank who are the proper authority to chastize these men and their personal doctrines that deny historic orthodox Christianity.

And we must be kind and loving to our fundamentalist brethen who may take biblical separation over doctrinal differences to extremes.
Now as an American, I support their right to have freedom to worship as their conscience dictates. Be they fundamentalist like Pat Robertson and Jerry Farwell. Be they liberal like Bishops Spong and Spraque. Be they a Muslim Iman who feels defiled by the prescence of US troops and oil companies in his Holy Land. Be they a Jewish Rabbi that holds the commandments given to Moses and does not write or speak the name of the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob and has to see and hear a TV or Radio Christian preacher give a Bible study of all the Holy names for God in both spoken and written form. The Orthodox Jew finds this greatly offensive.

I leave you with the words of Jesus the Christ.

John 15:18
"If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.

Thank you for your reading,

John, a Southern Baptist who married a United Methodist and who will forever be a Southern Baptist. But I hope to lead the UMC Church back to being doctrinally sound and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ - that we all are sinners and in need of a Saviour -

To quote John Wesley:"Nothing to do but save souls" and "To spread scriptual holiness throughout the land". The UMC needs to return to these tasks that John Wesley made first and formost.

 

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