What would happen if Christians rioted every time their Savior and Lord was insulted? Western civilization would be reduced to ashes, I think. It raises the question of why Christians seem so apathetic about blasphemy—it even begs the question why Jesus was so apathetic about it. Is it apathy, or wisdom?
50 Shades of Blasphemy
Tons of Hollywood movies in my lifetime (i.e., the past few decades) cast Jesus in demeaning, blasphemous ways. A small, but memorable sampling:
- Jesus Christ Superstar, which was a hit Broadway play, said Judas was the real hero—a black man trying to save Jesus from Himself! (Its corny music was blasphemy to the ears, too!) White Supremacists didn’t like the movie too much.
- In the Last Temptation of Christ, starring Willem Dafoe, Jesus is an OCD carpenter obsessed with crosses which He crafted for the Romans in his wood shop. This nut-Jesus begged to be crucified—He really didn’t need to die. (It was “Suicide-by-Cop”, forcing the authorities to crucify Him.)
- The DaVinci Code is unforgettable, with the bewildered Tom Hanks.The blockbuster book made Dan Brown rich by claiming Jesus married a prostitute and fostered an illegitimate son…It was a silly book, a sillier movie, and the sequel was silliest of all, but really it was the Vatican that gave it prominent attention by adding it to its famous list of “banned books”.
- Color of the Cross—my favorite Jesus-blasphemy-movie. If you haven’t seen it, you can catch it on Netflix. Like Steve Martin, Jesus was born a poor, black man, but then crucified by White Supremacists dressed as Roman soldiers. Jesus tells the parable about the “The Lost Sheep” which really is a lost black sheep, then holds up a black sheep and says, “Black is beautiful!” (Did Jesus coin that phrase?) Three other Black Jesus movies were apparently released at the same time, according to one blogger.
For some of these, the greatest “blasphemy” is the silly artistry behind the work, like the Jesus Christ Superstar Singers. But Jesus is also the subject of grotesque depictions, like the sensational “artwork” titled “Piss Christ” which received funding from our government. It shows Jesus crucified and submerged in a bottle of urine. Amazingly, it won a $15,000 award from the National Endowment of the Arts, and praise from the art world as “mysterious and beautiful”. I would suggest that submerging the prophet Mohammad in urine would not be met with such accolades.
It seems ironic that a cheesy YouTube video could recently trigger all the rampage and killings in Muslim nations recently “liberated” to exercise Western-style democracy and free speech. The offensive video was an amateur, low-budget, third-rate effort, certainly not the same caliber as DaVinci Code. It would seem Islamic countries are struggling to cope with the ramifications of freedom and free will.
Salman Rushdie is the only person I know of who dared write a novel disparaging Mohammad, and a fatwa (an Islamic death sentence) was pronounced by the Supreme Leader of Iran, the infamous Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989, and put a bounty on his head. Rushdie was forced into hiding and police protection in Britain, while bookstores were firebombed and his publishers were killed and maimed. Riots ensued where people were killed. Iran modified its death sentence in 1998 to say it will “neither support nor hinder assassination operations on Rushdie,” although Rushdie says “he still receives a ‘sort of Valentine’s card’ from Iran each year on 14 February letting him know the country has not forgotten the vow to kill him.”
Richard Dawkins and his fellow atheists are bold and vociferous in their denunciations of Christianity, but strangely muted and coy about criticizing Islam. There may be a comment made here and there, but nothing so blistering as their anti-Christianity rhetoric. They claim to be “anti-religion”, but in practice they specifically denounce Christianity, and I understand why.
Despite the efforts of Western Postmodernists to bathe Islam in freedom-loving light, the fact is that free press and freedom of speech is forbidden in every Islamic country on earth and in history.
Jesus Teaches on Blasphemy
This highlights an important difference between Jesus Christ and other world religions—apparently Jesus is not threatened by “blasphemy”, even though He could rightfully claim great offense. “Blasphemy” means to insult or deny God, and Jesus claimed to be God incarnate. “I am the Beginning and the End of all Creation,” He said in Revelation 1:8.
Yet somehow Jesus became a “Blasphemy Magnet.” His name is a cuss-phrase in many forms—“Jesus Christ!” or “Christ Jesus!” or “for Chrissakes!” (His mother’s name gets dragged in the mud as well, but apparently not Joseph’s name.) While Jesus-cussing is uncensored on TV, who would dare use Mohammad’s name to cuss?
The problem is that Jesus taught us, “Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him,” in Luke 12:10. If Christians started to riot against “blasphemy”, they would defy His expressed will to expect and forgive it. The underlying reason why Jesus tolerates endless attacks is summarized in His own words:
“The Son of Man has came to serve, not to be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage.” Mark 10:45 (The Message)
Unconcerned about Himself, Jesus is concerned about how we are treated like slaves, “held hostage” by manmade religions and the economic systems of the world. All the Powers-That-Be demand blind obedience. It certainly true in the American workplace, even if the punishments are not as severe as in Islamic countries. Did anyone at Apple, Inc. dare defy the Almighty Steve Jobs?
Jesus taught us we all blaspheme God. If “blasphemy” means to “insult God,” then “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” it says in Romans 3:23. All sin is offensive to the character of God, by definition, because His character is completely righteous—without sin. His character is the definition of right and wrong. We may not create a “Piss Christ”, but we do creatively sin, and all sin violates God’s character.
There is only one way to approach God, Jesus taught: not on the basis of our own good works, but on the basis of God’s willingness to forgive us. Here too is the greatest demarcation between Jesus and all world religions, and it is not a trivial difference: through Jesus Christ, we can receive God’s forgiveness, mercy and acceptance without cost!
As Jesus explains it:
The tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” I tell you, this man went to his house justified before God…for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14
Jesus offers a personal relationship, not a religion. He offers us God’s love, not a business deal. Nowhere else on the planet does such an offer exist. No time in history has anyone offered mankind a personal, love relationship with our Creator-God.
You can have it if you want it: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest,” Jesus said. “Learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.” Matthew 11:28-29