VOLUME 90--NO. 2 FEBRUARY 2019
A WORD FROM THE PASTOR:
The Concept of Blasphemy is…Kinda Blasphemous!
Let me describe three blasphemous depictions of the Last Supper and Holy Communion that have come my way in recent years.
Number One: DaVinci’s rendition of the Last Supper with breakfast cereal characters. Cap’n Crunch takes the place of Jesus. Standing in for the disciples are Tony the Tiger, the Trix Rabbit, Sugar Bear, the Lucky Charms leprechaun, Toucan Sam, and the Cocoa Puffs cuckoo bird, among others.
Number Two: A television commercial for Pepsi and Doritos that was banned from the 2011 Super Bowl. Two clergymen are talking about how terrible church attendance is. There must be some way to bring people back to worship! One of the pastors is praying fervently in church…when he hears, from above, the sound of chips crunching and soda being poured. He looked up, smiles and nods. “Got it,” he says. The next scene shows the two pastors standing at the front of the church with Doritos and Pepsi as countless parishioners stand in line to receive the goodies. The line for the Dorito/Pepsi communion stretches outside the church and around the block!
Number Three: Jesus and His disciples sit at the table for the Last Supper. But on the table are heaps of fast food burgers—the very meal that was served at the White House to the Clemson University football team a few weeks ago!
These truly do represent blasphemy! A terrible insult against our faith! Something we must protest from the very depth of our being! Right?
Actually, I think they are all hilarious. The Pepsi/Doritos commercial works as a satire on the lengths to which churches will go to “market” themselves. (It probably wasn’t meant that way, but that’s how I see it). When I put the fast food Last Supper on Facebook, both Trumpy and anti-Trumpy friends liked it, so it provided a bright ray of agreement in a dismally divided political scene. And the breakfast cereal Last Supper is just harmless fun.
Blasphemy is a hot topic today. Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian, was sentenced to death for blasphemy against Muhammad. Her conviction was recently overturned, but not until she had spent eight years on death row. A few months ago, in Austria, a blogger was convicted of hate speech for questioning the morality of Muhammad’s marriage to nine-year-old Ayesha. A European Union tribunal upheld the conviction and said that it was wrong to “hurt the religious feelings of others” (thus essentially making blasphemy against the law in the EU.) Worst of all was the massacre at the Charlie Hebdo satire magazine in Paris by aggrieved Muslims. The Pope disappointingly responded to the Hebdo massacre by saying that “You cannot make fun of faith,” and “If you call my mother a curse word, you will get a punch.” He more or less blamed the victims and not the killers, as if taking a human life is an understandable faith-response to a cartoon.
I can’t help but mention how a similar massacre was averted in Garland, Texas. A “draw Muhammad contest” was being held at a hotel. Two heavily-armed Jihadis drove a thousand miles to carry out a slaughter. They pulled up in their SUV and lept out, covered in body armor and toting assault rifles. Within fifteen seconds they were dying on the pavement—courtesy of a 60-year-old off-duty traffic cop with a handgun. Don’t mess with Texas.
To me, the entire concept of blasphemy is ridiculous for two reasons:
1. You can’t hurt God. A cartoon does not detract from the majesty of God. God is transcendent, omnipotent, eternal. No artist has the power to draw something that could diminish His glory. The idea that blasphemy hurts God is…well, kind of blasphemous!
2. Getting all hot under the collar about blasphemy shows a pathetically insecure faith. The great theologian Karl Barth once said something like this: “If you can make fun of your faith, it’s a sign that you really believe it.” Folk in the Bible sometimes get sarcastic with God. “Awake, O Lord; why do you sleep?” the Psalmist asks. Sounds blasphemous! But the Psalmist can express such sarcastic feelings because he is secure in his faith! If we I told him, “That’s no way to talk to God!” he might say: “You don’t know God as closely as I do, apparently.” And he would be right! I think also of the classic story of St. Teresa of Avila. She was riding in a carriage when it hit a pothole…and was deposited into a pool of mud. As she got up, dripping muck, she cried out: “God! Why did you let this happen to me?” The Lord replied: “That’s how I treat all my friends.” And she replied, “Then it’s no wonder you have so few of them!” Blasphemy? No—Teresa was secure in her faith and could honestly speak her mind.
Think of our God. He took human flesh upon Himself in Christ. And ultimately, in that human flesh, he was whipped and beaten, mocked and made fun of and spit upon. Then he was nailed to the cross for all to see, subjected to humiliation and ridicule. That is what our God has suffered. Do you think I can hurt Him with a cartoon? Do you think I can hurt Him with a picture of Tony the Tiger or Cap’n Crunch, or a bag of Doritos, or a table laden with McDonalds and Burger King and Wendy’s? Or even with some of the frankly obscene cartoons that the Charlie Hebdo staff did about Christianity? It’s laughable, the idea that blasphemy could somehow hurt the Christ who endured the cross.
Let’s pray that the “religious” folk of the world (and the political and judicial leaders who disgracefully indulge them) would get over the meaningless concept of blasphemy. Let’s pray that people learn to laugh, not to kill, when confronted with cartoons…and to debate critics, not to silence them, when faith is challenged. My faith is made fun of every day, but the last thing I want to hear are the EU’s words about not “hurting religious feelings” or the Pope’s words that “You cannot make fun of faith.” I could not care any less about whether people make fun of my faith. That’s the price I pay for free speech, and I pay it gladly. People with a grown-up, secure faith don’t give a thought to “blasphemy.” God does not need to be defended by either courts or guns…He can take care of Himself! Glory to His mighty Name!
God loves you and so do I!
Pastor David W. Anglin