Continued from here.
Should there be blasphemy laws? Who should they protect?
Sometimes when people find out I’m a clergyman halfway through our conversation they clap their hand to their face and say something like, “Sorry for the swearing.” And honestly I don’t care one little bit if you’ve turned the air blue with a tirade that would make a sailor blush. Really, I could care less. But if you use the name of my Lord who bled and died for me as a swear word – that pains me a great deal. I don’t care about your morality, I don’t care about ‘clean language’, but I do get offended when the Prince of Peace is dragged through the mud. I think blasphemy matters. I think it’s wrong. But what should be my response? Call the cops? Sue you? Take you to court? When you speak against my God, to whom should I appeal? The state?
While other Christians may disagree with my position, I think it’s one thing to call blasphemy a sin, it’s quite another to call it a crime. Yes it’s wrong. But it’s not wrong because it’s against the laws of the land. And I’m not an advocate for getting the state involved here.
How should we react when Christ is blasphemed? Well Romans 2:24 is an eye-opener. Paul (a former blasphemer himself, 1 Tim 1:13) reflects on both Isaiah and Ezekiel and says: “God’s name is blasphemed among the nations because of you [people of God!]” Why is there blasphemy? Not because of those blasphemers – those wicked heathen. Because of you – God’s own people. It’s the way God’s people have acted that’s led to the blasphemy. So perhaps our first response to blasphemy should be to come before Jesus and confess our part in bringing dishonour to His name.
Secondly we should respond with Christ-like grace. In the face of a false portrayal of Christ, answering that with cheek-turning Christians will be the best portrayal of Christ possible. This rarely happens though. When Stewart Lee and Richard Herring wrote Jerry Springer the Opera they portrayed Jesus in breath-takingly and deliberately offensive ways. Of course Christians can get offended by that (they’re meant to!). Of course they can complain when their license fees are used to fund it. But from the hate mail Lee and Herring received from Christian protestors, there was another false and offensive Jesus being portrayed. The way the blasphemy was answered by some Christians was not Christ-like and was therefore itself blasphemous.
At this point some Christians will complain that I’m advocating a soft policy that will make Christianity an easy target for ridicule. But of course the same argument is always used against ‘turning the other cheek.’ Yet still, it’s what Jesus commands.
The whole world was waiting to see how the Muslim world would react to the Danish Mohammed comics. Those who reacted violently confirmed every fear the comic was based upon.
The whole world also looks to Christians to see how we will respond. Undoubtedly the blasphemies which Christians have to put up with are hugely greater than anything Muslims have to endure. But the world is watching. And there is, on some level, an expectation that Christians will react differently. There is an expectation that forgiveness will be part of our response. And that’s a good thing. I realise that some Christians say “That’s the problem, these iconoclasts target Christianity because they know we’ll put up with things others never would.” Well yes. But that weakness is precisely our strength. May we go on being the only group on the planet that can actually handle ridicule and answer with grace. Because that’s how Jesus handled the blasphemies that were hurled at Him. And the only way to answer false portraits of Christ is to show them true Christ-like grace.
Once again, I'd love to hear your thoughts, corrections, additions...