“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” -James 1:2-4
At this moment U.S. embassies around the world are under protest or attack. For once, it is not because of economic oppression, or exploitation, although those realities may fan the flames. We are under protest globally, because someone here in the U.S. has expressed an opinion that Islam, a religion, would like to suppress. A film maker produced an anti-islamic film in the United States. I have not seen it, only read about it. I can’t speak intelligently to this film’s content, or to the motivations behind it. It does sound as if the film maker is not an atheist, but a religious zealot under a different flag.
Already though, the news stories I’ve read regarding him are overwhelmingly negative. They recount his 2009 conviction for bank fraud, which seems completely unrelated to a film he made that’s sparking protest. CNN’s article refers to the film as clunky (it has no merit! Don’t see it! Two thumbs down!), and describes how it was cast under false pretenses, as actors were told they were making a desert-action film. Then they add this:
“The American-made movie, it turns out, was hardly an innocent desert action flick.”
How is expressing an opinion on a religion less innocent than any other mainstream genre of film?
Daniel Akin, the pastor of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. tweeted this today:
“Films ridiculing any religion are shameful & uncalled for. Responding in violence & murdering innocents is criminal, deplorable & worse!”
I’m glad he at least clarified that the latter is worse than the former. Thanks, Daniel. So, our blog is not a film, but I can assume that regardless of format, Daniel would describe this blog as both shameful and uncalled for. BUT not quite as bad as murdering innocents.
Daniel, this is my opinion. For my co-blogger and I, this is our best effort towards doing what we believe is right. This is our equivalent of your call to evangelize to others. It is not shameful. It completely conflicts with your views, but we don’t deny your right to worship, or pray, or to evangelize. We have an opinion that it’s wrong-headed. But I would never describe what you do as “shameful.” Shame on you though, for suggesting that while there are many different religions, to not respect religion is shameful. Gods do not corner the market on morality.
Atheists, agnostics… non-religious deists… We are finding out where we stand in some of this. While this film is not an atheist message, it is receiving the sort of push back that we can expect when we start to gain the kind of traction worldwide that will start moving cultural and religious needles.
I believe that time is coming soon. There’s too much knowledge, too much science to deny… Too much widespread information… Too many honest, good-intentioned, thinking people among the religious. We’re going to continue to grow. When we do, we can expect these warring religions to turn their attention towards us.
Let’s imagine that there is a Chik-Fil-A, and a KFC. They are in a neighborhood in America somewhere, and they are across the street from one another. Their ad campaigns generally center around how one brand of chicken tastes better than the other, or is better for you than the other, or is less bigoted than the other. But then, let’s say a combination salad bar/pilates studio moves in next door. Suddenly, people get on a health kick and start skipping chicken altogether. They get a fresh salad and they get a short workout in on their lunch hour. People start losing weight, feeling better about themselves, and Chik-Fil-A and KFC both start seeing tumbleweeds rolling past their doors. Would it be any wonder at all if the ad campaigns stopped comparing two brands of chicken and started denigrating the value and flavor of a fresh salad and a workout? That’s what the media’s depiction of this represents. That’s what Christianity’s response to this represents. You don’t have to eat my chicken says God… but you gotta eat chicken. The hell I do… Pass the croutons.
Christianity doesn’t want you to choose Islam, Islam doesn’t want you to choose Christianity. (And you can substitute whatever religions you want here.) But if you do, they can despise or lament your choice, but you don’t threaten them. You’re in the game, you’re just playing wrong. But, the atheist is breaking the game. He’s choosing not to play. That creates a new option that threatens everyone. Thus a film like the horrifically violent and arguably anti-semitic The Passion of the Christ is seen by some as problematic, or even troublesome, but by most as a respectable expression of a religious opinion. But a film that disrespects a religion directly is shameful. You can bet that a film that is an expression of atheist beliefs would be seen as shameful as well.
Consider this: I recently asked if I could leave work an hour early, and was asked why I wanted to do so. I told my manager that I was signed up to work at the Atheist/Free-thinkers booth at the State Fair. His response was to sarcastically joke: “Well at least it’s for a good cause…”
If I had said that I was working a booth of ANY religious group, even a radical booth… likely if I’d told him I was going to go to a protest and shout at women going into an abortion clinic… I likely wouldn’t have received that remark. But he said it without thinking about it. The thing is, I DO believe it’s a good cause. It’s implied that atheism is a bad thing. It’s understood. Discounting the religious views of others or even arguing logically against them is disrespectful and wrong. Even if it’s part of your belief system.
Yes, atheists, I’ll say it one more time. For you to express your belief that religion is wrong, or a bad idea, or that being apart from religion entirely is a good thing that others should try… is disrespectful and wrong.
So while embassies burn, and people are killed, and a religion tries to bully the world into shutting up and living by their rules, I want to express my support for this bank-frauding, name-changing, allegedly Coptic Christian, and his badly made film. We have a right to say what we want to say without being pushed around. When someone is murdered in retaliation, it is to the shame of the murderer, NOT the opinion-expresser.
You can have your views, you can worship your gods, but you can’t force me to respect it. The best way to combat this bullying is to stand up to the bully. No one wants to do it first, because they’re afraid of getting hit, but if everyone does it, the bully can’t beat up everyone… and eventually the bully is proven to be a coward, and he just slinks away. If we all stand up, radical islam will slink away. Don’t be afraid of the violence. Even the famously non-violent Mohandas K. Gandhi said:
“I would risk violence a thousand times rather than risk the emasculation of a whole race.”
There is nothing wrong with someone displaying an image of the prophet of Islam. There is nothing wrong with me disrespecting him. Your response as a muslim if you disagree with me should be to patiently tell me why you feel that way, and to listen to why I think we disagree. And for us to understand each other. It’s a testament to the bullying that’s taking place here that I asked my co-blogger how he felt about me posting this image before I did it. It’s a testament to the limitations of violence that we both are willing to stand up to the bully. We encourage all of you on your blogs, on your TV shows, in your art, and mainly just in your day-to-day free speech, to do the same. Speak freely. Listen to each other. Put violence away, and listen to each other. And only shout to shout down violence. Then be calm again, and let’s work together and learn.
And for good measure…
Jesus Tap-Dancing Christ.
Voldemort, Voldemort, Voldemort.
Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice.
Respectfully, as always, to you the believer, but not as a participant in your beliefs,
-John with an H.