Christian Symbols Ripe for Parody

The right to be religiously offended is the right to be a modern American.

The freedom of speech and parodying religion has been the way of life in the United States. In an article published in theledger.com, Neely Tucker of the Washington Post writes:

Blasphemy!

You want blasphemy, try Christianity in America.

Here’s the latest cover of Rolling Stone, featuring rapper Kanye West wearing Christ’s crown of thorns. Go to the bookstore for "The Da Vinci Code," a thriller that posits Christ had sex.

Television: "South Park’s" notorious "The Spirit of Christmas" short, featuring an obscenity-filled fistfight between Christ and Santa Claus! Sample dialogue: "Holy (expletive), it’s Jesus!"

Radio: "The Tom Joyner Morning Show," which features comedian J. Anthony Brown and his "biblical sayings" from the Last Supper, in which disciples make outrageous quips.

Big hits, one and all. America’s fascinations with comedy, narrative drama, religious fervor and free speech routinely produce the edgy and the heretical in culture both high and low. Sometimes it’s protested, sometimes it’s boycotted, but the right to be religiously offended is the right to be a modern American — most particularly for Christians, as we will see.

Remember John Lennon’s remark about the Beatles being more popular than Jesus Christ? It did cause outrage within the Christian community, but no one was killed and no property was destroyed because of it.

Tucker continues:

John Lennon notoriously opined in 1966 that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus." There was Monty Python’s "Life of Brian," Andres Serrano’s photo exhibit with an image of a crucified Jesus soaking in urine, Martin Scorsese’s "The Last Temptation of Christ," and Kevin Smith’s "Dogma."

Attempts to ban these things simply didn’t work, or backfired. In 1999, record crowds showed when New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani tried to shut down a museum for featuring a painting of the Virgin Mary besmirched with elephant dung.

Want to see a movie crowd this summer? Try to get into "The Da Vinci Code" on opening day.

So why are the Muslims getting so violent over simple cartoons?

To Mark Galli, managing editor of Christianity Today, the American willingness to offend Christianity, but extend deference to Islam regarding the current batch of Muhammad cartoons, can be understood through a series of cultural and political differences.

First, he notes, Christians worship a man who was persecuted, beaten and killed. The sense that people might persecute Christ’s followers is an inherent part of the Christian ethos, he says, so Christians are inherently likely to tolerate offense.

Muhammad, a prophet who died after an illness, did not leave behind a religion with that mindset, he says.

After Mohammed’s death, the Muslims were left leaderless, without any direction or instructions on how to continue with Mohammed’s concepts on being a Muslim. Contemporaries of Muhammad and historians had to create the mindset of "What Would Muhammad Do?"

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