Myers has received threats and various other sorts of hate mail. But I think this case provides a wonderful opportunity for Christians to revisit the story in Judges 6:25-32 about Gideon (also called Jerub-Baal).
I will leave those unfamiliar with the story to read it. What I propose is to imagine that the story is shifted into our time, and it is P. Z. Myers’ father who responds to the angry crowds that have gathered at his door, asking for him to be handed over to be put to death:
“Are you going to plead Jesus’ cause? Are you trying to save him? Whoever fights for him shall be put to death by morning! If Jesus really is God, he can defend himself when someone desecrates his body” (reworked from Judges 6:31, NIV).
Would that Christians would learn to listen to the stories in their Scriptures in a self-critical rather than a self-righteous way!
What options are open to the person who looks at both this Biblical story and this current event? One is that the God worshipped by Christians is no more active in the world than Ba’al. If that option is too much to bear, then there are certainly alternatives. What if Jesus is not interested in defending himself? What if the whole point of the cross was to express the idea of a God who is so far from like our human egotism and lack of self esteem that God feels no need to defend himself?
There is always a third option: that God is angry with Catholics, and has sent P. Z. Myers against them much as God is said to have sent the Assyrians against the Israelites. In that case, the appropriate response is to repend, not to threaten God’s messenger!
There are plenty of ways that Christians of various sorts might appropriately respond to this situation. I think that death threats and hate mail should be far further down the list than they are. But what this incident really goes to show is this: for most “Christians”, what Christianity is about, what the Bible says, what the Eucharist represents, all of that is irrelevant. Christianity is simply a tribe to which they belong and any insult to which they will respond to in a way that, ironically, is incompatible with much that has historically been felt to be central to the Christian faith.
In the mean time, I propose nicknaming Myers “Jerub-Jesus” from now on. Or you can call him “JJ” for short instead of “PZ”. Somehow I doubt he’d mind.