The First Epistle of St. Paul to the Cartoonists

The First Epistle of St. Paul to the Cartoonists May 8, 2015

Tom McDonald has written a fine piece about the rank hypocrisy of those who scold Christians on their Philistinism for failing appreciate Piss Christ or the genius of caking the Blessed Virgin with elephant dung or the thousand other cowardly acts of bravely facing the applause of the Christ-haters–all while wringing their hands over Muslim sensitivities or maintaining a stony silence as Bronze Age goons threaten death to those who insult Islam.  I have zero respect for the gutlessness of the cultured despisers who slap Christians in the face, secure in the knowledge that their victim is constrained by “turn the other cheek” and will not retaliate, and then boast of their “courage”.  And that, duh, goes in spades for the Islamic dolts who try to kill people when they feel insulted. (You always have to go through the kabuki of explaining that you think terrorism is bad for the benefit of culture war zealots–such as the cartoonists–who otherwise will claim that you are “taking the side of the terrorists” if you criticize their poke-the-crocodile stunts.  So:  killing people=bad.  Don’t don’t do that, Bronze Age Savages.)

That said, I want to take things in a somewhat different direction from Tom’s argument and comment on the weird confusion of our time which concludes that the solution to Christ-hatred of our Chattering Class is to respond with some Islam-hatred instead.

The confusion, of course, turns on the fact that Islam-bashing is, like Christian-bashing, protected free speech.  And thanks be to God for the first amendment!  One of the great paradoxes of the gospel, enshrined in the American tradition, is that freedom is so precious that God gives it to us even though it will mean we sometimes misuse it.  Those who want to inflict speech codes and penalties for ungoodthink are menaces whose real itch, of course, is to crush the speech of those they wish to oppress while giving themselves carte blanche to say whatever they like.  I thank God on my knees that the Founders enshrined in law an instrument that stops such people from having their way–at least for now.

The trouble comes when people abuse their freedom.  I don’t mean the classic “Shouting ‘FIRE!’ in a crowded theatre” form of abuse.   For that you can and should get jail.  Rather, I mean things that are perfectly legal, that should remain perfectly legal, yet which no decent person should do any anyway.

St. Paul sums things up this in a passage from his first letter to the Corinthians where he first quotes a letter to him from the Corinthians (drunk on licentiousness they confuse with Christian liberty) and then rebuts the quote.  The remark clearly sticks in Paul’s craw because he attacks it three different times in two separate places:

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything. (1 Co 6:12).

All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. (1 Co 10:23–24).

This is is where Paul stays sane while Pam Geller and the cartoonists in Garland, and similar “thumb in the eye” mockers of Islam veer off into a false idea of freedom.  Should they have the freedom to mock Mohammed?  Absolutely!  I will be the first one in line to argue that.  It’s more important to have freedom than to try to stop the abuse of freedom.  That’s why God allows us to sin even to the point of eternal damnation if that’s what we are stupidly bound and determined to do.

But, though everything is (constitutionally speaking) lawful, not everything is helpful, not everything builds up.  And the cartoons mocking Islam were among them.  They were deliberately done in the hope of picking a fight and they achieved exactly that goal.

Does that justify the shooters?  Of course not. But the fact that the shooters were wrong does not mean Geller and Co. were right.  They wanted violence and are delighted they got it.  Indeed, as this meme attests:

there is a deep and sinister delight in that bloodshed and the covert hope for more–preferably more dead Muslims, but if it means a few dead non-Muslims to really get the ball rolling for some serious Muslim body count to be racked up then, well, you have to break some eggs to make that omelet.

All of this, while perfectly *legal* is, quite simply, foreign to the mind of Christ (though not, ironically, foreign to the mind of Mohammed).  It is done, not to help anything, not to build up in any way, but to provoke hatred, retaliation, bloodshed, and death.

Paul’s advice is simple:

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another take heed that you are not consumed by one another. (Ga 5:13–15).

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