Jesus and Mo – Banned in England 

Jesus and Mo – Banned in England  April 29, 2019

Editor’s NoteThe “real” Jesus and Mohammed are alive and well in the minds of their believers. However, their popular cartoon characters are having some difficulties these days. /Linda LaScola, Editor

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By Bob Ripley

You’ve heard of Jesus and Mohammad.  But to see them depicted together, sitting at a bar, may seem farfetched.

Nevertheless, Jesus and Mo is a satirical comic strip depicting these two religious icons.  Jesus is, of course, the author of Christianity.   Mo claims to be the body double of Mohammad, a sly comment on the Islamic prohibition of any depiction of the prophet.

Jesus and Mo share an apartmentand occasionally venture outside to a park bench or a pub where they quaff a Guinness and chat with the atheist bartender known simply as Barmaid.   Though never depicted, Barmaid probes the claims of the Abrahamic religions or religion in general.

Moses makes the odd cameo appearance, along with the Hindu god Ganesh.  Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, once appeared although his face was hidden by a hat in reference to Smith‘s claim to read seer stones by putting them inside a stovepipe hat and sticking his face inside.

Since the days when I was a fervent believer and minister, I’ve been a fan of religious satire.  I still treasure my worn copies of a periodical called The Wittenburg Door.  First published in 1971, its role model was Martin Luther who nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in 1517.

Today if anyone posted something on a church door, the likely result would be a misdemeanor charge of defacing a door.  But for the activist founders who came out of the Jesus Movement of the early 1970s, this was the kind of thing they intended to do: paint graffiti on pretty doors with calls to abandon stuffy moralistic legalisms. I loved the magazine for its irreverence and insight.

Now as an atheist, the same goes for the cartoonish Jesus and Mo.  They are arrows in the quiver used by former believers to critique a faith once embraced and to challenge obnoxious religious assertions.  Jesus and Mo have their place and they definitely have their right to speak.

I’m telling you this because two members of Atheist Secularist and Humanist Society (ASH) at the London School of Economics were told to cover up their anodyne T-shirts depicting Jesus and Mo at the LSE Students’ Union Fresher’s Fair, which is part of the fall orientation week.   The Students’ Union said it had received complaints from other students. The SU asked the two students to cover the T-shirts in the interests of good campus relations.

They were eventually confronted by a representative of LSE’s Soviet-sounding Legal and Compliance team, and its head of security, and told that the T-shirts were creating an “offensive atmosphere” and could constitute “harassment” and that they were not behaving in an “orderly or responsible manner”.

The two students complied but, in a subsequent written statement, denied “in the strongest possible terms” that they were trying to harass other students.  The incident smacks of political correctness run amok.

Let’s be clear.  Jesus and Mo is a satire of religion.  It is not a pointed attack on Muslims or Christians.  There is a difference between targeting individuals and targeting ideas.

We all get offended.  I’m offended my men who don’t take off their caps in a restaurant but that doesn’t give me the right to demand they remove them.  Being offended is the price you pay for living in an open and free society.

When an educational institution bans a shirt, which offends the religious sensitivities of some students, it is not a victory for progressive liberalism but for dogmatic oppression.

When religion is off-limits for debate, we are all in trouble.

==================

Bio: Bob Ripley,an avid, competitive runner,is a retiredUnited Church of Canada minister and a member of The Clergy Project.He was a syndicated religion columnist and broadcaster, and author of Christian devotional material.  His book, which came out in October 2014 is titled Life Beyond Belief: A Preacher’s Deconversion. Find out more about the book and his other writing here.

>>>>>>Photo Credits: http://www.jesusandmo.net ; By A.Savin (Wikimedia Commons · WikiPhotoSpace) – Own work, FAL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54520833

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Aloha

    A US high school recently banned wearing rainbow colors or anti-Gay clothing. I think schools just want to banish the culture wars outside of their campuses. An academic setting allows for cultured disagreement, but not biased dismissal.

    Probably clothing that declares your allegiances is inappropriate. Such clothing creates enmity, not camraderie. Then, of course, these topics can be addressed in campus forums, but in a more controlled and respectful setting.

  • Kit Hadley-Day

    that may be fair at a high school, but by university ( the setting for the OP story) you would hope that the adults involved can deal with the concept that some people not only don’t agree with them, but are quite comfortable in telling them that, Atheists wearing atheist t shirts creates as much of a hostile environment as Christians wearing crosses.
    i am guessing no one told the Christians or Muslims to hide the parts of their clothing that advertise their beliefs. No one should have had to

  • The incident smacks of political correctness run amok.

    My skeptic alarm always rings really loud whenever I hear something like this. It reeks of someone’s privilege being questioned.

    There is a difference between targeting individuals and targeting ideas.

    I hear that a lot too, and it always seems like a distinction without a difference. It’s like saying, “I’m not ridiculing you, I’m ridiculing everything you hold dear.”

    Being offended is the price you pay for living in an open and free society.

    It’s odd that only others need to pay a price just for living in society. Don’t we have any obligations in return for sitting at the grown-up table of our society’s discourse?

  • Jennny

    OTOH, I was pleased when Balliol, one of Oxford’s top colleges objected to UCCF materials on display at their Freshers’ Fair in 2017. They said UCCF’s homphobia etc was not an inclusive stance and could cause harm. The affair was settled by one multi-faith stall being allowed. However UCCF has spun it since, they have had to appear more inclusive and be a lot more careful what they promote in Freshers’ weeks.

  • Phil Rimmer

    But, but, but I am assailed constantly by offensive ideas from others. The indoctrination of children reducing future life choices irretrievably. Lies about LGBT folk, and on and on…

    Tolerance (the burden of offense to be shouldered!) really is a two way street.

    Don’t you have any obligation for creating a grown up table for society’s discourse?

  • It reeks of someone’s privilege being questioned.

    There are also folks from marginalized groups that criticize political correctness, and you could even make a case that PC upholds jingoistic, xenophobic, homophobic, and white supremacist norms, and even makes it harder to resist them.

    I hear that a lot too, and it always seems like a distinction without a difference. It’s like saying, “I’m not ridiculing you, I’m ridiculing everything you hold dear.”

    There is nothing in human rights documents (such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) that says anything about protection from things you hold dear from being mocked. However, these documents *do* guarantee freedom of expression and thought (article 19, UDHR); freedom of religion, conscience, and belief (article 18, this also includes the right to [de]conversion); and the right of those of full age to marry, if both parties give their full and free consent (article 16). There is no mention of exemptions for critiques or mockery of things folks hold dear. Part of the price of freedom is that someone may mock what one holds dear.

    Fundamentalist Christians hold some of the following ideas dear: that Jesus is the Only Way to God, that marriage is only between a man and a woman, etc. Also, white supremacists hold separation of the races dear. So, if we can’t mock ideas others hold dear, then should LGBTQ people go back in the closet? Should we ban interracial marriage? Should we all be fundamentalists? Should we ban Pastafarianism? Wouldn’t all these proposals violate human rights?

    Also, mocking religion can be cathartic for those raised in strict religions or in cults, as a way of saying, “This is what I think of your religion!” Thus, saying we have to cater to everyone’s fee fees is the height of privilege: not everyone has the privilege of growing up in an open-minded family. Some face emotional manipulation, being told that, if they deconvert, it will “hurt” their families. (The cult I was raised in opposed college bc they thought we’d become atheists, and they gave the scenario that we’d call our Christian families to tell them we no longer believe as they do, and thus “hurt” them.) The cult also made us work for less than minimum wage for years, and it was considered “God’s Will” for our lives, and even thinking of bucking that was seen as offensive.

    Freedom of thought is one of the most basic freedoms. For many, even questioning their views is seen as an attack on all they hold dear. So, should we all just be mindless conformists because some folks can’t handle disagreement. If folks previously worried about mocking or bucking what others hold dear, then black people in USA would still be going to “separate, yet equal” facilities and LGBTQ people would still be im the closet.

    In short, banning “ridiculing ideas some hold dear” encourages gatekeeping and conformism, and violates human rights. To challenge norms, promote justice and peace, to allow for individuality and authenticity, to stand up to bullies and abusers…all these require that folks be allowed to ridicule ideas, esp since some ideas are just toxic.

    It’s odd that only others need to pay a price just for living in society.

    I haven’t noticed that at all; I’ve largely noticed the calls for this to be applied equally. (However, I *have* noticed that Rightists have double standards related to the right to offend; nevertheless, I find that the quoted phrase is an excellent critique of the Right as well.)

  • For someone who accused me of straw-manning, you’re doing a good job of it yourself.

    All I meant about the PC comment was that he was making a mountain out of a molehill. Jesus & Mo haven’t been “banned in the UK.” The students involved weren’t arrested, ejected or expelled. They were merely asked to cover up their T-shirts at an official event that was supposed to be welcoming and inclusive for incoming students. There’s a place for edgy, provocative humor and this really didn’t seem like the place.

    It’s obvious you enjoy the view from your ivory tower, but you’re missing a lot of nuance from way up there. I was trying to question whether there’s truly a hard and fast difference between mocking people’s beliefs and mocking them, or whether that old canard has just been trotted out so often that no one is allowed to question it anymore. Can you really say, “Your closely-held beliefs are dangerous delusions” and not imply that someone is dangerously deluded? The idea that mockery and ridicule were somehow instrumental in the civil rights battles of African-Americans and the LGBTQ community deserves mockery and ridicule in its own right.

    In short, banning “ridiculing ideas some hold dear” encourages gatekeeping and conformism, and violates human rights.

    No one here is talking about banning anything or violating human rights. Step away from the overheated sloganeering.

  • Glad to see someone else miss The Wittenburg Door.

  • Anthrotheist

    You know there is something seriously broken in society when differing political opinions end up being treated exactly like gang affiliation (I remember song lyrics from the 90’s, “If the one guy’s colors and the other’s don’t mix, they’re going to bash it up”).

  • Phil Rimmer

    If, in teaching our children, we lead them first not to take offense before we teach them not to give it, then…

    we shall build a resilient generation better able to withstand the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, better able to see through the goaders and manipulators, shrug off the hateful and the simply mad, the untutored, the ignorant, those alien cultures where they do things differently. We may actually learn something to our advantage.

    If we teach our children not to give offence before we teach them never to take it, then…

    we shall start them on a path to a building ever safer spaces for each other, to not listening to those railing against their folly, railing against the world and in pain, to never speak their own heart, never speak on behalf of others’ children or the new harms we have learned about.

    The religious must preach their heart out and so must we from our presumed wisdom of psychology, epidemiology and new thinking and evidence gathering tools.

    Tolerance (that burden of dissenting others) is the key to the grown up table. Preach this.

    Respect, unearned, is fatuous if we truly believe the other wrong, and ultimately fatal.

  • (((J_Enigma32)))

    I do often wonder about this. If someone rolled up in a “Fuck you and fuck your whore mother” shirt, would we get just as angry if they were asked to cover it up or change it because it was inappropriate for the situation? I’m absolutely indifferent to “criticize the idea, not the idea holder” — “hate the sin, not the sinner” ringing hollow to me — and more concerned with “there’s a time and place for it” and this isn’t it. And these perpetual outrage machines of the second kind don’t seem to understand how context works.

    Y’know, the longer I think on that, the more I realize I don’t think I really want an answer to it. Because to most folks on the internet, a comic book cover changing because the artist doesn’t like it, a butt-slap being removed from a video game, and fighters in Mortal Kombat 11 being changed from sex dolls with no discernible characteristics save a pallet swap and some minor costume details to actual characters are also examples of “censorship” and “banning” by a “PC culture.” And while that might not be the case here, it’s gotten to the point that I simply cannot take a position seriously when I see “PC culture,” “sjw”, “socialist,” or anything of the sort in it.

  • Ron Weiss

    Right On! Religion
    Is Poison

  • They should’ve asked the authorities, “What’s the rule for shirts? Under what conditions would you side with the shirt-wearer over the complainer?”

    I wonder if the rule is: always side with the complainer.

  • “It’s obvious you enjoy the view from your ivory tower”

    I see that you don’t know anything about (((Kevin))).

  • Michael Newsham

    This incident happened six years ago and was settled when the LSE apologised to the two students wearing the T-shirts and admitted they had violated their free speech.

  • DoctorDJ
  • mason

    Good article Bob. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/bca76327591da5f49a7466fdb8a91ae37dbb87e38573c6d14418010dcfee8022.jpg All the Abrahamic nonsense beliefs richly deserve their eventual fate of being object of human satire and finally acknowledged as ancient human pre-science myth.

  • ElizabetB.

    “Jesus and Mo” are an appealing couple, and the strip often sharply insightful. Happy to learn about them — thank you very much! Very imaginative, how it’s ok to picture Mo because he’s actually a “body double,” and Jesus is a blond person of color called by Mo “my Jewish friend.” Fun to read archives; looking forward to keeping up : )

  • Ann Kah

    It seems that they’re all “open” tables, thus the not-so-grown-up also get their say. Free speech has consequences for both sides, so one must find his own group in which the others can take it as well as dish it out. These comment streams are fairly close to that ideal, with some glaringly obvious exceptions.

  • Phil Rimmer

    The grown up table IS the tolerant table.

    https://disqus.com/home/discussion/rationaldoubt/jesus_and_mo_8211_banned_in_england/#comment-4442943536

    It will take many many generations to get there…or usefully closer.

    The hateful will be heard but un-felt. And we will accept our part in their misery and breed again and do better.

  • Ann Kah

    But it isn’t clearly marked “for grownups only”, so we still each have to find our own group. I want the one that thinks like grownups, but without losing a sense of humor about it, and although I’m over seventy I definitely do not want the “bah humbug” grownups.