Monday, February 6, 2006

The Inflammatory Cartoons and Wishful Thinking

A Catholic friend of mine who asks to remain nameless wrote to me the other day about the violence over the Mohammed cartoons:

Not that I condone the kind of violence going on in response to those cartoons, which were ill-conceived and thoughtless.

But it would please me immensely if Catholics put up similar verbal resistance when when there are things like "Piss Christ" and the dung-smeared image of the Virgin that was feted and lauded at the Brooklyn Museum some years ago.
As a fan of G.K. Chesterton's The Ball and the Cross, I can relate to the desire to see one's fellow Christians take their faith seriously enough to defend it against cultural affronts. I took my friend's comments at face value.

Then I read Robert Duncan's Spero News op-ed, which states:
While I am opposed to the violence and rioting in parts of the Muslim world after a Denmark newspaper “Did a Rushdie,” I cannot wonder if maybe Christians would do better to partially follow the lead of the Prophet Mohammad’s followers.
To which I can only say: Enough.

Enough of this "why can't we be like the Muslim rioters and make a fuss when we're insulted" talk.

There is absolutely no comparison between an appropriate Catholic response to a religious insult and the way the Muslim rioters (whom I realize do not represent all Muslims) are responding to the cartoons. It is a difference of kind and degree.

Do I wish more Christians (not just Catholics) would raise their voices in protest when their faith is insulted? Absolutely. But the truth remains that many Christians do raise their voices — witness the successes that the American Family Associatiion and the Catholic League have had in boycotting offensive television shows, for example. The reason one doesn't often hear about such protests on the news is because they are nonviolent. That's what Christian protests — and all protests — should be.

Saying that nonviolent Christians can learn something from violent thugs is like saying that salmon can learn from barracudas. This little ichthus, for one, isn't buying it.

[Slightly edited from original post, to fine-tune the late-night language.]