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December 27th 2015 print

Christopher Akehurst

Good for a Laugh

Why are Christians mocked with a vitriol that would be “hate speech” if directed at any other group? Opposition by some of Christ's followers to elements of the liberal-progressive agenda must surely be one reason. Another might be that our brave artists target only those who turn the other cheek

christPicture this: on the side of a van in a busy street, a larger-than-life representation of the holy Prophet himself, stepping out on a journey, perhaps en route to Medina during the Hegira. He is carrying a heavy burden. Between him and a bystander, who seems rather taken aback by this apparition, a bubble contains the words, “How much to Ballarat?”

The van belongs to an “art courier” called Artist Moving Artists, and you can see the image on its website (www.artistmovingartists.com.au). But just before you check, of course the image doesn’t represent Mohammed. As if it would and the van still be driving freely around. Someone would have complained by now or sued under Section 18C citing Islamophobia. In some places—perhaps even here soon—the van would be torched or the driver decapitated.

No, the image represents Christ and He is carrying His cross, and for all the apparent ease with which He is depicted shouldering this burden, He is on His way to be crucified. The crucifixion of Christ, as Quadrant readers will not need to be reminded, but a lot of other people these days evidently do, is at the heart of the Christian religion. It and the scourging and the long trek up the hill to Calvary which preceded it are not only sacred redemptive events for Christians but in human terms a horrifying sequence of brutality and suffering. So of course to a certain mind they are a perfect topic to make fun of, a golden opportunity for satirising a bruised and bleeding man on his way to a cruel death.

I don’t know about Christians in general, but the deriding of Christianity that is all around today is usually water off a duck’s back to me. Even extreme examples of what used to be considered blasphemy, such as the Piss Christ affair some years ago, fail to move me. It’s not so much that I am good at turning the other cheek. It’s more that I think if some pathetic tosser can only attract public acclaim for his pseudo-art by dunking a crucifix in urine then taking a picture of it, he’s more to be pitied than censured. Botticelli didn’t need to do that.

Yet for some reason, when I saw the artist’s art-moving van, it knocked me. Why, I thought, are Christians singled out for a mockery which if applied to any other social group would be condemned as “hate speech”? Why indeed are Christians so hated? What harm have they done? Yes, I know about the Inquisition and the Wars of Religion but there has to be more to it than that. People who deride Christianity often trot out these or similar events as justification, but this is disingenuous. Such people as are really anti-Christian are not so on account of something that happened centuries ago. Indeed they might not have any clear idea why they dislike Christianity, and horror stories from the past help them explain it to themselves. “Just think of all the terrible suffering religion has caused,” you hear people say, as though they feel some sort of excuse is needed for their own less than charitable attitude.

At the risk of over-simplification I suspect the explanation is something on the following lines. There are people who loathe Christianity because of its opposition to their liberal progressive social agenda. Their ideas, being congenial to the media, are constantly diffused throughout the community; and this, combined with the growing indifference to religion characteristic of prosperous societies, helps create a climate in which to ridicule Christians is socially acceptable.

Christians are thus fair game for anyone who wants to draw attention to himself by creating a frisson of shock in a society such as ours which, for all its efforts, has not yet wholly expunged Christianity from its consciousness. If you have a product to sell, like the artist-removalist, publicise it by making fun of Jesus. Just like Andres Serrano, the Piss Christ chap (has anyone heard of him since, by the way? We’d soon hear about him, via his obituary, if he were to essay a Piss Mohammed.) Just like those awful ABC television drama scripts whose writers attempt to give vigour to their leaden dialogue by having everyone say “Christ!” or “Jesus!” every five seconds. The ABC, of course, is most solicitous towards the sensitivities of the select social groups it approves of and puts up signs before certain programs warning viewers that they might be offended by this or that. Christians never merit this consideration from the national broadcaster, though it sometimes seems that there’s little the ABC transmits that doesn’t have the potential to offend them, if only in a program’s implicit views and assumptions.

Insensitivity to what Christians hold sacred is now normal behaviour. I spent time in hospital recently and in a bed across from me was a loud-mouthed middle-aged man, glued to football matches on his overhead television, who shouted “Jesus!” every time something roused him to comment. Above on the wall (and presumably unmoved by his invocations) was a crucifix: this was a Roman Catholic hospital, but no one complained about this taking in vain the name of the founder of the religion which supposedly inspires the hospital in its mission, and neither to my shame did I. That’s how people talk now. In pubs and other low places they always did, but polite society did not endorse such language in everyday life. Now no one cares.

They certainly don’t care about the van with Christ on it. I rang the principal of Artist Moving Artists—his name is Drasko Boljevic and he works as an artist when he’s not moving other artists’ art—and he told me he knew of no one who’d been offended by the image. “Oh yes, there was one lady who said she didn’t like it or something like that, but no one else and people have told me they think it’s funny.”

We know that if it were Mohammed on the van rather than Jesus not only Muslims would be protesting. More likely, in the race to have the image removed there’d be a photo-finish between them and our home-grown politically correct. But what if the van carried some image disapproved of by the latter only? What if it bore the words, “Send asylum seekers home”, or “No wogs for Oz”? Gillian Triggs would have the vapours; the goons of No Room for Racism would have a field day. The cartoonist Leunig would produce a silly doodle showing the van as a Nazi death wagon. What if, more polemically, it asserted, “Feminism is a toxic heresy which has poisoned our culture”? What would the liberal-minded advocates of toleration who control the public discourse have to say about that? Imagine the letters to the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald. Imagine the torrents of unladylike invective from Clementine Ford rising above the elderly squeaks of “Misogyny!” from Anne Summers.

Seeing that van made me wonder what it would take for Christians, who are still quite numerous in this country, themselves to use a bit of muscle against those who make fun of what they hold sacred. It almost certainly won’t happen, because Christians are obliged to show forbearance (“Do good to them that hate you”) and, though they take a stand against issues they believe to be wrong and against the interests of society in general, defending their own faith is something they don’t put much effort into these days. Mr Boljevic told me he had delivered artworks to churches and “no one complained” about the image on the van. (The last big skirmish, apart from Piss Christ, was a protest by churchmen in the 1950s against the Sydney Royal Easter Show opening on Good Friday. Notwithstanding the greater adherence to Christianity sixty years ago, that attempt to defend the solemnity of the day of crucifixion ended game, set and match to the Show, so much so that by 2014 a Royal Easter Show media release was able to boast of a “Right Royal Good Friday” at the Show, the “royal” having nothing to do with the King of Kings, but referring to the presence at the showground of the future head of the Church of England, the Duke of Cambridge, and his consort.)

One further reason why Christians will not turn on those who deride them, I suspect, is that since the long-gone days when they were in the majority, Christians have been expecting that sooner or later they’ll again become outcasts in a hostile secularised world. And it’s happening before our eyes. If, though, their patience at hearing their faith made fun of ever did snap and wrath turned to violence, how many of the mockers and sneerers would have the courage of the Charlie Hebdo team and keep at it and how many would quietly decide that, as with jokes about the Prophet, that’s one place you just don’t go.

Christopher Akehurst will be writing on Australian country towns in a forthcoming issue.

 

Comments [18]

  1. bullockornis says:

    I think you miss the point. Entirely.

    It is not for Christians to exercise muscle against those who make fun of our religion.

    It is for all of use, Christian and otherwise, to exercise sensible ‘muscle’ and protest and due legal process against all distortions of common sense and proper application of the laws of our land.

    And it is for all of use to stop being craven cowards.

    For there’s no doubt that cowardice is the root of all evil today.

    ‘Political correctness’ is mainly a question of fathoming which way the craven mob is going and going with it.

    And the craven mob goes with the safest way with the greatest apparent veneer of ‘kindly christianity, humanity, fairness, forebearance, etc., etc.. on it to make it at first glance seem right.

    So: don’t bring Islam to task and say you don’t bring them to task because it wouldn’t be fair and it is religious bigotry and intolerance.

    But belie this contention about your own true nature and motivations by accepting meekly inhuman treatment of asylum seekers, the bombing of innocents in Iraq and Syria and the proliferation of police forces and police powers.

    Today is like the days of McCarthyism and the lesson lies therein. Resistance can be expensive, in money, status, career, even freedom. But the longer it is allowed to go on the worse the situation will get. Without fail.

    For Christians to turn on those few who mock Christianity would be a sideshow, an evasion of what really needs to happen to save the country.

  2. bullockornis says:

    I wish we could edit our comments. I’ve made errors I’d like to fix.

    And that sentence beginning So: don’t bring… is hard to make sense of. What it means is that the craven do not bring Islamic fundamentalism to task and claim the reason they don’t is because it wouldn’t be fair. Etc.

    So I need editing because I’m so sloppy.

    But Quadrant needs it more than I do.

    Quadrant is going through hard times. The least it could do to help itself is make its web presence user friendly to the max.

    I would point to Takimag.com

    An offshoot of The Spectator magazine where Taki writes a column it gets much lively debate.

    Obviously not a mainstream thing any more than Quadrant is.

    But raises similar issues.

    I would like to see Quadrant provide an accessible forum the same as Takimag’s. I think it would be good for the magazine and all who interact with it.

    Quadrant could go further.

    There are many different places on the web that discuss these little known but serious issues. I stumble across new ones all the time. The Atlantic. LewRockwell. To mention a couple I’ve looked at today.

    Perhaps Quadrant could make a collection of them. A reference page of source material.

    The greatest need in the western world today is education. To be educated in these facts.

    Quadrant needs all the help it can get.

    But so do the people of the USA, Australia, England for instance, at the least. And Quadrant could help. It still has some clout, some reach.

  3. wisernow says:

    Last time a Piss Christ image by Serrano appeared at auction it sold for 112,336 euro. That was in 2014 but in the same year, Piss Satan by Serrano again, only made 18,817 euro. Good to see that in the art market Christ is valued more than Satan.

  4. [email protected] says:

    I am an atheist, and I think all religions are slightly nonsensical. However it is patently obvious that some religions are much more beneficial to civilisation than others, and that some are a bigger danger to civilisation than others. My take on religious matters is that a person doesn’t have to believe in God to appreciate something as beautiful as SILENT NIGHT, nor will any amount of ‘theological explanation’ make ‘apostasy’ a crime which should be punished by death/beheading.
    SILENT NIGHT has intrinsic musical worth/value quite separate from its religious aspects, and various barbaric practices such as beheading and FGM can never be made acceptable to civilised people regardless of their religious connotations.

  5. Bill Martin says:

    Is it not very likely, even a certainty, that those who so readily and violently react to any criticism or disrespect, real or perceived, toward their religion, are so inclined because they are insecure about their faith? After all, if one is absolutely convinced that one’s religion is genuine, what does it matter what others say or think about it?

  6. en passant says:

    As a devout atheist, belief in sky dragons mystifies me, whether they are ‘good’ sky dragons or psychotic paedophiles who hear voices in their head. I mean, if you ran the supermarket of gods what sort of communication plan would you come up with? Facebook beats illiterate carpenters and bandit warlords every time.
    However the real point is that Christianity is dying as it is not being lead by people who will defend the religion and its followers. 21 Copts were decapitated on a Libyan beach and Frank in Rome says we need to be nicer to the planet. Such a Leader – I’d follow him nowhere. Time the sky dragon recalled him.
    However, as the Christians and their ‘leadership’ are demonstrating in spades appeasement is terminal when faced with a ruthless psychopathic cult like devout islam. So, let’s begin to put some backbone into these jellyfish starting with the Catholic Bishops of Australia stating their views on marriage without compromise and welcoming a stint in prison as the price they NEED to pay.
    Start using the HRC, the Courts, the equal opportunity commissions and every other avenue to plague the scavengers. Take them on!
    Let me write next months limp-wristed headlines for you:
    1. Iraqi Army Captures Ramadi and 400 IS Fighters.
    2. Mass graves found of over 1,000 Christians, Yazidis and Shia muslims
    3. Mass grave of 1,000 Iraqi soldiers found in Ramadi
    4. 500 sex slaves freed from IS dungeons
    5. Iraqi Army publically slaughters every captured IS fighter including two Australians
    5. UN protests, Obama cuts off all support, Turnbull appalled – withdraws all forces in protest.

    This is how the world really works: you fight or you die, and sometimes you die anyway. I did note that you failed to even raise a weak protest at the ‘swearing’ in the hospital. Why am I not surprised?
    Christianity will not fight to defend itself and therefore deserves all the derision it is willing to take from those who would kick sand in its followers faces.

  7. Jody says:

    “Christianity will not fight to defend itself and therefore deserves all the derision it is willing to take from those who would kick sand in its followers faces”.

    How is any of this even possible when the philosophy is built upon “the meek shall inherit the earth”?

  8. Mr Johnson says:

    A good article, but not unexpected or surprising. When our flaccid church leaders give little voice to the butchering of Christians, but hand wring over the fate of the newly arriving refugees, it does make me wonder wether their modern instincts (or training) has blinded them to a real threat to their own flock’s future. As a Christian Conservative I have had many discussions with atheists and progressives (the same thing?) about the superiority of Christianity. I’m usually howled down as being a racist, bigot, or a protecter of pedophiles.

    Added to that, when the Pope talks about the evils of capitalism and displays an alarming degree of support for the new Green Faith, it makes me wonder whether they really care about their faithful as a priority anymore. Young people want something to believe in and fight for. Greenism gives many that, but there comes a point when Christians need to fight back. the Lion of Judea shows an image of a lion protecting a lamb. it doesn’t show a lamb protecting another lamb.

    • en passant says:

      Mr Johnson,
      You say: “I have had many discussions with atheists and progressives (the same thing?) [CAPITALS ARE JUST TO MAKE IT EASY TO SEPARATE MY COMMENTS, NOT TO SHOUT YOU DOWN] NO, THEY ARE VERRRRY, VERRRRRY DIFFERENT. ATHEISTS ARE LOGICAL REALISTS, WHEREAS AS PROGRESSIVES ARE DERANGED LEFTARDS, SOME OF WHOM MAY STILL BELIEVE IN SKY DRAGONS.
      ‘ … about the superiority of Christianity. SUPERIOR TO WHAT? I PREFER READING GREEK MYTHOLOGY TO THE INCOHERENCE OF EITHER THE BIBLE OR THE KORAN.
      ‘… I’m usually howled down as being a racist, bigot, or a protecter of paedophiles.’ NOT BY ME. THEN I DON’T BELIEVE IN ANGELS, SAINTS, HEAVEN, HELL OR FAIRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF MY GARDEN. ALL ARE JUST MANMADE DELUSIONS. FEEL FREE TO RETAIN YOUR MYTHS, BUT EXPECT NO HELP FROM ME SO LONG AS YOU KEEP YOUR DERANGEMENT PRIVATE AND AT THE HARMLESS LEVEL.

      • PT says:

        A great many “progressives” describe themselves as “atheists”. Indeed, “progressivism” is something of a “religion” itself these days! I would point out that your, totally justified, anger is the same as a Christian may get when when actions of Islamists are quoted to “prove” religion is the cause of all evil. A great deal of evil has been wrought by “athiest” evil, such as Nazism, and Communism.

        I would put a few things to you.

        People, searching for “meaning in life” will always look for fulfilment in what we call “religion”. Christianity lets “searchers” in, as does Islam.

      • PT says:

        A great many “progressives” describe themselves as “atheists”. Indeed, “progressivism” is something of a “religion” itself these days! I would point out that your, totally justified, anger is the same as a Christian may get when when actions of Islamists are quoted to “prove” religion is the cause of all evil. A great deal of evil has been wrought by “athiest” evil, such as Nazism, and Communism.

        I would put a few things to you.

        People, searching for “meaning in life” will always look for fulfilment in what we call “religion”. Christianity lets “searchers” in, as in as does Islam. I would much rather “searchers” end up at the local Anglican, Uniting or Catholic Church than the local mosque, wouldn’t you? Why are “progressives” so supportive of attacks on Christianity, and so opposed to attacks on Idl (not on Muslims)? This is something fundamental. It is really because “progressives” want to undo the West. Next is to claim the Western scientific, secular tradition is somehow from Islam – as had been shown in previous articles. Think about it!

      • Mr Johnson says:

        Were you stamping your feet when you wrote that?

  9. Ian MacDougall says:

    …There are people who loathe Christianity because of its opposition to their liberal progressive social agenda.

    There is to my knowledge nothing in the Gospels exhorting Christians to be illiberal, authoritarian, totalitarian or regressive. Quite the contrary.
    But, as with Islam, the clerics are something else again. For example, Hitler was born and baptised a Catholic, and while on the face of it he would probably have found himself locked out of Heaven, it is always possible that he managed to sneak in on the quiet with a bit of hasty repentance right at the end as he breathed his last, bloody, and never-excommunicated breath.
    Ever since WW2, The Pope has the authority to have Hitler chucked out of Heaven, but no pope has ever used that power. The Holy Father could, while he was at it, purge Heaven of the hordes of fascists, military dictators and their murderous underlings who are probably in there as well, having cleared the formal requirements for entry: last rites etc.

  10. Jody says:

    You’ve only got to look at the appalling apathy shown by the church, under Pius X11, during the years preceding and during the war to realize the Church will never stand up for anything. Popes remind me of Obama: they think that if they stand up and say stuff it will change the world. Both leaders will be soon consigned to irrelevance, if not already in that place.

  11. Keith Kennelly says:

    Bullockornis

    See Henry Eras in this morning’s Australian. “From Aristotle ‘Courage is the first of human virtues because it makes all others possible.’”

    Or in other words with cowardice it is impossible to hold any of the other virtues.

    Ain’t that the truth we are seeing today and Henry comments, ‘There is no greater courage than the courage to “see what one sees”‘.

    Bill Martin

    Aced it again.

    Mr Johnson.

    I’m an atheist, but for my view of your religion, ‘frankly I don’t give a damn.’
    Also see Bill Martin.

  12. Jody says:

    I don’t see this as an either/or argument, about religion. We all have a ‘religion’ – whether that be ‘climate science’, political correctness, consumerism, sport or politics. It’s about intellectual or philosophical ardor. Or merely the pursuit of pleasure.

    Christianity codified and institutionalized religion based upon the cult of the individual and written lore from the distant past. This at a time when the mass of men were illiterate. Paintings and myths were used to define the human condition, and to act as a model for human propriety and a warning for misdemeanor. On that last aspect it has failed spectacularly. But very many extremely intelligent people have found a salve and meaning in the Christian religion; people whom one would expect to ‘know better’. Then there was the spectacularly intelligent and creative Bach who poured his considerable energies and talents into “a well regulated church music”, inspired by his devout Lutheran beliefs. His craft and his piety were BOTH his religion.

    We make a mistake when we attempt to divine some kind of simple ‘narrative’ to try and explain the human ‘folly’ of religious belief. I believe religion is much more than the Bible, Jesus Christ and the Christian churches.

  13. John J says:

    The effectiveness of Bureaucracies is inversely proportional to how much of other people’s money they have.

    Based on historical evidence this would appear to be a human behaviour. Religion is not inured from human behaviours.

    I would suggest from my limited Christian history that JC was not fond of bureaucracies, in particular the hypocrisy of the administrators of his own Jewish church.

    That JC inspired (and still does) so many people to do such selfless good works and scientific achievements despite the bureaucracies, is testament to the good sense he espoused. That this has transpired in the greatest advancement in human history is empirical data. I too am astounded that the fundamental tenets of the Christian ethos are so routinely ridiculed despite the evidence. The fact that those ridiculing others’ belief in so-called “sky dragons” can even write that stuff is proof of the selflessness of Christians.

    I only go to church at Easter, Christmas, baptisms, confirmations and funerals. Even that is a struggle to put up with the Socialist clap trap emanating from the clergy. We tried my wife’s church this Christmas but it was no better than my Anglican. I suggested maybe the Hill Song folk would be better. But I don’t need to go to church to sing, gosh you know that only leads to dancing ! (Poor Islamists, but we had our own Quakers etc). I guess I am clutching at the last straws of my culture and feel the religious bureaucracies are failing me, as is the government. I feel that people in the community are getting jack of all this. I can’t see us getting out and smacking the Social Alliance brown shirts, as much as I would like to, (see I’m just not a good Christian at heart). I just hope that my children don’t have to bear the consequences as cannon fodder as this can’t end well, as no Socialists’ or Islamists’ ventures have, empirically.

    JJ