Go ahead, Stephen Fry, take your best blaspheming shot

In 2015, British comic and television personality, Stephen Fry appeared on an Irish chat show and referred to God as ‘capricious, mean-minded and stupid’.

You might have seen it being shared on social media.

The host Gay Byrne asked Fry what he would say to God after he died and appeared at the pearly gates.

Stephen Fry replied that he’d tell the Almighty, ‘How dare you create a world in which there is such misery. It’s not our fault. It’s not right. It’s utterly, utterly evil’.

Things went sour this month when a complaint was made to the Irish police that Fry had broken the country’s Defamation Act of 2009, which makes it illegal to publish or utter blasphemous material.

That’s right. It’s 2017 and a famous television personality was being charged with blasphemy.

 

It turns out everyone in Ireland is embarrassed by their blasphemy law, so much so there are calls to repeal it, including from the church. No one has ever actually had to face criminal prosecution for breaking the law and it’s assumed Mr Fry won’t either.

That didn’t stop the publicity hungry atheist Richard Dawkins, in a show of solidarity with Mr Fry, from announcing he’d be giving a public lecture in Dublin in June and would “be available for arrest on a charge of blasphemy.”

He then quoted one of his books to give Irish authorities a taste of things to come:

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

Wow.

Anyway, some commentators are comparing Fry’s potential legal woes with the case of Indonesia’s Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, the former governor of Jakarta recently found guilty of blasphemy.

A Christian in an Islamic country, Ahok had given a speech quoting a verse of the Koran and interpreting it as saying it was okay for a non-Muslim to lead Muslims.

His opponents were using the same verse to say it was contrary to the Koran for Muslim voters to elect a Christian to office.

For this offense Ahok received a two-year jail sentence.

I’ve seen a meme doing the rounds of social media comparing Stephen Fry’s case with that of Ahok. It suggests that Christians are too soft on blasphemy. That is, Stephen Fry can get away with insulting Christian beliefs but Ahok gets two years for respectfully interpreting a verse of the Koran differently to his opponents.

I guess the creator of the meme thinks us Christians should toughen up.

But frankly, I think the Fry and Ahok cases reveal the opposite. I think they reveal how much stronger Christians are about this kind of thing than some Muslims can be. With all due respect to our Islamic community, but if you publish a drawing of the Prophet Muhammad, let alone speak critically of him, you are in danger of sparking a riot. But hurl any form of abuse on Jesus and us Christians will cop it.

Seriously.

We’ll cop it.

Call Jesus any name you like. Create any demeaning image you want. Adopt any superior tone you prefer when speaking of our “sky god” or belittling our religion as silly, made up nonsense.

Another British comic, Ricky Gervais once defined blasphemy as “a law to protect an all-powerful, supernatural deity from getting its feelings hurt.” But lines like that are like water off a duck’s back to us.

Far from being sensitive souls who can’t bear to hear our God spoken badly of, Christians know that Jesus showed his love and greatness not by the avoidance of humiliation, but precisely through being humiliated.

 

There’s nothing you could heap on Jesus that he didn’t endure willingly during his life. Indeed, the history of the Christian church is the story of ordinary men and women being willing to endure all manner of suffering and humiliation out of the deep love and gratitude they have for the one who suffered for them.

So, if you meet a Christian who gets offended by criticism or wants to charge people like Stephen Fry with blasphemy, you could assume they still have some way to go in their Christian faith. Real Christians aren’t defeated by censure or denunciation. They’re not offended by ridicule or unbelief.

Refusing to be offended by the harsh attacks of our critics isn’t a sign of weakness in Christians. It’s evidence of a strength of character that comes from being filled with the spirit of the suffering servant king.

So go ahead, Stephen Fry, give it your best blaspheming shot. If your criticism is fair we’ll accept it and learn from it and if it’s unfair we’ll endure it cheerfully.

 

 

 

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The views expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent the official views of Morling College or its affiliates and partners.

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23 thoughts on “Go ahead, Stephen Fry, take your best blaspheming shot

  1. Awesome insights here Mike!! Thanks.

  2. I am moved by your Christ-like response. It robs the opposition of the oxygen that they receive from us registering moral outrage.

  3. Yes! Thank you.

  4. No real Scotsman?

  5. It would be wonderful if Stephen would respond!

  6. We don’t have to defend our God, He is bigger than that and He shows compassion and love to all.
    Thank you for your comments, Mike. Elaine

  7. Nailed it!
    Thanks for he,ping us to think bigger about God and the life he calls us to!

  8. Fry rails against a God that does not exist! Or perhaps its a God that existed in the 19th Century upon whom we could place all our shortcomings. Nice piece of displacement Steven!

  9. How does Jesus driving the vendors out of the Temple fit in your narrative? Especially when aligned with the OT fulfillment of of Overwhelming zeal for your name oh Lord…
    Is God bigger – yes. Should we not be offended – no.

    1. Jesus was responding to religious corruption that made it hard for people to know God and who should have known better. Quite a seperate issue to unbelievers blaspheming God now.

      1. Yes, I agree with David’s response. You can’t equate Jesus cleansing the temple with Ireland’s blasphemy laws at all.

  10. God did make a beautiful world, a perfect world. It was Satan and man’s willingness to follow Satan that started the hurt and cruelty which spoilt it all. Even so God gave a way to once again enjoy His love by sending His own Son Jesus to die and rise again so that we can love Him and experience His love through His Grace.

  11. When you note how we Christians are different and that we don’t react in moral outrage over the blasphemous words of non Christians towards our God …I’m reminded of Jesus and how he lived his life on earth. There is our example.

    1. Spot on Eleni

  12. Great thoughts! Thanks for reminding me where our strength lies.

  13. Yep, I’ve seen so many of those Ricky Gervais quotes making their way around facebook- even shared by members of my own family…always makes me feel sad- for Ricky, and for all the people who become a little more hard-hearted as they read.

  14. Good post. Cheers.

  15. Yes we don’t need to defend God. The fact the Fry or Dawkins or Gervais are not put down by their Creator indicates that each of them yet may be in His sights to save them from themselves. He (God) truly died for each of them & me.

  16. Clive James says (paraphrasing here): Blasphemy is the cheapening of the central experience of another persons life. No better explanation of it even with the reading of lots of theology books! Folk who think they are hipsters, tolerant and on a wave of popularity, think they can get away with lots! Funny how some folk know that God was with them in the dark dales of depression, I would like Fry to understand that. All the same he’s made general knowledge (including the fact that the church was ok with the theory of evolution when it was first discussed in the 1800’s) popular on QI.

  17. I think it’s just embarassing for Christians that someone like Fry could be prosecuted for blasphemy for the remarks he made in the first place instead of making comparisons with what happens in Islamic states. I also think it’s questionable whether we’d be in a situation in the West where people can get away with such comments if not for the Renaissance and various other movements that have taken place throughout recent Western history, movements led mainly by artists, scientists and free thinkers. In this case I would think a humble thanks that we’re not back in the middle ages would be better than a self-pat-on-the-back.

    1. Most of the leading lights of the Renaissance, including artists and scientists (not sure who these “free thinkers” were) were in fact Christians themselves. But let’s not quibble.

  18. Although Christians are generally not generally stirred to action by attacks on or criticism of their chosen deity, this is not always the way – cf. Piss Christ.

    http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/law-order/andres-serrano-piss-christ-triggers-religious-fury-and-court-battle-in-1990s-trials/news-story/5e997822f57fce0ea4dcdf066ef7b79e?sv=8f3949d369ec826f3eb00d5b75d3d27d

    1. True. That is a pretty old story. But, yes, I’m not saying all Christians have been so gracious in response to criticism. Having said that, Andres Serrano’s work, immersing a crucifix in urine, makes a powerful point about the humiliation of Christ. Sadly, some Christians failed to see it.

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