Well, you probably don’t have it marked on your calendar (one would hope!) but September 30 is celebrated in some circles as International Blasphemy Day. This is the brainchild of the Center For Inquiry (CFI) which describes itself as “the world’s foremost humanist and skeptical organization” (i.e. atheists). The day was originally established in 2009 to commemorate the September 30, 2005 publication of satirical drawings of Muhammed in a Danish newspaper – a defiance of Muslim prohibitions against ANY type of depiction of their prophet that set off riots across the Muslim world and resulted in about 100 deaths.
According to CFI, the purpose of the celebration is to promote the ‘right to commit blasphemy’ as a form of freedom of expression, and to call attention to the laws on the books in many countries (and a few US states, including Pennsylvania) that make blasphemy a criminal offense. Though such laws may not sound like such a bad thing to us, they have sometimes been used to suppress legitimate criticism. And we can certainly agree that the execution of Christian evangelists under blasphemy laws in places like Afghanistan is indeed a very bad thing!
When viewed in that way, International Blasphemy Rights Day (as it’s formally known) sounds relatively benign – as one CFI spokesman put it: “We’re not seeking to offend, but if in the course of dialogue and debate, people become offended, that’s not an issue for us. There is no human right not to be offended.” Fair enough. But such professions of high-minded idealism are at odds with the way some of its proponents actually practice it – as a day to be as offensive as possible to religious sensibilities (and especially to Christians, which is a lot safer than offending Muslims).
In an article titled “11 Blasphemies to Enjoy on International Blasphemy Day” the reader is encouraged to “go out of your way to offend a religious person before midnight” and then is offered a selection of particularly offensive examples “to be enjoyed.” Most are just very tasteless depictions of religious figures (it’s sobering that seven of the eleven aired on TV as ‘entertainment’). As part of its Blasphemy Day observances CFI has sponsored a ‘blasphemy contest’ and also a ‘blasphemy challenge’ where participants submit their video-taped blasphemy which must include the words “I deny the Holy Spirit” in defiance of Jesus’ warning in Mark 3:29. Though CFI strives to portray itself as a bastion of cool rationality, it’s clear that visceral rage doesn’t lie far beneath the surface; in fact, the founder of CFI later severed his connection with the organization because it was degenerating into “angry atheists.” Rage is the response of children who are thwarted in their own desires, and a ‘potty mouth’ is often their preferred weapon for venting that rage.
What should a Christian make of such goings on? Well, first of all, it’s childish behavior that hasn’t changed from antiquity when heathen neighbors raged impotently against the Almighty God who protected His chosen nation, Israel:
“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed …” (Psalm 2:1-2)
And secondly, we shouldn’t respond with our own rage, but rather with the pity we would feel for the deluded soul who decides to attack a lion with his bare hands – the outcome will surely be tragic:
“He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury …” (Psalm 2:4-5)
Blasphemy should fill us with sadness and concern: not concern for our Lord who neither needs nor desires our efforts to defend His honor, but rather, for those who so recklessly risk their immortal souls. Our response to those who scoff at God should be a confident witness of temperate words and loving deeds which give glory to the One who is far above all His puny detractors.
“Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.“ (Psalm 2:10-12)