This term—mutual incomprehension—is one I found in an economist.com article describing the escalating worldwide tension over cartoons of the Islamic prophet and founder Mohammed. Muslims can't comprehend our apathy. The rest of us have trouble comprehending the ongoing riots and deaths the editorial cartoons touched off.
I thought Christians were pretty thick skinned, and we probably are. But then I read the discussion over humor at Ship-of-Fools and found myself offended, which doesn't happen easily. It turns out that I can be offended by jokes in poor taste which feature my own faith. Turn Jesus' suffering and death into the subject of a tastless joke and you can turn my stomach. I'm not ready to riot, but I have been humbled down off my high horse, which is always a good thing.
But how do we move forward. On the one hand, free societies depend upon a free press and other forms of free speech. On the other hand, one is not permitted to yell "Fire" in a crowded theater, so we do already acknowledge some responsible boundaries. I wonder if, as picturing Mohammed at all goes against Islamic faith, perhaps the harsh cartoon depictions of a religious leader beloved by those in a different faith tradition are not out of bounds.
I know that as a Boy Scout, I was taught to be reverent, which meant not just respect for my own faith, but that I am to treat other faith traditions with respect as well. Perhaps we can never fully comprehend the deep offense taken by the Muslim faithful any more than they can understand our apathy in the face of what appears to them to be obvious blasphemy. But I don't think it is too much to ask that we do try to understand where their anger is coming from. What do you think?
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor + King of Peace Episcopal Church