There is a law in Ireland, which too effect with this new year that makes blasphemy illegal, with a punishment up to $35,000. Specifically the statute names as violating the law anyone who "publishes or utters matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion."
To flaunt the law, a website called Atheist Ireland has published 25 Blasphemous Quotes. Bishop N.T. Wright of Durham, England has written in response:
My view has been, and remains, that though a case can be made for offending public scruples -- on all sorts of issues, not only 'religious' ones, and especially when the 'public' concerned are a minority — there is something deeply self-contradictory about defending the God revealed in Jesus Christ in this way. Jesus, after all, refused to defend himself, spoke severely to his closest aide when the latter tried to defend him with force, and then allowed himself to be publicly humiliated, beaten up, tortured, mocked and crucified. Who are WE then to defend HIM?I have written of blasphemy previous here: Breaking our false images to discover God. What do you think of blasphemy laws?
Of course there should be standards in public life but as I say they apply much more widely. The 'blasphemy' charge -- which interestingly was what the Chief Priests accused Jesus himself of! -- is inappropriate precisely because of the nature of who Christians believe God actually is. This, ironically, might be a point at which Christians reveal that the God they worship and the incarnate Lord they profess to follow are radically different from some other gods. As the First World War poet Edward Shillito put it:The other gods were strong; but thou wast weak;Beware of defending Jesus, lest you make him an idol in the image of your own dreams of power and control.
They rode, but thou didst stumble, to a throne;
But to our wounds, only God's wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but thou alone.
(You might like to know that I argued this case in a speech in the House of Lords a year or two ago, to the amazement and anguish of some of my right-wing friends who assumed that I, being known as a 'conservative' theologically, would have stood up for the blasphemy laws, especially granted that it's the atheists who are opposing them. I pointed out that it is precisely because of my 'conservative' theology — taking the Bible seriously, taking the incarnation and cross seriously — that I made this point.)
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor
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