Thursday, March 6, 2008

Blasphemy in Great Britain and in the USA

I was troubled by the following article about blasphemy in the Houston Chronicle, my home town paper. Right now I'm sorting out exactly what troubles me. Is it because the British want to trash laws about blasphemy or is it because there is such a law? Quite obviously such a law could not be passed in the USA. We can't agree among ourselves that we're in favor of the Ten Commandments anymore and we certainly have no common understanding about who this God is under whom we are one nation. 

This is not to say that we are an especially godless or immoral nation. It's just that we worship many gods in this country and have no agreement about which one--or any-- we're blaspheming when, for instance, someone shouts the name Jesus or Jesus H Christ in frustration, anger or hate. Nor do some seem to understand what they're doing when they damn someone or something or tell them to go to hell. In fact, such statements have become so common in daily conversation and the entertainment media that we hardly even raise an eyebrow upon hearing them. 

But enough of this. Take a look at what is happening in Great Britain and then permit me a couple final shots.  

British lawmakers vote to abolish blasphemy laws : "A funny thing happened last November when Britain launched a righteous protest over the arrest in Sudan of a British school teacher who was accused of insulting religion by naming a class teddy bear Mohammed.

The Sudanese ambassador was summoned; Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a protest. It didn't take long, though, for someone to point out that Downing Street was standing on diplomatic quicksand: Britain itself has a law making blasphemy a crime.

Thus began a period of collective soul-searching on free speech and secularism, traditional values and the church that anoints Britain's queen. It culminated Wednesday in a 148-87 vote in the House of Lords to abolish the laws on blasphemy after a wrenching, two-hour debate.

'It is crystal clear that the offenses of blasphemy and blasphemous libel are unworkable in today's society,' Kay Andrews said in introducing the government-backed amendment, adding that 'as long as this law remains on the statute books, it hinders the U.K.'s ability to challenge oppressive blasphemy laws in other jurisdictions.'

But in a debate that underscored Britain's continuing strong roots in the Church of England, there was substantial doubt about the wisdom of abandoning what for many is a symbol of the increasingly multicultural nation's reliance on Christian values as a foundation for law and society."

So much for the Brits. We'll have to allow them to muddle around on this issue, along with several others. 

But what about us?  It seems that we who honor the name of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, very God of very God and Second member of the Holy Trinity, need to speak out loudly about how we are offended when those around us take His holy Name in such useless, vile and thoughtless ways as are common. At the very least they should know that we are offended when His name is disrespected. And we might also insist that they not damn nor curse any thing or anyone in our presence. Who knows where this might lead? It might even give us an opportunity to share why we believe that one day soon every knee under heaven will bow before the Name of Jesus and declare Him Lord and King of all, to the glory and honor of His Father in heaven (Philippians 2:1-11). 

Meanwhile, I do support and believe in the importance of the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. 

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So what do you think? I would love to see a few words from you.