Who knew that some satirical cartoons, penned in Denmark, would make such a splash?
By now, I'm sure you've read, or seen, stories about these cartoons, and how enraged demonstrations have followed.
Many note, as a double-standard, that politicians and others are quick to commiserate with aggrieved Muslims, but the commonplace sacrileges and blasphemies against Christians merit hardly a shrug.
That the headquarters of Rolling Stone magazine have not been surrounded by cross-bearing mobs, and torched; and the publishers, employees, and anyone in any way sympathetic, not marked down, Lafarge-like, for "annihilation," is no doubt merely coincidental.
Of course that is a credit to the Christians, although after we congratulate ourselves for not being bloodthirsty, honesty demands we ask: is it that, or have we simply stopped caring all that much?
But one remains highly suspicious of just what motivated all the handwringing.
Yes, of course, one should deplore mockery of what others deem sacred; although we draw the line somewhere -- was St. Boniface, for example, wrong to destroy the pagans' sacred tree-idol? Should the pagan goddess Victory have remained in the Senate?
Even so, there are two issues here. One is the question of courtesy -- and I agree, let us show courtesy to Muslim beliefs, as for anyone else.
But the other is freedom. One may deplore a misuse of it -- as I deplore Rolling Stones narcissistic mockery of our Incarnate Savior -- yet the fact remains, Rolling Stone has a right to publish such images, and so do the publishers of these cartoons.
And on that matter, I take a pretty hard line. The First Amendment isn't perfect, and it isn't Divine Writ; but it strikes me as awfully wise and awfully good.
Here, then, is a very telling point: these mobs, who would pause before a proffered copy of the First Amendment, only so long as to decide which to burn first -- it, or you -- are the ones our intrepid President assures us are ready for democracy.
Hmmm. Now we know what he meant when he said their democracy wouldn't look "exactly" like ours.
You will note I am not putting the cartoons on my web page. I shall be candid with you about my process of reasoning on that subject.
I don't wish to offend Muslims unnecessarily. I can't help offending them, if proclaiming the Christian Faith does so; but I could see no necessity to publishing those cartoons here. (They are certainly available.)
And yet, it does dismay me that so many secular publications are shying away -- again, how did they so suddenly become so solicitous of religious sensibilities?
Candidly, I do not wish to attract the ire of the sorts who threaten "massacre" in reaction to these cartoons. That may seem silly, except that there are millions of Muslims in this country; and I don't presume to know how they feel. I give them the benefit of the doubt; but I use my head, too.
(It's similar, by the way, to why advocates of Right to Work, of which I am one, do not use bumper stickers. They found out why this was unwise the hard way, in years past: cars with such bumper stickers invited the sort of retaliation that union bullyboys take pride in.)
You may think what you like about that. I see no merit in needlessly annoying Muslims -- I emphasize "needlessly" -- but I can't stop you from doing it, if its a point of honor for you.
The risk likely is small, and yet the sort of evil that these "protesters" are threatening, it is not my place to bring down on my parish or others associated with me.
But such is the calculation that a responsible person feels the need to make, in such an environment, even as I am safely (?) ensconced in mid-Ohio, mid-America . . . it bears some reflecting, does it not? What might it be like to be in Britain, today? In France, and other places in Europe. And what lies ahead?
"Islam is a religion of peace," President Bush assures us. Yes -- don't I feel better now?