What the tolerant must tolerateREX MURPHY
To be a serious Christian in modern Western culture is to be the favoured easy target of every progressive thinker and every half-witted comedian.
Something as inconsequential as a Christmas special, for example, will have – almost as an essential element, it being "Christ's" birthday after all – something determinedly offensive to Christians. Russell Peters, the Canadian joker, for his special this year has invited Pamela Anderson, pinup queen and soft porn actress, to play the Virgin Mary.
Pamela Anderson as Mary the Immaculate: I know – the wit, the daring, the originality – hell, the bravery of it all. No wonder Peters is at the very top of the yuk-heap. Can it be that it's only 30 years since Monty Python and The Life of Brian? Talk about "cutting-edge." The casting is so, so clever – getting a lewd exhibitionist to play Mary, to call in a pop-culture tart to play the very Mother of God.
But for believers to object, well that would be irksome and stuffy and high-handed and parochial – it being another of this age's curious predisposition that Christians are supposed, if not to like the jeers hurled at them, to at least be good enough to suffer the insults, blasphemies and mockeries in silence, if not secret approval. To actually object to Russell Peters going for a cheap, unintelligent and vulgar laugh would probably get categorized as "intolerance" or "censorship." Go for it, Russell – Pam Anderson as the Virgin Mary will tickle the funnybone of every single digit IQ from St. John's to Victoria.
There was another example in the now nearly defunct occupy movement. In Vancouver they lit a "sacred fire" on the lawn of the art gallery – I think the "sacred flame" itself was kept in an oil drum (a curious temple, but leave that go). When the Vancouver fire brigade arrived to put it out, there being bylaws about fires in public places, there were ululations of the most ferocious kind accusing the firemen of committing a grave offence against native spirituality.
A report for the cathedral summed up the mischiefs and abuse: "Desecration: Graffiti have been scratched and painted on to the great west doors of the cathedral, the chapter house door and most notably a sacrilegious message painted on the restored pillars of the west portico. Human defecation has occurred in the west portico entrance and inside the cathedral on several occasions."
In short, they turned St. Paul's Cathedral into a public toilet and used its sacred walls as a crude bulletin board. However, there was no vast outcry at the appalling disrespect, the deep contumely such acts represent. Put out a "sacred fire," set in the first place mainly to provoke, and it's shock and petty scandal. Defecate in St. Paul's, and I'll bet this is the first time many reading this have heard of the outrage.
Of episodes of this kind there is no end, and it will surely be accounted a kind of prudery or humourlessness to make objection to them. Let it be so. However, there is a radical inconsistency to the treatment afforded to Christian believers and that of most other religious groups and it is not idle to insist on this point. It would be rather nice if so many people, the Christians of the West, who offer respect, tolerance and regard for beliefs other than their own, could be treated with equal civility and courtesy.
And nice, too, if Russell Peters could see the cheapness of his ever-so-hilarious casting call.
Rex Murphy, "What the tolerant must tolerate." National Post (November 26, 2011).
Reprinted with permission of the National Post.
Rex Murphy is host of CBC Radio One's Cross-Country Checkup and contributes weekly TV essays on diverse topics to CBC TV's The National. (See Rex's TV commentaries). In addition, he writes book reviews, commentaries, and a weekly column for the National Post.
Rex Murphy was born near St. John's, Newfoundland, where he graduated from Memorial University. In l968, he went to Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. His primary interest is in language and English literature, but he also has a strong link with politics. His first book, Points of View, is described on Amazon: "With TV commentator and journalist Rex Murphy, it's easy to put a twist on the old parable: when he is good he is very very good, and when he's angry, he's awesome. Uncommonly dignified, relentlessly honest, unencumbered by de rigueur political correctness, and solidly grounded by his Newfoundland roots, Murphy is that rarest of TV types. He's an everyman who happens to be a Rhodes Scholar, and a personality treasured for his brain, not his looks...A cranky intellect, maybe, but an intellect just the same. It's Murphy's almost reluctant cynicism – delivered in language as sharp as shattered glass and aimed squarely at those in ivory towers – that makes Points of View a must-read."
Copyright © 2011 National Post
Not all articles published on CERC are the objects of official Church teaching, but these are supplied to provide supplementary information.