Richard Granell wrote a brilliant piece comparing the reaction of radical Muslims to the burning of the Koran by a single crazy pastor somewhere in Florida and the reaction of the Mormon church to the critically acclaimed Broadway musical that presents their faith in a—if not disparaging, at least—condescending light. The radical Muslims reacted by killing innocent people and the Mormon church reacted by giving a short statement.
I want to be clear that both incidents, the burning of the Koran and the Broadway musical, are and should be legal. While neither is respectful, everyone has the right to express whatever they want to say about any religion that they care to talk about. Living in a free society, which is the kind of society that we are fortunate enough to live in, people of faith will have to tolerate blasphemy.
But that is hard to do when someone disrespects, or even desecrates, something that you feel is sacred (note: crimes such as vandalism are not protected by free speech). No one wants to stand by silently when that happens. Despite the calm way that the Mormon church and it’s members have handled the Book of Mormon musical, not all Mormons have reacted to blasphemy this way.
If you’ve never been to General Conference, you may not realize that the streets around Temple Square are sprinkled with protesters at this time. Mostly, these protesters just accuse the conference goers that they are going to Hell; they are mostly harmless. But sometimes, they cross a line. A few years ago that happened when a few protesters started burning temple garments. A few of the conference goers couldn’t stand by and watch that happen and a fight ensued.
A fight with the people doing the desecrating is a far cry from killing innocent people, but it isn’t quite turning the other cheek, as Christ commands (Matt. 5:39). As hard as it is to do in these situations, turning the other cheek, I think, means doing nothing. Not acknowledging the act in any way. Even showing love for the person doing the act (Matt. 5:44). As we do this, we will eventually be vindicated and the act will be condemned by the general public, as it was in this case.
But how do you react when the blasphemy is entertaining and wildly popular, as the musical is purported to be? It’s not being condemned as sacrilegious, but praised as a masterpiece. How can we make our voices of dissent heard?
I came across this problem with the show The Family Guy. If you aren’t familiar with it, let me just say that it is one of the funniest pieces of television I have ever seen. If you are familiar with it, you know what I mean. As much as I enjoyed watching most of it, I would cringe every time that anything religious would come up. Their depiction of God and Jesus Christ were offensive to me. The creators of the show were making fun of something that was sacred to me. The more I’ve come to understand Christ’s sacrifice, the more it pains me to hear people treat him with such disrespect.
Finally, I had to come to a conclusion: The Family Guy is blasphemous. And while I don’t live in the Old Testament Israelite nation, where such blasphemy would be punished by death, the least I could do is not support it by tuning in. I decided to never watch the show again. I wasn’t going to fast forward or close my eyes through the blasphemous parts. I was going to “vote with my feet,” as we say about the power of the consumer, against the show.
And I bet my silent protest has made no difference to the creators of The Family Guy. They haven’t stopped being blasphemous, and the show hasn’t been cancelled without me viewing it. Even though it hasn’t made a difference to them, though, it has made a difference to me because I feel more at peace with my faith, which, I guess, makes my protest a success. Even though it didn’t change the whole world, it changed mine.
How have you seen others turn the other cheek when confronted with blasphemy? How can we better practice this principle that Christ taught? Can we honestly expect to change other people, or is changing ourselves the real goal?