IN THEORY: What do you think of 'Blasphemy Day'?

Oct. 7 was Blasphemy Day, a day devoted to protecting a person's right to “ridicule, criticize — even lambaste God,” according to a CNN article Friday. Started by Ronald Lindsey (who in his youth studied for the priesthood), the purpose of the day is to encourage freedom of expression for everyone, even those who would outright talk ill of the Lord. Lindsey believes “a society is not truly free unless people can freely air their views on any subject — including God.” What do you think of this day? Is Blasphemy Day really a genuine effort to encourage freedom of expression? Or is this just another silly endeavor by a person looking to get his 15 minutes of fame by striking at the nerves of the general public?

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Blasphemy Day — now I've heard everything.

The sad truth is, we live in a sea of blasphemy. In fact, God has said, “All day long my name is constantly blasphemed.”

Blasphemy is everywhere. We hardly need a day to commemorate it. But here is yet another example of a former Roman Catholic in his 50s working out his own childhood angst against the church while the rest of us have to read about it.

There have always been people with childhood religious issues, except nowadays they launch a website and sponsor fake days with hokey names in order to create “awareness.” Please, spare us your insight.

Here's something else to think about. If speaking ill of our good God demonstrates that we truly have free speech in America, which his website says is Lindsay's major concern, then why limit our vulgar, unenlightened speech to insulting only God? Why not ridicule each other, too? Why shouldn't Lindsay also promote Racist Day or Sexist Day? Or how about Pedophile Day? Wouldn't our speech be really free then? That way we could insult human beings made in God's image. No, Lindsay is far too politically correct for that. For some reason, it's only God who deserves to be mocked and derided.

We live in a culture that presupposes a blind, deaf and impotent God. Even if he is aware of today's latest new and trendy blasphemy, he is powerless to do anything about it. That's what we lull ourselves into thinking.

It is true that the authorities accused the Lord Jesus of blasphemy. As far as they were concerned, the truth Jesus spoke about himself was blasphemy. The apostle Paul also called himself a former blasphemer. So, perhaps, that means there's hope for someone like Lindsay. But blasphemy remains a dangerous and foolhardy risk for all who would pretend that God isn't listening. He is. And the God who hears also remembers. The Lord of all life has said: “Do not be deceived. God will not be mocked; for whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap.”

PASTOR JON T. KARN

Light on the Corner Church in Montrose

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The first thing I wanted to say when I heard of Blasphemy Day was, “Oh, come on!”

I guess I believe the effort is another silly endeavor by somebody wanting to get his 15 minutes of fame by shocking people. Still, the idea is not unheard of in the Judeo-Christian tradition. The book of Job comes quite close to the blasphemy issue when Job, a righteous man who is suffering, demands to confront God to ask him why. His wife even tells him to curse God and die.

The concept of blasphemy has to do with saying “bad” words or “bad” things.

While the saying of something may be offensive, what's worse is the doing or not doing of something that should be done. Both Judaism and Jesus (and Islam, too, for that matter) emphasize what we do or don't do.

Check out Matthew 25:31 and following. That's the passage about the sheep and the goats. In this case, the sheep are the good people, and the goats are the bad people. The sheep are good because they saw human need and did something about it; the goats are the bad people because they saw human need and did nothing about it. The point is, action is what is important, and I dare say action or inaction is more saving or damning than what passes through one's lips. Words are important, but not nearly important as actions.

So if you want to be a true blasphemer, the next time a needy person asks you for something, tell him to get lost. That'll be worse than anything else you can say.

PASTOR CLIFFORD L. “SKIP” LINDEMAN

La Cañada Congregational Church

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We are fortunate in this country to have freedoms beyond the norm in many other parts of the world. For the most part we are able to express our views freely. The mere existence of the Center for Inquiry, the organization headed by Ronald Lindsey, which sponsors Blasphemy Day, is a good indicator of these freedoms.

The organization's website states that “the motivation behind Blasphemy Day is not to offend the religious,” but “to call attention to the continuing threat to free expression posed by blasphemy laws — as well as the informal social taboos that treat religion as a subject that is off limits.” That is a worthy goal.

While those who have no faith in God are entitled to their beliefs, others can freely cherish the right to our religious and spiritual understanding. Going forward in the knowledge of our own firm faith brings individual strength and stability, and benefits our larger society.

Christ Jesus was accused of blasphemy by the scribes because he forgave the sins of the palsied man (Matthew 9). Before proceeding to heal the man, he rebuked the scribes with the words, “Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?” However, he left them to work out their own salvation. It's up to each individual to work out his/her understanding of God, some more deeply than others.

Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Christian Science movement, summarized it in a letter to the Boston Transcript in 1894: “Neither does the Christian faith produce the same impressions upon all. Freedom to believe or to dissent is a great privilege in these days.”

Thus Blasphemy Day can have its day. Perhaps some may see it as a campaign against those with faith, but that is not what I understand it to be, and not what it should be. It will have a positive benefit if it helps in removing barriers that allow the genuine seeker to find their spiritual home, whether believers or nonbelievers.

FIRST READER GRAHAM BOTHWELL

First Church of Christ, Scientist, in La Cañada

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Blasphemy Day can highlight the nuance and advancement of democracy in America. Also it is a day that can be used by religious leaders to protect religious freedom and to advance religious pluralism in the United States.

Contrary to popular belief, American Muslims denounced the violent protests of the Danish cartoons perpetuated by extremist Muslims.

Also, American Muslims objected to the false religious ruling against Salman Rushdie and the apostasy prosecution of Afghani Abdul Rahman, who converted to Christianity in 2006. There is a blog, “Apostasy and Islam,” where more than 100 leaders of Muslim organizations endorsed a very strong statement against the apostasy laws of Muslim populated countries and sanctioning the authentic Islamic concepts of freedom of religion.

The Koran makes an unambiguous statement about religious freedom: “There is no compulsion in matters of Faith. Distinct now is the way of guidance from error. One who turns away from the forces of evil and believes in God, will surely hold fast to a handle that is strong and unbreakable, for God hears all and knows everything” (Koran 2:256).

The Koran also teaches that each person is given the capacity to discern right and wrong, and it is up to the individual to follow his or her own conscience (Koran 91:8-9).

A Muslim's only obligation is to explain the true nature of Islamic teachings.

Beyond that, it is a matter between the individual and their Lord: “If it had been your Lord's Will, all people would all have believed. Will you then compel humanity against their will, to believe!” (Koran 10:99)

As an American Muslim, I long for the day that authentic Islam and democratic governance can be practiced in Muslim-populated countries. One of the biggest misconceptions of Islam is that governments such as Saudi Arabia and Iran represent a true practice of Islam.

This is a topic unto itself, but in short, the vast majority of American Muslims do not see a genuine representation of Islam in most Muslim-majority countries. The prime reason is the lack of a developed democracy.

So the best way to champion goodness and decency for all religions in America is to offer the truth in the face of ridicule and blasphemy.

Religious leaders in America can seize the opportunity that Blasphemy Day offers by offering the wisdom, relevance and comfort of a life of faith presented in the context of freedom and love.

LEVENT AKBARUT

Islamic Congregation of La Cañada Flintridge

It is interesting that Lindsey studied for the priesthood in his youth. He has taken great measures to make sure this day takes place to promote freedom of expression for everyone, even people who would blatantly speak against God.

I have several thoughts on this day. The “In Theory” topic the weekend of Sept. 17, addressed how school employees faced charges for praying. I did support the view that they needed to abide by the terms of their employment and not pray. But where is our defense against this type of thing? I am not saying it should not exist, but sometimes the freedom-of-speech laws seem to favor speaking against God, not supporting faith and religion.

Things like this will exist in our fallen world. Some may have the call to fight it. I choose to pray for Lindsey and those involved.

We cannot immediately change people's views by debate. I actually believe that in his eyes it is a genuine effort to encourage freedom of expression.

I cannot help but be curious about what may have happened to Lindsey that so radically turned him from the priesthood and faith.

I do not believe it is a conscious endeavor by Lindsey to gain 15 minutes of fame by offending the general public. However, I do think something harmed him causing hatred toward God and a blatant cry to go against God publicly. That is why I believe prayer for him and those who he is, sadly, reaching is paramount.

COUNSELOR KIMBERLIE ZAKARIAN

La Vie Counseling Center in Pasadena ?

Freedom of expression and the ability to voice any opinion is a cornerstone of American society and is enshrined in our Constitution as an inalienable right of every citizen. Many spiritual belief systems — such as Judaism — also protect the right of free speech and encourage open and healthy dialogue.

To question religious ideas is naturally human, and people should be encouraged to articulate their doubt since that is the only way they will receive a logical answer. Verbal engagement is central to any learning method, and teachers of faith should never discourage or try to shy away from legitimate inquiry.

I also believe that when questions are raised they must be done in a respectful and sensible manner. Even if the answers are not satisfactory, there should remain a sense of reverence for the concept of monotheism, which billions of people across the globe hold true and dear to their hearts.

Blasphemy Day seems to be nothing more than a day dedicated to meaningless and hurtful bashing of people's spiritual sensitivities. Its organizers are promoting a “nothing is sacred” movement and encourage the use of repulsive verbiage to get their point across.

Sadly, they do not seem to be interested in coherent conversation at all.

RABBI SIMCHA BACKMAN

Chabad of Glendale and the Foothills


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