Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Christian Response To Blasphemy

Father Dale Matson

“Today the blaspheming continues at the Edward Tyler Nahem Gallery on 57th Street, where the state-sponsored “artwork” Piss Christ [by Andres Serrano] goes on display for a month. The work, in case you missed the controversy that swirled around its debut in 1987, consists of a photograph of a crucifix floating in the artist’s urine.”

As a Christian, I am of course, outraged by this public and blasphemous exhibit. As a U.S. citizen, Serrano is exercising his first amendment right to publicly denigrate the most important Christian symbol, the Cross of our Savior Jesus Christ. For me, however, there is a larger issue. It is not just about the need for tolerance in a democracy. How does a Christian respond to this wretched display? How would Jesus Himself respond to this scatological representation?  “And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” (Luke 12:10) A sinless and perfect Jesus, Who was innocent of the charges against Him did not utter one word in His own defense to Pilate. Christ even had the power at His disposal to prevent His own crucifixion. “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53) For Christ, It was never about Him and His reputation or glory. His power was used to heal others to reveal the heart of the Father. For Jesus, it was always about truth, forgiveness, love, the salvation of the lost and revealing His Father, the God and Father of all.

There is a certain irony presented here because to Christians, although the cross is so important and necessary, the cross is also an offense. The cross reminds us of the terrible cost of our sinfulness and the innocent suffering of Christ on our behalf. It was for each of us that He died and it was each of us who are responsible for His being on the cross. As St. Paul stated in 1st Corinthians, “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.” (1:18). The cross is offensive to our civic selves because Christ did not condemn or curse those who conspired against Him. He did not call out for vengeance or retribution. He did not call out for justice. He called for mercy. He asked God the Father to forgive them. “And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.” (Luke 23:34)  “ A greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”. (John 15:13)

Jesus Christ is God the Son. He revealed to us that God is a God of love and compassion.  For Christians, the cross is the central point in human history. Christ died and rose from the dead. He defeated Satan and opened the door to eternal life for those who died with and in Christ.

So, how does a Christian respond? “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

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