The rousing online debates about the new wave of Islamist terrorism, triggered by secular obscenity, once again confront us with the need to gain the ability to see the current events from the perspective of Divine Revelation. The lack of a clear system of beliefs and assessments makes people easy victims of manipulation, “by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Eph. 4:14). Their “craftiness”, however, may not be as “cunning” as it seems. In fact, the manipulation is visible to a naked eye; all it takes is to slightly move away from the artificially created whirlpool of emotions.
The “false choice” is the simplest of manipulative traps. Firstly, people are presented with a choice between two bad things, one of which is noticeably worse than the other. Secondly, they are urged to immediately and decisively support one of the two.
“So, which side are you on, the obscene blasphemy or the terrorists who were “offended” by the atheists so much that they came to slaughter parishioners in church?” At the same time, we are reminded that besides the obscene caricatures of Muhammad, the same Charlie Hebdo is known for equally obscene caricatures of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Mother of God. We could hardly ignore that because these cartoons are reproduced over and over on social networks by those who call on us to support the rights of blasphemers against terrorists threatening these rights. This rallying call to side with either blasphemers or cut-throats is repeated ad nauseam, until the targeted person believes that the choice is really worth it. “Can drawing a caricature, however stupid, really be worse than cutting off a man’s head?” People asking that question expect you to answer “Of course not,” and put a “Je suis Charlie” on your profile picture.
But such a method of argumentation (Is X worse than cutting off heads?) is applicable to a host of other actions: “Is theft / drug trafficking / pedophilia, etc. worse than cutting off the heads of innocent people?” The above cases are likely to illustrate a rather pathetic manipulation attempt justifying something that cannot be justified. In Charlie’s case, however, we also see a massive deafening campaign interfering with our ability to stop and wonder why we should suddenly be supporting that obscenity?
“Because if you don’t, you’re on the head-cutters side!” a million internet voices scream hysterically. “You are saying that the criminals were “offended” and now you are justifying them!” Well, absurd accusations are also a standard manipulative technique. Not falling for one crude fraudulent trick or another labels you a terrible person, a racist, a fascist, a terrorist, and an accomplice of all sorts of bloody evils. Looking against the background of the so-called “cancel culture”, blooming in the West today, the conclusion “suggests itself”: the monstrous villain that you are should be hounded by the entire Internet community, fired, isolated and left without food, drink or shelter. Thankfully, in our country (at least, outside rather narrow circles), the menacing shouts of the networked publics do not have such catastrophic consequences and can still be safely ignored.
In fact, one can afford replying rather bluntly, “Hell is a big enough place to accommodate both murderers and blasphemers”. If you are aiming at a different outcome for your earthly journey, you should avoid both.
Satan is unlikely to succeed in tricking Orthodox Christians into cutting off people’s heads. Although we are not at risk in that regard, there are other temptations that we have to contend with. For one thing, we are being drawn into reconciliation with blasphemy and, ultimately, into approving it. Essentially, we are expected to accept that God, or, for that matter, Jesus Christ, Who died for our sins, simply does not exist, and therefore entering into a covenant with Him or worshipping Him with reverence is just as impossible as offending the greatness or mocking the love of someone who is nothing more than a figment of the imagination. There is no need to articulate this renunciation; it is sufficient simply to accept the course of action that testifies to it.
In this context, cartoons of clergy may have different meanings, including testifying against people unworthy of their ministry. But the mocking caricatures of Christ, the Mother of God and the Saints are created with the sole purpose of testifying to one’s unequivocal renunciation of the Christian faith and calling others to the same thing.
That is not a question of our feelings, resentments, or, generally, our experiences, but a matter of our worldview choice. Whether an obscene caricature of the Mother of God stirs your emotions or not depends on your temperament, which may be deeply phlegmatic. But any agreement with such a caricature, any giggle at it, any consent to accept it as something normal is a renunciation of faith. This renunciation is exactly what we are being persuaded into. During the persecution of Christianity, the believers forced by the persecutors to blaspheme the name of God or trample on icons were more likely to die than to do so. Both sides understood perfectly well what such a symbolic act meant.
Regardless of how the state looks at blasphemy, from the Biblical point of view it remains a destructive sin.
The Revelation says about the apocalyptic beast, “And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven “(Rev. 13: 5,6). Blasphemy against God, His dwelling place (i. e. church) and His saints is a sign of being on the wrong side of eschatology.
Sure enough, we are constantly being told that all these speculations about blasphemy do not apply to “secular” people. Before we even begin to argue about whether or not a secular person has to be an uncultured caveman, each of us should decide: do we believe in God? Do we pray to Him?
Blasphemy or any positive attitude towards it; any likes and reposts of blasphemous texts or images betray a state of mind that is incompatible with reverent prayer. If you are an atheist, unambiguously rejecting Christ, you should be self-conscious about that. If you are a believer, you should keep away from “a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words” as far as possible.
We have no part in the battle fought by secularism and Islamism over cartoons but we are engaged in the battle between God and Satan for the eternal salvation of souls, in which both secularists and Islamists are on the same side. And that is not the side that we want to be on.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds
This is carefully thought and well said. I only very recently heard of this event. I do not have social media and I don’t watch television, so it takes a while for sensational stories to reach me sometimes. But I am painfully aware of the ‘cancel culture’ movement. The area I live in is, so far, robustly resistant to it. But that can change.
In the event that it does, posts like this give good ground to walk over and consider. Thank you.
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