Friday, 16 January 2015

The Blessing of the Insult

No one would deny that Pope Francis is a man of sensitive feeling for others and spontaneity. His willingness to demonstrate the emotional body blow of a gratuitous religious insult, on a plane at 35,00- acting out the effect of someone insulting something someone holds dear - is a reflection of the Pope's warm and responsive personality. 


He likened insulting one’s God to insulting one’s mother. This is the very insult that an Italian player was supposed to have whispered to Zinedine Zidane, during the final of the France-Italy World Cup, for which Zidane head-butted the perpetrator, and was sent off, losing the match for France. Then Pope Francis mimed striking back, with a fist into the face, in response.

The mother is a central icon of Italian culture, as it is of the Catholic religion. Insulting someone’s mother is to insult them. The Pope, speaking out of that worldview is saying "If you insult someone’s religion, you are insulting them". This is true: it is a body blow. However, I disagree with the concept of the ‘knee jerk’ response, in the light of the teaching of Jesus Christ. 

The Pope is unconsciously equating God with one’s mother. But the Christian God is a Father, not a mother, at least in the Bible texts (though plenty of Bible texts suggest that He can act like a nurturing mother at times, too). Fathers can stand up for themselves and their children. Most fathers are not broken as the traditional feminine spirit can be, by rape, assault or violent verbal abuse. A traditional 'father' will stand up for his children, even using force of arms, the police, the Courts and the law. 

Jesus Christ, whom Christians believe is The Second Person of the Trinity, pronounced a special blessing on being insulted and persecuted. Opponents saying false things about your religion and your God are inadvertently blessing you. Here is the text from The Sermon on the Mount: 

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
(New International Version)

Jesus instructs his followers to take religious abuse with a totally calm and glad spirit, just as He himself did - so often. Of course it is a body blow - but one must not respond. Being persecuted shows that you are following the Way and that you are especially blessed by God. What His opponents said about Him was blasphemy - including hints that He was illegitimate, a rebel against God's Word and Truth, a drunkard, a liar and a fraud.

Jesus did not brand this ‘blasphemy’ though He did say He and His Father were being insulted - now and then. The official charge of 'blasphemy' He reserved for the unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit - but no one can quite define that. This master blasphemy alone is fatal in terms of one's eternal destiny - so it must be truly 'vicious'.

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