Tag Archives: blasphemy

Is “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told” Being Produced By The Most Unethical Theater Company There Is?

Atlanta’s Out Front Theatre Company’s production of “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told”  opens on April 27, but Paul Rudnick’s 1998 silly comedy that recasts Bible stories with all gay characters is being protested as blasphemous. The outraged in this case is the conservative Catholic group America Needs Fatima, whose members are particularly offended by the spoof’s portrayal of the Virgin Mary as a lesbian. It has an online petition demanding that Out Front’s Artistic Director Paul Conroy cancel the production.

Sure. Like that’s going to happen.

“I fear God’s wrath will fall upon us if reparation is not made,” the hysterical screed concludes. Over 40,000 hysterics have signed it. Yes, I’m sure that God has nothing better to do than to punish humanity for a theatrical production of a 20 year-old comedy in Atlanta. The group then threatens to oppose the play “loudly, peacefully, and legally in as large a protest as we can help make possible” if the production goes forward. Idiocy, of course. Last I heard, nobody is forcing anyone to go to see the play, and the First Amendment is pretty clear about the ability of the law to censor performances based on content. The contention from the religious right in this case mirrors the Left’s fervent efforts at the moment to censor speakers they don’t agree with and “hate speech.”

If you don’t think that you will enjoy a play, the remedy is not to go see it. Simple as that. Trying to interfere with the production in any way, or to prevent those who want to see a production in which Adam and Eve become Adam and Steve, is unethical. It is also directly contrary to the principles the United States was founded to ensure.

Okay, that settles that.

Now about Out Front Theater Company….

Continue reading

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“Piss Christ” and Garland

Piss-Christ

Ethics Alarms participant Other Bill raised “Piss Christ” on the comment thread to my post about the Garland, Texas attack, progressives’ and news media’s “hate speech isn’t free speech” confusion, and Geller’s supporters’ “gratuitously uncivil speech is laudable” delusion. He posted a column by George Parry, published under the heading “Think Tank” on a Philadelphia site. I’m grateful to Bill for raising the column, which he neither endorsed nor criticized. Titled Double Standard on Offending Christians and Muslims, Parry’s argument was…

  • “Christians objected to “Piss Christ” and the feces-covered Holy Virgin. And they rightfully wondered why their tax dollars had been used to promote these blasphemies. But their objections and questions were condescendingly dismissed by the secular left in the media and intelligentsia. …
  • “As if in one voice, the mainstream media and self-anointed intelligentsia argued that antiquated religious sensitivities must not be allowed to interfere with either an artist’s free expression or his right to government funding regardless of how offensive his work may be to Christians….”
  • “In Garland, Texas, on Sunday, two radical Muslims died trying to replicate the Charlie Hebdo massacre by mounting an armed attack on a “draw Mohammed” cartoon contest. We are not talking about drawings of Mohammed dunked in urine or smeared with animal dung. No, the gunmen apparently deemed the mere drawing of Mohammed to be an offense punishable by death…The overall media consensus has been to blame the intended murder victims for recklessly provoking the terrorists. Such provocation, we are told, is unacceptable and irresponsible behavior given the risk of retaliation by offended radical Muslims…”
  • “Better to question the wisdom of cartoonists exercising their rights than to acknowledge and vigorously confront and expose the elephant in the room, i.e., that there is a disturbingly large number of radical Muslims in this country who oppose our Constitution and who believe that murder is an appropriate sanction for those who offend Islam….”
  • “All of which leads to this question: Given their pusillanimous double standard, why should any reasonable or serious person believe, respect, or credit the self-serving mainstream media?”

That’s not the question. First of all, there is already no reason to believe, respect, or credit the mainstream media. Second, while Parry is correct that the analysis of the issues in the Garland attack have been largely incompetent and tainted by media dislike of Geller and journalism’s own cowardice (most news outlets were afraid to show the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, even though they were essential to reporting on the Paris massacre), his analogy with “Piss Christ” is no better.

The questions areContinue reading

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The Garland, Texas Shooting, Free Speech and Ethics

Geller: Like it or not, the First Amendment was designed for her and people like her: infuriating people.

Geller: Like it or not, the First Amendment was designed for her and people like her: infuriating people.

Last Sunday, two men opened fire outside uber-Islam-hater Pamela Geller’s “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” in Garland, Texas. Both gunmen were killed by police, a security guard was wounded. Since cartoons of the Prophet have sparked killings around the globe, this was a risk, if not an inevitability, of holding such an event. That was undoubtedly one of the reasons for it, in fact: to show defiance of those that would cow us into self-censorship.

Since the episode, commentators and pundits have engaged in various levels of  confused ethical thought regarding the competition and the shooting, much of the confusion due to cognitive dissonance regarding Geller, who is beyond question an anti-Muslim bigot. So horrible is it to their delicate liberal sensibilities to have the principle of freedom of speech represented by Geller that rather than accept it, many would prefer to jettison freedom of speech itself. In this they seem to have forgotten that the reason for free speech is precisely to protect the most infuriating, inflammatory, controversial speakers, whether they be hateful fanatics like Geller, or Martin Luther King.

It really is remarkable that the First Amendment has survived so long, since those who discuss it in public the most frequently are journalists and politicians, neither of whom are consistently able to interpret it accurately.

Ethically, this isn’t hard, or shouldn’t be. In fact, not a single new issue is raised by the Texas shooting that was not thoroughly covered here five years ago:

1. No group, no matter how offended or righteous and no matter what its holy book says, is ethically entitled to threaten violence against those who say, or draw, things that they find offensive, including the offense of blasphemy.

2. Encouraging such groups to do this by self-censoring is cowardly and a threat to free speech. Thus South Park and Comedy Central breached their duties to the nation, the culture and free speech by censoring a satirical animated series after receiving radical Islamic threats. As I wrote here: Continue reading

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Comment of the Day: “Noah” Ethics

noahs-beaver-problem

Patrice, the Ethics Alarms resident Catholic theologian (and a dear friend), weighs in on the “Noah” controversy, in the this Comment of the Day on the post, “Noah” Ethics:

My undergraduate theology degree is indisputably from a Catholic perspective, although many of the scholars we studied were not Catholic, nor even Christian. I was required to take only 4 semesters of biblical literature, but even those few academic hours of biblical studies taught me enough about biblical analysis to understand how “The Bible” (which, as I’m sure you know, is just a mutually-agreed upon canon of literature which omits as much as it includes) came to be. I often think that it is a shame that true knowledge about biblical literature mostly seems to reside only in academia. Unfortunately, most of the zealots out there would and probably do regard biblical scholarship as an attack on God. The battles over the centuries over biblical inerrancy/infallibility/literalism are merely unread footnotes to most people. Continue reading

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“Noah” Ethics

God

There is nothing unethical about “Noah,” the biblical spectacular that harkens back to the grand old days when Cecil B. DeMille reigned supreme. I haven’t seen the movie, and yet I can say that with absolute certainty. The reason I can say it that there is no way on earth that a movie about Noah and the Ark, in this day and age, could possibly be unethical. Even if the Old Testament were literal fact, which it is not, cannot be and in all likelihood was never intended to be, “Noah” couldn’t possibly be unethical, because it is a movie.

Never mind that of all the Biblical fables, with the possible exception of Adam and Eve, the tale of Noah is perhaps the most obviously impossible. The movie is art—of one kind or another—and does not represent itself as a documentary or make any factual assertions whatsoever. Thus it can be distinguished from a truly unethical film like Oliver Stone’s “JFK,” which intentionally misrepresented recent historical facts to “prove” a theory of the Kennedy assassination that was irresponsible and almost certainly false. Is “Noah” dishonest? It is impossible to be dishonest about a presumptively non-historical event about which there is no direct evidence whatsoever, and when there is no intention to deceive. Is it disrespectful? Art has no duty to be respectful. Is it fair? Fair to who? An artist’s stakeholders are those who appreciate his or her art. Does it do harm, or intend to? No. Continue reading

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An Important Post At Popehat: “A Year of Blasphemy”

Ban it?

Ken, the witty First Amendment champion who blogs at Popehat, had issued an important and meticulously researched review of how blasphemy has been punished around the world in the past 12 months. He introduces his survey, in part, by writing…

“The incendiary film “”The Innocence of Muslims” was merely an unconvincing pretext for a terrorist attack, not the true cause of the attack. Yet the film has spurred new discussions of American free speech exceptionalism, and led some to question whether we should hew to the First Amendment in the face of worldwide demands for an international ban on blasphemy… We should address such views, not ignore them. But as we consider them — as we evaluate whether anti-blasphemy laws will ever be consistent with the modern American values embodied in our First Amendment precedents — we should examine what the competing values truly are. What are the “other values” which other societies believe outweigh free speech? What sorts of things “inflame” people in those societies? If other societies understand free expression differently than we do, how do they understand it? What “international norms” are emerging on blasphemy?” Continue reading

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As Wisconsin Bans a Theatrical Production, Some Questions

“The forces of intolerance just won another victory in Wisconsin,” is how The Progressive headlines a story about a “rightwing evangelical” whose complaints prompted the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to cancel a planned production of  “The Bible: Complete Word of God, Abridged” in a state park. From the article:

“Vic Eliason raised a stink. Eliason is an evangelical clergyman in Milwaukee who runs the VCY (Voices of Christian Youth) America Radio Network. He has a show, “Cross Currents,” in Milwaukee, and on August 9, he dedicated his hour-long program to condemning the play as “blasphemous” and “diabolical.” He urged his listeners to contact the board members of SummerStage, and he gave out their numbers. He also urged listeners to call the businesses where some of the board members worked and ask them, “How can you have someone on the board who will literally spit in the face of the Bible?” Eliason also gave out the phone numbers of the DNR’s top two officials and told listeners to ask them why the state was allowing this play to go on, and why it was profiting from it. (The agreement with SummerStage and the Lapham Peak State Park is that 5 percent of ticket sales go to the park, Eliason said.)”

The article ridicules the state and Ellison on several grounds. The play, it notes, is “very light-hearted,” a spoof of the Bible. Ellison admits he never read the script, but that the theme of the comedy is enough. The statement of the Department in cancelling the play smacks of dishonesty: “SummerStage will not be performing ‘The Bible – the Complete Word of God, Abridged’ at Lapham Peak as the event did not meet the provision of the Department agreement requiring all productions to be family oriented,” said a spokesperson. Translation: “This was turning into a hassle with the possibility of a lawsuit, and it just isn’t worth it.”

I agree that Eliason is an officious trouble-maker, a bully who sees nothing wrong with stopping people from entertaining and being entertained if he doesn’t approve of their taste. But I have some questions: Continue reading

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