Back during the whole Charlie Hebdo event, a lot of people were defending Charlie on the grounds of free speech – I took a bit of an exception to that. Even though there was no justification for the murders, I still felt that it wasn’t appropriate for anyone to insult the deepest held beliefs of others. To be sure, Free Speech – but I’m not quite sure that our ancestors at Lexington and Concord were thinking, “if I die here today, at least people will be free to be vulgar and rude like no tomorrow”.
To make myself clear, I do believe in a very broad definition of free speech – but back in the days when men were a bit more like men, if you offered an insult to another man who had an ounce of manly virtues, you’d be called out to the dueling field. In other words, if you did decide that insult was your way of working, then you were required to put your life up as security…and if you didn’t, then you’d be known not just as vulgar, but as a vulgar coward. The historian Will Durant noted that men in 18th century England commonly carried swords – and this he identified as the place where England’s reputation for good manners developed. Knowing that the other guy had a sword and could run you through enjoined a cautious courtesy of speech. Eventually, it became ingrained into society – you just didn’t say certain things unless you were willing to fight about it.
For someone to sit safely behind soldiers and police and hurl insults right and left is not an act of liberty – it is not an act of bravery; quite the contrary…it is the act of a coward. It is to demand that other, rougher men protect you while you throw vile insults around. Man up – or manner up. Pick one.
I bring this up because the television show House of Cards has decided to get very insulting:
We’re barely into Lent, and Hollywood is already spitting on Jesus Christ on the crucifix. Netflix released the entire third season of the incredibly sleazy D.C. drama House of Cards on February 28, and in its fourth episode, as Kevin Spacey’s loathsome Frank Underwood character has schemed his way into the presidency, he wanders into a Catholic church.
The local bishop preaches to him as a friend that he’s supposed to love God and love his neighbor. Underwood proclaims that he understands the vengeful God he sees in the Old Testament, but doesn’t understand why Jesus would let someone kill him. Underwood asks for a moment alone to pray. Then he sidles up to the crucifix – just a few feet above his head – and mutters most cynically to God the Son.
“Love….that’s what you’re selling? Well, I don’t buy it!” Then he spits in the face of Christ…
This is free speech? This is an act of bravery? This is why men and women will sell their blood on a battlefield? I don’t think so. Now, the character spits in the face of a statue of Our Lord for one reason, only: spitting in the face of a depiction of Mohammed would get him killed. This is quite a lot of cowardice – cowardice in that the creators of the show are hiding behind the rougher men; cowardice in that the creators of the show only insult where it is safe to do so; cowardice in that if we Christians complain, the popular culture will condemn us for daring to be offended.
How much more of this are we Christians supposed to tolerate? Are there absolutely no limits? At least as far as we are concerned – because we know where the limit is: can’t do this with Muslims. I agree they shouldn’t do it with Muslims – but that is because I am trying, in my own weak way, to be a Christian gentleman; and such don’t offer insult. How much of a citizen of this Republic am I when my most deeply held beliefs can be held up to scorn? Do I not pay my taxes? Did I not serve for four years in our Navy? Did not my father and grandfather serve in war? Am I that much of a social nothing that you can do with me as you wish?
There are at least 100 million people in the United States who actually, sincerely believe as I do – that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. We are the backbone of this nation – we are the descendents of those who built this nation up from nothing. We have poured out our blood and treasure for this nation for more than 200 years – and I think we’re worthy of at least this much respect: don’t insult us. Dislike us all you want. Disagree with us till the cows come home. Be whatever you want to be – but don’t go out of your way to insult that which we hold dear. This is the common courtesy all human beings owe to each other.