There’s been a controversy lately in florida that has shown once again that people who ignore real issues will get their knickers in a knot over the stupidest things.
Here’s what happened. A Florida Atlantic University professor was carrying out an exercise on the power of symbolism. He himself was a Christian and a sunday school teacher and his class was largely Christian. He asked his students to write “Jesus” on a slip of paper, think about it for a minute, then step on the paper. His intention was to demonstrate the incredible power of words and language as symbols and how those symbols effect our psychology. He had hoped that his students would meet an ethical dilemma, not wanting to disrespect Jesus the deity and those who believe in him by disrespecting a slip of paper. The professor was bringing to light a truly astonishing part of our society whereby symbols are endowed with the quality and respect of the people or ideas they represent.
One student refused to step on the paper and later threatened the teacher with violence for disrespecting his god. Evidently, he didn’t really get the point. And neither did the volumes of angry Christians who have been making racial slurs and death threats against him since the story went public. The professor has since been suspended.
Surely this is the height of stupidity. By now the pastor ripping pages out of the bible to emphatically show that it’s not the book itself but the message therein that one should worship has become cliché. Yet the professor who teaches the same lesson with a scrap of paper is demonized? There is no law in deuteronomy about papers with the lord’s name written on them. However, there is a law about graven images, false idols, and murder. But that doesn’t stop these crusaders who start writing violent emails at the first suggestion of insult towards their sect. It’s just another pathetic example of professional victimhood.
This whole story is disturbingly similar to the stunt pastor Terry Jones pulled a couple years ago. He was involved in a plan to burn a pile of Qu’rans at ground zero on the anniversary of 9/11. As you can imagine, not everyone in the Muslim world was happy about this. He too received death threats. What would these Florida christians have done if there was a genuine attack on their faith? What if a professor drew a moustache on a picture of the virgin Mary and ate a chocolate effigy of Jesus? Would they burn down a university the same way mobs of angry Muslims burned Danish embassies in 2005 after the publication of cartoons depicting Mohammed?
We have laws against murder and the thread of murder. In the USA and in Canada you are guaranteed the right to life. You do not, however, have the right to have your views respected. There is nothing in the American Constitution or the Canadian Bill of rights discouraging criticism, satire, and belittling of peoples beliefs. You do have the right to hold whatever view you want and to stay home if you don’t want to hear criticism. You do not have the right to silence those who disrespect your beliefs. That is the essence of a free country.
The people who threaten this professor should be put in jail and the professor should get a promotion. If his aim was to show the power of symbols, that was the greatest lecture of all time.
What do you think? Do these people have a right to fight against those who they perceive to be disrespecting their god?