National Catholic Register

Commentary

When We Are Cursed By Blasphemy

The Western mind can’t help but live in constant debt to the God of Israel.

BY Mark Shea

April 15-21, 2007 Issue | Posted 4/10/07 at 10:00 AM

 

The Western mind can’t help but live in constant debt to the God of Israel.

That’s why when Westerners blaspheme, it’s always the God of Israel they blaspheme and not Zeus, Quetzalcoatl or Athena. Western blasphemy relies almost wholly on ideas stolen from revelation. The Western blasphemer protests that God threatens his dignity as a person (a concept invented by Christian theologians).

The Western blasphemer feels the need to assert his individuality against the oppressive dictates of a non-existent sky god. Except that one of the “dictates” of the sky god is that the self is a good thing. It is Buddhism, not Christianity, which says the goal of life is to annihilate the self. The Western blasphemer wants to assert the glories of sex against the God who said “Be fruitful and multiply,” not against the Gnostic demiurge who says sex is evil.

This is not to say there is nothing sacred to your garden variety blasphemer. Our culture of blasphemy still has a few sacred things.

Racial equality is a sacred thing. That’s why people recognize you shouldn’t say the “N” word. The family retains some vestigial holiness, as do children. That’s why pedophilia and incest are still condemned. And the poor and homeless retain a certain sanctity, due to the lingering influence of the defender of the widow, the orphan and the stranger. That’s why we do not admire those who laugh at their plight.

But our culture does admire those who laugh at God. And the comedy (and tragedy) of this is that blasphemers actually imagine they commit an act of courage. Invariably, they posture as though Christians will string them up for their brave insults to God, or that the irritable Old Gentleman in the White Beard himself is going to finally lose his temper and start throwing thunderbolts.

That’s because, not knowing the first thing about who they blaspheme, they have no idea what they are talking about.

What such people don’t get is that blasphemy, like all sin, is its own punishment. Like all sin, it darkens the intellect, hardens the heart and further disorders the appetites. The result, as Jesus says, is that “From the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” In this case, it means a culture that blasphemes God is a culture that will soon sacrifice its other and lesser sanctities, as well.

That’s because a culture of blasphemy ultimately has no defenses that can ensure permanent values.

It will continue to “push the envelope” of transgression in more and ever more attempts to stab its deadened nerves back to life. It will laugh with relief because the Old Man on the Cloud turned out not to be so scary, and it will continue “transgressing” by committing more and more outrages against fresh “taboos.” If a culture despises the sacredness of him who is Beauty, Truth and Sacrificial Love, it will eventually despise the sacredness of racial equality, the weak and even taboos against incest and pedophilia.

Don’t believe it? The BBC just ran a gooey sympathetic piece on a brother and sister in Germany and their “forbidden love.” So incest is already on the table. NAMBLA (The North American Man/Boy Love Association) already is making pleas for civil recognition of pedophilia as a legitimate “sexual orientation.” (Who can forbid two people from loving each other? The ancient Greeks did it and saw it as a way of mentoring young boys. It just takes some getting used to, etc.) In the same vein, CBS’ “60 Minutes” pioneered snuff TV a few years ago by showing Jack Kevorkian offing a victim, and “24” has legitimated torture chic.

The day is coming when we will be watching live executions and gladiatorial combat on TV. It will be promoted as “daring” fare. Each fresh “transgressive” thrill will demand something a bit more tangy next time. It will go on till we repent and admit that God was never some hairy cartoon thunderer, but Christ crucified in the person of the poor homeless man who just got beheaded on “MTV: Arena” to the roar of a drunken crowd. For in the end, the food of blasphemy is bread and circuses.

Blasphemy, like all sin, cuts a culture off from love and delivers only cheap thrills that starve us. It makes the universe a colder, deader place.

The apotheosis of this is the loneliness and coldness of hell, which is not some place God “sends” us because he’s a vain popinjay ticked about affronts to his ego. It’s a place to which we exile ourselves because, despite God’s every attempt to love us (including taking three nails and a lance for us) we remained the pathetic sort of people who prefer to scrawl obscenities on the bathroom wall and congratulate ourselves for our transgressive “courage.”

Worship enlarges our souls. Blasphemy makes us utterly small.

Mark Shea is senior content editor

for CatholicExchange.com.