Blasphemy Then and Now

John Cleese, of the now-defunct comedy troupe Monty Python, recently announced his plans to adapt the group’s 1979 film Life of Brian for the stage. As it did at the time of its release, the movie—a send-up of the Gospels—is once again inviting the condemnation of the censorious, but for very different reasons. Carl Trueman writes:

[When it first came to theaters], Christians in the United Kingdom protested the movie’s overt mockery of Christianity. And it was undoubtedly blasphemous. But that was over 40 years ago. It is therefore both a little surprising and very instructive that the movie has been back in the headlines recently, again for blasphemy. Yes, it is still blasphemous. But this time the offending content speaks eloquently of the changes that have taken place in Western culture over the decades since the film’s release.

Some weeks ago, John Cleese . . . came under huge pressure from significant and influential members of the artistic community to omit a certain scene from the production, but refused to cut it. In the scene in question, a man named Stan claims to be a woman called Loretta and expresses the desire—and demands the right—to have a baby.

Opponents of blasphemy then and of blasphemy now share something in common: a concern to protect that which is sacred. But that is where the similarity begins and ends. Old-style blasphemy involved desecrating God because it was God who was sacred. Today’s blasphemy involves suggesting that man is not all-powerful, that he cannot create himself in any way he chooses, that he is subject to limits beyond his choice and beyond his control.

Ironically, John Cleese has now been indicted for blasphemy under both regimes. Regardless of where one stands on the merits of Life of Brian, his constant state of disfavor would perhaps suggest that he is actually an exceptionally competent comedian.

Read more at First Things

More about: Comedy, Film, Religion, Transsexuals

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy