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

Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University