Christine M. Flowers: Say what you want about Christians ... really, anything

Posted: September 21, 2012

WHEN ANDRES Serrano used $15,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts and dunked a crucifix in his own urine, some American taxpayers were understandably annoyed. After all, while the First Amendment allows you to do all sorts of crazy things, it doesn't entitle you to ask Uncle Sam to foot the bill for it. Of course, no one died when "Piss Christ" was put on display. The offended parties just sucked it up because, you know, that's what Christians are supposed to do. Ironically, some rowdy French Catholics ended up vandalizing the piece when it toured Avignon, and the art critics of the world were horrified at this assault on freedom of expressive bladders.

When Rudy Giuliani threatened to withhold city funding from the Brooklyn Museum of Art because it wanted to display an image of the Virgin Mary covered in feces, enlightened people like Mount Holyoke College art professor Michael Davis were outraged and accused Giuliani, a Catholic, of being artistically dense: "The mayor's reactions appear to be based on the narrow definition that art should only be beautiful and an equally narrow picture of a Virgin Mary who looks like Ingrid Bergman." The good professor missed the point that one does not need to have their virgins packaged by Hollywood in order to be disgusted by a Madonna covered in elephant dung.

When in-your-face AIDS activists stormed St. Patrick's Cathedral and threw condoms during the sacred solemnity of the Mass, all the while screeching obscenities, Catholics were urged to empathize with the anger of the afflicted assailants. When some of us dared to suggest that writing letters to the Vatican was a slightly more respectful way of dealing with the issue, we were told to shut up (right after we were told that we were bigots, right after we were told that we supported pedophiles, right after we were told that we hated women, gays and Liberace).

In fact, almost any time that there has been an attack on Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular, the offended groups have been intimidated into either silence or an acknowledgment that they deserve the criticism. There is this sense that urine-soaked crucifixes, fertilized Blessed Mothers and vandalized church services are the price you pay when your church is on the wrong side of history.

And I wouldn't actually have a problem with that if the progressives of the world, the ones who are so concerned with freedom of expression and the New Morality (or actually the "No Morality") were consistent in their attacks on religion. If I truly thought that we Catholics were just like the rest of the religious road kill on the highway to Secular Enlightenment, I'd chalk the whole thing up to bad taste.

But as we have seen in the past week or so, that's not the case. Catholics, and other Christians, are fair game in a society that hates organizations with well-defined rules. If, on the other hand, you offend Islam, you run the risk of being labeled, as I recently was, a "racist, bigoted and conservative See You Next Tuesday."

I have to admit that I haven't seen the video that caused the uproar last week that, at least partially, prompted the killings and chaos in North Africa. I have no idea if Mohammed was swimming in urine or covered in feces, but I'm told it was a very offensive depiction of the prophet. I sympathize with those who were angry over the unjustified attack on a man who, follow him or not, represents one of the great religious figures of the last 13 centuries.

Hillary Clinton sympathized too. And how. She repeated some version of this same statement on numerous occasions in the days after the violence in North Africa: "The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the origins of our nation."

That's certainly a nice thought. But rather incomplete, truth be told.

I've searched the Internet for instances in which Clinton has made similar apologies to Christians in Muslim-majority countries whose churches were burned down, whose women were raped, whose parishioners were killed.

Nada. I did come up with this from a recent speech on women's rights: "It doesn't matter what country [extremists are] in or what religion they claim. They want to control women. They want to control how we dress, they want to control how we act, they even want to control the decisions we make about our own health and bodies."

It could be coincidental, but this came out around the time that Catholic opposition to subsidized birth control was in the news. Call me paranoid, but it seems as if Madame Secretary were conflating Catholics with the Taliban.

Don't worry, though. I'm not armed.


Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer. Email: cflowers1961@gmail.com. Blog: philly.com/flowers.

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