I'm sure you've been struck by this week's headline about Gillian Gibbons, the British woman in Sudan who was tried and convicted for naming her teddy bear "Muhammed." (see the latest report at http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1689769,00.html) Surely, we can acknowledge, this was a culturally insensitive (and certainly politically-incorrect) thing to do on her part, particularly by an ex-pat schoolteacher who ought to be aware of such religious repercussions in a strict Muslim country. However, doesn't it strike you as terribly unreasonable, to say the least, to spend that kind of legal and political energy arresting, trying, convicting, and punishing a foreign national for this kind of offense--and incurring the international ire of media and others?
But even more so, doesn't this Islamist impulse expose a characterological flaw in this kind of religious devotion? What kind of god needs us to defend against such religious peccadilloes? Certainly not a very big god, I'd say. It made me wonder if a distinct mark of fundamentalism is its humorlessness--and, paradoxically, such an ardent devotion that counterintuitively exposes its relatively weak deity. Pity us human beings when our gods need us to defend them!
And lest we Christians smirk or point our fingers, haven't we done similar things in our history--and most recently in light of popular culture that offends our religious sensibilities? Dan Brown and his DaVinci Code, Martin Scorcese and his Last Temptation of Christ--we've been there and done that, haven't we?
The challenge for us is to trust in our Big God, a God who is so sovereign and so majestic and so mighty and so gracious and so loving that he allowed himself to be ridiculed, rejected, humiliated, blasphemed, stripped, exposed, beaten and trampled upon by religious hypocrites and defiant pagans. This God willingly became vulnerable to human beings who spurned him. He was that strong and that secure. This God doesn't need us to defend him, believe me.