I’m going to sponsor an art exhibit with various drawings, paintings and sculptures of Jesus in his brown shirt and swastika goose-stepping around Jerusalem! Are you incensed? Are you mentally composing a scathing comment? If you’re a Christian you probably are. But why? I’m just exercising my First Amendment right. Such is the argument of Pamela Geller and her hate-group, the American Freedom Defense Initiative regarding the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest held yesterday in Garland, Texas.
I understand people like Geller. Small-minded, hateful people like her have been around forever. She would have felt right at home with the likes of Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco. What I cannot understand is how the good people of Garland could allow and participate in such a racist event. Texans (in my opinion) are some of the kindest people in the world. So how could this happen? And why is anyone surprised that Geller’s act of ideological violence was met with physical violence?
Make no mistake. I do not condone the shooters actions. They were wrong. Just as wrong as the violent protestors in Baltimore and Ferguson. But Geller was wrong too. She hides behind the First Amendment yet I wonder if she’s ever bothered to read it. There’s an old saying, “The right to swing your arms ends at the tip of my nose.” We are not allowed to exercising our rights if doing so infringes on the rights of another person. Do I have the right to speak out? Yes. Do I have the right to falsely shout “FIRE!” in a crowded movie theater? No. So did Geller have the right to sponsor her hate event? Sure. But that doesn’t make it right. And while I think her actions were on a plain with the shouting “fire” analogy, our own court system seems unwilling to enforce common decency. When the New York Metropolitan Transit authority tried to stop Geller’s group from posting offensive propaganda on the sides of buses, the court ruled that she was protected under the First Amendment. But in the case of Garland, the people actively participated. They could have boycotted the exhibit, but they didn’t.
Just last night I posted an article suggesting that we (specifically Christians, but not exclusively) can do better. I was afraid it was a bit preachy. Well not anymore! Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative is about as American as the Tea Party is Republican. I’m reminded of a scene from the HBO series Newsroom where Will McAvoy, the main character, rants about the perversion of the GOP by right-wing extremists.
As McAvoy says that he would be considered a RINO – Republican in name only, though said the same about the Tea Party. Similarly I’d say that people who belch hate while proclaiming their devotion to Jesus are CINO’s. Christians in name only. As Mahatma Gandhi said,
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
Geller claims to be against global jihad and Islamic supremacists. I agree. But she labels every believer of Islam as a terrorist. Lest we forget, not every German during WWII was a Nazi. Not every person of Japanese ancestry was loyal to the emperor. Similarly, the 19 men who flew the plane on 9/11 were not Muslims, they were terrorists. Just like Timothy McVeigh wasn’t a Christian, he was a terrorist. Many, many Muslims have stated that they feel their religion has been high jacked and perverted. I feel the same way about Christianity and the GOP.