War on media blasphemy
Five years ago, shortly after discussing in a column the growing tendency for all manner of media to tolerate blasphemy, I was visited by two stalwart Knights of Da Gama from the East Rand. They told me that they had made it their mission in life to crusade against profanity and sacrilege in the media, particularly with regard to taking the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ in vain.
So I was delighted to see on a visit to my former parish in Rivonia, Johannesburg, that the Knights of Da Gama have started distributing a “bumper sticker” for cars reading: “THERE IS NO LICENCE FOR THE MISUSE OF GOD’S NAME”.
In my joy at seeing such tangible evidence of their initiative, I started thinking about how to keep the pressure up on those who so glibly take the name of Our Lord in vain.
So, I invite every reader of this column — yes, all three of you — to put your thinking caps on and come up with some more ideas for bumper stickers. For example, not being as polite as the worthy Knights of Da Gama, I came up with this for the back bumper of my car: “HOW WOULD YOU FEEL IF I USED YOUR FATHER’S NAME AS A SWEAR WORD?”
So, let’s hear your ideas. There won’t be any material prizes for the best entries, but I am sure that no-one will deny that if the fruits of your creative writing labours can result in just one person to stop blaspheming, then it will be hugely worthwhile.
While newspapers and radio stations in this country seem to be conscious of not wanting to upset readers and listeners, television channels and cinemas don’t seem to give two hoots. Indeed, they argue, as do book publishers, that using Jesus Christ as an expletive or demonstration of annoyance, anger, frustration and fear, has become “acceptable”. That is not only dismissive, insensitive and insulting, but also extremely arrogant and uncaring.
All of them agree, however, that they are very careful not to allow anything that would upset Jews and Muslims; which suggests that if Christians got as angry and worked up as Jews and Muslims when their faith is besmirched, a lot of people would suddenly start taking notice.
Every second movie, TV sitcom, drama or stage production these days has some gratuitous blasphemy. And of the 25 novels I have taken out of the local library in the past two months, every single one of them made some use of gratuitous blasphemy.
Does one encourage the good Knights to start pursuing a harder and perhaps more confrontational line with offenders? Or should we all be taking our Christian ethic literally and simply turning the other cheek?
Personally, I believe we Christians cannot simply sit back and do nothing. This is not to say, though, that we should resort to violence, or start declaring holy wars on the world’s media. Given that television stations and cinemas could not be bothered to listen to any sort of reason, perhaps we should look at hurting their pockets.
For a start, I believe every one of us should talk to any company directors we know and persuade them to get their advertising people to ask cinemas and TV stations to assure them that there will be no blasphemy in any programme or feature film during which their advertising will be shown.
Nothing, but nothing, gets the attention of cinema owners and TV stations more quickly than advertisers withholding or diverting advertising.
Something else that might be effective would be a website on which Christians could post movies, TV programmes and book titles that take the name of Our Lord in vain.
We might hope that should this grow beyond South Africa’s borders, and if even just a few of the world’s 1,2 billion Catholics and millions more Christians start getting involved in the simple procedure of writing a letter, sending an SMS or logging on to a website; then movie and TV producers as well as book publishers would quickly come to realise that a growing and formidable boycott of their products was taking place.
Maybe I’m being a little too optimistic, because Christians have a history of apathy. But whatever course of action is decided, it will not be effective unless it has the backing and support of the Church hierarchy.
Countering this scourge should be given urgent attention by every Catholic and Christian. Because it is getting completely out of hand.