Blasphemy (chr.)

 Citation link: Blasphemy (chr.)  

(Turk. Blasfemi/Kutsala Hakaret)

Blasphemy’ is a term that refers to the intentional degradation or even vituperation, undertaken with the intention of denigration, of God or His name, or of thoughts, words and objects that share in His holiness (e.g. Holy Scriptures, precepts of faith, rites, ritual objects, churches, sacraments). In the Judeo-Christian realm, blasphemy is particularly grave not least because it is viewed as a violation of the Second of the Ten Commandments (Ex 20.7: ‘You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain’; cf. also Dtn 5.11). The destructive potential of blasphemous acts is rooted primarily in the fact that a person who blasphemes not only arrogantly positions him- or herself higher than his or her religious fellows but over God Himself, thereby perverting the order of Creation. At its core, then, blasphemy is a negation of one’s own finitude. This also results in the massive social effect of blasphemy as an insult and injury to the religious feelings of the faithful. Particularly in the social context, though, a distinction must be made as to the actual intention behind a statement that is felt to be blasphemous. To begin with, marginalisation of a religion other than one’s own may owe to nothing more than an intention to underscore the special status and greatness of one’s own faith to fellow believers, without directly addressing adherents of other religions; in this sense, even the Old Testament contains references to the gods of other religions as ‘idols’ (e.g. Ps 135.15). Admittedly, in today’s age of global communication, one should definitively distance oneself from such forms of religious self-presentation, as their outward effects can be misleading and have fatal consequences. Particularly in the arts, blasphemous elements can provoke the religious individual to rethink the routine contents of his or her faith, or to recognise improper applications of religion as such. In this sense, blasphemy forms a borderline case of a legitimate criticism of religion. Impossible to justify are such forms of blasphemy that, right from the outset, serve no other purpose than to degrade people belonging to a faith tradition. In this case, the question arises as to how a believing Christian should respond to purely negative blasphemy of this sort. Taking Jesus as a model, who Himself was accused of blasphemy in connection with his self-understanding as Messiah (Mk 14.60-65), under no circumstances should blasphemous attacks be countered in kind; on the contrary, they should be met with love of one’s enemy (Mt 5.44). This is why, as was observed already in the Old Testament, any punishment of blasphemy falls to God alone.

Martin Thurner

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