Catholic New Zealanders show how to deal with blasphemous “art”

A disgusting Anglican parish in Wellington, New Zealand erected a “thought-provoking” (i.e. sick, anti-Christian, and blasphemous) painting of the Virgin Mary, and a group of Catholic traditionalists destroyed it with scissors. Good for them. This, by the way, is what should have been done with the elephant dung-covered Mary by “British” artist Chris Offili that was displayed in the Brooklyn Museum in 1999.


If you don’t understand right away what the picture is showing, Mary is holding a test kit which tells her that she is pregnant. See? Mary isn’t so special. She’s just like us, just like liberated contemporary women, sleeping around and getting pregnant. And isn’t that what liberal society is about—that we are the standard for everything, that there can be nothing better than ourselves, not saints, not God?

The story is from the Telegraph:

Controversial Virgin Mary billboard destroyed by protester

A scissor-wielding protester has destroyed a controversial billboard of the Virgin Mary, just days after it went up outside a New Zealand church.
Virgin Mary billboard sparks outrage in New Zealand.
19 Dec 2011

Hours after the attack, 100 or so Roman Catholics gathered to pray in the rain in front of the ruined billboard, which had shown Mary gasping in shock as she examined a pregnancy testing kit.

The billboard outside the Anglican church of St Matthew’s in the City, in central Auckland, New Zealand, had drawn thousands of angry comments as well as messages of support from around the world.

Arthur Skinner, a member of an organisation calling itself the Catholic Action Group, who described the Renaissance-style picture as “satanic”, was photographed attacking it.

“Yes, it is vandalism,” Mr Skinner proclaimed proudly outside the church.

“I’m guilty. If they want to arrest me, be my guest.

“If it comes to that, I believe in being persecuted for my faith.”

He told the crowd of worshippers: “We are traditional Catholics.

“We don’t look for trouble, but watch out if you start this sort of thing.”

Mr Skinner said those responsible for the poster, which was created by an advertising agency, would “certainly burn in hell” if they did not repent.

Many of the people who knelt on a wet pavement under umbrellas to pray and say the “Hail Mary” rosary condemned the poster as blasphemous.

The Rev Glynn Cardy, vicar of St Matthew’s, who had earlier described the poster as “thought provoking”, told reporters: “I’m disappointed that there is not more tolerance of different views.

“They obviously feel strongly about it.

“I’m just disappointed that strength of feeling has led to vandalism.”

He said St Matthew’s would “need to think about” whether to replace the poster.

Two years ago a billboard outside the same church depicting Joseph and Mary in bed after sex had to be taken down after it was attacked several times by outraged Christians.

- end of initial entry -

December 21

Bruno Lauda writes:

I’m surprised by the fact that you cherished what can only be considered an act of barbarism. Christians criticizing works of art because they hold them to be blasphemous is nothing new, and is actually acceptable and even reasonable; although I, for my part, considered it to be quite funny, actually, blasphemy be damned. It is not more offensive than the Python’s movie “Life of Brian”, for instance.

It may be the case that we are fast approaching an era of barbarism and of civilizational decay. The Christians, as far as I can see, were never immune to it. But I didn’t expected them to be heralds of decadence, like they were back in the last days of the Roman Empire, when they destroyed great works that criticized or mocked their religion, such as Celsus’s. I believed they had learned their lesson. They didn’t. But to see you, a cultured man, praising barbarism … now, that’s something that is really disturbing to me. How far have we fallen!

LA replies:

First you compare this blasphemous image, which was erected, not by movie comedians, but by a liberal Anglican church with the deliberate aim of subverting and debasing Christianity, to “The Life of Brian,” your point being that the painting/billboard was simply a joke and therefore not worth responding to. Then you turn around and compare the blasphemous painting to “great works” which only a barbarian would destroy.

So you don’t know what your position is, except that you are sure that people who properly take action against intolerable things are morally backward.

Laura Wood replies to Bruno Lauda:

A work of art? It wasn’t a work of art. It was a billboard on a street, making it a form of advertising.

Thomas Bertonneau writes:

Bruno Lauda, addressing the forthright response by New Zealand Catholics to a bigoted, irreligious, inciting slander on the Mother of Christ, accuses ancient Christians of savagery, describing the New Zealand Catholic group as “heralds of decadence, like they were back in the last days of the Roman Empire, when they destroyed great works that criticized or mocked their religion, such as Celsus’s.”

I shall pass over the bad grammar and syntax of Lauda’s iteration. I wish to correct an egregious factual error. Christians did not destroy the work of Celsus, a Platonizing second-century skeptic of Christianity. We possess the full treatise True Doctrine by Celsus today because a Christian, Origen, quoted it at length in his own response. Far from “destroying” Celsus, a Christian preserved him. And incidentally, Origen never “mocked” Celsus. He responded to Celsus seriously and respectfully because he too was a Platonist, as was Augustine 150 years later. Many years ago, in case anyone might be interested, I wrote about Celsus at Anthropoetics, the online journal of Generative Anthropology and Related Disciplines, in an article entitled Celsus, the First Nietzsche. The ignorance of the modern anti-Christians is all at once astonishing and saddening. Even Celsus would criticize the shoddiness of Lauda’s careless remarks.

December 23

Pentheus writes:

Not long ago I saw on EWTN an old, black-and-white movie of the Life of St. Ignatius Loyola. You can be sure this is a traditionalist Catholic movie, and portrays favorably the saint’s militant faith.

There is a scene in which St. Ignatius is traveling on the road across the barrens of Spain and happens to meet a Moor (Muslim) going the opposite direction. They exchange theologically sincere insults, the Moor on his part denigrating somewhat the Virgin Mary, pointing up her human femaleness by way of condemning as polytheistic blasphemy the Catholic belief in her divinity. At this St. Ignatius is enraged and reaches for his sword, vowing his intent to slay the Moor in defense of Our Lady’s honor. Fortunately St. Ignatius’ companion interposes gently to restrain him, and they continue on their way to the saint’s great destiny. [LA replies: Killing a man is not the same as destroying a poster.]

In that light let us consider what we should think about this current incident. Despite that I would not disagree with anything you would say against the billboard, as to the self-help violent response this is not how believing Catholics/Christians should deal with blasphemous “art.”

As you know, according to the “single standard” (i.e., not a “double standard”) and PC equality dogma, these Catholics’ actions play perfectly their role of providing left-liberalism with an example of “Christian intolerance” with which further to attack Christianity and make false equivalence with Islam/Muslims. A single, isolated act of “Catholic violence/intolerance” equals all of Islamic violence/intolerance—indistinguishable—in the war for the public mind. (Whereas, 9/11 equals “some planes flew into some buildings and 3000 people lost their lives.”)

This billboard is like a mousetrap into which these protesters hastened thoughtlessly. They are of their own volition completing the set-up for this propaganda exercise. This brute response is in no way helpful, and is rather in every way detrimental, to all of us who in any way share or sympathize with their views. It is also something of a confession of intellectual impotence, like Billy Budd.

The proper and non-counter-productive response must be with effective argument, activism—and their own art. Where is the learned and articulate Catholic spokesman who can turn public opinion against the blasphemers instead of stupidly enacting his scripted role in the blasphemers’ propaganda play? (“God forbid there should be no bourgeois to epater.”)

[This was initially submitted as a longer comment with more argument and examples here, but at the host’s request I have much shortened this by omitting all that part.]

Anyway, in short, I urge that no one should follow the example of these NZ Catholic traditionalists. It is “wrestling in the mud with a pig, and the pig likes it.” Worst of all, the self-damage to your/our side from such acts by those of our side is exponential. I repeat: I am on their side but disapprove strongly this action.

LA replies:

The arguments made by Pentheus have been made by previous commenters and have been answered. But one point is worth repeating. Pentheus is saying that the liberal script must be conservatives’ guide. Conservatives must avoid taking action against liberalism, because such action will validate the liberal narrative about crude, bigoted conservatives. But of course the liberal narrative about crude, bigoted conservatives goes on, whether conservatives act in a crude, bigoted way or not. If we remain passive in the face of liberal outrages, we will be called bigots, and we take action against liberal outrages, we will be called bigots. For the same price, we can take action. In my view, conservatives only have a chance of winning if they explicitly challenge and disregard liberal premises and establish their own.

Daniel O. from the Netherlands writes:

I agree with your position. Liberals will always find examples of “Christian intolerance” to legitimize and strengthen their attacks on Christianity and conservatives in general. They seek and they will find. Here in the Netherlands, where Christians are extremely pacifist and leftist, liberals keep finding new examples of Christian intolerance. If a Christian preacher says you should not treat your children “too harshly,” then the Dutch liberal media still write that he calls for “beating” children (since not too harshly can still mean beating lightly). Moreover, even if the “intolerant” persons are not Christians, liberals will find a way to blame it on “the Christians,” for instance because they go to a nominally, but not substantively, Christian school.

It really does not matter what Christians do or how liberal they are, since they will always be condemned. Hence, Christians must just do what is right according to Christian teachings.

There is, by the way, another aspect of liberalism that needs careful clarification in this regard. In liberal society, it is allowed (for liberals) to provoke reactions, but it is not allowed (for Christians) to react to the provocations. This is an impossible position, because you have to be a human blockhead not to react naturally to natural external impulses. In liberal society, liberals can express all their primordial impulses, but conservatives must constantly suppress their instincts —even if these are their ideas on justice and morality. It is as if someone kicks you in the groin, which then results in a spinal reflex and you getting angry, but the most natural reaction—hitting the attacker—is prohibited. What does that do to one’s psyche?

To Christians, their instinct must be that of Mark 3:29, and their responses ought to be suitable to the gravity of the wrong.

Thus, I think it is allowed for Christians to react to provocations (such as those awful attacks on God), of course as long as it is in accordance with Christian morality. “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is also a rule on proportionality; you ought not to take an eye (very important) for a tooth (much less important). Ending the existence of a provocative poster is fully in proportion to “creating” such a poster; while beating up or killing the “artist” (which is what a Muslim could do in the same situation) is not.

LA replies:

Mark 3:29 says:

But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.

Apparently what Daniel means is that vilely anti-Christian liberals are blaspheming against the Holy Spirit, and therefore Christians don’t have to be gentle and forgiving in their responses to them.

Bruno Lauda writes:

This is my reply to Mr. Bertonneau’s critique.

First of all, I apologize for my bad syntax. English is not my first language (not even, actually, my second), and it is, as they say, a very easy language to learn, and a hard one to master.

That said, concerning Celsus, I believe you overlooked the fact that the only reason Origen preserved some key parts of Celsus’ works (and not all of them) was that he tried to refute them, therefore he had to quote them. But, for the most part, Celsus’ works are lost, having been destroyed by the Christians.

Now, moving on. Sure, it may have been the case that the painting was displayed in a billboard, and sponsored by a church. But that is irrelevant: those Christians broke the law, and acted like uncivilized persons by destroying it. What is the difference, really, between what they did and Theo Van Gogh’s murder, besides the severity of each crime? Both were nothing but crimes perpetrated by intolerant people unsatisfied by the lawful and legal opinions displayed by other people.

LA replies:

“What is the difference, really, between what they did and Theo Van Gogh’s murder, besides the severity of each crime?”

This is like saying: “What is the difference between civil disobedience and murder, beside the severity of each crime?”

The difference between using a scissors to deface a disgusting poster which was created for no other reason than to denigrate Christianity and demoralize Christians, and stabbing a man to death, is so great, that obviously the relative severity of the two acts is the entire issue, isn’t it?

I detect the common fallacy—common among some Catholics, and also among some liberals—of being unable to discern the relative badness of different bad acts. Thus Pope John Paul II held that to keep illegal immigrants from entering your country is of the same quality of badness as aborting a fetus. Both were crimes against the “Culture of Life.” In the same way, Mr. Lauda holds that all violations of the law, all violations of person or property regardless of their nature and severity, have the same ontological status as violations of the law and must be equally avoided. Obviously I reject this way of thinking.

Robert B. writes:

Of course you are right. Pentheus is wrong. To know he is wrong all one has to do is see how liberals treat Moslems—who tolerate no such treatment where their religion is concerned. In fact, liberalism’s great march forward is a direct result of playing “patty cake” with them in the first place. Had those of us on the right, in the past, responded as our ancestors 100 or 200 years ago would have, there would be no liberal movement today. Furthermore, it was precisely the passive response by those on the right, and practicing Christians in particular, that gave credence to the maligning assertions of those on the left. Because there was not an aggressive response, the young and the weak minded—which have shown themselves to be more impressed with a response made from strength, were enticed into the left’s fold. Which is to say, no one sides with a weakling, but people do instinctively side with the strong. I say “more power to them” to those stalwart Catholics in New Zealand,. The Pope could take a lesson or two there.

Merry Christmas, Lawrence. God Be With You.

LA replies:

Thank you. Merry Christmas to you.

Thomas Bertonneau replies to Bruno Lauda:
Yes, but in “refuting” Christianity, Celsus never once actually quoted the Gospel. If we were dependent on Celsus for our knowledge of the Gospel, our knowledge of the Gospel would be nothing. Christians generally took Paganism more seriously than Paganism took Christianity; Christians generally treated Paganism more respectfully than Paganism treated Christianity. The reason modern people have acquaintance with Paganism, the Greco-Roman tradition, is that Christian intellectuals respected Paganism and stood curatorship over it, passing it along through the troubled fifth, sixth, and seventh centuries to the Middle Ages and modernity.

A remarkable work of the fourth century is How Christian Gentleman Might Profit from the Study of Pagan Letters by Saint Basil of Caesarea. In one memorable passage, Basil considers the episode in Homer where Odysseus presents himself to Nausicaa, princess of Phaeacia. Odysseus, as Basil concludes, was a Christian gentleman before the fact, a paradigm of the phenomenon, whom all serious and civilized people ought to study and imitate.

Lauda wrote that Christians destroyed the work of Celsus. Quotation is entirely different from destruction; quotation is preservation. Christians also preserved the anti-Christian essays of the Emperor Julian. Augustine said that the dialogues of Plato were a portion of revelation. God Almighty, Christians preserved whatever is preserved of Classical literature!

Thomas Bertonneau continues:

I didn’t realize that English is a second language for Mr. Lauda. I retract my intemperate remarks about his command of the language, and I apologize for them. On the matter of the Christian preservation of Pagan culture, I remain adamant. The facts are on my side of the argument.

December 24

Roland D. writes:

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.—Matthew 10:34

LA replies:

So, how do you reconcile that with “blessed are the peacemakers,” “turn the other cheek,” etc.?

Roland replies:

I see no contradiction. Mercy and generosity are always the ideal; but we do not live in an ideal world, else there would have been no need for Christ’s sacrifice in the first place. We must always strive for patience and tolerance (in the original sense of the word), but we are not enjoined to be stupid about it.

LA replies:

But that would mean that Jesus is telling his disciples to engage in violence in an imperfect world, that he’s telling them to be peaceful and non-violent when that’s possible, but to be prepared for violence—the sword, the literal sword—when it’s not. That can’t be correct. Jesus does not speak about how society should organize and preserve itself. That’s not his concern. He simply takes the existence of society for granted, and teaches the Kingdom of God. The existence of human groups and the measures they must use to defend and preserve themselves are not discussed in the Gospels, though they are dealt with by the Church Fathers and other authoritative Christian writers. Yes, the disciples themselves carried swords, as we know from the scene of Jesus’ arrest. But that was a practical matter of self-defense. It was not part of the teaching of the kingdom.

So the sword of which Jesus speaks must be a spiritual sword. This then requires that his contradictory-seeming sayings, about a sword and about being peacemakers, be interpreted. In certain situations, a sword is called for, say, to separate ourselves from error and sin. In other situations, we are called on not to resist evil. I do not believe that he is speaking of the evil of violent men. He is speaking of the “evil” in those with whom we have personal dealings, for example, that we should not react against their hurtful or selfish behavior. But when these different approaches are called for and necessary, is a matter of judgment and wisdom. It’s not in any book. It would require a living teacher to lay it out for us, just as Jesus was to his disciples.

Art F. writes:

I don’t know if someone pointed this out, but the painting of the Blessed Virgin gazing at the early pregnancy test is not only blasphemous but also a lie.

It suggests she was surprised on learning she was pregnant. She wasn’t. She knew she was to bear the Christ child, as Scripture clearly teaches us. What surprised her was the visit from the Angel. [LA replies: Of course, I think all this goes without saying. I think you’re missing the point that the poster is not a portrayal of the Gospel, and is not presenting itself as one, but is a new version of the Gospel, replacing the old, and thus suitable for modern society. ]

Apropos of Laura Wood, who observed that this is not art, but an advertisement, I would add that liberals always define their blasphemy and other ridiculous acts as “art” (pornography) or speech (burning the flag). That’s how they get away with it.

Thanks and have a blessed Christmas.

Michael S. writes:

Here is one point that has not been proposed: Namely, that the painting is simply stupid. It shows Mary as “shocked” to “discover” that she is pregnant. Hello? The account of the Annunciation in Luke chapter 1 is quite clear. The Angel Gabriel tells Mary that she will conceive in her womb and bear a son. She wonders how this will happen, since she has no relations with a man. Gabriel tells her that the Holy Spirit will come upon her, and the power of the Most High will overshadow her.

Since Mary has “no relations with a man,” what possible reason could she have for taking a pregnancy test? [LA replies: Like Art A., you’re missing the point that the painting is not an account of the Gospel of Luke but a deliberate perversion of it.] Of course, such things did not exist in those days. The point is that Mary had no reason to be shocked to discover that she was pregnant. The angel told her that she would conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s the whole message of the Annunciation. Indeed, her faithful acceptance of the angel’s news is in contrast to the incredulity of Zechariah earlier in the chapter.

The painting is stupid. The Anglican pastor is stupid. (The whole idea of an “Anglican pastor” is stupid, but that’s not the immediate issue.) And anyone who is scandalized by this needs to get a clue. And the clues are in black and white, in Luke chapter 1.

LA replies:

Your last point is ambiguous: “And anyone who is scandalized by this needs to get a clue” seems to mean that anyone scandalized by the poster is clueless, because the poster is merely stupid and not worth reacting against. Or are you saying that anyone scandalized by the activists who destroyed the poster is clueless?

(If I may express my Inner English Teacher, the lesson is, avoid pronouns, such as “this,” that lack a clear and unambiguous antecedent.)

Michael S. replies:

You are certainly right about avoiding ambiguous pronouns. Mea culpa on that one.

I meant the first possibility. It is a stupid poster (and not merely stupid, but evil—evil AND stupid). It is stupid to those who should know who Mary is. It is evil, insofar as those who do not know Mary, and do not know Christ (the whole point of Mary is for us to know Christ) might be kept from Christ. So my point is that those who should know the Scriptures, and should know who Mary is, should not claim this as a reason for claiming that “to believe in Christ is unreasonable.”

This picture mis-represents Mary. The “pastor” should know better. Well-catechized Christians will know better. Poorly-catechized Christians may be at risk. And it does no service to those who don’t know Christ at all.

Bill Carpenter writes:

Traditionalists need to guard against accepting the liberal view of free expression, which is constantly used against them. Liberals champion free expression that undermines traditional elements of society, but seek to punish and censor expression that would preserve them or that challenges the liberal dystopia. We know that and certainly should not bore ourselves and others by lamenting the double standard.

More important is to recognize that our liberties were conceived against a background of cultural unity and social restraint. Liberty of expression, like other liberties, is only possible where there is enough agreement underlying disagreement for people to be willing to live with the disagreement. When the underlying agreement has withered, so has the basis for tolerating disagreement, which means the basis of liberty has also withered.

As with criminal violence, a community has the right to protect itself against outrageous assaults on the spiritual foundations of the community. In a Christian society, blasphemy is to be punished because it is harmful to the community and to individuals. Where government has abdicated its delegated responsibilities, the people are the enforcers of the community’s rights. So they can tear down blasphemous posters.

Western societies are Christian societies. Atheists are a despised minority who should keep their heads down. They can be tolerated as long as they don’t stir up trouble. After the religious wars, the different Christian sects decided it was better to live together and entered into a treaty of tolerance. Jews have been included in the treaty. But the treaty rests on underlying agreement, which, if it ceases to exist, no longer provides a basis for a treaty of tolerance. Atheists think it’s their treaty. They couldn’t be more mistaken.

I side with the scissors. There will certainly be some disorder as good people assert good order against the evil order under which we live. If the law will not let people ban pornography, for example, the people may have resort to their scissors.

LA replies:

That’s very important comment by Mr. Carpenter.

I wanted to sum up his point in two sentences, but was unable to for the moment.

LA continues:

The closest I can come is to quote Bill Carpenter’s second paragraph:

More important is to recognize that our liberties were conceived against a background of cultural unity and social restraint. Liberty of expression, like other liberties, is only possible where there is enough agreement underlying disagreement for people to be willing to live with the disagreement. When the underlying agreement has withered, so has the basis for tolerating disagreement, which means the basis of liberty has also withered.

This relates to my long time position (first stated in my 2002 article “Liberalism: The Real Cause of Today’s Anti-Semitism”) that “liberalism, if it is not to destroy itself, needs to operate within a cultural and moral system that is not itself liberal.” The good elements of liberalism, such as a certain degree of tolerance, are possible only within a larger, non-liberal cultural order. Meaning, prior to liberal rights, there must be a substantive community which is defined not by liberal rights but by an actual culture, actual shared habits and ways of living, actual moral/religious precepts, and so on. Such a community can tolerate things that differ from the main consensus, but not by so much that they threaten the main consensus. Once things are allowed that do threaten the main consensus, such as “outrageous assaults on the spiritual foundations of the community,” in Mr. Carpenter’s words, the basis for tolerance has broken down.

If a liberal system is to survive, and neither turn into a PC tyranny on one side nor break down into sectarian/ethnic warfare on the other, it must not disregard the implicit or explicit traditionalist character of the society in which the liberal system exists.

James N. writes:

Not to belabor the point, but this pastor, Reverend Glynn Cardy, said an extraordinarily stupid thing about his billboard: “I’m disappointed that there is not more tolerance of different views,” after earlier describing the billboard as “thought provoking.”

What “different views” does “Reverend” Cardy suppose are expressed in this image? What “thoughts” does this image “provoke”? Can he articulate them? Once articulated, can he defend them, as views which SHOULD be tolerated? Or should all views be tolerated?

The pastor’s remarks illustrate an important fact about “tolerance”—that it has taken on a life of its own, no longer moored to an appreciation of the thing or things to be tolerated.

LA writes:

Laura Wood has posted Pentheus’ comment against the destruction of the poster and said she agrees with him, but without giving her own reasons. But then she says that she is in sympathy with the person who destroyed it. So she seems ambivalent on the issue.

December 28

Bob A. writes (December 24):

Regarding the defacement of the billboard of Our Blessed Virgin Mary. It would seem to me that we’ve managed to over-intellectualize, to engage in excessive philosophical speculation or abstract thinking detached from our God given humanity. Such inclinations, though always a temptation, were advanced by the Enlightenment as the only legitimate philosophical pursuit. But, reason cannot be detached from its essential complementary and supportive instincts or feelings. And these instincts and feelings, in order to be reliable, must be forged on the anvil of Christian revelation and experience.

Just as man cannot fruitfully and fully function as a human deracinated from his family, ethnic group and racial group, so too is it impossible for the human intellect to operate in a vacuum divorced from Christian revelation which shapes our sensibilities, our instincts and feelings as civilized Christian men.

Do you think for one second men such as Martel, Sobieski, Charlemagne, El Cid or King Hunyadi would have agonized over such trivialities as the appropriate reaction to such blasphemy? And neither should we.

The time is fast approaching where such luxuries as pointless philosophical speculation and abstract thinking, which serve no useful purpose other than hamstringing our efforts at survival, can no longer be afforded. We will soon be called to react as Christian warriors instead of pacifist idle speculators in protecting our civilization. These sorts of exercises are worse than useless. Christian men of old would not have tolerated such an affront and neither should we.

While I personally might not have the courage to defy the “law” and destroy the billboard I am certainly not going to undermine the efforts of those Christian men braver than I.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 20, 2011 03:58 PM | Send

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