Trending: Persecution Thinking on the Rise

Chris Stevens and three other U.S. Embassy officials are dead. Murdered. Who did it? According to most journalists, a movie did it. I’ve watched a great many “Who Done It” movies, but I think this is the first time the movie “done it.” How can a movie kill?

In the twisted logic of news outlets from MSNBC to the New York Times, the violence was “sparked” by the film’s Christian Persecution Trendingproducers and by one of its infamous promoters, Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who once threatened to burn a Quran.  Several different headlines read, “Film on Muslim Prophet Sparks Protests” (see Reuters).

This kind of reporting is perverse, but popular.  It’s trendy.  It’s fashionable to place the blame for violence on those who supposedly incited it. (After all, they are usually more compliant criminals than those who threaten further killings when confronted).  As a Christian, I would say that this misguided effort of blaming the non-violent for the actions of the  violent is “trending.”  Consider these three examples:

In 2001, Harry Hammond, a street preacher in England, stood in protest of the homosexual and lesbian lifestyles at a pro-gay rally.  Basically, all he did was hold signs which read, “Jesus Gives Peace, Jesus is Alive, Stop Immorality, Stop Homosexuality, Stop Lesbianism, Jesus is Lord.”

Hammond was assaulted by a crowd of three dozen or more angry attendees.  He was also fined for inciting violence (even if it were against himself).  No one in the crowd who assaulted him was charged.  Hammond appealed, but died before his appeal was heard. He was again condemned after his death.

Muslim Murder Theo Van GoghIn 2004, another filmmaker was apparently guilty of inciting violence (against himself).  Theo Van Gogh made a short documentary detailing the stories of four women who claimed they were abused in Islam.  For his efforts, Van Gogh was murdered by a Muslim, who claimed to be representing all Muslims. The murderer left a note on Van Gogh’s body and had another note with him. The notes made clear that Van Gogh was not the final target: America, Europe, Holland, and others were. Still, many blamed Van Gogh for his “controversial” film.

Even in America, this nonsensical approach to violence has taken root. This past June (2012) in Dearborn, MI, a group of street preachers brought signs to a public festival celebrating Arab life.  For their protests, the street preachers were assaulted with bottles, cans, rocks, milk crates, and language that would have embarrassed Howard Stern.

The police threatened to arrest the preachers for inciting a riot.  Ultimately, the police made them leave the festival; then, on their way home, the police pulled them over for having too many people in their van. No one throwing rocks and bottles was addressed, even though there is clear video footage of many who were hurling projectiles toward the preachers and making threats against them.

The trend is toward criminalizing “hate speech,” blaming those who hold to “hateful” ideas for the violence that ensues, rather than holding violent people responsible for their crimes.  Right now, those “hateful” ideas include opposition to homosexuality, opposition to abortion, or concern about the violence of Islam.  In the future, other hateful ideas such as spanking your children or teaching them your Christian faith will likely “incite” riots and violence.

When it comes to the persecution of Christians this is a growing trend.  More and more, those Christians who remain steadfast in their moral beliefs are labeled as “hate” groups for what they believe—especially if they dare to utter such beliefs publicly.  This represents a complete corruption of the ideals established in the original USA, a place which allowed both freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

For now, we are struggling to understand how to frame these issues. I would suggest we all should at least be able to state what our Secretary of State said:

“The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.”

Beyond that, I wish we would learn to be more clear.  For example, when we hear the President of Egypt call for the prosecution of filmmakers in America, why not respond with, “How about we first worry about prosecuting the murderers who killed an American ambassador?” Or, when news media attempt to blame Terry Jones or Sam Bacile for Muslim rioting, why not alter a line from the NRA and say, “Movies don’t kill. Muslims kill.”

I understand that last line is a bit provocative, but the onus of peace is on Islam. If they cannot condemn violence and if they respond to free speech with threats of violence, then they will only further the perception people have of Islam—that it is a violent religion. When news reporters feign outrage at a movie maker yet do not charge Muslims with wrongful violence, they are making matters worse (and making themselves look foolish).

UPDATE: (There is now evidence that the attacks were planned around 9/11 and that the Embassy knew about them in advance, indicating that the violence was not outrage against movie clips.)

Feel free to express your own opinion politely.

Films Don’t Kill, Islamic Militants Kill

I will have a fuller article posted later (and maybe a podcast or video), but I felt the need to get this thought out: Films do not kill people.  Why must this be said? Because article after article makes it sound as though the Muhammad Film is responsible for protests, violence, and murder.

Whatever one thinks of the film (and it looks deplorable to me), the film has killed no one. The film will not and cannot kill anyone.  The violence Muslim Violence over Muhammad filmdoes not stem from the film.  The violence stems from Muslims who do not like the film.  They are offended by the film. They do not have the right to destroy property and commit murder based on that fact. Would anyone have considered it acceptable for Christians to riot and kill embassy officials in response to The Last Temptation of Christ? Instead, that movie got rave reviews and was nominated for an Oscar.  No Christian stormed an embassy. And no one would have approved if he had.

Why, then, is it quickly becoming an accepted meme that this Muhammad film has led to protests, violence, and murder? The film did not do that. Muslims did that. To put the blame on the film–and even on Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who threatened to burn a Koran–is to appease violent people out of fear of them. In other words, it is cowardice.

UPDATE (September 19, 2012)

According to this story, even the White House is now having to admit that the attacks in Libya had nothing to do with the movie trailer for Innocence of Muslims. It was  pre-planned attack using heavy artillery.  The U.S. policy apparently was to “minimize” our presence there so as not to incite violence.  Thus, our Ambassador is dead.  Clearly, the movie is not to blame. It’s incredible how error spreads like a prairie fire.

Update Two: According to the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, the film had absolutely nothing to do with the attacks in Libya.