Would you rather be a racist or a blasphemer?

The sins we get worked up about, and the sins we minimize, say a lot about us. Two incidents brought that home to me this week.

First, Riley Cooper, a Philadelphia Eagles football player, was captured on a video shouting a racial slur at a country music concert. The concert was in June, but the video only went public last week. Immediately, and rightly, the Eagles, the NFL, and many individuals spoke against such language. To his credit, Cooper made a public and full apology (unlike many ‘I’m sorry if you were offended’ apologies).

What I find particularly striking is the reaction of teammates. Some have said they forgive him, others have remained silent, but some have questioned whether they could ever trust him again, or have spoken of losing a friend. One player said he was “sickened” and “couldn’t forgive him.”

Second, we were reading a children’s Bible as a family this week, and the reading for that night was Jesus’ trial. The story bible told how the leaders accused Jesus of blasphemy. It dawned on me that my kids might not know that word. So we stopped and explained that blasphemy means to lie about God, to say something that speaks poorly of him, or to claim something about him that’s not true. In this case, they accuse Jesus of blasphemy because he’s claiming to be God’s special, chosen one, and they don’t think that’s true.

The kids wanted to know if blasphemy is something that people do today. We told them yes, people do blaspheme today, and say things that aren’t true about God. We asked them if they could think of examples. Together, we came up with maybe that God doesn’t care, or that he’s not in control of what happens.

Those are blasphemous claims. I’m not talking about people having doubts or questions. Instead I mean when someone makes the definite claim, states it as fact, that God doesn’t love people, or that he’s ineffectual and not in control. That’s a lie about who God is. It’s blasphemy.

And yet people make those claims all the time without significant repercussion. We don’t just forgive them; we never even realize they’ve done something that should need forgiving. Let me be clear: I think free speech is the right way to guard the truth in our culture, and I’m not advocating blasphemy be a crime. But isn’t it striking the reaction to Riley Cooper’s racist taunt versus the crickets chirping when someone blasphemes? Both are wrong, it’s just that we don’t have eyes to see the latter nearly so well. And yet which strikes more at the heart of reality?

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