About that Bible-and-Playboy photo illustration

August 25, 2011

This post by GetReligion editor Terry Mattingly is
a classic specimen of the genre: some great media criticism, with sprinkled
asides of conservative boilerplate. Before detailing his mixed reaction to
Ashley Fantz's article on evangelicals and pornography,
Mattingly offers this take on the article's controversial photo illustration, in which a man hides a
copy of Playboy in his Bible:

staged illustration didn't freak me out, truth be told, although I must admit
that I share many readers' doubts that CNN would have run the same photo with a
Playboy inside a Koran.

Of course they wouldn't,
but it's not the same thing. There's a difference between offending the
majority and offending the minority--power differentials matter. More
importantly, Muslim reverence for the physical artifact of the Qur'an is of a
whole different order than Christian reverence for the Bible. Replace CNN's
Bible image with a Qur'an and the implications are significantly changed--just
like the Danish cartoon controversy was a much bigger thing
than the (unintentionally?) ironic Jesus-With You Always drawings.

Of course, some Christians
revere the physical Bible more or differently than others. I found that the CNN image made me slightly uncomfortable, but
I can't articulate any real problem with it--and it certainly illustrates the
story effectively. What do you think?


It is distressing how often

It is distressing how often splitting hairs is considered a good defense of offensive behavior. The fact that Muslims are a minority in the West somehow creates this double-standard whereby their religious icons are more revered than the majority, Christian icons. While I am not offended by the picture, and in fact, I feel it is a good illustration of a very real issue in Christian leadership, I am appalled at the excuse-making for the behavior of Muslims over the depiction of Muhammed in the Danish cartoon. If Christians had acted in the same way to "Piss Christ" Mapplethorp's "art", I wonder if you would have felt differently? Would you use the same "power differentials" argument to justify the desecration of the holiest symbol of Catholicism because Catholics are Christians or would you point out the backlash was somehow connected to conservative Evangelicals like myself? I think you missed the bus on this one. The image isn't the issue.

Christians use the image of

Christians use the image of the cross liberally, spread it around the world, sell it for a dollar at a bookstore. Islam forbids the depiction of the Prophet. That's why it's apples and oranges. (My point about majority/minority and power differentials is a separate, and secondary, argument.)

Again, excusing the behavior

Again, excusing the behavior of religious fanatics seems to be against everything you believe in. When Christians behave badly you rightly point it out and call it what it is: lunacy. When Muslims behave badly you excuse the behavior behind a veil of religion. Any religious fanatic who behaves the way the radical Muslim population behaved after the caricatures of the Prophet were released should be condemned. There is no place for that type of behavior in our World.

>When Muslims behave badly

>When Muslims behave badly you excuse the behavior behind a veil of religion.

I do? Where? To the extent that I want to make a point about the Danish cartoons--which is quite a limited extent; it was just an aside--it's that the cartoons themselves were offensive, not that anyone is right to react violently or threateningly after being offended.