The choice of September 30 looks back to that date in the year 2005, when the publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad's face sparked outcry and protests in the Muslim world and threats toward the West.
Now, as Religion News Service reports, the Center for Inquiry is planning a day of observances to mark the occasion. Ron Lindsay, a lawyer who serves as president of the Council for Inquiry International, said that the day was part of the group's effort to expose religious beliefs to investigation. In the words of the RNS report, the goal is "to expose all religious beliefs to the same level of inquiry, discussion and criticism to which other areas of intellectual interest are subjected."
Here is one feature of the day as planned by CFI:
You've never seen Jesus like this before: dripping red nail polish around the nails in his feet and hands, an irreverent riff on the crucifixion wounds. The provocative title of the painting: "Jesus Does His Nails." Blasphemous? Absolutely. Deliberately provocative? You bet.
Artist Dana Ellyn told RNS that she is an "agnostic atheist" whose purpose is to be provocative. "My point is not to offend, but I realize it can offend, because religion is such a polarizing topic," she said.
Among other things, CFI International also plans a "blasphemy contest," "in which participants are invited to submit phrases, poems, or statements that would be, or have been, considered blasphemous." Winners are to receive a t-shirt and mug.
Bet you can't wait to see those.
More seriously, participants are also to be encouraged to take up the "Blasphemy Challenge" in which individuals register their blasphemy in the face of Mark 3:29. In that verse, Jesus warns, "whoever blasphemes the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin" [ESV]. Those who take up the "Blasphemy Challenge" record video submissions which must include the words, "I deny the Holy Spirit."
The Blasphemy Day events are certain to draw media attention, which is no doubt the whole point of the observance. That is how a group like CFI can gain publicity for itself and its cause.
How should Christians respond?
First, take no offense. Refuse to play into the game plan of those sponsoring International Blasphemy Day. The Lord Jesus Christ was and is despised and rejected of men. Our Lord bore the scorn heaped upon him by his enemies. Christianity is not an honor religion. Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are not commanded to defend his honor, but to be willing to share in the scorn directed to him. Is the servant greater than his master?
Islam is an honor religion, and the major forces in the world today seeking to criminalize blasphemy are Islamic. The riots on the streets of many nations in protest of the Danish cartoons do represent what faithful Muslims believe their religion requires them to do. Not so for Christianity. We must be those who take to the streets with the Gospel -- not with a defense of our honor or the honor of our Lord. When Christians forget this, we lose our Gospel witness. The history of the church includes far too many instances of this loss. We dare not add another.
Second, mourn the blasphemy. The warning of Jesus is clear -- blasphemy has eternal consequences. The worst form of blasphemy is the refusal to hear and believe the Gospel. For that sin there can be no forgiveness. We must mourn the blasphemy, not because honor is at stake, but because souls are at stake with eternal consequences. God will ultimately and perfectly defend his honor. On that day, there will be no escape for unrepentant blasphemers.
Third, see this observance for what it really is -- an unintended testimony to the existence of God and the foolishness of those who deny Him. The sheer foolishness of a blasphemy contest with t-shirts and mugs betrays the lunacy of it all. They can do no better than this? One testimony to the power of God is the fact that his self-declared enemies come off as so childish and manic. The heathen rage and God sees the foolish grasshoppers.
International Blasphemy Day will come and go. Take note, ponder its meaning . . . and skip the t-shirt.