A university’s decision not to take down an art project involving a defaced Bible with satanic imagery is prompting significant protest in the Christian community.
The “artwork,” if you must call it that, is made from a Bible with torn pages painted to look like flames and a Baphomet covering the face of Jesus, who appears to be burning in the flames.
According to Central Maine, the piece was on display at the University of Southern Maine’s Wishcamper Center on its Portland campus when it caught the eye of a member of a church that meets in that facility.
“This is someone’s sacred text being desecrated, destroyed and displayed in a public place,” said Charlie Flynn, whose young daughter noticed the piece on display outside a classroom when they were at a church gathering.
Their church, The Casco Bay Church of Christ, is one of several community groups that rent space at the university and meet there regularly.
“I couldn’t help but feel no one’s sacred text should be treated that way,” Flynn said. “I think it’s very inappropriate and repugnant.”
“I was thinking a lot about questioning authority in general,” said Riley Harris, the student behind the piece, titled “The Unholy Bible: Very Revised Standard Edition”. “People question different types of authority, but for some reason religious authority seems too taboo to question, so I thought I would give it a shot.”
“If I saw a Koran with pig blood on it I would certainly call someone, or a Torah with unclean foods on it,” Flynn said. “This is a Bible with Satan’s image put over Jesus’ image and around Christmastime. I don’t understand why that would be viewable in an institution of higher learning. This is USM, a school that services the community.”
Glenn Petruzzi, the church’s pastor, also noticed the piece and was upset by it. Although the university has always been hospitable to the church, he wishes more thought had been put into the decision to display the piece.
“Freedom of speech is entitled, but when that space is shared with all different types of people of different faiths and backgrounds we have to consider what that will bring about,” Petruzzi said. “It’s a hard one.”
Harris had considered the effect his “artwork” would have on the university’s diverse students and guests, but it seems his own atheistic ax to grind was more important. While the Bible and Christianity are “important to some people,” Harris told Central Maine, “a lot of Christianity harms other people.”
“I get that (negative reaction),” Harris said. “My only reaction to people responding to it negatively is everyone has their own sort of morals and no one’s morals are right or really wrong. Everyone thinks their own way – and not everyone’s [morals] line up.”
“I don’t think my piece is harming anyone,” Harris added. “It’s just making people think. I think when it starts harming someone then maybe it should be considered not great.”
So, does “hate speech” cause “harm,” or doesn’t it? If we refuse to use preferred pronouns or acknowledge a person’s imaginary gender, does that “harm” them? Could the double-standard be any more blatant??
Meanwhile, Flynn offered the weakest, most pitiful response to Harris, apologizing to him for any “harm” churches have caused him or others, and declaring that “everyone’s sacred texts are valuable.”
As for the university, its vice president for enrollment management and marketing at the university, Jared Cash, defended the piece on Monday. “The university supports freedom of speech rights for all students, affirmed and upheld by Board of Trustee System Policy 212,” Cash said in a statement.
The policy states that the university supports free speech as long as it does not “violate the law, defame specific individuals, genuinely threaten or harass others, or violate privacy or confidentiality requirements or interests.”
I suppose Jesus Christ doesn’t count as a “specific individual” to these people.
“Although the University System greatly values civility and expects community members to share in the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect, demands for civility and mutual respect will not be used to justify restricting the discussion or expression of ideas or speech that may be disagreeable or even offensive to some members of the University community,” the policy states.
I’d feel quite comfortable betting a pretty penny on the fact that if a student took a book about Harvey Milk and fashioned it to present the idea that he was a predator and homosexuality is an abomination, that “artwork” wouldn’t even end up on display.
Let’s face it, some classes of people are simply more respectable than others at these institutions, and Christians aren’t one of them.
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