Monday, August 09, 2010

Was this praise?

In his Media Watch Dog on Friday Gerard Henderson recounts some correspondence between sports writer Peter FitzSimons and a catholic priest. Before I get to this it s worth noting that earlier in the piece he had a go at the ABC's The Drum for excusing an abhorrant piece of Bob Ellis writing on the basis of hyperbole.

Henderson summarises the correspondence as;

A Catholic priest writes a fan letter to Peter FitzSimons which, in passing, proposes that he resiles form using the word “bejesus”. And the Angry Atheist goes into meltdown by telling his reader to (i) free himself from his ancient superstitions, (ii) live and (iii) abandon his mumbo-jumbo.

Problem is I think he misrepresents the original letter. While the first and last sentences of the original letter praise the columnist it reads to me that the purpose of the letter was the second sentence, the request about “bejesus”.

That said a better response from FitzSimmons would have been “Thank you for your letter of appreciation and I will endeavour to keep up the good work. As to your request I will agree to stop using the word “bejesus” in respect of your beliefs if you can get the Pope to stop promulgating the view that those who have my belief system will, deserve to, burn for all eternity.”

Henderson goes on to say;

Nancy wonders whether Mr FitzSimons would get into angry mode if an imam wrote to him requesting that he desist from using a word which might be construed as an improper use of the Prophet’s name. Probably not. Without an intact neck, your man Peter would not be able to wear his fashionable red bandanna.

The trouble is that there is no reason why FitzSimons would think of such a ting. As we are regularly reminded we live in a country with a Christian heritage and as a consequence have lots of Christian derived blasphemy. To say "bejesus" is pretty standard English; to use a name for the Islamic god would be an affectation.

At least we should all be grateful that due to the great schisms within the Christian churches - over which much blood was spilled - we have a society in which religious tolerance is practiced. On that basis my support goes to FitzSimons.

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