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Don't shut down "blasphemers" like Stephen Fry: talk to them

TV personality Stephen Fry was recently investigated for blasphemy charges. The case has since been dropped. Heather Tomlinson explains why Christians need to respond with reason not litigation.

It's been in the news that Stephen Fry was recently facing investigation by the Irish police for alleged blasphemy, for the famous interview on Irish TV two years ago when he described God as "utterly evil, capricious and monstrous" (among other things) due to the suffering in the world. Millions have watched the YouTube clip.

Ireland still has blasphemy laws and in theory Fry could have been forced to pay a hefty fine. However, the case has since been dropped.

If he had been prosecuted, I wouldn't have shed too many tears for Fry: he might be justifiably indignant at having to pay out, but it would also quickly have made him a worldwide hero for the atheist and secularist community. Having the badge of a prosecuted martyr would only increase his fame.

Either way, no Christian should be pleased by the idea. Recently Christians' free speech has been seriously threatened, with street preachers accused of hate crimes and so on. If we want to be able to express our views freely, we should also want the same rights for others, however objectionable we find their opinions.

The problem of evil in the world remains a huge barrier for many people

Fry wasn't saying anything other than what a lot of people think both in this country and around the world. Instead of trying to shut them down, or get them off the airwaves (where they often seem to be given a disproportionate amount of time), we need to start engaging with their complaints. Fry may have been more vicious and eloquent than most, but the problem of evil in the world remains a huge barrier for many people to putting their faith in God. 

I wrote a blog post to Fry after his tirade. The point I made was that the terrible state of the world is not God's responsibility but ours. We need to make God's views about evil very clear: He hates it. And his commands and his redemption are designed to prevent and transform suffering. Trite responses aren't the answer - proclaiming the love and the power of our suffering Saviour is needed.

We don't need to defend God in the courts: He is perfectly capable of defending Himself.

We don't need to defend God in the courts: He is perfectly capable of defending Himself. One day Fry and his allies will stand before God, and the comedian may well vent his anger and spleen as he said he would. And then God will make it very clear who is responsible for the evil in the world, and Fry will come face to face with the actions in his own life and the consequences they had (as will we all).

So we need to do all we can to articulate to angry atheists, what God says about suffering, and why it is ultimately mankind's responsibility. We need to tell them that, despite our bad choices, God came himself in the flesh to suffer excruciating pain, so that we have a way to be free of our own evil.

Our responses won't get as much airtime as the likes of Fry, and few people have heard it explained clearly. Therefore, we need to be ready to have the conversation - not avoid it or try to shut it down.

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