Councillors in Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland have banned The Reduced Shakespeare Company’s performance of The Bible; The Complete Word Of God (abridged), on the grounds that it is blasphemous.
It is a comedy play that has been performed since 1995 without complaint.
That is until they met the Newtownabbey Taliban.
As a result of the ban the RSC have received a lot of attention.
On social networks the hash tag #ThouShaltNotLaugh has been trending.
It has been great publicity, and they have had many offers from venues that want to book the play.
So well done Newtownabbey Councillors on stopping the spread of blasphemy.
If you fancy a job promoting my Edinburgh Fringe Show please give me a shout.
Councillor Billy Ball had demanded the production was cancelled, claiming the play makes a mockery of the Bible and Christianity.
“This is supposed to be a Christian nation and we are allowing the Bible to be mocked and slated,” he said.
Apparently none of the councillors had actually seen the show, so on what basis are they saying it’s blasphemous?
Who’s word are they going on?
Maybe they had received a message from God.
Apparently poor wee God can’t bear to be laughed at, and has to be protected by the almighty moral guardians on the Council.
This reminds me of something that happened to me last year;
A woman came up to me at a gig and complained about the “bad” language of the acts.
(I don’t believe that there are actually any bad words, only words used with bad intentions).
I was the compere of this particular show, and often when you are the compere, the audience think that it’s your show, and this woman assumed that I had booked the acts.
So she complained to me that the “bad” language was offensive.
I asked her if she had been to live comedy before, and it turned out this was her first time in a comedy club.
I explained that the use of any “bad” language in the show was entirely in keeping with what one could expect in any comedy club in the country.
This was what people talked like in comedy clubs.
The language was entirely appropriate for an adult audience in a comedy club.
She replied that I should tell them to stop it (I assume she meant the acts in that particular show not every club in the country).
I then asked her why the acts should stop when it was totally acceptable to most, if not all, of the other members of the audience. She replied “ I don’t like it, so you should make them stop”.
I then tried to gently suggest that it was her who was in the wrong place.
As an adult it was her responsibility to judge if a particular type of entertainment was to her taste or not.
As an adult, any fault for the offence she felt lay entirely with her for coming out to a type of entertainment that she didn’t like, and perhaps now that she knew what it was like she should not go to live comedy again, as it probably would have the same sort of “bad” language.
You will not be surprised to discover that this was not what she wanted to hear.
She repeated her assertion that I should make them stop using any language that she didn’t like, and then told me she was going to find someone else to complain to.
I wished her luck and she fucked off.
In her world the very fact that SHE didn’t like it meant that no one else should get to see it.
This is clearly a ridiculous stance.
In my opinion;
1. Adults do not need to be protected from any offence, and it’s very patronising for anyone to assume that they have the right to “protect” other adults.
Even if they feel they are doing the work of God.
2. That woman was not injured/hurt/damaged by any of the swearing, and of course she was free to leave at any time.
3. You have NO right NOT to be offended.
You can choose to be offended, and you are entitled to your individual tastes, but as long as no actual laws are broken then your offence is as far as it goes.
Perhaps you can complain to your mother.
4. You do have the right to be informed.
If someone turned up to see a performance, and it was radically different from how it been advertised, and sold, then they have cause to complain.
If the show is sold as;
Vanessa Feltz shitting into Simon Cowell’s mouth, while Ant and Dec taser her tits, and then they all bounce on a trampoline while singing the National Anthem, then I can’t complain if I buy a ticket and that is exactly what happens.
Equally if it’s a show targeted at children, I should be safe to expect that there would be no swearing.
These days people not only love to be offended, they love showing other people just how offended they are.
Recently on the Radio Four program Chain Reaction, Frankie Boyle made an interesting point;
The man who was the voice of the speaking clock had recently died, and Frankie had made a joke about it.
A journalist from one of the tabloids contacted Frankie’s agent and said that they were contacting the dead man’s family to tell them the joke, and did Frankie want to send them an apology.
Frankie’s response was that he was not the one causing the offence, the journalist was.
In fact the journalist was going out of their way to deliberately offend the family.
Frankie then made a good analogy;
If someone projected a porn movie onto the wall of a primary school, the police don’t go and arrest the porn stars.
Back to the Northern Irish evangelical Christian Taliban moral guardians.
I think their uninformed outrage, is actually based on their own fears.
They have based so much of their identity on being Christians; that they are terrified their faith is not actually strong enough to withstand any criticism.
I’m happy to hear any debate about something that I believe in, as I’m secure in my beliefs, and if my beliefs don’t stand up to scrutiny, then I change my beliefs.
This is how we learn.
This is how we gain wisdom.
Basically the faith of these Christians is so fragile that they can’t hear ANY criticism of it, as it just doesn’t stand up to criticism.
That’s what the blasphemy thing is all about.
They are worried that if believers hear anything that doesn’t fit their worldview that it will all crumble, as of course it will.
It all falls apart under the slightest criticism.
They are desperately trying to protect a house of cards.
A really old outdated house of cards, with most of its foundations eroded away by education, and now faced with the strong winds of free flowing information in the age of the Internet.
How can such primitive beliefs ever remain?
They can only remain by stopping people from thinking, and one of the things criticism does is to force you to think.
So to protect their fragile faith they need to stop any criticism of it.
They want to keep people ignorant and unquestioning.
I’m also very mistrusting of anyone who is too staunch in their views.
Anyone who protests too loudly.
I always wonder what they are hiding?
It does not surprise me that so many paedophile priests got away with it for so long by hiding behind religion.
The same religion that you are not allowed to question.
It’s the perfect smokescreen.
But these people in Newtownabbey are only local councillors, not the moral guardians that they are making themselves out to be.
It is not the job of the local council to say what their fellow citizens can and cannot see.
Their job is to make sure the wheelie bins get emptied on time, and that the grass in the park gets cut.
We do not need moral guardians.
We already have systems in place to deal with this sort of thing;
The Law can be called upon if it is something extreme; hate crime, incitement to violence etc.
And in the world of entertainment there is a tried and tested system in place;
If the public don’t like a show, they simply don’t buy a ticket, if enough people don’t buy a ticket then the show folds and goes away.
That’s how easy it is.
Religion is a personal choice, and should be kept private or in the appropriate places.
I won’t try to show the Life Of Brian in your church, if you don’t try to tell me what I can see in my chosen place of entertainment.