‘Come heckle Christ’?

“I didn’t think that Jesus was a particularly controversial topic.” 

What an astounding comment!

Josh Ladgrove said it while defending his one-man comedy show ‘Come heckle Christ’. I am compelled to ask, “Is this one-man’s ignorance?”

Is this ‘comedian’ unaware that ‘Jesus’ is an incredibly controversial topic! Jesus himself was crucified for his claims and many of his followers are being persecuted and killed today simply for being followers of Jesus.

I have no in principle objection to mockery and ridicule either in favour or against the Christian faith or any belief. The prophets of old used mockery to show very effectively the folly of idolatry. e.g. Isaiah 44:9-17.

This is where I will both agree and differ with my Brother in Christ, the Revd Fred Nile, who says ‘”free speech does not justify blasphemy” and has urged people to email both the State Government and BankSA and ask them to stop the show’, here.

The Revd Fred Nile, as a Christian, quite appropriately objects to the blasphemy, the denial Christ’s divinity, and sees the show as promoting an opportunity for people to ‘Come heckle’ Christ’. As a believer in Christ’s divinity, I also believe that to ‘heckle Christ’ is blasphemy. This opportunity is clearly promoted by the Adelaide Festival in its claims for this show and due to my Christian belief I find this mockery offensive.

However, I differ with Fed Nile in insisting on Josh Ladgrove’s right to express his views and for his audience to express its views. That is, no matter that I personally find it offensive, I believe that the show must be allowed to go on.

Why is this? Because I believe that freedom of speech is crucial to our society.

Bear in mind that there is a balance here because freedom of speech is not an absolute freedom in Australia or other democracies.

Society’s wisdom asks, “Where does freedom embrace sensitivity, and sensitivity temper freedom?”

The comedian, Josh Ladgrove, claims to be seeking to generate laughter through heckling “an idiot – that’s me”, but is this heckling really against him, or is it against Jesus, or is it against and disdainful of people with disability (note unusual dress and prop define ‘idiot’), or is it a cheap and hurtful way to appeal to our baser instincts and generate a dollar or ????

Josh shared his own wisdom in defending his comedy show:

“The show is just an opportunity for the audience to come along and heckle an idiot – that’s me – for an hour,” he said.

“It’s an entirely improvised show; there is no script, there is no premise, there’s no preconceived idea of what needs to be said.

“It absolutely does not have to be about religion or Christianity or Jesus; it’s simply a means to an end and a catchy title.” . . .

“I didn’t think that Jesus was a particularly controversial topic.” 

My letter to Josh,

Dear Joshua Ladgrove,

With every respect for free speech and creativity in the arts, I must say that I do not find your wisdom in the title and robing for ‘Come heckle Christ’ comedy show, to provide “an opportunity for the audience to come along and heckle an idiot – that’s me – for an hour,” to be compelling.

But my main concern is your apparent ignorance of the person and work of Jesus Christ. I find it astounding that you could state, “I didn’t think that Jesus was a particularly controversial topic.”  Christ died for his claims and teaching and many of his followers are being killed around the world today. I think it is ignorance of Jesus that concerns me as it indicates a staggering lack of knowledge of the beliefs and concerns of many fellow Australians. Moreover, Christians may well not be the only ones unnecessarily offended through your unintended remarks and unintended consequences of your shows.

Please reconsider the ways in which you generate interest in your comedy shows, for the wellbeing of a healthy Australia.

Good humour and edged mockery are both ingredients of a free society. May freedom embrace sensitivity, and sensitivity temper freedom.

I wish you the very best for your comedy career.

Shalom, John

See, ‘Come Heckle Christ’ ABC report. My articles arguing for freedom of speech:  I agree with Irish atheists  and  The West’s fear of free speech.


‘Come heckle Christ’? — 1 Comment

  1. Hello John
    As uncomfortable as your words may be I agree with your “heckle post” and say amen to your letter to Josh

    As I heard recently from Paul Williams
    who was responding to a talk by Walter Bruggemann

    “We need to relinquish the idea of Christendom
    Much of the church is stuck in the ideological dead end along with everyone else.

    As we still imagine western societies are still Christian societies gone bad,
    and that our righful place at the centre of political life has been usurped.
    We only get exorcised about society when some moral litmus test issue is challenged
    Our incipient posture in this is a desire to get back in control.
    Instead I think we need to embrace exile
    We will only be able to show the way out of our ideological dead end if we become the voice crying in the wilderness.”
    I Would rather have the (false) comfort of Christendom but know the discomfort of the wilderness is where we truly follow Jesus! Blessings

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