I was struck recently by the response to a news item headlined "Muslims protest at blasphemy trial". Why was I struck by the response? Because there wasn't any.
The story was this: In Indonesia a Catholic man was tried and convicted for distributing blasphemous material. The judgement sentenced him to 5 years imprisonment for 'spreading hatred of Islam'.
As a result, about 1,500 militant Muslims "rampaged through the town of Temanggung in Central Java." They believed that the sentence was too light and that he should be executed (or handed over to the crowd, who, presumably, would have killed him anyway!).
The Irish Times ran the story under the headline: "Churches attacked in Indonesia".
What I want to know is this: Where were the mass protests in so-called Christian countries at this outrageous behaviour?
Any perceived slight to Islam in a nominally Christian country, or even a westernised secular country, and mobs hit the streets in at least some Islamic countries. Carefully orchestrated the demonstrations may be, and designed to serve internal political ends they almost certainly usually are, but: they garner news coverage around the world.
And that coverage helps build the impression of the 'West' being under constant attack by a militant Islamic world, and offering only a fractured, feeble response at best. Too often, mass media report the events and then as quickly move on to stories about celebrities. The Dompost ran, immediately below the story about the Muslim Protest at Blasphemy Trail, a second story, with more text, headlined "Warne prepares for Hurley with new mattress"! And this in the International News section!
Now, let me be clear: I have no truck with 'missionaries' of any ilk (Christain or Islamic), but my experience of the proseltysing Christian missionaries engage in is that it is seldom negative these days; it is more usually focussed on the positives of it's own message and faith. So claims in Indonesia that the Catholic priest was guilty of spreading "hatred of Islam" I find difficult to believe.
And so the reaction is also, in my view, unlikely, unless it is being manufactured to some 'ulterior end'.
This instance also highlights one of the fundamental dilemmas of modern 'westernised', democratic and nominally liberal societies: how to balance toleration for the intolerant. Are we busy allowing a 'viper' to not only enter our society, but to also grow large enough to force us to fundamentally alter the character of our society?
If we're uneasy about this or unwilling to face this kind of bullying behaviour we need to stand up to it.
So where are the Christian churches expressing their outrage, and summoning their adherents onto the streets of Sydney, Auckland, Wellington, Washington, London, Berlin, etc?
Like too many other things, they're never about when you need them!