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Anyone can caricature a belief system and then ridicule the caricature.  If you’re really really good at it, people will laugh and admire you for your sharp-wittedness and sophistication.  Enter Bill Maher.

Now, let me say that Bill Maher is bright, funny, articulate, and probably a very likable guy.  That doesn’t mean he’s not a blasphemer, though.  He is.  If you doubt that, listen to the conversation he has with Jon Stewart on the video clip linked below.

There, Maher attempts to lump all religious beliefs together and portray all of them as equally both absurd (at the innocuous end of the scale) and dangerous (at the insidious end).  That, I presume, is the goal of the new movie he stars in, Religulous.  (I can’t say any more than what I presume at this point, since I haven’t seen the movie.)

Of course, Maher’s own beliefs can just as easily be caricatured and ridiculed, as the brief commentary below the video demonstrates.

Certainly that type of approach from either side of the aisle does nothing to advance thoughtful discussion, or even the American ideal of a pluralistic society.  It could even be a harbinger of greater intolerance and ridicule of Christians (as well as other religious groups).  If Maher simply wants to promote conversation, as some have suggested, he’s going about it rather poorly.

However, ridicule, scorn, and persecution should never catch any Christian off-guard. “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12-13)

Did you catch that?  Rejoice!  Is that how you normally respond to ridicule and scorn?  More typically, I think, we respond with a cry of outrage and protest.  But the Bible says we should rejoice insofar as we share Christ’s sufferings.

Jesus was perfectly clear about the consequences of following him.  “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (Luke 21:17).

And he was perfectly clear about how to respond.  “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets” (Luke 6:22-23).

Religulous is coming to a theater near you. Leap for joy.