The Raving Theist

Dedicated to Jesus Christ, Now and Forever

Martyrs

November 2, 2005 | 26 Comments

Here’s another editorial tribute to Rosa Parks that’s worth pondering, even by those who question the underlying Christian doctrine of salvation through belief in the resurrection:

Martyrs.jpg

Fortunately, this time the cartoon is signed so any lingering questions regarding its meaning can be addressed to the artist. But I think that the challenge it poses to atheists is pretty clear: why do we ridicule the martyrdom of Christ, yet praise a similar act of self-sacrifice when performed by someone like Ms. Parks?

Let’s first recall the primary objections to the theory of Christ’s “dying for our sins.” First, it presumes that the entire human race is sinful because of the supposed rebellion of Adam and Eve, without regard to actual individual wrongdoing. Second, it holds that an innocent person’s suffering somehow wipes out the sins of others, a concept which violates the most basic conceptions of justice and common sense. In any event, it’s hard to see how what Jesus did was truly a sacrifice if, in the end, He didn’t truly “die” in any sense of the word.

These criticisms apply with equal, and perhaps greater, force to Parks’ martyrdom. Although a few negroes may have earlier rebelled against the duly-enacted public transportation seating statutes, those isolated transgressions did not create some collective guilt for which Parks was required to atone. Likewise, her imprisonment did not pay the debt owed by others who unlawfully refused to surrender their seats. And insofar as she was ultimately acquitted of any crime, she sacrificed nothing of value at all.

It should also be borne in mind that Parks’conduct was substantially more culpable than Jesus. Christ did not commit a sin to earn his crucifixion, whereas Parks broke the very laws whose violation she was atoning for. Moreover, Parks acted out of a selfish motive — to gain the comfort of sitting — whereas Jesus sole aim was to suffer for the benefit of others.

Comments

26 Responses to “Martyrs”

  1. anonymous
    November 3rd, 2005 @ 1:27 am

    you’re an idiot

  2. Sportin' Life
    November 3rd, 2005 @ 2:58 am

    I’m afraid I have no idea what you’re getting at, RA….

    But as long as we’re on the subject, I have a point to make that I havn’t heard in conjunction with Ms. Parks’ passing: While praise is certainly due to her for taking a visible leadership role in the civil rights struggle, I think it’s a mistake to see her as some sort of solitary heroine who singlehandedly shifted the conscience of the nation.

    The part of the story that I find most amazing is the year-and-a-half-long bus boycott–the product of social solidarity among the black community in Birmingham and successful organization–that was the (planned in advance) response to her arrest. You know, one person can’t actually change history by themselves, even though that’s the kind of romantic story we like to tell.

    I don’t mean to detract at all from what she did, just to point out that her actions mattered as much as they did because they were backed up by an entire community working together.

  3. Sportin' Life
    November 3rd, 2005 @ 2:58 am

    I’m afraid I have no idea what you’re getting at, RA….

    But as long as we’re on the subject, I have a point to make that I havn’t heard in conjunction with Ms. Parks’ passing: While praise is certainly due to her for taking a visible leadership role in the civil rights struggle, I think it’s a mistake to see her as some sort of solitary heroine who singlehandedly shifted the conscience of the nation.

    The part of the story that I find most amazing is the year-and-a-half-long bus boycott–the product of social solidarity among the black community in Birmingham and successful organization–that was the (planned in advance) response to her arrest. You know, one person can’t actually change history by themselves, even though that’s the kind of romantic story we like to tell.

    I don’t mean to detract at all from what she did, just to point out that her actions mattered as much as they did because they were backed up by an entire community working together.

  4. Sportin' Life
    November 3rd, 2005 @ 2:58 am

    I’m afraid I have no idea what you’re getting at, RA….

    But as long as we’re on the subject, I have a point to make that I havn’t heard in conjunction with Ms. Parks’ passing: While praise is certainly due to her for taking a visible leadership role in the civil rights struggle, I think it’s a mistake to see her as some sort of solitary heroine who singlehandedly shifted the conscience of the nation.

    The part of the story that I find most amazing is the year-and-a-half-long bus boycott–the product of social solidarity among the black community in Birmingham and successful organization–that was the (planned in advance) response to her arrest. You know, one person can’t actually change history by themselves, even though that’s the kind of romantic story we like to tell.

    I don’t mean to detract at all from what she did, just to point out that her actions mattered as much as they did because they were backed up by an entire community working together.

  5. Sportin' Life
    November 3rd, 2005 @ 2:58 am

    I’m afraid I have no idea what you’re getting at, RA….

    But as long as we’re on the subject, I have a point to make that I havn’t heard in conjunction with Ms. Parks’ passing: While praise is certainly due to her for taking a visible leadership role in the civil rights struggle, I think it’s a mistake to see her as some sort of solitary heroine who singlehandedly shifted the conscience of the nation.

    The part of the story that I find most amazing is the year-and-a-half-long bus boycott–the product of social solidarity among the black community in Birmingham and successful organization–that was the (planned in advance) response to her arrest. You know, one person can’t actually change history by themselves, even though that’s the kind of romantic story we like to tell.

    I don’t mean to detract at all from what she did, just to point out that her actions mattered as much as they did because they were backed up by an entire community working together.

  6. Broon
    November 3rd, 2005 @ 5:59 am

    major confusion here between martyrdom and other symbolisms.

    Rosa Parks wasn’t atoning for any guilt amongst the black community; she was responding to what she (and many others) considered to be an immoral law. It wasn’t a ‘selfish motive to gain the comfort of sitting’ at all, thats a preposterous view, I’d have expected more of you RA.

    The only way they are comparable is to say they both put themselves on the line for the greater good. The crucial difference being RPs greater good was equality between races (a wholly understandable, agreeable end) and JCs greater good being atoning for the ever-sinful human race in the eyes of God (a wholly disagreeable end).

    That’s why we can ridicule Jesus but not Rosa Parks!

  7. a different tim
    November 3rd, 2005 @ 7:36 am

    I think TRA is being ironic here. I find it hard to believe he really thinks Jeebus is a more worthy icon of sacrifice for a couse than Rosa…….

  8. choobus
    November 3rd, 2005 @ 10:17 am

    RA is clearly taking the piss. If you can’t see that you should get to the back of the short bus where you belong.

    Also, I should like to recount my own struggle against the tyranny of capitalism and the manner in which the government uses an arbitrarily imposed financial imperitave to control the population: That is, while on an intercontinental flight with a most offensive passenger next to me I sought to defy the ruling classes by taking an empty seat in the business class cabin and protesting their attempts to remove me by feigning sleep. However, the threat of being arrested (via the patriot act no less, by homeland security storm troopers at LAX) did in fact persuade me to return to my microseat. Had I stood my ground, would I have been lauded as the new Rosa parks? Would I fuck. I would simply have been subjected to the law and then scorned as a criminal. Where is the justice for me?

  9. choobus
    November 3rd, 2005 @ 10:18 am

    RA is clearly taking the piss. If you can’t see that you should get to the back of the short bus where you belong.

    Also, I should like to recount my own struggle against the tyranny of capitalism and the manner in which the government uses an arbitrarily imposed financial imperitave to control the population: That is, while on an intercontinental flight with a most offensive passenger next to me I sought to defy the ruling classes by taking an empty seat in the business class cabin and protesting their attempts to remove me by feigning sleep. However, the threat of being arrested (via the patriot act no less, by homeland security storm troopers at LAX) did in fact persuade me to return to my microseat. Had I stood my ground, would I have been lauded as the new Rosa parks? Would I fuck. I would simply have been subjected to the law and then scorned as a criminal. Where is the justice for me?

  10. June
    November 3rd, 2005 @ 10:22 am

    Rosa risked life and limb, Jesus risked nothing.

  11. Mijae
    November 3rd, 2005 @ 12:14 pm

    Rosa also really existed too, that’s a plus. And even if you didn’t believe she existed for some reason, that wouldn’t make her yank away your right to live in a post-civil-rights-movement world and throw you into an eternal torture chamber instead for offending her so greatly.

  12. Sigmadog
    November 3rd, 2005 @ 12:18 pm

    A few points about the image:

    1. The signature is nearly identical (apart from the “3”) to that of famous cartoonist / charicaturist Al Hirschfeld. Hirschfeld died in January of 2003.

    2. The style is nowhere near the elegance of a real Hirschfeld drawing. You can see for yourself by visiting http://www.alhirschfeld.com/.

    3. The use of “NINA”. As used in this image, the word makes no sense. As a Hirschfeld tribute, it might be forgivable if it were incorporated in a less ham-handed, juvenile fashion, as Hirschfeld incorporated the word into all his drawing, disguising it as part of the elements. One usually had to hunt for the word, and it was not always easy to find. Background: Nina was the name of his daughter, I believe, and his clever insertion of the name into each drawing was another distinguishing characteristics of his drawings.

    4. I don’t believe Hirschfeld was primarily an editorial cartoonist. His art encompassed celebrities, society, and topics of the day, so I suppose there was some editorial content; but he had a light touch with his message, and it was always delivered with humor. This image has all the grace of a canned-ham (with twice as much gelatinous yuck).

    If I were one of Hirschfeld’s heirs, I would be appalled at the classless use of his name on something so utterly lacking in artistic grace, and so antithetical to the art of Hirschfeld.

    RA, where did you find this image?

  13. SoulFood
    November 3rd, 2005 @ 1:28 pm

    What exactly is the “negro race”? Is it some sort of sporting event or what?

  14. coyote1284
    November 3rd, 2005 @ 1:42 pm

    It ‘s also hard to see how Jesus made a sacrifice if he was He, therefore knowing that he’d be hung on a cross.

    However, I think the point here is that Mrs. Parks was not a martyr. She was arguably a hero and made a symbol (there was infact another woman who’d previously done the same, but she was single and pregnant so not an appropriate symbol for the NAACP). Whether or not Rosa was set-up to repeat this as a better symbol is pure conjecture, and is not my point either, merely that Mrs. Parks was not killed for sticking by her beliefs, therefore not actually being a martyr.

  15. BigBuddhaPuppy
    November 3rd, 2005 @ 1:57 pm

    Symbolism.

    I don’t any of us will know what Rosas’ intent was that day, from the way she describes it, she was tired and had a long day. In that moment of telling “the man” no, she helped in starting the bus boycott which snowballed into a civil rights’ movement. She was a “tipping point” in history. So she has become a symbol of the civil rights movement. I don’t see her anymore than that, it could have been just as easily Mr.”John Q. Public” some other day, it just happened to be her. She is not obviously anything similiar to Jesus.

    I am not going into Jesus…we don’t know if he existed or not, or if he was actually Joshua…we know that if he did exist, he is part of a mythology.

  16. Tenspace
    November 3rd, 2005 @ 2:24 pm

    “Negro Race” refers to Negroids – indigenous to Africa, just like Australoid describes native Australians, Mongoloid is used to classify those fro the Mongol region of Asia, and Caucasoid covers those from Europe, North Africa, West and South Asia.

    Sure, the term is a bit archaic, and efforts have been made to reclassify Negroids as “Africoids” or “Congoids”.

  17. Toxic
    November 3rd, 2005 @ 3:26 pm

    RA likes to piss people off.

    Hence this.

  18. Mister Swill
    November 3rd, 2005 @ 4:15 pm

    Hmm, I’m not quite sure I understand this post. I should probably re-read it more closely, but I’m too busy searching for the three instances of the word “Nina” in this cartoon. Oh, wait! I think I found them!

  19. onetwothree
    November 3rd, 2005 @ 6:55 pm

    Parks was purely manufactured. Those who don’t recognize this are intellectual children.

  20. qedpro
    November 3rd, 2005 @ 8:19 pm

    —– whereas Jesus sole aim was to suffer for the benefit of others.

    what benefit?????? I’m pretty sure my bank account would be the same if he didn’t die for my sins before i was born and hadn’t commited any.
    or are you referring to some type of entertainment value at watching him be tortured.
    that is if he actually existed at all?

  21. qedpro
    November 3rd, 2005 @ 8:23 pm

    Rosa Parks was just one of many people who stood up to religious right christian persecution.
    She maintained until her dying breath that she really didn’t do anything.

    In the future, some gay person is going to be remembered in the same way for standing up again to the religion right christian persecution.

  22. Jason Malloy
    November 3rd, 2005 @ 10:08 pm

    I should probably re-read it more closely, but I’m too busy searching for the three instances of the word “Nina” in this cartoon. Oh, wait! I think I found them!

    To those puzzled by the reference, the signature is Al Hirschfeld’s a famous cartoonist for The New York Times, who hid his daughter Nina’s name somewhere in the art of all his illustrations.

    Now I’m not saying he didn’t do this cartoon, or that you can’t address your questions about it to him, but I will say that he died several years ago.

  23. Jason Malloy
    November 4th, 2005 @ 12:40 am

    Rosa Parks wasn’t atoning for any guilt amongst the black community; she was responding to what she (and many others) considered to be an immoral law. It wasn’t a ‘selfish motive to gain the comfort of sitting’ at all, thats a preposterous view, I’d have expected more of you RA.

    You know I would think atheists would have like a sixth sense for sniffing out bullshit.

    But then why do the (mostly atheist?) commenters here so consistently miss what are, on their face, quite transparent gags? I mean how could multiple people miss that that previous Parks cartoon was a fake?

    I think sometimes, for the ironic things he says at least, its just people so thrown off by the pro-life stuff that they’ve lost all of their normal willingness to extend the benefit of the doubt, and quite ready to believe TRA is a secret psycho or general reactionary.

  24. Francois Tremblay
    November 4th, 2005 @ 4:46 am

    I hope you’re not seriously against civil disobedience. If so, you’re mad – completely mad.

  25. Kafkaesquí
    November 4th, 2005 @ 9:20 am

    I see no reference to the Pinta or Santa Maria, so I’m a bit confused what this editorial cartoon is trying to say. Dead cartoonists can be so cryptic.

  26. John
    November 9th, 2005 @ 6:37 am

    Kafkaesquí’s comment was the best.

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