In our nation's most prestigious newspaper, an author and his feminist reviewer can conjure up the apostles of Christ as Stalinist torturers. But when a Danish newspaper published cartoons mocking the prophet Muhammad as a freedom-of-speech test in 2005, the Times would not show them as "a reasonable choice for news organizations that usually refrain from gratuitous assaults on religious symbols."
This is what Toibin's book is: a gratuitous assault on Christianity and its central drama of salvation. The Times reviewer recognized that and enjoyed it.
"Mary, the mother of Jesus, has given Christianity a good name. None of the negatives that have made Christianity a byword for tyranny, cruelty and licensed hatred have attached to her," Gordon began. "The problem with all this is that it has led to centuries of sentimentality -- blue and white Madonnas with folded hands and upturned eyes, a stick with which to beat independent women."
Washington Post book reviewer Ron Charles was less laudatory: "If you'd enjoy a tale predicated on the idea that Christian faith is a toxic collection of 'foolish anecdotes' based on a 'fierce catastrophe,' Merry Christmas!"
Charles found it refreshing this garbage bag of words "hasn't sparked outrage or boycotts -- a reassuring testament to the West's tolerance for such artistic license and Toibin's prominence. Some of us are a lot calmer nowadays about creative re-imaginings of sacred figures."
He somehow left Catholics out of the picture as he expressed relief that "Evangelicals in this country may finally have caught on to the fact that fiery condemnation plays right into the marketing plans of books that would otherwise ascend into oblivion." He notes Toibin's tome has been "widely praised in England, but Toibin is a larger presence there, and churchgoing isn't."
Somehow, he's not making the obvious connection: Toibin and other God-hating authors are consciously conspiring to empty out the churches, and Christian believers cannot always refuse to condemn them. Speaking up for Christ and his mother (and ours) is a solemn duty, not an option.