Millstones and Peppermint

For almost a month now a fierce battle has been raging over the decision by our local superintendent of schools to pose nude in a “Naked Gardner” promotional calender. I should explain. The calendar was the brainchild of a woman who does gardens for the school. She hoped to emulate the success of the original naked gardener calendar, done by ladies of Rylestone Women’s Institute in England to aid leukemia research. Later this whole event was developed into the movie “Calendar Girls”, starring Helen Mirren. The Daily Mirror reported that in 2004 over 200 charity groups “officially barred all”. “The reason they work so well in the UK is because British people like to chuckle about nudity, and there is a real innocence about it. You can’t imagine a calendar like this being a success in Sweden, can you?”

Well, not only the Sweedes lack humor, it seems. There’s been a hue and cry right here in River City, too.

One recent letter in our local paper even suggested that the participants, sinners all, should study their Bible, specifically this verse, which she quoted with glee:
“ .. whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matthew 18.6. Yikes. Sounds pretty serious.

Seems that like beauty, sin is in the eye of the beholder. As Hamlet pointed out, “There’s nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” Likewise in Romans, chapter 15 you can read Paul’s much overlooked words, “Then let us no more pass judgment on one another, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for any one who thinks it unclean.” Woah. Am I taking this out of context or is this the scripture of religious tolerance? Relativism even! How come nobody ever quotes this one?

The outraged “moral majority” of our small town are all too keen to interpret the calendar as some sort of soft porn, which is quite odd, given that there is nothing in the least appealing about these particular male bodies. They are quite determined to impose their own moral views on the entire community, failing to see the humor intended. In Amartya Sen’s new book, “The Argumentative Indian” Sen points out that “Discussions and argument are critically important for democracy and public reasoning. They are central to the practice of secularism and for even-handed treatment of adherents of different religious faith (including those who have no religious beliefs).” In a country with so many ethnic minorities, India’s tradition of religious tolerance has been fostered out of necessity. Woe betide us if the orthodoxy of small town morality gets its way.

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