A note to those offended by ‘satanic’ post
I like Jesus a lot.
For about a year every single book I read was about Jesus.
That same year I got confirmed as a Catholic not as a child like almost all others but as a fully sentient, self-aware and informed adult.
And, needless to say, Jesus had a fair bit to do with it.
Son of God or not, there is simply no human being in all of human history who has had a bigger or more lasting impact on the human race. Not bad for someone whose only existence outside the Bible is a passing mention by a Roman historian called Josephus offhandedly trying to explain who his brother was.
It is also not bad for someone who lived and died in poverty, had no known heirs and whose now celebrated execution was at the time seen as an obscure and abject failure.
More importantly, it is not bad for someone who preached equality in a time of brutal hierarchy, who championed the poor in a time of brutal hardship and defended the sinners in a time of brutal morality.
But most of all it is not bad for someone who in an age of constant war preached only peace, in an age of conquest allowed himself be conquered and in an age of hatred spoke only of love.
He was rebellious but never revolutionary. He was radical yet always reasonable. And by every account he was nice guy, a great storyteller and loved a party.
In short, Jesus was a pretty top bloke. And even for the most hardened nonbeliever it's hard to think of a better role model.
And that is why this Easter weekend, the holiest and most solemn celebration of the Christian calendar, people should feel free to insult, lampoon and abuse him as much as they want.
Now that everybody's paying attention, let's remind ourselves of what we are talking about.
Forty years ago this very year a young group of British upstarts going by the nonsensical name of Monty Python released a low budget film called Life of Brian.
Today it is hailed as a comic masterpiece. Back then it was banned by state broadcasters, TV stations and various local governments who accused it of blasphemy.
Indeed, such were the political, moral and economic forces against it, it may never have even got off the ground were it not for the incredibly intelligent and compelling nature of what it had to say - a story uncannily similar to that of the very messiah it was accused of blaspheming against.
But of course that was 1979. There is no way such reactionary philistine mob hysteria could ever erupt over such a small thing today.
But of course there is and it has.
Thus it was a baptism of fire for an inner Sydney bar and burger joint that dared to make fun of Jesus in a Facebook post telling people it was open on Good Friday.
Captioning a photoshopped picture of Jesus with a beer and cigarette in his hands, Mary's Newtown wrote: "Jesus got hammered for his sins, you can too. Open from 12 Good Friday and all long weekend."
The outrage was swift, ferocious and ultimately resulted in the owner having to take down the post in the face of an avalanche of abuse, including an entreaty to "burn it to the ground".
To be fair, many other comments were far more measured and people were of course perfectly entitled to express them. But there was also a clear and concerted attempt to write obviously fake "reviews" of the restaurant in order to drive it out of business, including claims of "rats and other rodents clearly visible in the kitchen" - from the burn-it-down dude - and another who said the staff "insight hatred".
It is difficult to imagine any of Mary's notoriously woke hipster clientele suddenly being reminded by a picture of Jesus that they once visibly identified various species of rodents in the kitchen and it is equally difficult to envisage how much hatred can be "insighted" in the course of pouring a beer.
Still, I can understand two aspects of the outrage.
Firstly, contrary to Mary's claim, Jesus did not get hammered for his sins: He got hammered for ours. So someone needs to go back to Bible studies.
Secondly, as has been widely said, if someone had made a similar joke about the Islamic prophet Mohammad many of Mary's aforementioned woke clientele would decry it as Islamophobia.
Maybe. Or maybe they'd just have another boutique beer. Or maybe both.
Certainly there have been cases in which people have used the image of Mohammad for satirical purposes and they, along with innocent others, were murdered for it.
But if that is a green light for conservative Christians to behave the same way then we are all lost. Obviously we are not talking here about anything like the barbarism of the Charlie Hebdo massacre but it is hard not to feel that a malicious campaign to destroy a small business is a shady start down that dangerous road. As the great and mercurial champion of free speech Jim Jeffries infamously observed while attacking Donald Trump: "Hitler didn't kill the Jews on the first day, he worked up to it."
And that is the funny thing about free speech. If you want to exercise it, you've got to cop it. Not so long ago we had calls for Section 18C of the Anti-Discrimination Act to be extended to include religion, ostensibly to combat "Islamophobia". This chilled the blood of many on the right, who saw it as a de facto blasphemy law. And they were right in more ways than one.
Now those on the left who might have supported such a change can see just how chilling such a law would be. No more funny Facebook posts from Mary's Newtown - at best they would be tied up in arbitration and at worst fined into oblivion.
So for all those who want to get offended by a Facebook post from a bar they've never been to, maybe just try continuing to not go there.
And for all those who want to cry outrage at every perceived transgression of the latest PC orthodoxy, maybe just go to Mary's for a drink and relax.
As for Jesus himself, he probably wouldn't have given two shits about whatever Mary's posted on Facebook but he almost certainly would've liked the name.
Joe Hildebrand co-hosts Studio 10, 8.30am weekdays, on Network Ten. Continue the conversation @Joe_Hildebrand.