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I don’t know how the term “nuts” or “nutty” came to be associated with bizarre behavior or ridiculous ideas, but there are as many nutso characters in the newspapers lately as there are acorns falling from my neighbor’s tree and into my yard.

A Florida woman thought she saw Jesus in a flapjack made from WalMart pancake mix, and an Illinois man paid $29 for it on e-bay. They both sound a bit nutty to me, but maybe the woman was just looking for an easy payday and the man was desperate for a really unusual gag gift for the office Christmas party.

Meanwhile, in Sudan, hundreds of drum-beating, sword-wielding protesters marched through the streets and screamed for a British grammar school teacher to be executed after she committed the dastardly crime of allowing her seven-year-old students at a private school to name their class teddy bear “Muhammad.”

That kind of fanaticism puts the kernel in “nuts.”

That little teddy bear will never curse, will never steal, will never mistreat a woman, will never bring any harm to any person, and will never behave improperly, but wild-eyed zealots have demonized the woman for daring to “insult the prophet” by letting children apply his name to a teddy bear.

Sudanese and other Muslims routinely name their sons “Muhammad,” and many of them will certainly be guilty of cursing, stealing, misogyny, hurtfulness and all sorts of improper behavior, but somehow it’s not insulting to the prophet to hang his name on boys and men who may behave despicably?

It bothers me to hear someone treat divine names lightly, saying “Oh my God!” over the slightest surprise or using “Jesus Christ!” as an interjection. Even so, I can’t imagine inflicting severe punishment for the crime of having a limited vocabulary or a tasteless tongue.

And even Muslims don’t claim Muhammad is divine. Why should his name be treated more respectfully than God’s? If there’s punishment to be leveled for disrespecting God — or one who claims to be God’s prophet — I figure it’s best to leave that sort of thing to the one who’s been offended, rather than getting all riled up and acting like a hard-shelled seed about it.

The way the news is going these days, the most popular song on the Christmas charts could be “The Nutcracker Suite.”

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