Yeah, the “I’m more like Jesus than you are” game is a hard one to win. But his point here is mainly tactical … I think. If you want to convince Muslims to accept values like free speech that are championed by the Christian west, the Golden Rule is a better approach than mocking their prophet until they grudgingly agree to tolerate blasphemy. Do unto them as you’d have them do unto you. He’s not saying Jesus would refuse to offend religious or cultural orthodoxy — I hope, given the many Biblical passages to the contrary. He just prefers a less antagonistic pitch in a hearts-and-minds campaign and, O’Reilly being O’Reilly, can’t resist calling Jesus as his first witness. Overturning the money-changers’ tables may have been righteous but the Sermon on the Mount did more to make believers of the unfaithful. And if there’s anyone in media who eschews combativeness for tender persuasion, it’s … Bill O’Reilly.
All of which is fine, I guess, if you believe that Christians abiding by Islamic norms on images of Mohammed would make Muslims more likely to abide by broader western norms on free speech. I don’t. I think self-censoring blasphemy actually teaches that intimidation works and that jihadis can and should get to work on threatening people over other aspects of western culture that offends them, like gay marriage or educating women. Defending blasphemy is as much about holding the line against further deterioration of the west’s cultural influence as it as about the virtues of blasphemy itself. And I’m curious to know after watching this: What else wouldn’t Jesus do in the name of not offending Islam? Muslims may find mocking Mohammed offensive but it wouldn’t surprise me if you polled them and discovered that U.S. military adventures in the Middle East offend them more. Doves like to taunt right-wing hawks by asking “Who would Jesus bomb?”, but I think that’s actually a fair question to ask O’Reilly after this. Who would Jesus bomb? If drawing cartoons is a bridge too far for JC, how about drone strikes?