Pat Robertson, the lightning-rod televangelist and former presidential candidate, doesn’t much like Saturday Night Live mocking Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, or Jesus Christ. He called last Saturday night’s skit part of a wave of “anti-Christian bigotry that is just disgusting.” Of course anti-Christian bigotry is nothing new in American culture. It’s been going on since, well, Jesus was nailed to the cross. In America, of course, you would have to look at the decade of the 1960s as the beginning of the end of Christian cultural hegemony.

I don’t much mind Robertson or other Christians criticizing SNL, but I don’t think this instance is so much bigotry as it is irreverence on steroids. I’m much more offended by people throwing around “Jesus Christ” as if it were a mild vulgarity. Why, I wonder, is this done in so many movies and TV shows? Do writers think it benign to offend tens of millions of people? More likely, they don’t really think of it as offensive.

But back to SNL. Should I feel guilty as a Christian for laughing at such stuff? I don’t think so. It’s very difficult to expect a bunch of heathens like the SNL cast and writers to treat the faith of a majority of Americans with reverence. I’m sure individually they are respectful of other people’s faiths, but in putting together a show looking for laughs they’ll take ‘em where they can get ‘em, and Tebow really is a goldmine. He’s just so gosh darn wholesome! What’s not to make fun of?

Personally, I wouldn’t make fun of him, because I respect his faith and his abilities. It isn’t for nothing that Sunday’s game against the Patriots was the most anticipated and watched NFL game of the season. He’s a net gain for the league and the culture, in so many ways.

But one of Robertson’s comments really makes no sense at all:

[He] said Muslims would be outraged by a skit portraying Muhammad in such a manner. “If this had been a Muslim country and they had done that, and had Muhammad doing that stuff, you would have found bombs being thrown off! And bodies on the street!” Robertson said.

By contrast, Robertson said, in America, “We think it’s OK.”

Thank God this isn’t a Muslim country where people  offended for their faith create death and mayhem! Talk about apples and oranges. Christianity was a huge influence on the founding of our nation, and the very idea of a freedom of conscience has deep Christian roots. Jesus said we must render to Cesar what is Cesar’s and to God what is God’s, and he told his disciples when a town or people wouldn’t listen to them they should kick the dust off their feet and move on. Christianity is not in any way about forcing people to believe. And the liberty at the heart of our nation’s Founding was endowed by a Creator, a Creator whom the vast majority of Americans knew to be the Creator described in the Bible.

If some people use that liberty to mock our faith, so be it. We are just as much at liberty to criticize them and make the case that our faith ought not be mocked. It’s a messy culture, but true liberty often is.