I like being able to say whatever I want, but that doesn’t mean I should. And I hope that none of you ever kill me for saying something stupid.
That being said, I’m sure that you’re aware of the recent attack on the French publication Charlie Hebdo that left 12 dead as the result of some Muslim extremists’ disapproval of the French magazine publishing a satirical cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed, a supposed cardinal sin for Muslims.
In the aftermath, people all around the world, from Chechnya to Washington, have something to say about the incident. A newspaper in Iran mentions “je suis Charlie,” facing shutdown to stand in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo, while people are killed during riots in Niger sparked by the event. Where should we stand in Tulsa? What about in the church?
Obviously, as a columnist, freedom of speech is something that I treasure dearly, embracing it at every opportunity possible. But I find this issue to be particularly grey, because, as a human being, I don’t want to see something as beautiful as free speech attack an ideal as precious as an individual’s religious beliefs.
So, are Christians supposed to stand with Charlie Hebdo’s pushing the limits of free speech and attacking the personal beliefs of another religious group? Do we find common ground with religious groups that are affected by the magazine’s content, even when said groups turn to violence?
Of course, I think that any reactions of violence are absolute works of evil, and I condemn that sort of thing, as I’m sure everyone reading this column would as well. I also can’t say that I am one to back the open bashing of religion, regardless of which religion is being attacked, and I hope you agree.
But not all of what Christians believe is widely accepted in this highly secularized world. Our faith pushes us to say it anyways, and we should be able to say it without fear of being beheaded, shot or bombed.
I fully support the principle of free speech set in place to allow publications like Charlie Hebdo to operate. You should as well. It’s the same principle that keeps your church open and government forces from raiding your home after you post Facebook rants against the president or a local congressman.
The church must hold the principle of free expression dear, but it should see that it is implemented differently than it often is in the rest of the world. This means that Christians should use their free speech to communicate both love and the uncomfortable truth. It means that the hands and feet of Christ aren’t used to harm and destroy those that believe differently than them, and it requires that we avoid violent or harmful reactions to the often terrible things that happen around the world.
This includes Charlie Hebdo. This includes the believers of Islam.
Those following the teachings of Jesus should look at His life, His ideas and His death. There was no violence there. Free speech was not used there to condemn and attack others, regardless of how wrong they may be. On Calvary, Christ did not offer hellfire to those murdering Him, but eternal life.