By John Stonestreet, January 15, 2015, for www.breakpoint.org
G.K. Chesterton once said, “It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it.” Well, if that is indeed the test, then recent events in Paris prove that radical Islam fails miserably.
The horrific attacks in France were sparked by cartoons published by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Throughout the years, many of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons have mocked various religions and religious beliefs, including Muhammad and Islam, something that outraged radical Muslims. For example, an imam in London (that’s right—London), Anjem Choudary, wrote in the wake of the massacres that the twelve victims brought their deaths on themselves. Said Choudary, “It is time that the sanctity of a Prophet revered by up to one-quarter of the world’s population was protected.”
On one level, of course, Christians can agree that mocking the religious beliefs of others is deplorable. In fact, we face that kind of mockery ourselves. Who can forget the piece of so-called art produced by Andres Serrano in which a crucifix was immersed in a jar of urine? In more recent days, the exhibition of blasphemous nativity scenes has become something of a pop culture trend.
So we can identify with the outrage that many Muslims feel when their religion is mocked. Yet, while people of good will may disagree about the degree to which freedom of speech should allow blaspheming the sacred, this incident provides a stark contrast between the worldviews of Christianity, secularism, and radical Islam.
Secularism has no framework to understand the reaction of radical Islam, because the only thing sacred in secularism is personal autonomy. And following that “all religions are alike” line of reasoning, many secularists fail to distinguish between religions. So you’ll hear, as we did in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, comparisons between radical Islam and Christianity. The most ridiculous comment perhaps in the history of MSNBC was uttered the other night, when First Look Media’s Eric Bates compared Jerry Falwell suing pornographer Larry Flynt in the 80’s with radical terrorists executing people in France, and all while host Alex Wagner nodded approvingly. So appealing to law is the same as committing murder?
But the massacre in Paris is a perfect example of how Christianity differs from Islam, especially radical Islam. The Paris terrorists thought they were defending the honor of Muhammad and were being faithful to Islamic teachings by killing blasphemers.
Christians are called, however, to respond to insult—and even blasphemy—in a different way. Writing after the attack, Dr. Bill Brown, a mentor and friend of mine and former president of two Christian colleges, noted that “Christ never demanded that his ‘honor’ be defended. He told Peter to put down his sword when he attempted to protect him… He told his disciples that the world hated Him so they should be prepared to be treated badly as well (John 15:18-25).”
As Chuck Colson said, “Christians don’t impose our views on anyone. We propose… The Christian Church makes a Great Proposal, inviting everyone to the table, regardless of color, ethnic origin, background, or economic status. We’re inviting people to consider a worldview that works, that makes sense, through which people can discover shalom and human flourishing.”
The Kingdom of Christ, my friends, advances through love, not through compulsion, intimidation, or even legitimate outrage. The God of Christianity invites people.
That’s not saying we shouldn’t speak up for the truth. Of course we should, and our Lord was never shy about this. But as the Apostle Paul also said, when we speak truth, we do so in love, because following Christ is the way of love.
“The beautiful truth,” Bill Brown says, “is that the history of the faith is filled with those who once spoke violently against Christ and then, overwhelmed by grace, embraced Him as Savior.
I Peter 3:13-17 — Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
John 18:11 — Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”
John 15:18-21 — (Jesus said), “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also… They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.
A PRAYER FOR UNBELIEVERS:
O Lord Jesus Christ, upon the Cross You did say: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And this surely, O my God, is the condition of vast multitudes among us now. They deny that there is a God, but they know not what they are doing. They renounce all faith in You, the Savior of man. They mislead the wandering, they frighten the weak, they corrupt the young. Others, again, have a wish to be religious, but mistake error for truth; they go after fancies of their own, and they seduce others and keep them from You. They know not what they are doing. But You can make them know. Teach them now, open their eyes here; before the future comes.
–John Henry Newman