Maybe The Cartoons Were Not Funny, But ….


I don’t think mocking religion represents the best in media content. The Russian punk band Pussy Riot made themselves look offensive and ridiculous when they shot one of their videos misbehaving in an Orthodox church.

And I’m not OK with cartoons that mock the Prophet Mohammed or Jesus or Buddha. But, as one of my graduate school journalism professors said, the cure for bad speech is speech. Never violence.

The cartoons of Charlie Hebdo do not cater to my taste nor my comfort level.

That does not matter. The slaughter of 12 French journalists (and yes, satirical cartoonists are a type of journalist—a subset of opinion “writers,” and the weekly magazine the cartoons appeared in had satirical stories as well as drawings) this week is unspeakable. As Jon Stewart said, comedy should not be an act of courage.

The quality of the expression is not the point. After all, God needs neither guns nor libel laws to protect himself. He’ll get the last word anyway.

So whatever I might think of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, they are an expression of ideas that must be allowed if we all are to be free to say what we think and feel, warts and all. We can shout “God is Great” if the Spirit moves us, in Arabic or Urdu or English, but we cannot shout out those who don’t share our opinion or want to make drawings of the Spaghetti Monster to express a different ethos.

Just as American soldiers at Lexington or Gettysburg or Normandy sacrificed their “last full measure of devotion” to an ideal of liberty, those 12 scribblers in France died for the cause of freedom. They didn’t choose to, but they did.

They should not be forgotten. In our mourning, we should not malign Islam or Muslims. Islamic terrorist no more represent Muslims than IRA bombers in the 1970s represented all Catholics.

And we must agree together that whatever your religion or lack of it, your faith cannot be used as an excuse to cut off the life of a nonbeliever. After all, a confident religion should view any human as a soul who might be saved. And yes, I know that Christianity has a violent history, too—but that doesn’t change what hundreds of years of slow progress should teach us, Christian and Muslim and Jewish and Agnostic and Atheist together. Maybe we Christians didn’t know it at first, but now we do—you can sell your faith or lack of faith if you want to, but it is absolutely a sin to do so with the point of a sword.

And, whatever your faith or lack of faith, I hope that you would agree that only God or Chance or the Universe or the person himself or herself has the only right to decide if a human lives or dies.

Not terrorists, no matter what flavor of religion they favor.

Je suis Charlie.

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