SIX THOUGHTS ON THE CHARLIE HEBDO TERRORISM ATTACKS

Je Suis Charlie

These thoughts have been brewing all weekend, and come in no particular order.

1.  Thursday I was making potato soup while listening to NPR.  Keep in mind, the attacks were still only twenty-four hours old, but already people were saying things like, “Well, this is terrible and all, but Charlie Hebdo really shouldn’t have made those Muslims angry and should have exercised better judgment.”  I paraphrase, but that is the gist of it.  Je Suis Charlie

That kind of thinking makes me sick, because it is roughly equivalent to the line of thought that blames a rape victim for dressing provocatively.  Charlie Hebdo was a poor taste, lowest common denominator satire that I do not appreciate or enjoy, but they were doing what free people do–expressing themselves.  To put any of the blame upon them is cowardice and makes me sick.

2.  The best analysis I have heard on the whole thing was from Rachel Maddow on her Friday night program.  I have embedded it for your convenience.  It is lengthy.

3.  David Brooks wrote an op-ed in the New York Times on Friday that struck a nerve with me.  He wrote:

The journalists at Charlie Hebdo are now rightly being celebrated as martyrs on behalf of freedom of expression, but let’s face it: If they had tried to publish their satirical newspaper on any American university campus over the last two decades it wouldn’t have lasted 30 seconds. Student and faculty groups would have accused them of hate speech. The administration would have cut financing and shut them down.

I find his arguments to be compelling, and a little unsettling.  We, and by we I mean western culture, have gotten seriously too thin skinned.  People do not have the right to be not be offended, and all opposition to the politically correct terminology is not hate speech.  I think we need to take the muzzle off.

4.  The first time I saw “Je Suis Charlie” on a sign I thought it said “Jesus is Charlie” and it really confused me.

5.  I have posted on terrorism many times, but I will say it again, we are facing worldview issues.  It would be wrong to label all Muslims with this broad stripe, but those radical jihadists such as ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and others reject out of hand pluralism in a society, while pluralism is one of our cherished values.  The worst thing we can do is to concede liberties of freedom of speech, travel, assembly, religion, and press in an effort to stay safe.  We have already lost too much because of fear.  It is time to stop being afraid and to start acting like the same people who defeated Hitler and Communism.

6.  What happened in Paris at Charlie Hebdo and at that kosher grocery store is horrible, but every day ISIS is doing evil things.  It was recently brought to my attention at church that they are actively seizing Yazidi women and girls as sex slaves.  If you have time, check out the Twitter hashtag #Yazidiwomen.  It will break your heart.  Why has reporting of this travesty been so neglected in the United States?  Do the lives of women and children who belong to a peculiar, yet interesting, religious sect matter less than Parisian Satirists?

So, yeah, those are some of my thoughts.

image from www.timeshighereducation.co.uk

CHRISTMAS PRAYER 2014

Nutcracker on Christmas TreeHeavenly Father, the first thing I’d like to do in my prayer today is to thank you for sending your son, Jesus Christ our Lord, into the world.  He didn’t have to come, but it was a choice he made, in a divine conspiracy with you and the Holy Spirit to rescue us.  It must have been an act of love and passion, because I can’t think of any reason why the creator of all that is, who lives in perfect trinitarian fellowship, would want to live amongst us.  We are so contaminated with hate, jealousy, pride, violence, greed, lust, and intolerance that it is hard for me to think about how jolting it must have been for you.  Yet in love you chose, in Messiah Jesus, to live as one of us, just as we do–coughing, bleeding, with fatigue, soreness, blisters, sweat and snot.  I don’t pretend to understand how you did it, how you were human and still God, how you were the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as three different persons but one God, but I believe, just as those who have come before me, that you indeed did it.  You lived like us, and you died like us.  Mystery is the only way I can describe it, and love is the only explanation I have for it, so I thank you.

It feels like every Christmas I end up asking you for some of the same things.  The locations change, but the requests are the same.  I ask, O Lord, that you help us find some way of bringing peace in the world.  I ask that wars and strivings cease in far away places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine, and in Central Africa.  I ask that ISIS, al Qaeda, the LRA and other oppressive militaristic groups be defeated.  I ask that violence end, that peace flourish, and hope erupt.

There are many issues here, though, within the borders of the nation I love that are hard to imagine.  Somehow, Almighty God, show us how to achieve a justice and equitable society in which criminals are punished but the innocent are not unjustly beaten or killed.  We have a severe lack of trust that stems from generations of suspicion, fear, racism, crime, and the politics of division.  Please forgive us of our past and help us make a future so that we never have reason to see protests on the streets of America again.

I have a spiritual request too, Lord God.  I fear that ‘church,’ or what passes for church, has lost its way.  At one extreme it can look like a neurotic control freak trying to tell everyone else what to do.  At the other extreme it often looks like a lethargic glutton who will not get off the couch.  Neither one of these is good.  I pray that you bring a new generation of leadership with the boldness to call us out on our sins of selfishness, and then lead us to a better way.  I love the church, but fear we are on a path of self-destruction.  Save us from ourselves.

Things seem to have gotten a little better, Lord, in the last couple of years, but I know that many people are hungry, economically distressed, unemployed, and broke this Christmas season.  Help those who want jobs to find jobs, bring relief to those who have ended up on the wrong end of the economic field, and allow honest businesses to thrive.  I intercede also for those caught on the struggle of a political border between two nations–one wealthy and one not.  I pray for all immigrants, that they would find what they need.  I ask that our politicians gain the courage to formulate policy that makes sense and which is true to our highest ideals.  How ironic, Lord, that immigration is on my mind as we celebrate the birth of Jesus–who lived as an immigrant during his toddler years.  It is kinda sad, Lord.  Help us to do better, I know we can.

For many people Christmas has become all about family, tradition, and nostalgia.  I reject those as spiritually inadequate for the grandness of the miracle of the incarnation, nevertheless I am grateful for my family, our family traditions, and the memories of those who are no longer with us but who rest in eternity.  I ask that this Christmas be one of joy, laughter, and rich spiritual meaning.  In the name of Jesus I ask, submitting to his divine will and certain that whatever good I imagine or ask for is far less than his desire for peace, hope, goodness, and love in this world.  Amen.