Ordinary 2

The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
2015 – Cycle B
Isaiah 55:1-11; Isaiah 12; I John 5:1-9; Mark 1:7-11

je suis charlie

On Wednesday, 7 January 2015, a black Citroen C3 drove up to Rue Nicolas-Appert, Paris; the building that housed the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. Two masked gunmen, dressed in black and armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles, got out and approached the offices; minutes later 12 people were dead, 8 of them journalists. Witnesses said they had heard the gunmen shouting in Arabic, “We have avenged the Prophet Mohammad” and “God is Great” while calling out the names of the journalists.

On Friday, 9 January 2015, again in Paris, witnesses reported that as elite commandos stormed a kosher supermarket another terrorist was kneeling for evening prayers after killing four people in a hostage situation tinged with anti-Semitism.

How might people of faith respond to the violence done in God’s name in Paris?

Paul teaches us in his Letter to the Romans that we are to “weep with those who weep.” [Romans 12:15] The horrible and frightening violence of Paris should elicit from us grief [and sorrow]. False religion always makes the religious grieve, but when it engages in ghastly violence against other human beings who are made in God’s image, it should break our hearts as it breaks God’s.

Who are the blasphemers, cartoonists skewering religious belief or terrorists, masquerading as religious believers, while they deface the image of God? Several Muslim leaders have said that the damage terrorist like these do to the image of the Prophet Mohammed is much greater than any cartoonist could ever do.

While the tenet of freedom of speech has been invoked, the religious implications here run much deeper. They are about how we in the faith community should respond when we are attacked by those who disdain us, disrespect us, distort and even viciously attack us. The magazine, Charlie Hebdo, has been equated with the American/Canadian, South Park television program on Comedy Central. The magazine [and the television program, South Park have] often crudely, provocatively, and even gleefully satirized all religions in very offensive ways, suggesting that the fundamentalisms [the weaknesses and sins of leaders and members and the incredible beliefs] in all our religious traditions completely define the meaning of faith.

But how genuine faith communities respond to those who offend them is the key issue here. Jesus tells us to bless those who persecute us, to return love for hate and good for evil, and even to love our enemies. Loving your enemies certainly includes supporting the foundational commitment to free speech, and defending the right of free speech, even, or especially, for those who offend you.

Satire is often needed and necessary to expose the powerful, or to reveal society’s [and religion’s and thus the Catholic Church’s] hypocritical and often humorous foibles. The biblical prophets used both satire and humor to challenge the mighty and the selfish, and even Jesus acted and spoke in similar ways that undermined religious hypocrisy and political oppression.

Pope Francis speaking about the Paris terror attacks defended free speech as not only a fundamental human right but a duty to speak one’s mind for the sake of the common good. But he said there were limits. For the sake of the common good seems to be the defining phrase.

Are there limits on freedom of speech for an open and democratic society?

Is satire always contributive and healing for a good society?

Many people around the world have defended the right of Charlie Hebdo to publish inflammatory cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. Others, though, have noted that in virtually all societies, freedom of speech has its limits, from laws against Holocaust denial to racially motivated hate speech. Pope Francis drew a limit to freedom of speech when it insults or ridicules someone’s faith. Recently the Vatican and four prominent French imams issued a joint declaration that, while denouncing the Paris attacks, urged the media to treat religions with respect.

What do you think? Are there limits on freedom of speech? Should religions, their beliefs, their leaders and institutions be above satire and ridicule? Is nothing sacred? If so, what is sacred?

But whether satire and humor sometimes cross lines of decency or civility, can that ever justify the response of such murderous violence? …particularly in the name of religion?

There are fundamentalist and extremist strains in all religion. Judaism, Christianity and Islam particularly have violent passages in our sacred writings and have had members, with and without official approbation, use violence against other believers and outsiders. But…

  • Will new calls for restrictions on people of the Islamic faith in France, Europe, and the United States defeat terrorism and change the mind of the marginalized young people for their cause?
  • Will we defeat such violence with more wars, more drones, and more repression of Islamic peoples?

Nation-states have a responsibility to defend their people. But nation-states are comprised of people of faith. What values do we bring to the table of public discourse? Should not people of faith respond differently than nation-states? Will not such violent fundamentalism that distorts the essence of religion and extremists that resort to violence in the name of God be far more effectively defeated from the inside than from the outside?

Jim Wallis, president of Sojouners Magazine, proposes a new and unified mission by global faith communities around the world— replacing false religion with the powerful expressions and assertions of genuine religion: love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

  • Religious leaders and all members of various faiths across the globe must stand unified in teaching against violence and more importantly living out non-violence.
  • As the hymn, Let There Be Peace on Earth, rings out: “and let it begin with me…” So let it begin with you and me…
    • Are you living out a false or true Christianity?
    • What are your thoughts on religious extremism?
    • Do you exhibit extremist manners in your own life using God’s name to have power over other people?
    • Are there limits to the freedom of speech? If so, what are they?
    • Does freedom of speech entail a responsibility to consider not only what words mean but how they will be received by the person to whom we are speaking?
    • Are we civil to other people, especially people who have different values and positions from us?

On Monday’s edition of Charlie Hebdo, the prophet Mohammed was again portrayed by the cartoonist, Luz, with what some people find as an ambiguous image. It portrays the prophet shedding a tear while holding a “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) sign under the words, Tout est pardonné (All is forgiven).

What do you think it means and how do people of faith respond?

Excerpts were taken (italicized) from Jim Wallis’, article, Je Suis … [?] How People of Faith Should Respond to Paris, Sojouner Magazine, 1.15.15

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