What happened in Paris was an awful and brutal and shameful tragedy. It is incomprehensible that someone would brazenly and carelessly take the lives of others because they were offended. Those terrorists were wrong. They were dead wrong.
But I am not Charlie, and I hope I never become Charlie. Why?
Because Charlie represents everything I am not.
In the name of “free speech” Charlie consistently and systematically mocked everything and everyone. It didn’t matter – politician, clergy, whoever, wherever. Their unwritten creed was “we don’t care about your feelings.” We don’t care what our satire does to you. We don’t care if you are offended. We don’t care if you are insulted. We simply don’t care.
And so they would mock. They would ridicule. They would insult. They would degrade. And they would do all this knowing full well that the people or groups they were targeting would be deeply offended. But that wasn’t their concern. Their concern was doing what they wanted regardless of how anyone else felt.
Very unfortunately (and of course criminally) a group of people responded with the exact same attitude. They didn’t care how the people in the office felt. They didn’t care about how the family members would feel by their ruthless, brutal action. They didn’t care if people were hurt. They too simply didn’t care about others.
While it is easy (and obvious) to point to the horrible actions of the terrorists (and to call it horrible is putting it mildly), and while no one deserves being gunned down in cold blood, what happened in Paris shouldn’t come as a big surprise.
If my attitude is, “I will do what I want regardless of how it makes you feel,” why should we be surprised when the other retaliates in some measure without any regard to how the first person felt?
We have this thing called free speech. But we also have this thing called responsibility.
Just because we have a right does not mean it is wise or even proper to exercise that right – particularly when it steps on other people.
In a civil society, we have (or should have) something called respect. Respect means we treat people who we disagree with (even when we disagree vehemently) as a human. That means, we don’t mock and ridicule and insult (unless we are still in Grade 3). It means we care about the other person.
This, I believe, is what Jesus modeled. He met all kinds of opposition. People rejected him. They denied him. They mocked him. They even crucified him. He didn’t mock them in return. At times, he kept silent. When social outcasts were brought to him, he didn’t ridicule them. He even went to eat with sinners.
Jesus never condoned sin. He never swept it under the rug. He never pretended it wasn’t important. He didn’t say “you can believe whatever you want.” Jesus had strong convictions and he made those known. There was no other way. However, even with those who were so opposed to him, he treated them with a measure of dignity.
That is what is sadly lacking in our world, and it is only worse because of the anonymity offered by the Internet.
And so I am not Charlie. Charlie didn’t have respect for others. He didn’t care. And sadly, very sadly and very tragically, others choose to exercise the same lack of respect.
Please do not misunderstand me. I am not at all condoning or excusing the horrible acts perpetuated in Paris. They were evil, plain and simple. And I’m not at all suggesting that Charlie got what he deserved. But what I am saying is that when someone pushes and pushes and pushes, you shouldn’t be surprised when others push back. The tragedy is that they pushed back in the only way they know. Guns.
We need to treat one another with respect. Even if we disagree. Especially when we disagree.
Biblically speaking, any form of communication I use should be primarily focused on “building someone up,” not tearing them down.
Ephesians 4:29: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Philippians 1:27: “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
May God help us to conduct ourselves in such a manner.
Norayr Hajian lives in Whitehorse and has served as pastor of the Whitehorse Church of the Nazarene since 1987.