The opinions expressed on this blog are the personal views of Andreas Kjernald and do not reflect the positions of either the UMC congregations in Skien or Hvittingfoss or the UMC Norway.

torsdag 15 januari 2015

A pastor reflects on the terror acts in Paris

A few days have passed since the horrible and despicable acts of terror took place in Paris. 17 people died, many more got hurt and the hunt continues for those involved. It was an attack on normal people and it was an attack on a worldview. Normal people died for what they said and wrote, called satire. A worldview was attacked for what it allowed and even cherished, free speech.
The horrific events prevent most of us from speaking out. We are afraid that our words will hurt the wrong people or upset the wrong people. The situation is volatile...and yet, it is important that we do speak out. The attacks were designed to, in the basest of ways, shut us up. Obviously, we can't allow that. True, words and especially satire has consequences but that should never include being murdered. 
We must speak up. We can not quietly go into the night that is radical Islamic terror (or any other type of radical -ism). We should fight against the dying of the light no matter where or when the darkness is falling. 

But there is more. 

Alongside the slogan "Je suis Charlie" we see another quote, "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it" (Voltaire). Free speech has become the rallying cry and it is a noble saying although I wonder how many would actually go through with it. Would you die for the right of these terrorists to threaten Jewish children? Would you die for the right of right-wing lunatics to spread hate against Muslims? I wonder. 
I don't think I would because the right to say something is not the most fundamental right, in my mind. Important? Yes. Vital? Yes. Of utmost importance? No.

While I don't condone in any shape or form what happened in Paris I do not feel that such satire in itself is a respectable or worthwhile endeavor. I don't think that everything should be made fun of "irreverently". I don't think that upsetting people just for the reason of upsetting people is a good idea. I once went on television to protest a local art exhibit that was intrinsically pornographic. I was told that its purpose was to "instigate" and "provoke". That is not a reason for an art exhibit. There is no intrinsic value in insulting people. 
There is intrinsic value in waking people up, in helping people question even dearly held values and beliefs. It is good to challenge the status quo and conventions. I find it very helpful to listen to people who disagree with me. I enjoy reading articles or cartoonists who poke fun at my religion or my faith, especially if they are making me aware of how foolish or silly we are and look sometimes. It is good to rock the boat but it is not good to throw people into the water. It is also not very smart. 
Common sense would dictate that it is not always a good idea to make angry and well-armed thugs upset, especially for no apparent reason other than making them a laughing stock. To witness to them about the love of Jesus? Yes, that is a good thing. To debate with them that they are crazy and wrong? Yes, that is a good idea. To make fun of the one thing that they would go nuts over? Not such a good idea. What did the publishers hope to accomplish by publishing all those images except rage?

There is also the issue of hypocrisy. Would Charlie Hebdo be revered as a national "saint" if they had made fun of gay people? Women with disabilities? Children with Down's syndrome? I doubt it, and that makes the publication a hypocrite, or at best "selectively irreverent". If they did make fun of even these things, I take that back. 

It is lack of respect for the holy that bothers me with such publications. Granted, my exposure to them is limited so I will not claim to know exactly what they have said or printed in the past. However, by calling themselves "irreverent" alongside the many publications I have seen I find it plausible that they lack a sense of the holy. Everything is fair game, except for what they deem off limits, and that it just not cool. There is no love in what they do, only a sneer. That makes free speech base and meaningless. Vital? Yes. Of utmost importance? No. There is Holy.

Yes, they should be able to print whatever they want without being killed. But I don't think I want to hold them up as the standard bearer of free speech and what we should be all about. I mourn their loss and their suffering. Terrible wrongs were committed against them and their families. However, I would not die for their right to say all those things they said. 
I would hope that if I had had a chance to die to protect their lives, I would have. The muslim police that tried to do that had incredible courage. Jesus said that greater love has no one than the one who lays it down for a friend. The courage to protect someone's life is much greater than the courage of writing satire with a sneer because it it understands that some things are to be revered. There is holiness.

As a Christian my perspective always has to be Eternity. That is the goal and the means we have to achieve that goal is Holiness and Love, God's version. His holiness is not up for discussion. It can't be "turned down" so that it is more bearable. It is a fire. It is passion. It is purity hating impurity and it is innately unable to become what we are or want it to be. It is "Other". It demands reverence. A bowed knee. Radical satire is the middle finger of indifference.
God's Love, further, is not an emotion. It is not a feeling.  It is ragingly alive. It is "the other" fully alive. It is giving your life for a hater. It is Jesus on a Cross. It fights every enemy that hinders those beloved ones to find it. It is not a sneer. It is not indifferent. It is a war fought with sacrifice, surrender and a heart on fire for God. It is of utmost importance.

It does not benefit us to gain the whole world if our souls are lost even if that would include free speech for all. There are more important things...and as weird as it sounds I must ponder that those who called themselves "irreverent" and those who called themselves "Avengers of Allah" might have suffered the same eternal fate. I don't know, perhaps they secretly loved the living mystery that is God, but the possibility is staggering and that is the truly important fight to fight. 
It seems that they both forgot that the foundation for reality is not human ingenuity, creativity, violence or power but the holy and loving face of God...whom I believe cried for those who perished one cold January day. They were all loved and had homes being made ready for them in Heaven. 

Crying seems to be a integral part of who God is and the tears of Jesus hanging on the cross is one of the ultimate images of reality. It is one I understand better now. Does it have to be?
The tears of God is also, however, the hope of mankind. Without them we would all perish in a flash We can dry them up by seeking His Holy Love and embracing it before it is too late, walking in this shadow of the valley of death. 

Lord, have mercy on us sinners. 
Make us holy and loving, like you, 
by your Spirit. 

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