G.K. Chesterton once said, "It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it." Well, if that is indeed the test, then recent events in Paris prove that radical Islam fails miserably.
The horrific attacks in France were sparked by cartoons published by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Throughout the years, many of Charlie Hebdo's cartoons have mocked various religions and religious beliefs, including Muhammad and Islam, something that outraged radical Muslims. For example, an imam in London (that's right—London), Anjem Choudary, wrote in the wake of the massacres that the twelve victims brought their deaths on themselves. Said Choudary, "It is time that the sanctity of a Prophet revered by up to one-quarter of the world's population was protected."
On one level, of course, Christians can agree that mocking the religious beliefs of others is deplorable. In fact, we face that kind of mockery ourselves. Who can forget the piece of so-called art produced by Andres Serrano in which a crucifix was immersed in a jar of urine? In more recent days, the exhibition of blasphemous nativity scenes has become something of a pop culture trend.
So we can identify with the outrage that many Muslims feel when their religion is mocked. Yet, while people of good will may disagree about the degree to which freedom of speech should allow blaspheming the sacred, this incident provides a stark contrast between the worldviews of Christianity, secularism, and radical Islam.
Secularism has no framework to understand the reaction of radical Islam, because the only thing sacred in secularism is personal autonomy. And following that "all religions are alike" line of reasoning, many secularists fail to distinguish between religions. So you'll hear, as we did in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, comparisons between radical Islam and Christianity. The most ridiculous comment perhaps in the history of MSNBC (and that's saying something) was uttered the other night, when First Look Media's Eric Bates compared Jerry Falwell suing pornographer Larry Flint in the 80's with radical terrorists executing people in France, and all while host Alex Wagner nodded approvingly. So appealing to law is the same as committing murder?
But the massacre in Paris is a perfect example of how Christianity differs from Islam, especially radical Islam. The Paris terrorists thought they were defending the honor of Muhammad and were being faithful to Islamic teachings by killing blasphemers.
Christians are called, however, to respond to insult—and even blasphemy—in a different way. Writing after the attack, Dr. Bill Brown, a mentor and friend of mine and former president of two Christian colleges, noted that "Christ never demanded that his 'honor' be defended. He told Peter to put down his sword when he attempted to protect him… He told his disciples that the world hated Him so they should be prepared to be treated badly as well (John 15:18-25)."
As Chuck Colson said the night he collapsed, "Christians don't impose our views on anyone. We propose. … The Christian Church makes a Great Proposal, inviting everyone to the table, regardless of color, ethnic origin, background, or economic status. We're inviting people to consider a worldview that works, that makes sense, through which people can discover shalom and human flourishing."
The Kingdom of Christ, my friends, advances through love, not through compulsion, intimidation, or even legitimate outrage. The God of Christianity invites people.
That's not saying we shouldn't speak up for the truth. Of course we should, and our Lord was never shy about this. But as the Apostle Paul also said, when we speak truth, we do so in love, because following Christ is the way of love.
"The beautiful truth," Bill Brown says, "is that the history of the faith is filled with those who once spoke violently against Christ and then, overwhelmed by grace, embraced Him as Savior."