Don’t get me wrong as you read this. I deplore the recent terrorism in France (and Australia, Nigeria, etc). It is tragic and unacceptable; it is evil. It is the very thing Jesus came to call humanity away from. My heart goes out to the French nation for what they and the rest of the world are facing.
Yet, I have to admit to being uncomfortable with the whole rhetoric around freedom of speech that seems to lie at the heart of the western narrative of response. Freedom of speech is great, as long as the free are singing your tune. How far does freedom of speech take us when it includes the “right” to mock anyone for their race, gender, sexual orientation, and religion, etc.? We may like freedom of speech, but it haves consequences.
One of the reasons that these terrorists are rising up, whether it be North Korean hackers, or Jihadists in Sydney or France, is the flippantness of the west. Freedom of speech supposedly means you can mock Muhammad (or any other religion and political system) in cartoons. Such “freedom” fails to acknowledge how important Muhammad is to many people in our world. Mocking Muhammad attacks the foundation of the mindset of the devout Muslim. Similarly, Sony Pictures think nothing of ridiculing the leader of another nation and making a movie about a couple of American twats killing him. While I deplore the regime, he is an important person to the North Koreans. Perhaps the west needs to think carefully about its so-called “freedom of speech” perspective realising that yes, one can make such movies and cartoons, but one is deeply offending the other in so doing.
How about someone makes a movie about killing Obama and a couple of clumsy North Koreans set about doing so. Or, they make cartoons mocking gays, women, the gun lobby, African Americans (perhaps using the N word), American supremacy, or Jews. Is that ok? Is the rest of the world free to do this? After all, people lose their jobs in the west for their freedom of speech if it includes mocking some of the above mentioned. This may not lead to Jihadism, but it will certainly offend. We may be free to speak, but they are free to respond.
A couple of biblical themes spring to mind. One is that freedom from a Christian perspective is a freedom that is governed by love (e.g. Rom 14-15; 2 Cor 8). Such a love includes respecting the other and not mocking and ridiculing them, no matter how different or even silly they may seem. The west needs to think about this and show a lot more respect to people of other viewpoints. I don’t like despotic leaders but I have enough respect not to make a stupid movie directly mocking the North Korean leader. Similarly, while I am not a Muslim, I see no need to offend them whether it be in cartoons or whatever. There are other way to change the world.
The second theme is mocking. Psalm 1:1 warns the reader not to “sit in the seat of mockers.” Humour is great, and political correctness drives many of us up the wall. Yet, when we know something is of deep significance to others, we need to think carefully about exercising our so-called freedom. Yes, we should be free to say what we think, but we need to realise that the tongue is powerful and will lead to response. And the world is free to respond even if we don’t like it.
I despise Jihadism and all forms of the use of violent retribution; yet, I am increasingly uncomfortable with western arrogance. I think we need listen to the Psalmist and show a bit more respect to people who are different from us.