Blasphemy and Worldview

Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Breakpoint Commentary by John Stonestreet on January 15.

The horrific acts of terror in France remind us that Christ’s kingdom advances in love, not force.  G.K. Chesterton said, “It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it.”

Over the years, many of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons have mocked religions, including Muhammad and Islam, and outraged radical Muslims.  For example, an Imam in London, Anjem Choudary, wrote that the twelve victims in Paris brought their deaths on themselves.  “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, Christians can agree that mocking the religious beliefs of others is deplorable.  We have faced that kind of mockery ourselves.  Remember the so-called art produced by Andres Serrano in which a crucifix was immersed in a jar of urine?  [Or NZ’s ‘Virgin in a Condom’ at Te Papa in 1998?]

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 many secularists fail to distinguish between religions.  So we’ve heard comparisons between radical Islam and Christianity.  The most ridiculous was when First Look Media’s Eric Bates compared Rev Jerry Falwell suing pornographer Larry Flint in the 1980’s with radical terrorists executing people in France.  So appealing to the 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 honour of Muhammad and were being faithful to Islamic teachings by killing blasphemers.

Christians are called, however, to respond to insult and blasphemy in a different way.  Dr Bill Brown, noted that “Christ never demanded that his ‘honour’ 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 expect to be treated badly also (John 15:18-25).”

Chuck Colson said, “Christians don’t impose our views on anyone.  We propose. … The Christian Church makes a Great Proposal, inviting everyone to the table, regardless of differences.  We’re inviting people to consider a worldview that works, makes sense, which offers shalom and human flourishing.”

The Kingdom of Christ 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.  Our Lord was never shy about that.  But 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 their Saviour.”