We who seek to follow Jesus believe that God became One with us. And so, of course, we want to stand up and shout Je Suis Charlie and become one with the weak and victimized. But as David Brooks pointed out in this editorial, “If they (the staff of Charlie Hebdo) had tried to publish their satirical newspaper on any American university campus over the last two decades it wouldn’t have lasted 30 seconds.”
Civilized people do not murder people with whom we disagree. But we – in the land of Freedom of Speech – sometimes do not allow all people to speak. Remember last spring?
- Christine Lagarde withdrew as Smith’s Commencement Speaker after some protested her work with the IMF.
- Condoleeza Rice withdrew as Rutger’s Commencement Speaker after some protested her foreign policy work.
- Ayaan Hirsi Ali was uninvited by Brandeis as an honorary degree recipient after protests about her anti-Muslim commentary.
- John Corvino was uninvited by Providence College in 2013 after some protested his LGBTQ activism.
See, it can go both ways. Progressives protest Conservative speakers and Conservatives protest Progressive speakers.
Obviously, we do not tolerate violence against those with whom we disagree. But are we okay with tolerating their speaking at all?
Shifting this to a church context, many (most?) of our churches are not as friendly as we think we are, and we are not as tolerant as we think we are. It’s not easy for someone to express that she isn’t sure what she believes about homosexuality in a congregation known to be “liberal.” And it’s not easy in a congregation known to be “traditional” when someone expresses that he’s discerned that God created LGBTQ people with great joy. Certain comments might make our deepest organs wince in pain, and we might want to shoot them (but of course we don’t.)
In my heart of hearts, I’m pretty sure I’m not really Charlie Hebdo. I am not crazy about letting people express their views when they disagree with me that women are called into professional ministry or that transgender people are called into full leadership in the church or that marriage equality makes God happy. Nevertheless I want to be in a community that allows disagreement and respect, in spite of the profound difficulty in hearing different voices. I admit that I do not have a sense of humor about some issues. I admit that some of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons are seriously not funny to me.
But we’ve got to allow those with whom we disagree to speak their thoughts. Some who do not tolerate different views or satire occasionally resort to violence. What happened to the men and women in Paris is unspeakably horrible.
But we can all be better at allowing room for those who speak words and draw images even if they offend us.
Image source (with slight editing)