Picking sides in the current conflict between the liberal Western democracies and Islamic Jihadism, Christians must be cautious about choosing between losers. On January 7, masked gunmen shouting "Allahu Akbar" - the "God is great!" victory taunt of militaristic Islam – murdered 12 people at the Paris offices of the French satire/cartoon magazine Charlie Hebdo. In the days following, Paris suffered additional hostage-taking that cost additional lives, gripping France in fear and terrifying all other potential targets of Jihadist terror.
Reacting in unison, the civilized democracies defiantly raised the flag of free speech. Said German Chancellor Angela Merkel, "We stand with the French people for freedom of speech and democracy and against terror." British Prime Minister David Cameron intoned, "We stand with the French people in the fight against terror and defending the freedom of the press." Joining the chorus, President Barack Obama called the violent incident a "cowardly and evil attack that underscores terrorists' fear of free speech."
Some freedom; some speech.
Barbaric Jihadists represented one side in this microcosm conflict. Representing the other side were some of the vilest and most vulgar excuses for journalism Western culture has ever produced. Christians should not allow themselves to be painted into an either/or corner of choosing between these two losing propositions.
Exceedingly vile and vulgar, Charlie Hebdo magazine (named after its publisher, one of the tragic human victims of the attack) is not deserving of violence. But neither is the publication deserving of the support it is receiving and is not a deserving representative of the West in today's clash of cultures. Included in the cartoons it publishes, Charlie Hebdo regularly depicts religious personalities in sickening displays. Christian leaders, Mohammed, the Pope, nuns, and Jewish leaders have all been cartooned in ways that can only be called disgusting, degenerate, despicable and depraved.
When you think of Charlie Hebdo, think of dreadful excess, think of filth and nasty ridicule; do not think of shared freedoms and lofty values.
Perhaps because Charlie Hebdo has viciously attacked them, Catholic leaders have been the lone voice of dissent against the chorus of support for Charlie Hebdo. Bill Donohue, the president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, recently said,
Killing in response to insult, no matter how gross, must be unequivocally condemned. That is why what happened in Paris cannot be tolerated. But neither should we tolerate the kind of intolerance that provoked this violent reaction...Those who work at this magazine have a long and disgusting record of going way beyond the mere lampooning of public figures, and this is especially true of their depictions of religious figures.
When you think of Charlie Hebdo, think of the low-rent district of Western Culture; think of the morally polluted West staggering down a very dark street.
Judged by politically correct standards of freedom of expression, Charlie Hebdo is a shining example of the best of the freedoms of the West. Judged by the standards of eternity, Playboy, Penthouse, Hustler, Cosmopolitan, Charlie Hebdo, and every other vile and vulgar publication are dark abominations. If "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people" (Prov. 14:34), then the liberal Western democracies, with their breathless defense of Charlie Hebdo-style freedom of the press, are toast.
- Moral decision-making rule of thumb #1: never allow others to choose your choices for you.
- Moral decision-making rule of thumb #2: retreat cautiously whenever someone tells you that you absolutely must choose between someone's this or someone else's that.
Jihadist terrorists would like you to believe that it is them versus us. Apologists for hedonism of the press would like you to believe that, in order to be versus Jihadism, you must support Charlie Hebdo. But it is possible, even morally necessary, to be entirely horrified by Islamic extremism, to demand that it be called out, confronted and stopped, and also adamantly reject the hateful decadence of Charlie Hebdo.