Mocking Charlie Hebdo
Would it be appropriate for someone to satirize Charlie Hebdo magazine after the killings of their cartoonists at the hands of Islamic fanatics? Let’s suppose someone published a cartoon of a Charlie Hebdo cartoonist weeping with the caption “Cartoonist Overwhelmed by Multiculturalism.” Could the remaining staff at Charlie Hebdo take the joke? Would they honor the publisher’s right to print it? Would left-wing factions within the public support the right of such a tasteless cartoon to be seen by all? Would they mass by the thousands in the streets and hold aloft their pens in a sign of solidarity for such an insensitive cartoon’s right to be published? I hope so, but I’m skeptical.
Don’t get me wrong, I love satire. I love pretty much all forms of humor. Humor that highlights evil and hypocrisy has tremendous value in the fight against evil and hypocrisy. Here in America, as in France, there is a long tradition of freedom of speech and expression. But it is often tritely said that we have the right to say something, but that doesn’t mean we should say it. Heck, even Jesus used satire to point out an ugly truth about the Pharisees. Take a look at Matthew 15: 14 where he accuses the Pharisees of being blind guides leading the blind. The image of the blind leading the blind is humorous, but it also pointed out the spiritual blindness of religious leaders who were leading the people astray. This enraged the Pharisees. The Pharisees felt threatened by Jesus and the truth of his message. They eventually killed Jesus for such remarks. If nothing else, this teaches us that satire is effective at getting to the heart of a matter. It can also be lethal. Jesus knew exactly what he was doing and where best to apply satire. But in the hands of immature, ideologically blind people, satire can be misused. It’s like placing a loaded gun in the hands of a two-year old child.
Perhaps satire is best used by those willing to apply it evenly, including against those things they themselves cherish. No sacred cows. In other words, it is one thing to mock political ideologies, religions, and ways of life you personally dislike. It is quite something else to mock hypocrisy, ugliness and evil in your own camp. It’s easier to find courage to do the former. You see, hypocrisy, ugliness and evil do not reside in just one ideology or another. They are everywhere.
Yes, as a Christian I stand in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo, despite the fact that the magazine has a reputation for mocking all religion, including Christianity. But I do not stand with Charlie Hebdo so much as I stand against the evil that would deprive us ALL of the right to speak our conscience. Perhaps it is time for Christians to stop standing with our left-wing or right-wing favorites and simply stand against evil.
Here is the thing about Charlie Hebdo’s ideology: It doesn’t have a solid foundation. By mocking all religion they leave only one source to determine right from wrong, good from evil—the law of man which is based on the sensibilities of man. The problem with the law of man, as necessary as it is, is that it does not lift up the soul of man. It only enables man to live side by side without slaughtering each other. And even at that it is a poor tool. Only God and his law and mercy and redemptive power can elevate the soul of man.
As Christians, we know that God does not ask us to avenge his name when unbelievers commit blasphemy or mock our sacred things. We are only witnesses and ambassadors who he uses in the world to peacefully persuade people to surrender their lives to God. Attempting to win converts through force and violence goes against God’s purpose. If people refuse to believe, or if they mock our God, all we can do is turn them over to God and let him deal with them with his justice and mercy. We are not judge, jury and executioner. Apparently Islamic fanatics do not have such a doctrine. It seems like the God they worship depends on human hands to dispense justice on the street, like a vigilante. That’s vanity.