Divided Differences

In the heaviness of all that has happened in Paris, France, it is only natural that our physiological reaction be fight-or-flight. How is it that another mundane day rounds a corner to find terrorism at its front steps? While any act of terrorism is horrific in its own kind, this form came ready with a list of names. Those human lives held names that will never be forgotten, partly because of what their work meant to so many.

As a Christian, in all honesty, the satirical art that Charlie Hebdo created and is known for could be taken to heart. I have seen the satirical portrayals of Jesus and the Trinity, my belief, really, everything, and it does feel like a giant gulp of, “REALLY?” But to remember the words that my Messiah spoke …

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.'”

… is to be reminded that insults, comedic or not, will come my way, and that I still must choose to forgive – because that’s what my heart needs – over (and over and over) again. That, while the message that Charlie Hebdo sought to portray was one of worldly tolerance, what instead can be perceived and felt on my end, is a crush of the human spirit. However, on the other side, as a Christian and claimed follower of Jesus, I still choose to forgive, to oversee the misunderstandings and barriers … even when the insult or intolerance is not of my belief.

It is sad to admit, but I think I’ve only ever known one practicing Muslim in my life. I worked with him and he was wonderful. His demeanor was always kind, peaceful and thoughtful. Never once did I believe he would be someone prone to violence and he never was. We would talk about my belief and his belief. Why he chose not to eat pork, even to the extent of an accidental food mix-up (an incident where pepperoni pizza touched cheese pizza). These were cultural byways that I did not fully understand, but I chose to embrace my friend nonetheless.

To be a person of any faith right now is trying. Check any website after the attack in Paris and you will find Christopher Hitchen’s words on why religion is meaningless. Interestingly enough, in one particular article that Slate posted titled, “Cartoon Debate: The case for mocking religion,” I could not help but feel a tickle of truth from someone so diametrically opposed to my beliefs:

“We cannot possibly adjust enough to please the fanatics, and it is degrading to make the attempt.”

I write these words out of relation, because it’s hard to deny the fanatics in every realm of religious beliefs. These fanatics are the ones who protest funerals, who keep saying our works are not good enough; we are all slaves to sin and doomed to hell if we don’t change our ways. They’re the ones bombing coffee shops, burning down entire villages and walking into offices with guns loaded and pointed. All of these horrifying acts done in the name of a god that can only be found as false.

Which brings me back to our fight-or-flight state of mind. It’s easy to move to a place of distrust and fear after these fanatic terrorists bombard society with their impossible demands. So, what I call on in this time, is the ability to say that evilness cannot prevail and a fight for religion is never violent.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

It is a call to every belief built on unity and peace to grieve these losses, especially for every soul that did not know there was another way. A call that says that forgiveness always forms a new path amid the destruction, and it bridges the gap of divided differences. Where we, as healthy Christians, keep our tank full on “seventy times seven.”

Amazingly, Charlie Hebdo’s most recent publication after the attack did just this. Their cover, shouting from the grave, still littered with satire, features these words: “Tout est Pardonne.”

Translated: “All is forgiven.”

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