No, I am not Charlie. Personally, I find the kind of humour that characterized Charlie Hebdo distasteful, albeit certainly quite amusing at times, and often offensive. No one is spared, whether politicians, religion or “the famous”, all can find themselves objects of ridicule.
So Charlie Hebdo is not a paper I would generally buy. But I do respect the right the publishers have to produce this material and others to buy it. Their cartoons lampoon Jesus Christ and the Christian faith as much as (if not more than) Islam but under no circumstances am I justified to react violently. The Kouachi brothers’ action to “avenge the prophet” is simply not an option.
The West’s reaction to the jihadist attack on the Paris HQ of the French satirical publication has been unanimous – Je Suis Charlie, this could be me; we are all potential victims of extremist Islamist violence. As much as an attack on the cartoonists and editors themselves, this is an attack on some of the values that we hold so dear, in particular tolerance and the freedom of choice. And our response must also be rooted in these same values.
But freedom, tolerance, truth, justice, respect and particularly forgiveness do not come naturally; they are the fruit of Jesus Christ’s radical teaching, built into our collective psyche from centuries of Christian influence.
In this respect the cover of the last edition of Charlie Hebdo is so apt. Picturing Muhammad (unidentified, but drawn in the way that they have always depicted the prophet) crying and holding his own “Je Suis Charlie” placard, the defiant declaration reads: “Tout est pardonné”, everything is forgiven.
Indeed. In Jesus Christ, everything can be forgiven. Everything, from childish spite to the most horrendous atrocities committed in bitter anger and hatred – everything can be forgiven. Wonderfully, whatever we have done that we regret, we can be forgiven by God. And equally wonderfully, our own hearts can be changed by God so that we are able to forgive those that cause us pain. Forgiven and able to forgive – maybe I am Charlie after all.
PS Yes, after 20 months of silence, this is me blogging again. Well, recycling something I wrote for somewhere else. My apologies for the silence – with other events of the last couple of years, I have simply not been able to maintain the creative energy to write regularly. And once a month goes by… it is easy just to drop it totally. This is my attempt to start the ball rolling again, albeit as I say by recycling writing I have on file from other projects.