I'm not Charlie

By Kersley Fitzgerald

Charlie Hebdo is a French satirical magazine that comments on current events through cartoons, articles, and editorials. The tone is irreverent at its best and often defamatory and insulting. Their extreme-left, atheistic worldview has put many religions in its cross-hairs, including Catholicism and Judaism.

It is Charlie Hebdo's cartoons about Islam and Muhammad that generally earn it the most attention. In 2006/2007, the magazine found itself in a legal battle over whether identifying Muhammad and Muslims with fundamental terrorists was racist. In 2011, they released an edition with the spoof title Charia Hebdo and a cartoon of Muhammad saying "100 lashes of the whip if you don't die laughing." The theme of the magazine was that Muhammad would welcome humor and disagree with the abuse of women certain to occur after elections in Libya and Tunisia. In response, the Charlie Hebdo office was bombed and its website hacked. The next year, after international events raised tensions between Muslims and France, Charlie Hebdo included several satirical cartoons, many including drawings of a naked Muhammad.

As you know, this was not the end. On the 7th of January, two gunmen entered the magazine's headquarters and opened fire, killing twelve and wounding another eleven.

The response has been swift and nearly universal. People around the world have repeated the phrase Je suis Charlie, or "I am Charlie," in solidarity with the writers and cartoonists. The victims are seen as martyrs in the battle for freedom of speech. The magazine responded with a new edition, the cover bearing a drawing of Muhammad holding a sign saying "Je suis Charlie," while above him are the words "Tout est Pardonne" — "All is forgiven."

Marches have been held. Celebrities have been quoted. Tweets have been tweeted. Polticians have shown up — or not. All for the sake of standing against violent fundamentalists who want to take away our freedom of speech.

But I think there's another angle that isn't being addressed. One that can only come from a biblical worldview.

Because God doesn't really endorse freedom of speech.

He grants it. We are free to say whatever we want. We are free to draw whatever we want (provided we have the artistic capability). But the Bible doesn't talk about human rights the same way we do. God gave us free will — the "right," if you will, to do whatever we want. Then, with the sacrifice of Christ, He gave believers the right to not sin. The closest thing to a "human right" we get from the Bible is the right to not be a victim of someone who disobeys God's word. But that's pretty round-a-bout logically.

But nowhere in the Bible does God say, "You have the right to say whatever you want. You have the right to a representative government. You have the right to own a weapon." You're just not going to find that in the Bible.

The Bible does say that we have the right to disobey the law if it contradicts biblical mandate. So, even if the law prohibits assembly, we have the God-given right to meet as a church (Hebrews 10:25). In regards to freedom of speech, we do have one right: we have the right to preach the Gospel, even if the state says we can't. But. It doesn't mean we won't be punished for it (Acts 16). We have the right to tell others about Jesus, and governments have the right to punish those who break their laws.

Instead, the Bible puts restrictions on how Christians should speak and what they should say:
Exodus 20:7: Don't misuse God's name.
Ephesians 4:29: Only say that which builds up and encourages others.
Colossians 4:6: Speak with grace.
Ephesians 5:4: Don't speak foolishly or with crude joking.
James 3:9-10: Don't bless God and then turn around and curse those made in the image of God.
2 Timothy 2:16: Don't indulge in irreverent babbling.
Galatians 5:13-15: Use your freedom to love each other, not to put down others.
Ephesians 4:15: Speak the truth in love.

In this way, freedom of speech is the opposite of who we are in Christ. This includes how we speak about other religions. It is loving to point out where other religions get it wrong; it's not loving to endorse obscene images of a religious figure — even if that religious figure is wrong.

For that reason, I'm not Charlie. I don't live under freedom of speech. The type of "freedom of speech" Charlie Hebdo promotes is actually slavery to sin.
Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Psalm 141:3
As horrific as it was that the Charlie Hebdo office was attacked in such a brutal way, I can't endorse the way in which they have spoken. Their depictions of Muhammad (a man made after God's image) were vile, grotesque, and crude. They have similar pictures of God and Jesus (don't look them up). I don't identify with the shooters who murdered them, but neither do I identify with those who hide their sin behind "freedom of speech."

That being said, I'm not categorically opposed to freedom of speech being the law of the land, even as I'm aware others will use it in a way I don't agree with. I think if a nation decided to enforce censorship in a way that followed biblical standards, that nation would be blessed by God, but I'm not near ready to trust any government to do so.

Image Credit: Thomas Favre-Bulle; "concrete wall"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth Controversial-Issues Current-Issues Sin-Evil

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Published 1-26-2015