We are indeed blessed to live in a free country, but freedom is a two-sided privilege. Americans enjoy freedom of speech, freedom to worship, and for the most part, freedom from want and freedom from fear. Unfortunately, there are corollaries such as freedom to hate, freedom to disrespect, freedom to ridicule, freedom to be rude and many others that may offend us, but, as citizens of a free country, we must endure.
But we are not free to attack those who offend us with violence or intimidation. Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s famous quote, “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to death your right to say it,” describes the often painful dilemma we find ourselves faced with when confronted with another’s actions or remarks that we find repugnant.
Such seems to be the case of the two gunmen who were killed by police when they attempted to attack those participating in a controversial event in Garland, a contest to draw the Muslim prophet Muhammad. Unfortunately, all religions and ideologies are subject to ridicule. As early as 200 A.D. the blasphemous image of a crucified Christ with the head of a donkey (Alexamenos graffito) was found in Rome. Many disrespectful replies are tweeted to @pontifex. Political rhetoric is filled with denigrating and calumnious statements.
In this particular instance the attackers apparently took umbrage over the display of images of Mohammed, which is a blasphemous action to most Muslims. The offense is more repulsive when it is ridicule. Most of the media does not publish such images, not out of obedience to the Koran, but out of respect for the feelings of Muslims. That respect was not accorded to Muslims by those who sponsored or participated in the Garland event, or by the two gunmen toward those who were exercising their freedom in participating.
As counter-cultural as it is, and as bewildering as it is to many, as Christians, Jesus calls us not to retaliate or seek revenge but to forgive and to turn the other cheek. (Matthew 5:39)
Please let us always pray for understanding and tolerance that can someday lead to peace in our world.
Image credit: “Palacio de Convenciones” by Frj – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons