Last night I was dreaming about France, and I was speaking in French. Once in a while, I still dream in French, although this is rare since I studied in France ten years ago. When I woke up and heard the news about the Paris terrorist attack, I understood why I dreamed in French. The Holy Spirit was interceding through me for the country that I still love.
The story is that Muslim terrorists opened fire this morning on the offices of a French satirist newspaper, Charlie Hebdo. Twelve people were killed, and three others were injured. Here is an ABC News report with more information.
Creating Images of God
The French newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, is infamous for printing satirical stories and cartoons about religious topics, especially Muslim topics. In 2011, the newspaper came under Muslim criticism for printing a satirical cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed. The offices were firebombed after the issue came out.
Creating images of prophets and other religious figures is a contentious issue in the Muslim community. Creating images of God (Allah) is strictly forbidden by all Muslim sects, as it is believed to lead to idolatry. Actually, this is not unique to the Muslim world. Jews do not permit images of God, either, and many early Christian denominations did not allow it either. Creating religious satire is even more egregious to the devout.
God did tell us in the 10 Commandments not to create graven images (Exodus 20:4). I personally do not like images of God because I believe that the fullness, or even the essence, of God cannot be captured in human images. I especially do not like the white-bearded “big man in the sky” type of images. I also do not like the ubiquitous Jesus picture of the white man with blue eyes. It is so historically inaccurate and damaging.
Violence in the Name of God
That said, I never condone violence in the name of God or any religion. I cannot understand why the perpetrators of the Paris terrorist attacks would shed blood in the name of honor. God cares far more about precious human life than somebody making a satirical image of him or of a prophet. How do the terrorists think this is an act pleasing to God? This is an act of evil.
Evil this morning came in the form of the Paris terrorist attacks.
Some people might put blame on Charlie Hebdo, and say the newspaper should leave the Muslims alone, stop making fun of religion. The newspaper has printed naked cartoons of the prophet and other grotesque, disrespectful caricatures, certainly inflammatory and hurtful to the faithful.
Is this morally right? I would say no.
But I am thankful for the freedoms we enjoy in democratic countries, like France and the United States. Part of that freedom is freedom of the press, freedom of people to criticize and characterize. If we begin to censor that, many other freedoms would soon slide away.
Violence against anyone, even a newspaper that prints offensive images, is not the answer. Censorship is not the answer.
Love is the answer.
If I am morally outraged by an image, a word, an article about my religious beliefs, I do not want to practice violence. I speak back through my own words, speak out my truth, and try to find mutual understanding. I practice loving my enemies, and in doing so, show them the way of truth to God. This is a life-long practice.
We Fear What We Do Not Know
Terroristic acts are acts of hatred and fear. Terrorists fear what they do not know. Instead of trying to create a bridge of knowledge and understanding, religious terrorists lash out against other religions. They feel justified in killing people who do not follow their way, or make fun of their way.
Killing is the ultimate terror, but I think we all need to check our own hearts. Do we want to harm another by pulling down their faith? Isn’t the root of all religions to love one another? God is the author of love, not death.
The Paris terrorist attack, and every religious terrorist attack, is a time for us to check our own hearts. Do I harbor hatred toward those who see differently than me? Do I look down on those following a different religious path, but still seeking the same God?
John, the disciple of Jesus, wrote
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
1 John 4:20
The Paris terrorist attack is a time for us to show love to our brothers and sisters of all religions. The Paris terrorist attack is a time for us to pray.
The Paris Terrorist Attack: A Prayer for the Victims
I thank you for your love and guidance in this difficult time. Thank you for letting the Holy Spirit speak to me in my dreams and help me to intercede over evil that I cannot understand. Help me still to pray when I do not have the words.
Please let your work of love surround the victims of this terrorist attack. Give the police wisdom in finding the terrorists and bringing earthly justice. Send the comfort of the Holy Spirit to the city of Paris and all of France as they are living in fear and pain right now.
God, please work on earth to bring a spirit of peace and understanding between people, cultures, and religions. Stop the terrorists and change their hearts before they can create more chaos and violence. Give them dreams and a holy encounter with the living God so they will change their ways.
God, please cleanse my own heart of any thoughts of fear or violence toward others who offend me, or who are different than me.
Please heal France, and heal the earth in the love of your kingdom.