Monday, January 12, 2015

Freedom's shame. . .

The murders in Paris are but the tip of the iceberg both in terms of the past and the future.  Islam does not countenance freedom and it does not tolerate freedom which is used to mock or blaspheme its deity.  There are many in the West who do not understand this and who refuse to accept this.  I, for one, am not ready to surrender freedom of expression to the purveyors of propaganda or the thought police who will decide what will or will not be tolerated.  Yet at the same time I am offended by the childish way we treat the precious liberty for which so many have sacrificed so much. How shallow and trivial we esteem the treasure of freedom so severely tested and purchased over and over again on battlefield and in blood. 

Though we may despise what is said, we insist upon the right of those to say it.  But that is not where it ends.  We may not and should not defer to an agency of government to censor what is said or published in the public square, that does not mean we should not police our own tongues and practice a voluntary restraint for the sake of virtue, nobility, and good.  Discretion has become a hidden or forgotten virtue and its character is much in need in our broken and fearful world.  But it needs to be the discretion of a people who know and highly esteem the cost of freedom and who refuse to abuse it by using its liberty in shameful ways.

On the one hand was must admit that Christians have long been the targets of the kind of rude and crude sarcasm that Islamic warriors found so offensive at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.  Alas, Christians are soft and easy targets because they do not take up arms to defend their faith or their God.  I suppose that one may grant the authors and editors of Charlie Hebdo a certain amount of courage for taking the risk of offending Islam and not just Christianity.  We all know that Europe has become an anti-religious atmosphere in which such satire is considered prime entertainment.  It is sad but true that the places where the spires of great cathedrals pierce the skies have become more tourist destinations than the spiritual homes of the people who live around them.  It is no less true, for example, in the Lutheran heartlands as well.

The murders were an act of terrorism and should be admitted as such and those who did them and plotted them treated as terrorists.  That said, I hope for better from us as people -- better than the surrender of our noble freedom to simply offend.  It only shows the poverty of our words and arguments when we choose to characterize our positions only with vile depictions of our opponents.  We ought to be better than this, better equipped to propose our values and better equipped to defend them against those who disagree.

Freedom's shame is that those who are heirs to this precious gift of liberty squander it on things that do not build, encourage, uplift, help, ennoble, honor, improve, or elevate us as individuals and as a people.  I am not at all suggesting that we should not discuss and even argue our positions on issues that divide us.  Unity which cannot afford such open and honest discussion is a weak and fragile unity that will not survive.  Yet we would do better to honor the sacrifice of those who have bequeathed to us this privilege by using the power of our arguments better than the crude cartoons Charlie Hebdo is known for.  I am not saying that this will silence the terrorists or end the violence but it would better if we fought over ideas than over dirty caricatures of our opponents, over crude depictions of life, and over pornographic images.  We dare not surrender this policing of our thoughts, speech, and publications to governments, agencies, or cultural warriors but we ought to do it ourselves for the sake of truth, honor, and freedom.


Rich Kauzlarich said...

Very well-said.

Carl Vehse said...

"Yet we would do better to honor the sacrifice of those who have bequeathed to us this privilege by using the power of our arguments better than the crude cartoons Charlie Hebdo is known for."

This is getting very close to a paraphrase of this statement.

Lutheran Lurker said...

Mr. Vehse,

How is what Pastor Peter wrote anywhere close to what Pres Obama said? Pastor Peter did not even mention Islam but he did point out that the bulk of Charlie Hebdo's cartoons are aimed at Christians and Jews. You really seem to be pushing another agenda here.

tubbs said...

Dr. Strickert, could you kindly give us some documentation on this quote you claim is President Obama's ?

Carl Vehse said...

"Pastor Peter did not even mention Islam"

Actually he did. And besides, is anyone claiming that the assassinations of the people at Charlie Hebdo were because of what they had published about Christians, or the Amish, or the Tea Party?

"How is what Pastor Peter wrote anywhere close to what Pres Obama said?"

Just as Traitorobama opposes those who criticize Mohammad and Islam, Rev. Peters' statement opposes people publishing cartoons against Mohammad and Islam (which he refers to as "crude" and Obama refers to as "slander"), like the ones from Charlie Hebdo.

One claims the future does not belong to such people; the other claims such people are not honoring those who have died defending our freedom of speech unless they don't publish such cartoons against Islam.

That is why those two statements appear to be getting very close.

The quote in the earlier link is from Obama's remarks to the UN General Assembly on September 25, 2012.

Pastor Peters said...

Honestly, Dr. Strickert, what ever satisfies you. I was no more defending Islam than the man in the moon but I was suggesting that our precious freedom is wasted upon cartoons which are crude and rude -- as if this is best we can do in response to the many whose blood has been shed to protect freedom of expression! In case you did not know this, Islam is neither the first nor the exclusive domain of Charlie Hebdo's vulgar satire. Christians are first and foremost among their targets. To suggest that such demeans freedom of expression is NOT to defend Islam from such vulgarity. It is to suggest that too often those who have nothing to contribute to a debate, make up for the lack of reasoned words or ideas with just that -- crude (meaning vulgar) satire. What a waste of precious freedom. I will defend the right of someone to say it but I do not have to condone what is said.

Carl Vehse said...

There is no issue here about satire against Christ or his Body (the Church); it is blasphemy. The issue in the referenced quote is whether satire (either written or in cartoons or images) used against a secular or spiritual enemy dishonors or fails to honor the sacrifice of those who defended our country's freedom of expresson.

It is NOT a "waste of precious freedom" NOR "demeans freedom" to employ satire at an appropriate target, any more than it is a "waste of precious freedom" or "demeans freedom" to attack the same target with reasoned words or ideas.

Lutherans recognize no proscription in Scripture against satire itself under the Eighth Commandment. Indeed in his Large Catechism explanation Luther employs both reason and satire in some descriptions of those who do break the commandment. And of course, Luther included abundant satire in his writings along with the woodcuts about the pope and others attacking Christians and Christian doctrine. (There is also the example from our Lord's words in the Mt. 23 and elsewhere.)

When satire is wrong in its attack of a target it is for the same violation that alleged "reasoned words or ideas" would be wrong in their attack against that same target.

If the satire attacks a public target, actions, or behavior which are recognized as being at least "crude and rude" or "vulgar" if not more so, then the labeling of satire as "crude and rude" or "vulgar" is little more than a description based on one's personal disposition, like the freedom to choose which socks to wear.