Cartoons and Calling - What do you think?
Let's take the violence out of the equation for just a moment. Pretend no embassies are burning, and there are no death threats being made to Scandinavians whose only crime is living in a culture where freedom of speech allows insulting editorial cartoons. Forget about the intensity of the response for a moment (though it's a topic worth pondering because it provides insight into both the differences and similarities between fundamentalist movements in Christianity and Islam. Do you remember "The Last Temptation of Christ?" Islamic fundamentalists burn. Christian fundamentalists boycott. - but I digress)
My question has more to do with the limits of free speech. Who decides what is free speech and what is a hate crime? And are cultures consistent in their enforcement of their own definition? It's easy to villify the Muslims involved in this situation because we can't relate to their response; but can we relate to their being offended?
Our editorialists mock Pat Robertson. Many Christians understand that. What if it were Billy Graham? What if it were Jesus? I promise you that though bullets wouldn't fly, ink would. And the paper publishing the cartoons would be boycotted, along with the advertisers.
My point is that it's easy to judge Islamic extremism because the violent response is so reprehensible to our culture. But we have our own tools to define the limits of free speech, and when a minority in our country (race, religion, gender orientation) is mocked, there are buckets of ink spilled in the response, and economic grenades launched at the perpetrators and their associates.
So, I'd argue, all cultures have their limits. All people have their limits. What are your limits? I'd argue that Jesus invites us to have few limits when it comes to being personally reviled or slandered, but that we be diligent in preserving the dignity of others, especially those unable to speak for themselves. I wonder though if God Himself falls into the category of 'those unable to speak for themselves'? I don't think so. Jesus' example of entrusting Himself, and His reputation to the Father, who He knew would bring vindication and the revelation of truth in the proper time, seems to be our example. (read the whole passage, especially v21 to the end).
Once we clear away our revulsion over the violence, it's easy to see that all peoples, including Christians, are tempted to lash out in some form when mocked or marginalized. What sets Jesus' ways apart from others is his invitation to love the very ones who mock us, rather than set their embassies on fire or boycott their newspapers and theaters. Love your enemies? Yes, the road is narrow indeed.