Monday, Oct 26, 2020. Good morning! Let us touch a hot topic of current political debate in Europe. How do we treat killing of a teacher in France as a result of him showing cartoons of Muhammad in his school and talking about freedom of the press? What is the Christian viewpoint, is there a common and clear approach to the matter which would be in line with the teaching of Jesus today?
The topic is delicate. And it is also complex. I think we need to address at least three main points or subtopics here: a) Should you be free to draw cartoons of Muhammad? b) What does Jesus recommend to do? c) What about biblical threats to people? We will touch a) and b) today.
Freedom and Love …
First, let us recall the center of the Christian message. In Jesus God came to us, to mankind. He lived among us, showed us an example of love and wisdom. He died at the cross for the sin of the world. He rose on the third day. He is with the father, sent his spirit, and calls each and every human to reconnect with God through the grace and love which God gives to us freely through the cross. The apostle Peter writes about this at the beginning of his letter:
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance. (1 Peter 1, 1-2)
Jesus taught that his disciples - everyone who uses his name and calls himself Christian - should put love into the first place of his motivating moments. Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. Love your enemies, as God loves his enemies and died for them. We are called to receive the love of God into our heart, and then live in it.
Jesus and his apostles also taught that Christians should treat others with respect and care. We are free by the freedom which Christ gained for us. And we are everyone's servant by the love which Christ puts into our heart. The apostle Paul calls us as Christians to be very careful with the needs and concerns of others, even if we are free to act as we want (1 Kor 10, 33). For this reason, I believe that we should not draw or create or use or publish cartoons of Muhammad. It is not that we think it is bad in itself. No, it is not. From a Christian viewpoint Muhammad was a human, as we all are. But since the Muslim community sees big difficulties in drawing pictures of their Prophet, as formulated in their Hadith (Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith: 7.834, 7.838, 7.840, 7.844, 7.846), we should respect their will and stay away from cartoons of Muhammad.
Protection and Clarity …
When we say that as a Christian you should not draw cartoons of Muhammad to respect those who have not yet found the love of Christ, that does not mean that we should support the outrageous reactions of some followers of Muhammad with respect to those who do draw cartoons of Muhammad. We need to firmly clarify that freedom is an important value. From a Christian viewpoint, God gives freedom to all people, since he wants their love and decisions as free people, choosing to believe in him and to follow him.
The freedom of the word means that people are allowed to say things which might not please others. Even if you do not agree with someone, even if his or her words cause strong feelings in you, they should still be allowed to say what they think. If you look back in history, humans have fought for freedom of the word for so long! The Christian church was suppressed for its first 300 years. Many conflicts had freedom of the work and freedom of the mind as a core topic. It is still an important topic on the global scale today, in so many countries, so many societies!
Let us work towards a world where atheists and Christians can live freely and communicate their convictions and faith. Let us work towards a world where Buddhists and Hinduists and Muslims can live their faith, respecting the convictions of others. It includes the freedom to call others to their faith, to change your convictions where you find evidence and discover the deep truth which faith bears in itself. (Roland Potthast)