I’m sure everyone knows what happened in Paris yesterday, but I woke up this morning, wandered over to my social media sites and was struck by the chaotic mess of opinions.
Facebook was covered in French flags. Twitter was awash with contrasting opinion, and the news feeds were full of doom and gloom.
I took a while to scroll through the opinions of my social media friends and followers, was somewhat disturbed by some of what I read, and then headed off to church. The thoughts have been percolating since.
Here’s some of the headlines of the things I read this morning on social media:
- ‘Muslims Around the World Condemn Paris Attacks.’
- ‘Ban the Burkha’
- A meme with a picture of Ronald Reagan stating: If I was still the president Isis would be Waswas
- Pray for Paris
- Another meme using #Prayforparis but then stating: To the God who caused it, or the God who did nothing to stop it?
- Donation sites.
- A tweet: To people blaming refugees for attacks in Paris tonight. Do you not realise these are the people the refugees are trying to run away from..?
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (Mike Baird, Premier, NSW.)I think what has struck me most, is the lack of thought that goes into some of the things we read and see on social media. Followed by thousands, and in some cases, millions, of ‘likes.’ Of course some people take the time to comment, some take the time to troll, and others just share whatever it is, without reading more than the title.
The quote from Mike Baird over the Sydney Opera House isn’t a Mike Baird Quote, but one from the Bible. It comes from the first chapter of the Gospel of John. It’s one of my favourite parts of the Bible, and is well worth reading in context. For a Christian it reminds us that no matter what might happen in the world, through the actions of man, that there is always hope, and that one day there will be a better place. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m a Christian, but that I only blog intermittently about it. When I saw the meme and the image and the quote, I wondered if many would recognise the words, and whether they’d end up attributed to Mike Baird in popular culture as a result. (Maybe that’s a bit of cynicism popping out in me.)
More than anything, today I’ve struggled with the fact that people are using this dreadful act to push their own agendas, and that the world seems to be ignoring the fact that these kinds of events are happening everywhere, not just places like Paris.
Another friend on Facebook posted this today:
It came from here.
To me, no matter whether you’re a praying person or not, it says more than any of the other things I’ve posted. It reminds us that we are all human beings. That we are all people. It reminds us that just because we live in a particular part of the world, that we shouldn’t only be upset when people we consider similar to ourselves are targeted by terrorists. It reminds us that there are those who walk every day in places where terror reigns – and that some of those are unable to escape it.
As I sit here, comfortably ensconced in my lounge chair, typing away in my rural Australian town, I am in no danger. Or perhaps I should rephrase that. I am in no danger, just as those who died or were injured in Paris yesterday were in no danger. That attack, like those other high profile attacks, has jerked some of the western world out of its comfort zone, and into a place of mild uncertainty. Those people yesterday probably lived very similar lives to me. Yesterday’s attacks demonstrated that it can happen anywhere, anytime.
Maybe it will raise the profile of the problems of other parts of the world where it happens much more often, but it may not. Today, I’m reminding myself that the enormous refugee crisis we’re currently seeing is driven by people desperate to leave places where yesterday’s attack is commonplace. If that happened regularly in my little town, I’d be leaving too.
I was also thinking about the temptation to blame those who profess to be Muslims. Clearly, judging by the social media I’ve seen, many people do. But then I thought about other conflicts. I’ve just done a bit of reading about antisemitism and Nazism. You see, it struck me that in the nineteen thirties and forties, Germany was considered to be a ‘Christian’ country. Yet Nazism arose under Adolf Hitler. As a result, we had World War 2. (Clearly that’s a bit simplistic, but I’m not a historian.)
Do we routinely blame Christians for Nazism? I’ve found a fascinating document called the Dabru Emet. Here’s a quote from it:
“Nazism was not a Christian phenomenon. Without the long history of Christian anti-Judaism and Christian violence against Jews, Nazi ideology could not have taken hold nor could it have been carried out. Too many Christians participated in, or were sympathetic to, Nazi atrocities against Jews. Other Christians did not protest sufficiently against these atrocities. But Nazism itself was not an inevitable outcome of Christianity. If the Nazi extermination of the Jews had been fully successful, it would have turned its murderous rage more directly to Christians. We recognize with gratitude those Christians who risked or sacrificed their lives to save Jews during the Nazi regime. With that in mind, we encourage the continuation of recent efforts in Christian theology to repudiate unequivocally contempt of Judaism and the Jewish people. We applaud those Christians who reject this teaching of contempt, and we do not blame them for the sins committed by their ancestors.”
Clearly, the vast majority of the world does not see Nazism as a Christian thing. Even those most affected by the Holocaust do not either. Consequently, why should we view the hideous atrocities of Isis as those of Muslims as a whole?
Certainly, those individuals and organisations who perpetrate such dreadful things should be condemned, however, blanket condemnation for one group of people is completely inappropriate, even if those who perform such dreadful acts say that they profess the same faith.
I am a Christian, but I am not one of those who claim to be of my faith, while choosing to spew hatred against those who do not share their beliefs. I do believe that Jesus, who healed lepers, socialised with the outcasts of his day, and even healed the hated invader, would rather have me love those who believe differently.
I’ll end with a quote from the book of Matthew, Chapter 5 verses 43-45:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.