Sunday, February 1, 2015

Limits of satire

We were talking about Stephen’s sermon in Jerusalem before he was martyred (Acts 7) in Bible class the other day. I said that, from the Jewish perspective, Stephen had insulted the Sanhedrin, basically claiming it was Jesus’ followers who were the true inheritors of God’s covenant with Israel, not the Jewish authorities who denied the messiah and the prophets. The Sanhedrin dragged him out of the city and stoned him to death.

The teacher quipped that the Sanhedrin must have been deeply insulted like the Muslims were insulted by the Mohammed cartoons. It was a throwaway comparison, and I understood his meaning that in both instances men were killed for what their killers considered blasphemy.

But I take exception that the unvarnished truth that sorely needed to be heard in the very early days of the church is similar to the sophomoric roasting of Mohammed by Charlie Hebdo. Charlie Hebdo’s attack on Islam was in the spirit of roasting sacred cows for the sake of roasting sacred cows, regardless of their merits with respect to truth and justice. Stephen had a nobler purpose: to spread the gospel of salvation.

The problem with satire outlets like Charlie Hebdo, who take pride in being “equal opportunity offenders,” is they are at bottom empty. They mock others who have overbearing spiritual stakes with relentless merriment because they themselves have no spiritual stake in anything. In a modern world, this is virtuous, to have and to hold dear nothing. Attachments are passĂ©, because they supposedly make people irrational. Cold, sick rationalism should be our faith, not Jesus, not Mohammed.

This nihilist, post-human ugliness has steered Europe since World War II, resulting in marked declines in religious observance and birthrates, a literal and spiritual sterilization. Charlie Hebdo needs a patriotic, faithful nation to defend it, but they specialize in sapping its vitality by belittling it.

Who then will die for Charlie Hebdo? Who will die for nothing?

Further reading: “To die for Charlie Hebdo by Pat Buchanan.

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