Is Paris Burning?

The layers that obscure the truth are burying humanity in large numbers. Yes, Paris was burning again and those flames and the dead bodies may well be a grim foreshadowing of what the future holds. I was in neighboring England the night the massacre scattered across Paris took place, as people going out to enjoy a dinner or concert or a football game were the targets of hate-filled and ruthless killers. The newspapers the next day had similar words: Carnage; massacre; assassination; murder; blood; death; screams; terror, and so on. Television programming was preempted and viewers were cautioned that some of the scenes of the slaughter were graphic. It was real. A few hours later, names and pictures of the dead were shown. It was like we had heard this before. But it was new and real: the victims lives cut short in the peak of their careers. Children who werent going to come home. People looking for their loved ones. Marriages suddenly broken by death. A young graduate with life ahead of her. And so on. One doesnt have to know the individuals to feel helplessness and pain. This is twenty-first century murderous man. War in small increments can be deadlier than large scale war because it doesnt just desensitize the killers; it desensitizes all of humanity.

Killers who do not represent a country and whose belief is debated ad nauseam as to whether it is a version or a perversion are truly sinister and are the cancerous cells of our time. They are protected by having no roots either in country or belief. The West is being taken down in small portions till one day the lie of the murderers being protected by smooth-talking power brokers with a bodyguard of lies will be seen for the terrifying belief that it is. No contrary view will be allowed then. For now, the layers of distortion cover the graves of the murdered. The whole world has become a courtroom where clever lawyers make truth unattainable. Whether it be 9/11 or the carnage at the Boston Marathon or blown-up planes or Paris, we will not find answers because to ask the question is either to receive a lie from some politicians or many in the media, or to invoke the wrath of hate-filled killers.

So we ask! What is the belief behind all this that kills with such callousness? We do not get any answers. We are told by some that its a religion of peace. Others call it a political theory at its core covered with the garb of religion to give it maximum protection as it invokes the laws of blasphemy. What is the answer? We had dare not unpack the truth. In one sense, strangely, one feels almost pity for these murderers. The possessor of hate loses the essence of life much more than the victim does. Living with a heart so deceived breeds a decimating misery within and spreads the venom globally. There must be scores of young men within the belief who do not wish to inflict such pain but who now live with the pall of suspicion over them. Such is the contagion of a poisoned soul.

But the quest for answers still haunts. In one Middle Eastern country, an awful thing happened. Two young Muslims turned atheists were on a program. They argued for the reality that blood had been spilled across the centuries and that there was no denying that from its earliest days to the present, this was the same blood-letting in the name of the belief as originally given and carried out. Then one of them asked the cleric a question that was as pointed as could be. It was a powerful question with an irrefutable fact within the question. The question laid bare a reality that was deemed blasphemous. The next day that man and his family were murdered, just for asking a fact-laden question that was unanswerable without conceding the truth. For that, he and his family paid with their lives.

Thats the depravity of our age. It is death to ask the pointed question because the answer, if true, betrays the real truth. The masquerade is on and it is deadly. We watch hundreds die. We hear speeches full of distortions; we tolerate deceit and even reward it. Some in power and in the public eye whitewash the reality while the blood of the murdered cries out from the ground. Our children and grandchildren will inherit the whirlwind because our media pundits and misguided speech-makers have sown to the wind by trading in lives for their power.

It would be easy to lose heart and become cynical. But No! There is One who sees all things, knows all things, and will ultimately triumph over all things. There is only one message that addresses the truth as the truth. The Lord of glory, Jesus Christ, came to this earth and was also the victim of hate. Lies sent him to the cross. Power overruled reality, as politics and religious demagogues once again made the lie seem noble. But the Lord who sees the beginning from the end amazingly conquered not in spite of the dark mystery of evil, rather, He conquered through it. James Stewart of Scotland, pointing to the cross, said it in the most powerful terms I have read. Commenting on the verse from Psalm 68:18, He led captivity captive,‎ he said,

It is a glorious phraseHe led captivity captive. The very triumphs of his foes, it means, he used for their defeat. He compelled their dark achievements to subserve his ends not theirs. They nailed him to a tree, not knowing that by that very act they were bringing the world to his feet. They gave him a cross, not guessing that he would make it a throne. They flung him outside the city gates to die, not knowing that in that very moment they were lifting up the gates of the universe, to let the king come in. They thought to root out his doctrines, not understanding that they were implanting imperishably in the hearts of men the very name they intended to destroy. They thought they had God with his back to the wall, pinned helpless and defeated: they did not know that it was God himself who had tracked them down. He did not conquer in spite of the dark mystery of evil. He conquered through it.

The lie has a shelf life. The truth abides forever. God can even conquer through our perversion.

One more thing. I would be remiss if I left the guilt and darkness out there. That is the seduction of a fake righteousness. We all have to look at our own hearts and see the evil that is within each one of us. Only then can we find the answer from which all other answers flow. Some time ago, I was in Romania. A sculptor had some of his works on display. One was a horrific, fierce-looking, long nail. When you picked it up, as rusty and jagged as the nail was, the head was polished and shiny. ‎And when you looked at that polished head, you saw a reflection of yourself. It is sobering. Very sobering.

You see, the nails that cause hurt and pain and death ultimately point to our own hearts. Only when we as individuals see the evil that is within will we find an answer for the evil that is around us. Maybe, just maybe, someday a carnage will take place that might cause everyone in power to see their own hearts as God sees them and tell us the truth of what these killings are all about. Only then will truth triumph and we find real answers. Until then, the flames will gain ground and not just Paris will burn, but the next story of scorched lives in another city will make us forget this one or possibly, awaken us to the cost of a lie. More than ever we need the Savior. Lord have mercy!

Taken from RZIM (Ravi Zacharias)

Charlie Hebdo, Intolerance, and the Problem of Double Standards

Charlie Hebdo, Intolerance, and the Problem of Double Standards

January 16th, 2015

The terrible massacre in Paris could be a “teachable” moment on the meaning of tolerance, but it will require soul searching by America’s cultural leftists.

The outpouring of sympathy and support for the staff of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo has been enormous. Over a million people poured into the streets of Paris to protest the terrorist attack on its headquarters, a gathering said to be larger than when France celebrated the end of World War II. It appears to be a near universal statement of support for freedom of expression.

But is it? Is there really a consensus, even here in the United States, for freedom of expression in all its forms? Do all the people who hold up signs declaring “the pen is mightier than the sword” really believe it when it comes to those with whom they disagree?

Sadly, many do not. In fact, some of the very same people outraged by the violence committed against Charlie Hebdo are all too happy to limit freedom of speech and inquiry on America’s campuses. Universities routinely use speech codes to limit what can be expressed on campus. Prominent figures such as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Harvard University President Larry Summers are prevented from speaking at some of the country’s most prominent universities. A University of Illinois professor who taught a class on Catholicism is fired for explaining the Catholic understanding of natural law and homosexuality; and a training manual for employees at Marquette University (a Jesuit school no less)  advises them to report privately expressed criticisms of same-sex marriage to authorities as harassment. Hair-trigger charges of “microaggression” are leveled against professors for an unintended insult. “Trigger warnings” are sent out on social media to warn tender-hearted students that they had best avoid certain lectures (say, on religion and Western Civilization) for fear of being traumatized.

It’s bad enough on America’s campuses, but illiberal shaming rituals of intolerance are coming to the workplace too. If you say or write anything, even privately, that certain groups may find offensive, you can lose your job. Just ask Atlanta’s Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, who was recently fired because of a book he published outside of work in which he expressed Christianity’s traditional teachings on homosexuality. Mozilla’s Brendan Eich resigned his new post as CEO after an outcry over his private donation to a group supporting a traditional marriage initiative in California. Apparently, some freedom of expression is more equal than others.

It would be easy to conclude that people who oppose the free speech of some are merely hypocrites. They say one thing and do another. And it’s true, they are hypocrites—flagrant partisans of a double standard. But it’s important to realize that the major reason they are not deterred by such criticism is that the double standard is actually a core principle of their ideology. In their minds, to be inconsistent is absolutely necessary to be consistent, just as it is necessary to be intolerant of certain points of view supposedly to be tolerant. It is the necessary illiberal means to advance their idea of a liberal agenda.

The key to making sense of this is to understand that free speech is not really the issue. The elimination of barriers to their vision of absolute equality is the issue. After all, the heirs of the radical “free speech” movement that began in the 1960s—the radical tenured professors who now hold sway in many American universities—are the same people trying to control free speech on campus. Leftists who want to control speech are doing so precisely because they believe that something—namely, their ideology of radical egalitarianism—is more important than free speech.

They may think of themselves as great civil libertarians of free speech, but they tolerate little dissent if someone dares question their most sacred ideas. Their inspiration is not the First Amendment, which is little more than a means to an end—embraced when it’s convenient and rejected when it’s not. Rather it is the cause of making ideological war on certain kinds of people and certain kinds of ideas, and in that war it is perfectly permissible to take no prisoners.

Who are the enemy? Actually, Charlie Hebdo’s cartoon targets make up a pretty good enemies’ list—Christians, conservatives, rich people, and Jews, particularly if they can be linked to Israel. Of course, also on the list is the lampooned Prophet Mohammad, but he presents an ideological problem for the left. Often, Muslims are presented as victims of America, Israel, and conservatives. In that context, they become a cause célèbre, a special class right up there with gays, women, and racial minorities.

However, when an Islamist terrorist beheads or blows up an ideological ally such as Charlie Hebdo, they have a problem. Luckily, the problem only lasts until the first mosque is attacked by some unhinged right-winger. Then it’s back to defending Muslims from “Islamophobes,” often making the ridiculous charge that Islamophobia is a species of racism. They have difficulty keeping their enemies straight because their ethics are situational. It depends on how a particular situation fits into the broader ideological war on Christianity, Judaism, and Western culture.

If you don’t believe me, ask Dutch-born cartoonist Bernard Holtrop who worked for Charlie Hebdo. Apparently fed up with so much solidarity from people he despises, he declared, “We vomit on all these people who suddenly say they are our friends”—mentioning the Pope and Queen Elizabeth and others who had the temerity to express support for Charlie Hebdo. “I have always defended Charlie Hebdo,” he said, “[and t]here can be no debate on freedom of expression, never.” Never, except of course when it comes to the Pope, who deserves nothing but a splash of bile from his stomach.

Holtrop and Charlie Hebdo’s vulgarity is certainly no excuse for the horrible violence perpetrated against its staff. Moreover, it’s a good thing that so many people around the world spoke out in favor of freedom of expression. I only wish that many of the magazine’s left-wing supporters in America and around the world would apply the same standard to Christian conservatives.

So here is my appeal. If the champions of free speech on the left want to be truly consistent, they should do the following:

Stop making convenient exceptions to freedom of expression. As is often noted, the First Amendment is intended to defend unpopular speech, not popular speech. That includes speech with which you disagree. No self-respecting liberal can call himself that if he violates one of the most sacred of all civil liberties—freedom of expression.

Recognize and embrace the most liberal of all principles—namely, that expressions of personal (and especially religious) opinions are protected by the Constitution. Not only does the First Amendment guarantee freedom of the press, it also protects “the free exercise of religion.” Firing a person for writing a private book expressing his religious views on homosexuality is no less offensive and unconstitutional than dismissing someone for criticizing the Pope or the Prophet Mohammad.

Return the American university to a place of liberal education, learning, and open and free inquiry. Many of America’s universities and colleges are still dedicated to these principles, but too many of them are not. It’s not only the stifling of free speech but monotonous conformity that bedevils academic learning, particularly in the humanities. The ethos of academic freedom should be truly respected, not used as an excuse to shut out certain points of view. Real diversity of opinion should be embraced as an end itself.

Stop exaggerating the threat supposedly posed by Christians and other conservatives. Much of the rationale for prohibiting conservatives from speaking on campuses stems from the outrageously stupid view that they are about to swoop down on the college green like the KKK and start lynching people. Activists actually believe they are conducting a defensive operation, when in reality they are offensively imposing a majoritarian view on minorities (especially on campus). A short look in the mirror would correct that misapprehension. It’s not conservatives who are behaving like intolerant bigots. It is radical leftists.

Drop the collective guilt mindset of identity politics. So much of the intolerance generated by the postmodern left is based on spurious assumptions about how groups of people think. The notion of “white privilege,” for example, that assumes all white people are unconsciously racist is guilty of the same racialist thinking that white supremacists once used to justify their hatred of blacks. Liberals need to go back to thinking of human beings as individuals who should be judged by their merits, not by their racial characteristics.

Get a consistent story on how to think about radical Islam. Depending on whom you talk to, Islamist terrorists are either bloody murderers of liberal cartoonists or “activists” responding to legitimate fears of “Islamophobia.” Leftists can’t make up their minds whether to fear or embrace the radical Islamists. The reason for their confusion stems from the fact that they fear Christians far more than Muslims. They occasionally get shocked out of their delusions by the threat of real violence by Islamist terrorists. But it doesn’t take long for them to realize that they can’t go too far down that road without aiding and abetting the real enemy: Christians.

Thankfully, most leftists who wish to stifle free speech don’t use violence. But they do advocate the coercive use of shaming rituals and the force of law to get their way. The means are not nearly as severe, but the principle of coercion remains. Once someone embarks down the road of saying one’s opponents have no right to their views at all, it’s not too many steps until one is tolerating all sorts of horrible things, like firing someone for his religious views.

The terrible massacre in Paris could be a “teachable” moment on the meaning of tolerance, but it will require soul searching by America’s cultural leftists. Double standards are the defense mechanisms of the confused and the insincere. They can only be exposed by clearing up the confusion and by exposing the insincerity. One hopes that after all the Charlie Hebdo marches are over, we can set to work to establish real freedom of expression in this country for everybody, and not just for a certain special few from one wing of the ideological spectrum.

Kim R. Holmes is a Distinguished Fellow at The Heritage Foundation and author ofRebound: Getting America Back to Great (Rowman & Littlefield, 2013).

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 reblogged from The Public Discourse

On Satire

The gunmen who killed 12 people in the attack on French magazine Charlie Hebdo are now dead after battles with police that claimed yet more innocent victims. The world stands in solidarity with France and its media, and rightly so. Nothing justifies answering the barbs of a cartoonist’s pen with the bullets of a Kalashnikov.

But as the outrage dissolves and the mourning ends, the question will remain: What is the right relationship between free speech and a free society? Freedom of speech is never absolute. There are restrictions for hate speech, libel, state secrets, and so on. A blanket insistence on free speech at all costs is no less dogmatic than a blanket insistence on sharia law. Charlie Hebdo’s brand of satire was arguably racist and deliberately provocative. What we are defending when we defend its journalists is not their right to publish without limits, but their right not to get killed for doing it.

American graphic journalist Joe Sacco addressed this elegantly in a cartoon published on Friday. After affirming—and exercising—his right to vilify Muslims, Jews, black people, and anyone else, he wrote, “But perhaps when we tire of holding up our middle finger we can try to think about why the world is the way it is and what it is about Muslims in this time and place that makes them unable to laugh off a mere image. And if we answer, ‘Because something is deeply wrong with them’—certainly something was deeply wrong with the killers—then let us drive them from their homes and into the sea… for that is going to be far easier than sorting out how we fit in each other’s world.”—Gideon Lichfield (reblogged from QZ.com)

Joe Sacco: On Satire – a response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks

The acclaimed graphic artist and journalist Joe Sacco on the limits of satire – and what it means if Muslims don’t find it funny

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