Religion Magazine

Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie

By Richardl @richardlittleda

A moment of honesty

Like thousands of others, I was shocked to see events unfolding in Paris on Wednesday and beyond. I was one of those who contributed to the 3.4 million #jesuischarlie tweets in 24 hours. It was an instinctive reaction, a desire to express something of my outrage and revulsion at the events as they happened. I truly believe that a world where people die for their satirical humour, no matter how offensive, is one we should all want to avoid. However, to read ‘Je suis Charlie’ as “I follow Charlie” (quite justifiable in French) would be quite wrong.  I have never bought a copy, and it is unlikely that I ever would have done. The little extra book below, depicting the ‘the true story of Baby Jesus’ might have made me laugh, but I suspect it might have made me cringe too:


There is a little bit of me which wonders whether the person in America selling a copy of this booklet for $300.00 ( not kidding) is embarrassed that they possess it, or simply seeing an opportunity.

This week has seen inconceivable violence in Paris, more violence (little reported) in Northern Nigeria with hundreds murdered by Boko Haram, and Syrian refugees struggling to endure a bitter winter cold in the Lebanon. Against the backdrop of all that I am scheduled today to preach on the text ‘This is a day of good news’ (” kings 7 v.9) I planned that sermon for this day way back in November last year when most of us had never heard of ‘Charlie’, let alone claimed to be him!

Should I change my text? Should I abandon it and opt for something more topical? I believe that would be wrong. When the world seems crueller and crazier than ever, that is precisely the time when the good news needs preaching. In a moment of cruelty and hatred preachers are called upon to assert the possibility of the goodness of God. Maybe that is precisely why I am uncomfortable with the little book above. To me it mocks the very thing which could bring some hope to the madness. I don’t want it destroyed or anything of the sort, and I have a certain admiration for those with the skill to draw it – I just don’t want to read it.

To those who will stand in solidarity on the streets of Paris today – may you truly find a day of good news, and soon.

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