Charlie Hebdo and a Broken Europe

How broken is Europe?

This broken:

crazy
That’s their response to the murder of twelve of their fellow journalists at the hands of jihadists.

You cannot measure my indifference to the wholly imaginary thing called “Islamophobia,” which, like “homophobia,” is a way to pathologize those who disagree with a dominant narrative. A phobia is an irrational fear. In this case, it’s perfectly reasonable to be concerned about a religious movement that has rained blood on the world since its so-called “prophet” claimed to have the final word of God to man.

There’s nothing gained by sloppy sentimentality at moments like this. Charlie Hebdo and its staff were no friends to anyone of belief. They were cynical, nihilistic, and blasphemous, as is their right in our post-Enlightenment, pluralistic world. This relativistic individuality may or not be a good and healthy  thing, but now isn’t the time for that debate.

What’s obvious is that these writers,editors, and cartoonists were able to offend Christians and Jews without any fear of reprisal. They published one of the most offensive cartoons I’ve ever seen. I’ll link it here, but be warned in advance: it shows Jesus (crown of thorns, holes in his hands and feet) sodomizing God the Father and being sodomized in turn by the “Holy Spirit.”

There’s no deeper meaning in the image: it’s just a child’s outburst.  It’s offensive, yet I never considered killing anyone over it. My religion makes it clear that kind of reaction would be a violation of God’s laws. Islam, however, is considerably less clear on the subject, with both the Koran and the Hadith offering dozens of passages alternately urging violence and peace. And therein lies of the problem of the West’s long and violent interaction with Islam.

The outpourings of solidarity and sympathy in France and beyond show that we are still capable of shock and outrage. Good. We’ll need it.

The other thing we will need is faithA pallid secularism can’t defend against a diseased religiosity. Only a healthy faith can drive out a sick one.

I don’t have any illusions that we’ll see a huge turning to Christ in France. Anti-clericalism has been part of that nation’s very flesh and blood for too long. But there is something deeper in there, down in the bone and sinew: the Christianity that made France great.

All Europe and the secular west has been feeding like a vampire from that Christian heritage for two centuries without acknowledging that Christ is the wellspring of all our values and freedoms. Since that wellspring is the very living water Himself, it will never run dry, but the walls of the well are crumbling. Even the great cathedrals, built as living prayers in stone to last for centuries, are just piles of rock without faith, as the prayers that made them live fade into a distant echo. Europe is hollowed out, cherishing abstract notions and values without any transcendence or roots. It can’t survive long in this state without something breaking.

It’s rather poignant that the #JeSuisCharlie (I am Charlie) slogan looks so much like “Jesus is Charlie.” As much as the people of Charlie Hebdo disdained Christ, they found themselves at the foot of the cross nonetheless, as we all do. Their deaths are tragic, grotesque, and enraging, but they needn’t be futile. There is meaning even in tragedy.

For now, from across the sea, in a nation that doesn’t forget how much we owe the French, all I can do is offer a prayer for peace in these dark times. May families of the victims find consolation and comfort, and may St. Joan watch over them, strengthen them, and guide them. And may the love and blessings of Our Lord Jesus Christ be a light in their darkness.

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