In the Wake of Charlie Hebdo Moral Hysteria

SONY is hacked and blackmailed. Free Speech by U.S. Citizens is claimed to be assailed by foreign governments. A motion picture release is halted and millions of potential dollars are lost. A weekly newspaper of satirical nature insults the prophet Mohammad and Islamic clerics cry ‘foul’ and swear out a Jihad against the paper. Some French citizens swearing allegiance to Islam attack the paper and kill five people.

The Pope speaks up a week later aboard his airplane in route to the Philippines. The Pope says no one should kill in the name of religion, and no one should slander religions. The media fascination with the Pope might be over. The Pope, though, is speaking from his see. What transpires next remains to be seen.

Free speech? Really? It seems Western Society has forgotten something fundamental. Freedom is only half of an equation. Freedom in inextricably connected to Responsibility. ‘Je Suis Charlie’ is a wonderful sentiment. But it is only an exercise of half a principle. What will those millions who held the signs, and the millions more who Tweeted and FaceBooked their support actually DO?

I trust what they will not do is to look to find the connection between ‘free’ speech and the connected responsibility. For those few who might look, I’ve provided a simple start. Psalm 15, especially verses two and three are a beginning. Following the Psalm, additional verses are provided, both for the proper practice of ‘free’ speech and cautions against improper practices. For a complete list, pick up one of the most read ‘self’-help books ever written. The Jewish Torah, the Christian Bible, and, yes, even the Qu’ran give us insights on speech and how it should be exercised. My choice is the second tome, but you might find one of the others more to your tradition. Here’s hoping the folks at Charlie Hebdo, and the rest of the media, from one extreme of the spectrum to the other will do some more studying before they write again as well.

Links to four stories, including the Pope’s interview, are at the end of this post.

“Hear, oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One!” “Glory to God in the Highest” “Allah Akbar!”

Psalm 15

Who Shall Abide in God’s Sanctuary?

A Psalm of David.

1 O Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill?

2 Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right, and speak the truth from their heart; 3 who do not slander with their tongue, and do no evil to their friends, nor take up a reproach against their neighbors; 4 in whose eyes the wicked are despised, but who honor those who fear the Lord; who stand by their oath even to their hurt; 5 who do not lend money at interest, and do not take a bribe against the innocent.

Those who do these things shall never be moved.

Suggested care when speaking?

Job 6:30

Is there any wrong on my tongue? Cannot my taste discern calamity?

Job 27:4

my lips will not speak falsehood, and my tongue will not utter deceit.

Psalm 34:13

Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.

Psalm 35:28

Then my tongue shall tell of your righteousness and of your praise all day long.

Psalm 37:30

The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom, and their tongues speak justice.

1 Peter 3:10

10 For “Those who desire life and desire to see good days, let them keep their tongues from evil and their lips from speaking deceit;


Perhaps, caution should be exercised?

Job 15:5

For your iniquity teaches your mouth, and you choose the tongue of the crafty.

Job 20:12

“Though wickedness is sweet in their mouth, though they hide it under their tongues,

Psalm 5:9

For there is no truth in their mouths; their hearts are destruction; their throats are open graves; they flatter with their tongues.

Psalm 12:4

those who say, “With our tongues we will prevail; our lips are our own—who is our master?”

Psalm 31:20

In the shelter of your presence you hide them from human plots; you hold them safe under your shelter from contentious tongues.

Psalm 57:4

4 I lie down among lions that greedily devour[a] human prey; their teeth are spears and arrows, their tongues sharp swords.

Proverbs 25:18

18 Like a war club, a sword, or a sharp arrow is one who bears false witness against a neighbor.


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One thought on “In the Wake of Charlie Hebdo Moral Hysteria

  1. deborahbrasket

    Well said! I so agree. With freedom comes responsibility to use it wisely. While I defend the right of others to say things I find deplorable and offensive, I would urge them to be more tolerant of, and respectful for, others’ beliefs. Satire is a wonderful tool to slice through hypocrisy and shine a light on the seamier side of institutions and politics, but it’s purpose should be not simply to offend or ridicule, but to say hard truths that need saying. Anyway, thanks for writing this.


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