Have You Seen The Bizarre French Response To Islamic Terrorism?

The Worldview That Revolutionised How Westerners Respond To Enemies.

Something bizarre is happening in France – and I don’t mean the terrorist attacks.

France is responding to the attacks in an unexpected way. Instead of vengeance and demonising all Muslims, there’s a surprising response – a response you wouldn’t expect after 3 major terrorist attacks in 18 months.

French Response To Islamic Terrorism.

Photo Courtesy dollarphotoclub.com

1) Instead of Outrage and Vengeance Against Muslims, the French are Calling for Tolerance

After the brutal murder of Father Jacques Hamel in a French Church last week, how did the French Catholic Church respond? According to BBC Journalist Hugh Schofield:

 No-one in the country was shocked by the church’s reaction to the murder of one of their own – no thirst for vengeance, no anathema against Islam; instead a plea for forbearance and understanding. [emphasis added].

No surprise in the Church’s response. But how the rest of (secular) France is responding really is surprising. Schofield continues:

Since the killings began, there have been no crowds on the streets of Nice or Paris chanting “Death to Islamic State”. Instead of flaming torches carried in angry procession, there are candles of remembrance…

He goes on:

But so far one is bound to observe that the country has reacted to this horrific succession of provocations with good sense and an eye on the higher values… In the last 18 months, there has been no significant increase in crimes that target Muslims. [Emphasis added].

That’s a remarkable amount of restraint.

But almost as unexpected is the reason the BBC gives for this restraint:

2) This Peaceful Response is Attributed to France’s Christian Heritage

Even though France is a very secular ‘post-Christian’ nation.

BBC Journalist Hugh Schofield again:

Most French people will argue that these values – tolerance, respect between peoples, forgiveness, eschewal of violence – are part of the country’s enlightened secular tradition. But of course before that they were something else. They were Christian.

That’s not a conclusion you’d expected from a veteran secular journalist. Anything but Christianity! But other secular thinkers are also catching on to this novel idea:

3) More Secular Thinkers  Are Seeing The Key Role Christianity Played In Developing the Western World

Without Christianity, the West – including its ethics –  wouldn’t be the same.

Christians have made this point before – as I’ve blogged about recently. But it’s great to see a growing number of secular thinkers coming to the same conclusion.

John Roskam,  from the Australian (secular) political think-tank, the Institute of Public Affairs, wrote in a recent email:

Liberalism, and what we know as ‘the West’ was the creation of Christianity. It was Christianity that as [Oxford Scholar] Larry Siedentop [in his book ‘Inventing the Individual‘] writes ‘created the individual’, as a concept that was equal with others, that was free, and that was entitled to dignity.

Roskam continues:

According to Siedentop the idea that ‘the individual’ was a product of Renaissance or Enlightenment thinking is wrong… Siedentop knows it’s unfashionable to praise the role of Christianity, but he does anyway.”

Even the ‘Professional Atheist’ Richard Dawkins came excruciatingly close to praising the role of Christianity in this 2010 viral meme:

Dawkins - From Breitbart

Could it be that secular thinkers are realising that western civilisation as we know it – with all its benefits – was not, and is not,  inevitable? That Christianity provided the underlying view of reality – human beings as made in the image of God, of infinite worth – that made western concepts such as human rights possible?

When #sendforgivenessviral is Still Seen as Good

Whether in secular France or here in Australia, forgiving your enemies is still seen as a noble virtue. But this wasn’t always so. Forgiveness doesn’t come naturally. And it’s less common than we’d like to think. But we in the West still believe in it, thanks to that ancient revolutionary, Jesus of Nazareth. His words turned the ancient world – and our western world –  upside down:

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. (Luke 6:27-28)

Why do you think Westerners still see forgiving our enemies as a good thing? 

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16 thoughts on “Have You Seen The Bizarre French Response To Islamic Terrorism?

  1. Akos, I like your comment about Western democracy NOT being inevitable. This implies, as many Christians would believe, that in the middle ages in England, God gave them wisdom and help amidst wars and problems with autocratic kings and queens.

    Larry’s ideas about the place, and indeed fundamental importance, of the individual are not new. But they are apparently well expressed in his book.

    It remains to be seen whether France can continue to be ‘tolerant,’ while at the same time not being afraid to do things such as express forgiveness, while simultaneously calling for mutual recognition of the ‘sacredness’ of the individual such that the call in the Koran for the taking of the lives of the infidels is not taken up by Jihadists of other Islamists.

    • Hi Brian!

      Thanks for your comment.

      Indeed, in his email to IPA members (that I cited above), Roskam would go on to say:

      ‘Siedentop doesn’t say it, but it’s implicit that he fundamentally disagrees with the thesis of Francis Fukuyama outlined in his essay The End of History published in 1989 that the spread of liberalism around the world is inevitable…

      …As Siedentop points out “There are large parts of the world where other beliefs flourish – fundamentalist Islam, which denies the equality of women and is often ambiguous about individual rights and representative institutions – and quasi-capitalist China, where a form of utilitarianism enshrines state interests even at the expense of justice and liberty.” ‘

      And you raise an excellent question about how Islam will mesh with wider French society. Time will tell, but I’ve read some articles that aren’t exactly optimistic about the prospect of Islamic beliefs becoming ‘westernised’, so to speak.

      God bless,


  2. Thank you…….very interesting truths here. No matter what defense systems a western nation decides to use in the battle against terror…….they should always have these values and good principles as their foundation stone. I’m really enjoying these insights and often share them with friends.

    • Thanks for the encouragement! Yes, having good principles is vital for any nation to thrive, especially when dealing with a threat like terrorism.

      God bless,


  3. Thank You Akos. I am pleased that you consider yourself as a “Christ Follower” I am too. I am a retired Uniting Church Minister, ex Q.B.I., but beyond all this I profess to being a Christ Follower. I love the story of those Jesus chose to follow Him. Individually they were pretty dis-functional characters. Together they never seemed to “get it together” also. The wonder of it all was that Jesus chose them!
    Wherever the Christian Faith went, (the spreading of the Good News of Jesus the Christ) it was spread through morally and spiritually fragile and frail human beings. In spite of us, the Good News took root in societies. Over time the personal experience of “Conversion” (Con=together) and (Verto=I Turn) to Jesus was softened, questioned, and ignored not only by the secular world but also by the Church in its theological programmes.
    I had to spend as much time with Kant, Hegel, Compte and a few philosophers I would rather forget, than i could with Bart, Brunner, Tillich, or any of the older Theologians or Bible Expositors. This helped take the “Cutting Edge” off the Gospel. Actually Paul Tillich and Helmut Thielicke were the ones that were as shining lights in my reading.
    The secular world took a similar path a little earlier. Christian parents began raise their children in a different world and this became more attractive than the rather humanly disciplined structure that the church once had. What I mean is….
    (A good Christian does this, that the other, but NO Christian does so many things,because Jesus said that we should not love the world and these things are worldly)
    We often said that “God has no grandchildren”. I believe this is so. Christians are imperfect people, and try as we may we are handicapped within our very being as we try to present the Good News of Jesus the Christ” It seems we virtually made Christianity “behavioural” rather than a “turning to Christ” In convenient response the secular world has taken the “bathwater” but has left the “Baby”.
    Part of the Heritage of Christianity has been couched in Forgiveness, Mercy, Accepting the Stranger, and many other noble attitudes. This is the “Bathwater” of the Gospel and can still “Clean” a “Dirty” world to some extent, and for that I am thankful. But it is the Gospel that introduces Jesus to the to the one who can turn lives around and people can be “Converted”, that is “Turned towards Jesus”.
    I believe that the Church is still too cloistered. We have been very skilled in telling governments what they should or should not do.We have occasionally ventured out into the world for a very short season, zapped the sinners with the Gospel from our favourite translation, because it is the best and we know! And we have missed out on the possibility of being the best translation of the Gospel of Jesus by not identifying with them, walking with them and meeting them at their points of need.
    Perhaps we are too “Black and White” in our setting of standards,assuming that our standards are purely “Christian”. There are many parts of society with which we do not associate ourselves who do tremendous good in helping the stranger, the needy and the spiritually lost to the best of their ability. Perhaps we Disciples of Jesus need to walk, knowing that we are Disciples first and Missionaries next.
    I have endeavored to do this in all my ministry. I have failed miserably at times,i have learned a lot more about the revolutionary, loving. one called Jesus, as I walked, following Him than I ever did in my Theological or Bible College training, Those with whom I have walked, along with Jesus who called me to follow, have taught me much and i will never ceased to be amazed at what Jesus can do if we walk among people in the most unlikely places knowing that there is no place where he is not.
    In saying all this, I know that you, Akos, have walked much of this path, but I believe that Christianity really needs a new “Conversion” experience. Again turning to Jesus, being a vulnerable Disciple, following Him in all places as I Believe that there is no place where God is not.

  4. A very helpful article. Just one thing though: Jesus of Nazareth didn’t ‘turn the world upside down.’ He turned it ‘right side up.’

  5. Robert Woodberry, from the University of SIngapore, authored this scholarly document “The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy in May 2012 – http://www.academia.edu/2128659/The_Missionary_Roots_of_Liberal_Democracy.

    It attracted much attention. “This article demonstrates historically and statistically that conversionary Protestants (CPs) heavily influenced the rise and spread of stable democracy around the world. It argues that CPs were a crucial catalyst initiating the development and spread of religious liberty, mass education, mass printing, newspapers, voluntary organizations, and colonial reforms, thereby creating the conditions that made stable democracy more likely.” He comes to the above conclusion using substantial evidence.

    He defines conversionary Protestants as those who (1) actively attempt to persuade others of their beliefs, (2) emphasize lay vernacular Bible reading, and (3)believe that grace/faith/choice saves people, not group membership or sacraments. Thus he makes a distinction with, for example, Catholicism.

    It is an important read.

    • Excellent. Thanks John.

      I have read about it, but haven’t yet read the report. I’ll put it on my ‘to blog’ list. 😉