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.
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.
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.
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:
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)