Thanks to a Draw Muhammed contest held in Garland, Texas, we have been reminded of what can happen when Americans exercise their right to free speech and the violence we can expect when that free speech is offensive to Islam. Unfortunately, by the time you read this, it will no longer be news. No innocent lives were lost. The only bodies seen lying on the pavement belonged to the two terrorist attackers. Pamela Geller and her American Freedom Defense Initiative have a history of being accused of anti-Islamic hate speech. Move on.
The event has been characterized as a free-speech event by some; others have called it an anti-Muslim, anti-Shariah hate-speech event. If the event was organized for the sole purpose of drawing Jihadist rage and violence, mission accomplished.
The Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest, organized by Pamela Geller of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, was just finishing up when two Islamic terrorists armed with assault rifles and wearing protective body gear opened fire. They were shot dead by a member of the well-armed security forces who were on the scene to protect the event. An unknown number of lives were saved that day during a terrorist attack on American soil.
I added the previous paragraph outlining a few details of the shooting after a conversation with a college student. Seems that not everyone is aware that there was a terrorist shooting in Garland. Our rights are being systematically taken away while we unapologetically look the other way. I get it. We’re busy with finals and jobs and kids. Not paying attention is one way we help those who don’t believe our Constitution or our fundamental God-given rights are worth saving. The other way we help them in the dismantling of America is by standing silent while they attack those who are brave enough to speak out about what they believe, like Pamela Geller.
The organizers of the event expected some sort of violence. Pamela Geller expected it. They increased security and went ahead, unwilling to be deterred by the threat of terrorism. The organizers and attendees should be called what they are: brave champions of free speech. Pamela Geller has a right to hold cartoon contests if she wants, and she chose to exercise that right. Now, Pamela Geller has not only been targeted by ISIS, but has also been called out by liberal and conservative media alike for intentionally inflaming the Muslim world and endangering the lives of law enforcement officials and others. The opinion du jour is that there is no reason to say anything that might upset a Muslim.
So, our right to free speech ends when someone else decides to make a violent response. That line of thinking removes all personal responsibility from the one who acts out violently and lays it squarely on the shoulders of the one who dared to speak his mind. If it’s Pamela Geller’s fault that two gunmen showed up at her event with the intent to rack up a large body count, then was it also the fault of the victims of the Fort Hord shooting, for being in the military, or the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing for attending a race , or the Christians beheaded by ISIS on the beaches of Tripoli for being Christian?
It is not Pamela Geller that caused the terrorists to show up ready to kill. She only gave them an opportunity to come out into the daylight so that we can all see who they really are. They were not peaceful Muslims who were goaded into an extremist act by seeing their prophet in a cartoon contest. They were extremists looking for an opportunity. Garland, Texas is only one. ISIS has promised us that there will be more.
Free speech was protected when Andres Serrano put a figure of Jesus in a jar of urine and called it art. It was protected when the American flag was laid on the ground and defiled. The difference is that Christians didn’t arm themselves with assault rifles and protective body gear and shoot up the art exhibit. Veterans didn’t form an armed group and attack those who destroyed our flag. Christians, veterans, and average Americans know that the protection of free speech is most important when the speech is the most insulting to a particular group.
But when Pamela Geller chose to insult Islam, somehow she brought the violence on herself. The difference in her case is that the speech in question insults a particular religious group that can’t handle the American right to free speech. If we give in to this, what’s going to happen when Islamists decide they don’t want to see the bare arms, legs and uncovered hair of women on the streets of America? I don’t mean to sound anti-Muslim but I am pro-free speech and pro-Christianity and believe that we must stand up and support our rights whenever and wherever they are threatened. It would be good if we saw some of the peaceful Muslims of America stand up for Pamela Geller’s right to hold a Draw Muhammad contest, or at least denounce the terrorists, but I haven’t seen it yet. If you have an example, you can leave me a link in the comment section.
Free speech, Christian style
As Christians, we can learn something from Pamela Geller. Don’t back down. Don’t change your language or your actions just because someone may attack you for it.
That said, as a Christian, I wouldn’t hold a Draw Mohammed contest or even attend such an event. As Americans, we have the right to say something that is offensive, but that doesn’t mean we should. We are to honor the rights of others to their opinions and their speech, even if we disagree. That’s from the Bible:
Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. (1 Peter 2:17 NKJV)
We cannot honor all people if we are attempting to antagonize them into recognizing our right to say what offends them. Granted, they do not have a right to live an offensive free life, but how does intentionally trying to inflame them honor God? We protect the downtrodden; not trod over others to preserve our rights.
Another verse to guide our actions:
Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God (1 Corinthians 10: 31,32 NKJV)
Though we have a right to draw a cartoon of Muhammad, this verse tells us not to. It gives offense to others and it does nothing to glorify God. As Americans, we stand up for Pamela Geller’s right to hold her contest, but as Christians, we want our actions to honor God, and God is not honored when we denigrate another religion. We might think we are protecting God’s image and standing up for Him, but our God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, does not need us to protect Him from cartoonists. He can protect himself, and the Bible tells us what that judgement will look like.
It is Christians who need the protection of free speech and will need it even more, given the current direction of our nation and the nations of the world. If we don’t stand up now for the protection of Pamela Geller’s right to free speech, it won’t be there for us later. We don’t need to protect free speech that is positive, supportive, and acceptable to all. We need the protection when the masses don’t agree with the speech of a smaller subset of the general population.
Christians do not need to draw cartoons to stake our claim on free speech, but we do need to be bold and preserve our rights. We are called to bring the gospel to others, even to Muslims. The problem is that it is not only drawing cartoons that will get you killed. In the Islamic state, there is no freedom to preach about Christ. In an Islamic state, Christians are not allowed to gather together in public to pray or read from the Bible, are not allowed to display a cross or build a new church. There is absolutely no freedom to preach Christ to Muslims or give them a Bible. When a Muslim converts to Christianity, it is called Apostasy and is punishable by death (Answering-Islam.org).
Oh, but we don’t live in an Islamic State. We live in America. That didn’t matter to Imam Anjem Choudary who wants to see worldwide Shariah law. He said on national news that Pamela Geller, an American exercising her right to free speech on American soil, should be brought before a Shariah court and sentenced to death. Watch the full Sean Hannity interview here:
Christians take note. There is coming a time, in many ways it’s already here, when our speech will be limited and deemed hate speech, simply because it is exclusive. The message of Christ is divisive. When Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me,” He unequivocally states that there is only one way. Any other method used to gain eternal life is not going to get you there and people do not like that message.
Even though eternal life through Jesus Christ is a free gift available to all, many will not claim it. Many more will never hear the message of the gospel. As Christians, we must not let our right to free speech, or the free speech of those with whom we disagree, be taken away, if for no other reason than to preserve the right to share the gospel message of Jesus, at any time, at any place, with anyone, even a Muslim.