I couldn’t help but take note of the Pope’s comments today about the Charlie Hebdo attacks in which he stated that free speech has its limits. He was by no means condoning the slaughter of cartoonists (although the context of his remarks certainly confuses the issue). But I was particularly interested in this quote from the AP article: “’If my good friend Dr. Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch,’ Francis said half-jokingly, throwing a mock punch his way. ‘It's normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.’”
Did I miss something here? I distinctly remember Jesus saying something about being insulted, even slapped in the face (an extremely serious and personal insult). I don’t recall him saying that if you do that you should expect a punch back – either from him or from the future Pope. In fact everything Jesus ever said about being insulted and being attacked and persecuted was – get this – not to do likewise in return.
Now, on the one hand we could say that the Pope was simply speaking about the natural response of people when they are insulted, and he is right; this is the natural human reaction. The thing is, Jesus was also speaking about the natural human reaction. He didn’t need to state it because everyone knew it. What he stated instead was a radical departure from the natural human reaction, one which he expected his followers to practice.
I don’t know what to say about the Pope’s comments except that they are extremely disappointing. It appears to actually encourage people to respond to insult with physical violence. I realize that wasn’t his point, but that is the effect of his words.
I also cannot accept that we are not to insult the faith of others. That is nowhere commanded in Scripture and quite honestly for many people just saying that their faith is wrong would be an insult. It would be an insult to say that their faith is a demonic deception, but that is exactly what Scripture says about false religion. I will say that the kind of puerile mockery that the Pope presumably had in mind is silly and childish. But so what? As a follower of Christ I am commanded to put up with that from unbelievers and leave vengeance to God. I certainly don’t think it is my job to tell them that they can expect a punch in return.