Words Work

Dear Adrienne and Lance,

I’m sure you remember at least some of the advice mom and I gave you when you were little kids. We told you that, when you were angry about something, you should use your words to set things straight. Not your fists.

From what I can tell, both of you have followed this advice pretty well. That’s good, since throwing violent fits when you are offended is usually counter-productive.

Lately we’ve been reminded that parents in some parts of the world teach their children differently. As a result, their kids have grown up with a tendency to react to perceived insults by striking back, violently. And the children who once slapped and punched are now flying jets into office buildings, bombing innocent civilians and burning embassies.

The latest failure to “use your words” appears to be a reaction against some cartoons that appeared in a Danish newspaper. Frankly, I never thought of Denmark as the sort of place that could spur worldwide violence. (Aren’t these the folks who brought us prune Danish for breakfast?) But these particular Danish cartoons apparently offend at least some Muslims.

For the record, kids, it didn’t take me long searching the Internet to find the 12 cartoons that started all the hubbub. I found several to be offensive, a couple funny and the rest rather dull.

None of them seemed to warrant burning down an embassy, murdering an innocent Christian or demanding that the hands of the cartoonist be cut off.

You may remember a couple years ago there was quite a fuss over an “art” exhibit in New York City. One of the pieces on display was a crucifix in a container of urine. This is as disgusting and vile an affront to Christianity as most of us could imagine.

As a Catholic, I was offended and I said so. I recall signing a petition and I was happy that the folks at the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights raised quite a stink. However, this was “using your words.” The Catholic League certainly didn’t organize violent demonstrations. Artists were not forced to leave New York in fear for their lives.

I can’t recall any Catholic leaders demanding that the artist’s hands be severed or that he should stand trial in a Church court and face beheading. Can you imagine the Holy Father calling for revenge and urging Christians to violence?

Lance and Adrienne, the two of you have grown up in a culture of offensive images. You see disturbing images on television, in newspapers, in art galleries.  Sometimes you see bad stuff when you’re just walking down the street. And I fear this is a mess that my generation will not have cleaned up before the two of you are fully grown and part of a new generation that must guide the direction of society.

You are going to have to solve the cultural clashes between Christians and Muslims, between religious believers and non-believers, and between those who would allow anything in the public forum and those who would impose censorship.

Use your words. Bring people to the truth through charity, prayer and patience. Show people the love of Christ that will make the creation of offending cartoons unthinkable.

Better to have the offending images in our culture disappear in the light of love than from fear of violence.

Jim Fair writes

from Chicago.