Paris. Far away, but ever so close.

Most of the world was horrified on Friday evening; in the U.S. it was coming home to see horrible reports of terrorists executing concert attenders one by one.  Over the weekend and continuing today, many are wrestling with how the world will respond, as well as the U.S.  Mrs. Clinton tried for some separation from the president on the Democratic debate; calling for American “leadership.”  This, of course, is a slam toward Mr. Obama’s approach of leading from behind.

There will be time to engage in those debates, but I think its too early (in the blogosphere only–the government authorities better have woken up and should be questioning our current policies post haste).  Neither Mr. Obama nor Mr. Hollande are to blame for these deaths.  They are the result of a malignant evil that comes out of the heart of wicked men that are stoked by evil forces in the heavenlies (Eph 6:12). We will come back to this in the coming days, but I want Bereans today to listen to video from the pop singer Madonna on her take on the bombing, and then offer your thoughts below.  She is heavily criticized here, do you think the criticisms are right?  I will update this blog with my thoughts in a few days, but I don’t want to prejudice your opinions.

EDIT Update 18 Nov.

Only Joel really took up the challenge, and he likely did better than I could.  But, that won’t stop me from trying!

First, I admit I could be slightly biased as I actually liked some of Madonna’s music in the 80s.  I can still remember one of her first breakthrough song playing on the radio, “Borderline;” it remains one of my favorite songs of that era.  The song she sings after this statement is my favorite of hers.  Madonna was pretty blasphemous in her integration of sacred things, yet I always was more sad about it than angry.  Its pretty clear that her early exposure to religion through her parents Catholic faith made an impression on her:

Her parents’ strict observation of the Catholic faith played a large role in Madonna’s childhood. “My mother was a religious zealot,” Madonna explains. “There were always priests and nuns in my house growing up.” Many elements of Catholic iconography—including her mother’s statues of the Sacred Heart, the habits of the nuns at her Catholic elementary school, and the Catholic altar at which she and her family prayed daily—later became the subject of Madonna’s most controversial works.

I always felt that while rebelling against the faith of her parents she nevertheless knew that there was something behind it that was transcendent, something that she didn’t have and knew that it was something that was needed.  I don’t believe her inclusion of religious themes/icons was simply part of her act.

So here we have here providing her analysis of the current bombing in Paris.  I believe this is someone who understands that there is something transcendent, something that is other, that is holy, with an understanding that it is needed in this world to make it right.  To be clear–she is not a Christian from anything we can discern.  But we can see that as a fellow human being created Imago Dei, she has that God sized hole in her heart (Ecc 3:11).  So given this, while we are suspicious, we should not be surprised to see her get some things right, as well as get some things wrong.

First, she clearly sees what the other side wants:  domination, to “silence us.” She doesn’t use the word enemy, but it is implicit in her comments.  This is a correct understanding, as far as it goes.  Madonna does not seem to understand that ultimately there are spiritual forces behind these ideas and conflicts–neither does the rest of the world.  We dare not forget it.

Second, she correctly sees that this enemy wants to take away freedom.  But she thinks this is freedom to “have fun.”  Freedom is a curious word–certainly very debatable in meaning even in a secular sense.  One definition is the conservative “freedom from” coercion, while the progressives usually have a definition of “freedom to,” such that one is not free unless one has the resources to act (so the poor are not free unless we redistribute resources to them).  Yet in a Biblical sense, we are called to freedom and slavery. Romans 6 is very clear that we will be either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness.  Who will we obey?  Whoever we obey is our master. Madonna is asking for freedom for slavery to sin, “no one should be able to stop us from doing what we love,” which is a “freedom from” view.  The Bible generally prescribes a “freedom from” position for earthly issues, even when it leads to destructive results, e.g., Adam and Eve in the garden, because freedom in this sense is intrinsically part of God’s plan to bring him glory as we choose correctly.  The Islamic terrorists will not allow that type freedom–the spiritual forces behind them do not want to see God glorified.   They don’t even offer “freedom to,” they offer only slavery.

Finally, and what I liked best, was Madonna’s comment that to fight this ultimately we must change.  She is absolutely right.  Why? Because God was not surprised at 9/11, Paris or anything else.  He is sovereign and on his throne.  Given he has allowed this evil, there is a purpose–and our response to this evil is to repent (Luke 13:1-5). So many of us want to change the world–including the terrorists, don’t mistake this in how the enemy deceives them–when the only true way to change the world is to change ourselves.  She correctly said the solution is not to “elect another president,” and we need to learn to treat everyone with dignity and respect.  That is certainly what I need to do.  Everyone of us falls short in this to some degree. If you don’t believe this, remember the power of Charleston this summer.  Remember how God’s grace and forgiveness pouring out through Christians who had suffered grievous wrongs shocked the world?  They killed evil by their love.  That is our call.*

* This doesn’t mean the government cannot and should not do something much more significantly–I wholeheartedly agree with MCS’ post that the government responsibilities are different than ours as individuals.

11 thoughts on “Paris. Far away, but ever so close.”

  1. I didn’t watch the video yet, but I just wanted to say, sometimes it feels like conservatives hate Obama and will criticise him at every turn, I’m actually a little impressed that you admitted this isn’t his fault. Thank you for that.

  2. Also sad was the response to the GOP front-runner to the attacks.

    Donald Trump (of course) was on MSNBC (thought he was banned from NBC networks for his comments several months ago?–so much for the “liberal media”) talking about both sides of his mouth. He said at one point that we need to seriously consider closing certain mosques.

    Calling for places of worship to be closed–indeed, even the suggestion of it–goes against the First Amendment of the Constitution.

    Americans need to remember that the First Amendment protects not only Christian forms of religious expression.

    Have a nice Monday, all.

    1. “so much for the “liberal media””

      How exactly does lifting a ban on having Trump on wash away the “liberal media” label? Or did you miss the CNBC debate? Even other networks like CNN agreed the moderators were out to get the candidates. Much of the media is still liberal. A token action like allowing Trump back on does not change anything. If Rush Limbaugh invited a Democrat to appear on his radio show, would the liberals suddenly quit believing Rush was a partisan Republican? No, of course not.

      That said, you are correct. Unless clear evidence is uncovered that a mosque is being used for illegal/terrorist purposes (and the same goes for a Christian church as well), closing any religious building is repugnant to the Constitution.

      Have a nice day :)

    2. Mr. Adams, once again, you insist on getting us off-track. If you’d like to comment on Madonna’s perspective that could add to the discussion. If you want to bash Donald Trump–who no current Berean is a fan of–what is the point? Other than to try to stick every silly thing that Mr. Trump might say as representative of the Republican party, I don’t see it. Any thoughts on Madonna’s take?

  3. “We must start treating every human being with dignity and respect, and this the only thing that will change the world… Only love will change the world, but it’s very hard to love unconditionally, and it’s very hard to love that which we do not understand or that which is different than we are, but we have to or this will go on and on forever.”

    I don’t think that Madonna is speaking of love in a biblical sense, but I think she is on the right track. Most people will look at this and say, “why would I ever be loving towards someone who did such a horrendous act?”. But as a Christian, I understand that there is a war going on in the spiritual realms that I cannot see. I also hold the belief that God is not just a loving God; he IS love. I will spend my life trying to understand God (I never fully will)… I do know that he calls us to forgive and that he is SOVEREIGN over everything. I wish that what happened in Paris didn’t and it breaks my heart to see the loss that some are going through right now. But someday we will understand and someday there will be no more suffering such as this.

  4. I don’t normally pay any attention to what Madonna says. But on your recommendation, I will consider her statements. They reflect the ethos of the world. I’ll consider four of her points.
    1. Unity: “There is power in unity” – That is true, but unity for unity’s sake is not always good – think Tower of Babel or the city of Babylon in rebellion against God. I don’t think she would say terrorists acting in unity is a good thing.
    2. Good/Evil: “There is more good in the world than bad” – It is a good thing that she uses the terminology of good and evil. In light of terrorist attacks, it’s hard to make the case that there is no such thing as evil. That said though, the question remains: who defines what is good and evil? Only God can. Every that falls short of his standard is sin. On this account, she is woefully wrong for there is none righteous, no not one. But is there any way we can say that she might be right that “there is more good in the world than bad?” The whole earth is full of His glory. She is expressing her optimism with this quote. In other words, it may not look so good right now, but she believes that good will eventually win. With that, we must agree. But she might be surprised to find out how that’s accomplished, with a Rider on a horse and a sword coming out of his mouth. With eternity in view, Christians too are optimistic that good will eventually triumph.
    3. Freedom: “(paraphrase) Their actions shouldn’t stop us from enjoying our freedom. There are freedoms that we deserve. No one in this world should have the right to stop us from doing what we love.” Now we see her standard of right and wrong. But there is a glaring flaw with this. Aren’t the terrorists expressing their freedom? Aren’t they doing the thing that they love to do? Should we apply her standard here and say that no one should stop them from doing what they want to do? Hardly. And maybe she’d try to condition this with the notion of love. Hence, the next point.
    4. Changing the world with love: “(paraphrase) We won’t change the world unless we change ourselves, we change the world by how we are treating everyone with dignity and respect on a daily basis – this is the only thing that will change the world – only love will change the world, it’s hard to love unconditionally.” Ah, she proves that she really believes that not everyone should be free, contradicting herself. Why else would you want to change the world, except that you believe that there is something wrong with the world, and specifically with people in the world (or at least some people), and therefore some people should not be free to do some things. The appeal to unconditional love is a common plea. But again, as with good and evil, it must be defined according to the character of God. God is love. There is something commendable here. For rightly defined (clearly not the way she would define it) it is true: only love can change the world. But that love is the power of God in the love of the gospel. Many will say that she is naïve to think that we don’t have to use force to subdue ISIS. But is it not equally naïve to think that force will really effect the change that we hope for too? No, the only thing that will really take care of things is that Rider and his sword. And before He comes, maybe his double-edged sword can pierce our hearts before it’s too late. World changing love doesn’t come in the form we expect it: the slaying of our old self – for those who idolize the freedom to do whatever they want to do, that actually looks like terrorism to them.

    1. Joel–
      Thanks for your thoughts. We’ll see what others say and then I’ll have some extended thoughts to offer.

  5. I agree with Madonna’s use of the word “evil” to describe the attacks in Paris because these attacks were perpetrated by people who were truly evil. Contrary to what Madonna thinks these terrorist groups will not respond to love and respect because they seek to spread an ideology that is contrary to the values of America and the western world at large. It is clear that the only message our enemies will understand is a world that rallies around France with strength and resolve, much like the rest of the world did for the U.S. after September 11, 2001.

    The U.S. needs to focus on working with our allies to defeat ISIS, instead of “leading from behind.” We should follow the advice of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who said following an assassination attempt that, “The terrorist threat to freedom is worldwide. It can never be met by appeasement. Give in to the terrorist and you breed more terrorism. At home and abroad our message is the same. We will not bargain, nor compromise, nor bend the knee to terrorists.”

  6. Like you said, some of what Madonna said is right and some is wrong which is consistent with the idea that we are both fallen and made in the image of God. Her video left me very sad. I couldn’t help but sit and think how can individuals believe that WE can change the world by simply being better people? Have we not being trying to do that for all of time yet evil still exists? Did Ghandi, Mother Teresa, [insert another influential kind person here] truly change the world? What an empty source of hope Madonna and unbelievers hold when they think that we are the answer and we sinful humans have the capability to change. While I wholeheartedly agree we must treat all individuals with dignity and respect, this love that can change the world is only found on the cross. The way to change the world is in no way an action taken by us. Because all of us when we really look at ourselves understand in no way shape or form do we have the power to love unconditionally. We are all sinful people with evil in our hearts even if we are “mostly good” people. But rather the Holy Spirit working in us to conform us more and more into the image of Christ that enables us to love as He loves.

    Paris was a tragedy, yet we know that God is on His throne and a good God. Let’s love like He loves and pray for the families, victims, and killers. Let’s pray for all people–to come to know the saving grace of God– the only individual capable of changing the world (and He already has through His son). Let’s pray He comes back quickly.

  7. Madonna in her talk essentially said she was thinking about cancelling the show but decided not to because why should we let them stop us from enjoying our freedom. If we as Americans live with fear, stay in our homes, stop going to the store and spend our Thanksgivings talking about the attack, these terrorist will feel successful. Although it is easy to be afraid and stop attending large events or using public transit, we need to show the terrorist that we will not let them negatively change the way we live our lives. And if we are all honest with ourselves and reality, none of us know when we will take our last breath on earth. Whether we die from a sickness, old age, or possibly a terrorist attack, our job is to make sure when we stand before God to speak on account of our time on earth (Matt 12:36, Rev. 20:11-15), we can say we have trusted in and have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s in times like these when we truly need to step back, reflect on our lives, and think about what is most important in life.

  8. I surprisingly find myself liking what Madonna had to say about the attack in Paris. Her observation that a new political leader will not be the antidote to such atrocious acts of violence is spot-on. However, she is perhaps simplistic in her belief that “love” will solve. I certainly sympathize with that belief, and agree that love is a necessary but not sufficient tool for combating the evils of terrorism and war. On the other hand, the frightening response I see from most conservatives is a reactionary call for scorched-earth bombing tactics and indiscriminate termination of an entire region. I fully place the moral responsibility of the attacks in paris with those who actually carried out the atrocities. That being said, it is naive and counter-productive to make no attempt at discovering the real reasons why such attacks took place. This line of thinking essentially mirrors the benefits of studying what exactly creates a monster. The quote “There will be time to engage in those debates, but I think its too early (in the blogosphere only–the government authorities better have woken up and should be questioning our current policies post haste)” is particularly frightening to me. I certainly agree with the second part, that our leaders should question their policies, but the first statement appears dangerous to me. The United State’s approach to foreign policy seems to follow the tactic of “shoot first, ask questions later”. Believing that the debate should come after the action is taken often leads to disastrous results. Looking at the outlandishly ridiculous positions by Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, we can clearly observe the expedient capacity that human beings can have for becoming radicalized. If one terrorist attack can quickly radicalize a segment of the american population, could it perhaps be possible that 10,00 bombs dropped in a region could potentially radicalize muslims? War should not be discussed flippantly as just another policy that governments employ. I believe that any policy with the purpose of ending life and employing violence as a tactic should be debated veraciously before being accepted.

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