Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel in order to be tough.
– Franklin Roosevelt, qtd. in Science and Spirituality, page 160
The violent events that took place in Paris in the last few days bring up two principles that seem to be in conflict with each other. One is freedom of speech, and the other is the need to avoid violence. A magazine in Paris prided itself on its satirizing of important matters: in this case the person of Islam’s prophet Mohammed. Instead of treating him as the revered figure he is for millions of Muslims, he was belittled and made light of.
The contrast was that religions are supposed to be nonviolent and respectful of different opinions. It is well known that Muslims are very sensitive about how their religious leader is treated. The magazine did not take that into account in its pages. While one can say that the principle of free speech would allow different opinions to be aired, it is not respectful to downgrade any individual, and especially the head of a religion who is held in high esteem by millions of people.
These two contrasting principles came into conflict in Paris because of the way in which the magazine pushed the limits of free speech. The result was a violent confrontation that resulted in the death of a number of people and the unsettling of a major city and its surrounding communities.
One of the most needed attitudes in order to have a world at peace is respect. The world’s religions generally teach respect as one of their most important values. In the present period of transition, this sacred value and others have found themselves ignored, with other lesser values take their place. The situation in Paris is a good illustration as to what can happen when the basic human values, which are supposed to be taught and followed by religions, are not kept in the consciousness of the world’s peoples.
Perhaps the simplest way of teaching this principle so that it is remembered and applied is The Golden Rule, which now is most quoted as “Treat others as you would have them treat you”. UDC’s Interfaith Celebration in the Los Angeles area has been focusing for the last year on developing a Global Code of Living. Now that we have entered 2015, which is UDC’s 50thanniversary, we are moving into applying the teachings of a Global Code of Living. We invite those who are concerned about having such a code of living as guidelines for our present and future ways to live are invited to join us in this effort.
Spirit is One; paths are many!
~Rev. Leland Stewart