For the cartoonists

I used a cartoon, and a religious cartoon at that, on, my blog yesterday and yet I live.

I sometimes pray for satirists – those who come to occasional services in St Mary’s may occasionally have heard me do so. They don’t usually get enough prayers. Today, sadly, the thoughts of the world are with them.

The killing of the journalists and cartoonists in Paris today made me think of a divinity class I was in long ago. We were talking about feminism and ethics, that being the stuff I was made on. We had discussed non-violence and non-violent protest. Inevitably we had made an excursion around Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr and had probably had a go at whether Bonhoeffer was justified in getting involved in the plot against Hitler. We noted that these were all men, of course, and and talked about whether that was inevitably so.

Eventually, someone said, “Yes, but what about real tyrants. What do we have to say to people facing real tyranny. Do we tell them to go floppy in the middle of the road as part of a protest when they will just get killed for it? What about tyrants – how do we deal with them?”

There were no answers forthcoming from the class but there was from the person teaching it.

“Make people laugh at them” she said.

I’ve never forgotten that answer and I don’t forget it today, for all its problems.

I realised then that words and ideas were always more potent, always more powerful than force. It was a moment when something significant made sense to me for the first time. Humour can be savage and sometimes needs to be.

The killings in Paris do no honour to any god. They dishonour our common humanity.

And so I turn back to my prayers.

For satirists, humourists, cartoonists.
For journalists. For bystanders.
For those who take risks to disturb our peace of mind.
For those who take risks to give the peace and security for them to do so.

Lord in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.