At least twelve people are dead in Paris because two brothers (maybe others as well) were so offended at a crass cartoon, lampooning their religion, that they decided execute some of their fellow countrymen.
Reactions from politicians and pundits alike have been swift, and responses will continue to trickle in in the coming days and weeks as suspects are apprehended, motivations and institutional ties are queried, and responses are considered.
I usually deal with lighter fare at Le Blog, but as we at LiberalEvangelical.org are a group dedicated to the open discussion of religious differences, especially among Evangelicals of a progressive bent, I thought I should weigh in. But I have absolutely nothing to say that others with more access and better credentials aren’t already saying about the situation in France. So I’ll relay a simple anecdote about something that happened in one of my World Religions classes a few years ago. All I want to do here is tell the story; I won’t offer much by way of commentary. I think the story speaks for itself. I’ll use only initials so as to protect the anonymity of my students. Suffice it to say that I wish the ethos of my classroom that day were a more common phenomenon throughout the world.
Several years ago (I believe it was the Winter term of the 2011-2012 school year.) in my Introduction to World Religions class, I experienced one of those classroom moments that will stick with me for the rest of my life. The thing is, it passed almost without notice and I’d be shocked if many of the forty or so students in that classroom that day even recall the incident. I used to end the first half of our semester with three days of student presentations on specific liturgical or ritual practices in the three Abrahamic faiths. This meant that groups of two to three students each had about fifteen minutes to do a short presentation on Sukkot or Purim, Pentecost or Lent, the Hajj or Ramadan. As is usually the case, the presentations were of mixed quality and I had to interject corrections or additions at times. I have since stopped using this assignment because it proved too ungainly as the class expanded to include Chinese traditions.