Timely reading today provided by the lectionary, James 3:1-12. In a world confusingly trying to work out whether the role of the President of the USA is to uphold freedom of speech or to make peace in the Middle East, James takes on speech as a topic of interest for disciples. Intriguingly James brilliantly illustrates the untameability of the tongue before telling us bluntly we ought to tame it! Unsurprisingly James does not debate whether we ought to have freedom of speech as a universal right or not. But he offers wisdom which is relevant to this week's conflict.
"With [the tongue] we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God" (3:9).
For James the freedom to say what we like is tempered by a fundamental human consideration. Speech can be directed against people made in the likeness of God. James does not spell out what this means, but we can fill in the dots. When we curse, we disrespect and diminish people. We do not love them as ourselves. We fail to treat people for what they are: made in the likeness of God. Conversely, to consider the true status of fellow human beings means a constraint on our speech we will not curse them.
That also means we will not ridicule them, even if they are a figure from the past whose name begins with M and inaugurated a great religion.
The part Christians could play in the current mess is to argue for people being treated respectfully. No videos disrespecting Mohammed. No missiles aimed at embassy staff. Not hard.
(Later) Tit for tat. No signs calling for people to be beheaded. Not nice. Peter FitzSimons makes a good point here.