Je suis dans le Christ

This week at St Peter’s Harrow I gave a talk called “It’s all about Jesus.” I argued that Jesus is not like God, on the contrary, God is like Jesus. Everything we know about God comes from Jesus. I also suggested that we understand who we are, what it means to be human, from Jesus too. We have an eccentric existence. We discover who we are outside of ourselves. Our identity comes from Christ, the representative human who stands both in solidarity with us, and as a substitute for us. This means that what is true of Jesus by nature, is also true of us by grace. It is a unique identity that defines us above all others.

Who we are, our sense of identity, has become a real issue following the Charlie Hebdo attack in France last week. Over the weekend, more than a million people marched through Paris, many of them proclaiming “Je Suis Charlie” in solidarity not only with those murdered, but also with the values for which they died, the values of the Republic, of liberty, equality and fraternity. The brother of a policeman murdered by the extremists, reminded everyone that Muslims hold these values too as his brother, a Muslim called Ahmed, died defending his country. Supporters quickly began using the hastag “Je Suis Ahmed.” One tweet read “I am not Charlie, I am Ahmed, the dead cop. Charlie ridiculed my faith and culture and I died defending his right to do so.” There is clearly a complex set of overlapping and competing identities here.

Unsurprisingly perhaps that part of our identity formed through our nationality stirs when an atrocity like this takes place. This terrorist attack on a satirical magazine feels like an assault on our identity as Brits who value free speech and democracy. Talk of British values of tolerance and decency resonates and it is easy to assert these in opposition to what are perceived to be alien, imported values from a different culture, particularly when politicians use Christian language.

But, as Christians, we must be careful that our sense of identity is not commandeered or hijacked as we react against a particular ideology. Nationalism, even patriotism, is an ideology too, just as much as Islamism. It demands our loyalty, it wants us to pledge our allegiance to it. The state offers its citizens another salvation. It offers an alternative eschatological hope of genuine peace and prosperity, if only we would put our trust in it rather than in anything else. It is tempting. But in this ideology, the church is reduced to a voluntary organization, part of a civil society that serves the ends of the state, with a role to play in community cohesion, but little else. More than that, the state offers an identity not only to the church as a corporate body, but also to Christians as individuals. For the modern state is the market state, and in the market state every citizen is also a consumer. That’s not how I want to define myself.

The Apostle Paul calls us back to our identity in Christ, as citizens of heaven, those ‘in Christ.’ He says to the Galatian church “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28) Our identity in Christ subverts and relativizes every other identity. Christians no longer define themselves in terms of ethnicity or nationality, gender or sexuality, status or income. Instead our identity is located in Christ alone and we pledge our allegiance to no one else.

In a world that is increasingly polarized by the politics of identity this is a real challenge. We must resist hatred, violence and terror wherever we find them. Jesus calls us to serve the common good, to do good to everyone, to love our neighbours as ourselves. Surely then we can do so because we are Christians, not because we are British.

This article first appeared on Rod Green's blog and we are grateful for his permission to republish it on Fulcrum.

1 thought on “Je suis dans le Christ”

  1. Subject: Blessing in Disguise

    Islam has been on the march on Europe before – on Spain in 711, on France in 732 and last, but definitely not least, on Vienna in 1529. (How else would Vienna have such great coffee?). Islam was defeated then, but don’t hold your breath this time.

    Nothing that is morally wrong can be politically right. This whole episode has a blessing in disguise. Passive Muslims are returning to Islam while non Muslims are curious with the Muslims love and honour of their Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and some non Muslims even gone to the extent of embracing Islam after thorough research.

    French director Isabelle Matic has announced her decision to revert to Islam on her Facebook account, making the unexpected announcement only a few days after Charlie Hebdo Paris attacks. she is the answer to all those who try to demean prophet Muhammad peace be upon him. Any one studies the personality of the prophet Mohammad he will absolutely convert to Islam. The prophet Mohammad was always smiling. Prophet Mohammad(PBUH) was kind and merciful person , this is the reason he has millions of followers. Allah Akbar, what a great news! At this trying moment a prominent lady (film director) from Paris accepting Islam? Look the drums of praising and rallying behind the so called freedom of speech (Charlie) didn’t weaver a single Muslim heart but converted this lady to Islam. As you keep defaming Islam always it keeps prospering.

    “Today, I passed through the first pillar of Islam. There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His Prophet,” Matic said in a message posted on her Facebook page on January 11.
    She followed her announcement with a series of posts in which she thanked Moroccan actor Hicham Bahloul for announcing her decision on Moroccan papers.

    In another message, she described how she took the decision and its effect on her beliefs in freedom of expression.
    “Between the massacre at the premises of Charlie Hebdo and other event that have followed: I became a Muslim,” Matic wrote.
    “Am I still for freedom of expression for all and Charlie Hebdo in particular?! Yes,” Matic wrote yesterday.
    “With regard to my position towards the caricatures of the Prophet, I will write you the text of the SMS that I received this morning from a mosque which agreed quite well with my thoughts since the beginning of the cartoons, well before I became a Muslim,” she added
    “They are making fun of Muhammad and do not harm Muhammad. They are making fun of a character that they have imagined and to whom they have given a name. This man is not our Prophet,” she wrote. Only Allah gives the HIDAYA. Charlie Hebdo was only showing their hidden fear. So we Muslims just feel sorry for them. Only Allah puts fear in their hearts too!

    The new Muslim referred to the early life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) when non-believers rejected his calls to Islam.

    “The Makkans laughed at Muhammad (worthy of praise) in the appellant Modamam (worthy of name calling). The prophet peace be upon him was smiling Yes, he was smiling! And he said: They are making fun of Modamam and not me,” Matic wrote.
    “The wisdom is the answer to provocations. And this is what our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be with him) has taught us.
    “So when Charlie Hebdo will be published Insha’Allah (God willing), do not pay attention. Do not respond to the provocation. And do not give them of importance,” she added.

    In its Wednesday’s edition, Charlie Hebdo magazine features a cartoon of a man they claim to be the prophet of Islam on the cover.

    The cover depicts Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) with a tear falling from his cheek, holding a sign that says, “Je suis Charlie” under the headline “All Is Forgiven.”
    The edition is the first after two gunmen attacked the magazine’s headquarters in Paris, killing 10 journalists and two policemen. Two of the dead were Muslims, an editor and a police cop.

    It culminates the magazine’s long history of offending millions of Muslims worldwide

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