I had a friend in High School named Rocco Bomareto. I’m not kidding, that was his real name. He was Italian, like many others in my high school, but I don’t think his family belonged to the Mafia even though it would have been a great name for a local mob boss. Rocco and I shared a locker for a couple of years, and we were an unlikely couple. I was a skinny kid in a wheelchair, and he was the state heavyweight champion wrestler for two years.
We had a new kid show up one year at school. You remember how it is with new kids—they have to make their way, so they often do strange things. This kid came in as a tough guy, wanting everyone to know he was not to be messed with. It only took a few days for us to realize the new kid needed to be put in his place, so Rocco took it upon himself to do so.
Rocco climbed on top of a covered walkway between two buildings. Three or four boys on the ground took the news kid’s motorcycle and lifted it up to Rocco who reached down with one arm and pulled it up to the roof. There it sat for the rest of the day. I don’t know how he got it down; we all went home after school.
Looking back now I can say that Rocco was wrong in putting the motorcycle on the roof. It was not a very caring thing to do, although it was kinda funny at the time. At the same time, the new kid should not have been surprised that something like this happened. After all, if you attend a school with the state heavyweight champion wrestler named Rocco, it is probably a terrible mistake to try and be the tough guy.
When I was in school, they taught us about the interconnectedness between freedom and responsibility. It was drilled into us that we could not continue to enjoy freedom if we were unwilling to accept responsibility. It seems that most of us understood that and we continued to enjoy the freedom of being an American.
I don’t know if they still teach it in school, but it seems like we might be in need of a refresher course. In fact, the Pope of the Catholic Church took it upon himself to provide this reminder.
A couple of years ago in Paris, the offices of a magazine that specialized in publishing cartoons that are offensive to some were attacked by gunmen who killed many of the magazine’s staff. Claiming credit for the killing was a radical sect made up of those who took offense to the satirical cartoons. The particular cartoons were vulgar depictions of the Prophet Mohammad.
Speaking directly about the incident, the Pope reminded us that “to kill in the name of God is an absurdity.”
Who can possibly disagree with that statement? It is ridiculous to try and justify killing in the name of God. That is the opposite of what God is all about.
Yet, it happens all the time. Every major religion is guilty. Whenever they feel offended or pushed too far, the response is often to strike back with some type of “righteous indignation” in the form of violence. This is absurd. The Pope is correct.
Before you accuse the Pope of placing all the blame for the Paris incident on religious extremists, he went on to say, “There are so many people who speak badly about religions… who make fun of them, who make a game out of the religions of others… There is a limit.”
That statement by the Pope is also correct. There are limits to freedom of speech, at least if you want to continue to enjoy the freedom. Once again returning to my school days, the teachers used the example that my freedom to swing my fist ends at my neighbor’s chin. In other words, my freedom is over when it begins to cause harm to others.
That may not be good First Amendment legalism, but it is good Christianity. Too often, even Christians seem to be more concerned about maintaining their freedoms than they are about the condition of others.
It is wrong to kill magazine cartoonists, but it is also wrong for cartoonists to continually insult others for no reason other than to be offensive. Lest you are not aware of this particular magazine’s history, you need to know they have been equally offensive toward Christianity and every other religion.
You cannot expect to maintain your freedom when you are unwilling to accept the responsibility that accompanies that freedom. If I have the freedom to speak my mind, then I also have the responsibility not to use that freedom to destroy others. Misusing that freedom does not give others the right to kill me, but it should eliminate any surprise if they do.