Something terrible happened on the evening of Nov. 15, 2015. A series of coordinated terrorist attacks resulted in the deaths of 130 people. The Islamic State claimed credit. Expressions of sorrow and solidarity with the French began to flood the internet. There was something new this time. People could put a French flag filter over their Facebook profile picture. Many did. My response to this? Anger. Why was there no similar outpouring of sorrow and solidarity when, for example, 147 students were killed by al-Shabab in Kenya in April? Indeed there had been terrorist attacks in Beirut and Baghdad around the time of the Paris attacks. Why no outpouring of grief and support for Lebanon and Iraq? My usual angry response: are White/European lives more important than Black/African lives???
I raised the question at a fellowship group I help lead. Were they disturbed that terrorist attacks in Paris received much more coverage and sympathy than attacks in Beirut and Baghdad? One of the brothers gave an honest answer. If I had not brought up the issue he would not have been aware of the attacks in Paris or the other places. His honesty stopped me short. I asked myself what I was really disturbed about. It began to dawn on me that I wasn’t really very concerned for the people — the victims in Paris, Beirut or elsewhere. I was upset because some abstract principle of justice had been violated. I didn’t really care for the people, at least not much. I was furious because of the violation of a principle I held dear. Did I really care for the many in pain wherever they might be?
Perhaps it’s because I am a “Thinker” in the Myers Briggs personality profile. Here are some characteristics of “Thinkers”.
When I make a decision, I like to find the basic truth or principle to be applied, regardless of the specific situation involved. I like to analyze pros and cons, and then be consistent and logical in deciding. I try to be impersonal, so I won’t let my personal wishes—or other people’s wishes—influence me.
The following statements generally apply to me:
• I enjoy technical and scientific fields where logic is important.
• I notice inconsistencies.
• I look for logical explanations or solutions to most everything.
• I make decisions with my head and want to be fair.
• I believe telling the truth is more important than being tactful.
• Sometimes I miss or don’t value the “people” part of a situation.
• I can be seen as too task-oriented, uncaring, or indifferent.
Yup, that sounds about right. But whatever my personality type, and indeed not all buy into the Myers Briggs personality profiling, my first call is to be Christlike. I am to be more and more like the Christ who cried at the grave of his friend (John 11:32-35) or who was deeply moved when he saw people lost and needing a shepherd (Mark 6:34). I am called to care not just for abstract notions of justice but for people.
So if someone is deeply distressed by the pain of the victims and survivors in Paris and wants to express that grief, that is not a bad thing as long as we all remember that the victims need much more than just a click on Facebook. And if there is indeed a pro-West/White bias in the mainstream media, that is important and an issue for another forum. If I am truly concerned for the victims in Beirut and Baghdad, I should do something about it. Getting mad at people who identify with the French does nothing for the victims elsewhere.