The Freedom to Speak

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Freedom is probably one of the most basic concepts of humanity, yet freedom is not truly free nor does one’s freedom mean they are free. Freedom is always bought at a price; and is maintained at a price. Perhaps one of the greatest freedoms that citizens of the United States take for granted is the freedom of speech.

I am personally convinced that under the banner of “Freedom of Speech” there are those who have spoken things that are emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, and physically unhealthy. While that seems certainly true, that does not permit me the license to simply speak anything I desire.

It seems natural when engaged in any argument to speak things that range from simply rude to completely untrue all in a vain attempt to uphold one’s position. Sometimes those spoken things can border on defamation. We recognize that society has not performed well in carrying out dialogue, and the same is true for Christians.

There is a time and a place for dialogue, discussion and perhaps debate. But the manner in which it is done matters not to the “victor” but to the audience. We are fickle inconsistent beings. Perhaps you have, but in my travels, I have yet to meet the person who walks up to me saying, “I’m sorry, but I can tell that you are more knowledgeable on this topic than I, could you please enlighten me.”

Dialogue, discussion and debate occur every day. Some of it is profitable. Some of it is not. There are venues that encourage investigation, that encourage the intellect to confirm or deny that things are true. One of the things that has amazed me, is that the Christians I have met want an “honest venue” when examining Intelligent Design, yet somehow seem to not be as concerned with the “honest view” when examining the very things they hold sacred. This situation is one that I prefer to categorize as Christians being innocently unaware.

An honest venue allows the freedom to ask questions. Those questions might be embarrassing or foolish, but the honest venue is not afraid. There will be well-informed questions and there will be questions which challenge the underpinnings of truth. When an honest venue permits these questions, the honest venue reveals that it is after the truth. Yet, even in that venue there needs to be an exercise of the Freedom of Speech.

From Solomon we learn that the tongue has the power of life and death (Proverbs 18.21) and from Jesus we learn to be mindful of the little ones (Matthew 18.1-7; Mark 9.33-42). As Christians, we should take from this that just because something is true does not automatically mean it should be said. Another way of seeing this: a spiritual idea might very well be true, but the situation, perhaps specifically another person’s spiritual maturity, is not ready for the truth. When keeping this in mind, Freedom of Speech does not necessarily mean the Freedom to Speak.

Next Entry: The Freedom to Speak – Part 2

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