A Thought on Free Speech

Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
    Who may live on your holy mountain?
The one whose walk is blameless,
    who does what is righteous,
    who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
    who does no wrong to a neighbor,
    and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
    but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
    and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
    who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
    will never be shaken.

  • Psalm 15:1-5

Why do you boast of evil, you mighty hero?
    Why do you boast all day long,
    you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God?
You who practice deceit,
    your tongue plots destruction;
    it is like a sharpened razor.
You love evil rather than good,
    falsehood rather than speaking the truth.
You love every harmful word,
    you deceitful tongue!

  • Psalm 52:1-4

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.  From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

  • Ephesians 4:11-16

In a podcast about a month ago, Rev. David Robertson, the Wee Flea, spoke of the freedom of Speech disappearing, in that only the woke view is now tolerated in many public arenas around the world.  He said that freedom of speech was not speaking words that the crowd agrees with, it is speaking words that could be contrary to the crowd’s worldview.  At least, that is what I heard, and I could be a little of.

Since then, I heard where one prominent political figure, I think in the USA, was getting backlash from a statement that all straight white men must be silenced.  As I am a straight white man, you can stop following me if you like, but I will not be bullied or discriminated against.  I would gladly trade my “white privilege” of waiting at the back of every line in the military and being told for decades that the company appreciated the hard work I was doing at running the department, but I could never get promoted to that position (and thus paid a reasonable salary based on the work done) until minorities have been promoted.  And for a time, part of my job was grooming those minorities for management positions, not specifically, but my regular job, but dealing with the situation in closed door meetings to resolve the issue.  I will gladly give up watching them get promoted immediately while I continued to wait.  Yes, “white privilege” is what is perceived by the one perceiving, with the perceiving one’s own prejudice.  Did it happen?  Probably, but less than perceived and rarely in recent decades.

Ouch, I got on my soap box without making my point first!

What I think Rev. Robertson meant, and probably really said in the podcast, is that freedom of speech is only significant when you allow opposing views to be expressed, and only truly exists when they are both readily expressed.  Both or multiple views, not just the view you do not like to hear.

I have written about this before, but during my senior year of college, I did more growing up than I had done in several years before, much of it in the senior year Army ROTC classes.  In the three lectures per week, every week that year, the Major covered a wide range of topics, a lot were more about life than they were about military.  How do you carry yourself?  How do you show respect to others?  How must you act in formal ceremonial circumstances?  And what happens when someone disagrees with you, disagrees with the orders you have been given, or disagrees with the stance of the United States Army and the country that it represents?

For that last one, he turned to me.  He had already told the class that I was his token reactionary, wanting things to be so conservative that avoiding change was not good enough, I wanted it the way it was 20-30 years ago.  I had never expressed that attitude, but he was a good reader of such things.  What he did not know that 40 miles down the road from the university, on our little farm, it was the way that very day.  It was like it was when he had been home 30-40 years before, and it had never changed.  I did not need to crank the calendar backward.  I only needed to return home.

The major, on this day, asked me, “If your platoon was assigned guard duty at a protest and the protestors were shouting things that you agreed with, could you stand firm?”

I nodded that I could do so.

Since there had been recent news about antiwar protests with the graphic details being released, the major cranked it a step further.  “Mr. Rackley, if the protestors shouted slurs against the US Army and called you, your men, and the president horrible names, including baby-killer…  If the horrid creatures then exposed themselves and urinated on your uniform and defecated upon you, could … you … stand … firm?”

I stood firm, in that I no longer nodded in agreement, even though I was hoping that the ceasefire that we were experiencing really turned into the end of the Vietnam War, which it did.

Having made his point with the most conservative of a predominantly conservative class of officer candidates, the Major turned to the class and said, “Freedom of Speech is easy when the speaker says what you agree with.  Freedom of Speech is extremely hard when the speaker says things that you definitely disagree with.  Each one in this room swore an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States of America, with your lives if need be.  Freedom of Speech includes protecting someone saying words to the affect of destroying the Constitution and all it stands for.  Those are just words.  And if some conservative concerned citizens move toward silencing those words by force, it may become your job to defend that hideous creature that is saying those words.  If you cannot do so, you have no right to wear the uniform.  But I would sure hope that you would also do everything within the law to prevent those words from ever becoming a reality.”

That may not be an exact quote, just as I did not put quotations around what Rev. Robertson said, but I think it is what both the Major and Rev. Robertson meant.

Universities today are promising Safe Space where students can go and never hear anything other than their own opinions being echoed back to them by others.  Social Media tries to do that without us even knowing, manipulating us into thinking our way of thinking is the only way.  But when that Safe Space at the university is violated, university campuses have turned into a war zone.  In some cases, the university has suffered a hostile takeover by irate students because someone dared say a word that they disagreed with.

To all those protestors out there, if you cannot handle disagreement with your view, stay home and keep your mouth shut.  In a country with Free Speech, you should always hear things that you disagree with.  If not, some puppet master is behind the curtain destroying free speech.

I have read this story several times using several different Christian denominations.  It is a joke, only used to illustrate the point just made.

One day, a Presbyterian evangelist is walking across a tall suspension bridge and he sees a man preparing to jump to his death.  The evangelist starts talking with him.  He thinks that if he can find some common ground with the guy, he can talk him off the ledge.  He inquired if the jumper was a Christian, and he said that he was.  He asked if the jumper was a Catholic, a Protestant, or did he consider himself reformed?  The jumper claimed to be reformed.  The evangelist thought of the large reformed denominations and asked if he might be Lutheran, Methodist or Presbyterian.  The jumper said that he was Presbyterian.  The evangelist was thinking that he might be getting somewhere, so he asked if the jumper was PCUSA, PCA, Evangelical Presbyterian, Orthodox Presbyterian or some other branch?  The jumper said that he was PCUSA.  Then the evangelist asked if the jumper was guided by all the denomination’s statements of faith including the short statement of faith written in 1983?  The jumper smiled for the first time and said that of course he was guided by all of them, especially the short statement of faith written in 1983.  The evangelist then said, “Die!  Heathen!” and pushed him off the bridge.

There is no Safe Space.  We can never be where we are totally free from hearing opposing points of view, but we can change channels on the television and radio.  We can walk away peacefully.  We do not even have to agree to disagree (which really does not exist).  But we need that resistance, or we shall never grow up.

I did not appreciate the Major singling me out in class.  There were only 2-3 guys that he put on the spot.  I was one.  And I think us 2-3 guys grew more that year than did the others.  We had opposing views thrown in our faces and we had to learn self-restraint while others laughed.  The major was not kind to those who laughed, but it still happened.

If you wondered, in the PCUSA, they usually give all church leaders a copy of the Book of Confessions, starting with the Nicene Creed, Apostle’s Creed, Heidelberg Confession of Faith with Catechism, … down to the Short Statement of Faith (written in 1983 when two large Presbyterian denominations in the USA reunited to form the PCUSA).  I think the last one is rather weak and easy to misinterpret and take out of context, and I prefer if it were not included, regardless of the Scripture to back up each statement.  But I would not push someone off the bridge if that were his favorite either.

And that is what the dear Major taught me.  We need thicker skin, because there will always be a difference of opinion, unless we sink into a totalitarian state where only the opinion of the ruler is allowed.

What does this have to do with our Christian faith?  If we do not have a freedom of Speech, we will soon not have open worship of Jesus Christ.  Look at the persecution of Christians around the world, especially in China.  The government will see Christianity as a threat to the authority of their government.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

2 Comments

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  1. Firstly, a quite handsome young soldier…secondly…great words Mark…pointed and starkly full of truth!

    Liked by 1 person

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