The Loss Of A Dissenting Opinion


Berkeley_glade_afternoonPolitically correct speech crept up on society, but it’s starting to take over. I don’t know how or when it gained such a stranglehold on Western culture, but its grip is tightening.

I knew the climate on many universities has been opposed to open discourse for a long time. And of course laws have been passed about hate speech. Who could disagree that saying hateful things is wrong? But who defines “hateful things”?

Apparently it’s “hateful” to disagree with the prevailing attitude of society. The odd thing is, the First Amendment specifically guarantees that a person has the right to voice a dissenting view, even when that view is contrary to public policy.

Today no one seems concerned about upholding the First Amendment. It’s become much more important to stop people from speaking against prevailing attitudes.

For example, though Donald Sterling was illegally taped in a private conversation, his remarks, deemed racist, earned him a lifetime ban by the NBA.

When “the first openly gay football player” was drafted in the NFL and kissed his male partner with the cameras rolling, another athlete tweeted his negative reaction. The next day, after the media, soundly criticized him for his “insensitive” comments, he was made to apologize.

When the tape of Ray Rice hitting his girlfriend became public, another well-known person expressed his view on Twitter about how he’d respond to someone, even a woman, hitting him. The next day, after being lambasted by the media, he also apologized.

Of course these dissenting opinions involve things society, or the media which voices “accepted societal practice,” has determined to be right or wrong: gay relationships, racism, domestic violence. Hence, no dissenting opinion is allowed.

I find this troubling! Even if a person is wrong, as they have been many times—see, for example, the burning of the American flag during the Vietnam era—the Constitution and the Supreme Court have supported their right to say what they believed (or to act out their view).

Now it seems one publicly-funded school has decided that “sectarian” material, particularly books written by Christians or published by Christian publishers or about Christian subject matter, does not belong in their library. Most notably they have removed The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom about her experiences during World War II, including her involvement in hiding Jews from Nazis in the Netherlands, being betrayed, and ending up in a concentration camp.

Yes, Corrie ten Boom was motivated by her Christianity, and she was comforted and counseled by the Bible in the concentration camp, so apparently those facts earned The Hiding Place the label of “sectarian.” Should this story prove to be true (so far, every article I’ve found derives its information from the press release of a single organization), it’s an appalling event, but completely consistent with the others which point to a decline of free expression of ideas—religious ones as well as controversial private ones or public ones that a powerful organization deems to be “offensive.”

When, I wonder, will all Christian ideas be “offensive”?

Of course there’s also the story about the Christian college campus ministry, InterVarsity, which was de-recognized by the California State University school system. Or how about the Florida college that ruled the same Christian organization couldn’t require Christians to lead the group.

In all these instances, the common thread seems to be an unwillingness to allow groups or books or individuals to have a dissenting voice. We are no longer a society that encourages thought and reasoned discourse. Instead we slander those with whom we disagree.

For instance, one site, AnnoyedLibrarian, in reporting the removal of The Hiding Place from the charter school’s library shelves had this to say:

I was unfamiliar with Corrie ten Boom or her book The Hiding Place, but if the Wikipedia entries are accurate, it does seem like the book is pretty Christian. Supposedly, the entire time she and her sister were in a German concentration camp, they “used a hidden Bible to teach their fellow prisoners about Jesus,” because not enough people had told the Jewish prisoners that they were wrong to be Jewish.

And later, this:

If The Hiding Place were actually removed from the library collection, it’s likely because the book wasn’t used at all. Unused books get cleared away to make room for something else.

If you want to teach kids about the Holocaust, using the testimony of a Christian evangelist doesn’t make a lot of sense, so only teachers who wanted to evangelize their students would have used it, and most of them probably don’t teach in California charter schools.

After all, there must be some other book that might help students learn about hiding Jews from Nazis during the war, maybe one whose main audience is broader than that of evangelical Christians, perhaps a book written by an actual Jewish person who was in fact hidden from the Nazis, and maybe she could be roughly the same age as the students who are learning about her, helping the students to identify with her more.

There must be a book like that out there somewhere.

The reference, I’m assuming, is to The Diary of Anne Frank, as if that one book is all that’s allowed to tell the story of Jews and their plight during World War II. As if the story of Christians motivated by their faith to do what is right at the risk of their lives is somehow less important or trivial or insignificant in light of the startling revelations of a coming of age teen.Alexander_Yakushev,_February_2012_reading_Pravda

No, we are fast becoming a society which only wants uni-think. It reminds me of the old quip: “My mind’s made up; don’t confuse me with facts.” We don’t want debate because we have no intention of changing our minds. And we don’t want anyone else telling us we should change our minds.

If debate dies, we might as well simply ask Pravda, uh, the Associated Press what it is we should think.

Racism And Free Speech


ClipersDonald T. Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, has allegedly been taped during a conversation with his mistress in which he made numerous racist statements. At issue, apparently was his mistress posting pictures with various African-Americans as well as her attending Clippers games in the company of African-Americans. According to a tape played on TV’s TMZ program, Sterling wanted her to take the pictures down and not to come to games with African-Americans.

According to the US Constitution, Sterling has a right to say he doesn’t want his mistress to post pictures of African-Americans or to attend games in their company. But in the aftermath of this TMZ reveal, sportscasters and players and any number of people have called for sanctions from the NBA for his comments and, more drastically, for him to be denied the right to own an NBA franchise.

I thought the whole “free speech” right protected people from just such reprisal.

Mind you, I have no way of knowing if Donald Sterling harbors hatred for a race of people. He is of Jewish ethnicity, as I understand, which doesn’t mean he is or is not opposed to others because of their race. But supposing he were, does the majority of society, which agrees that racism is wrong, therefore have the right to punish him for stating his views, to the point of wresting his property from him?

This is a serious issue. It’s easy to make Donald Sterling a target, especially if you live in the LA area as I do. He’s sabotaged his own sports team any number of times by his questionable decisions and his unwillingness to pay the going salary for top level players. To learn that he has a mistress, that he said inappropriate, racial things to her, and that these things were taped, doesn’t seem surprising. Rather, it’s Donald Sterling being Donald Sterling—someone who goes his own way without regard to others, who is greedy, offensive, selfish, and mean spirited.

So, is society allowed to withhold the rights of greedy, offensive, selfish, mean-spirited people? Is it OK to revoke his First Amendment rights because he’s a jerk with racist views?

We might wish so.

But here’s why it’s not a good idea to get on that bandwagon. There is no telling who society will next label as offensive, mean-spirited, and selfish.

I have no doubt, for example, that there are feminists who would find my views about women and about abortion to be offensive and perhaps sexist, though they’d have a harder time pinning that label on me as a woman than they would on men who might hold the same opinions.

In the same way, a growing number of people would find my views about homosexuality offensive because I still consider same sex activity to be sin. In fact, my views about the sin nature of humankind also are offensive to some people, and they are in contradiction to the general trend of society.

So how are we to view free speech? Are people only free to say what they want without reprisal as long as we agree with them? Or as long as they aren’t rich or in highly visible occupations?

I added that last phrase because of the Westboro Baptist people who waved horrible signs at the funerals of any number of servicemen. I don’t know what kinds of efforts people made to stop them, though I know there were some. However, I don’t recall anyone suggesting they receive a monetary fine from the Baptist denomination or that their church be taken away from them.

Lots of people would like to see the Westboro Baptist protesters and the Donald Sterlings of this world punished. We’d like them to shut up and sit down. We’d like them to stop holding offensive views, wrong beliefs.

Except, I’m offended by Sterling having a mistress. I think he’s a sinner who ought to be criticized in the press for his promiscuity as much as for his racism. If he were a politician who was maintaining a mistress on the side, I’m pretty sure his immorality would become a bigger issue—at least if the racist question wasn’t also part of the conversation.

My point is, different things are offensive to different people. But when it comes to speech, it is not OK to silence someone or punish them just because we think they’re wrong.

It’s uncomfortable to speak out against reprisals aimed at Donald Sterling, but I kind of think it’s necessary. Otherwise, tomorrow those reprisals might be targeting Christians who believe gay marriage is no marriage or abortions are wrong.

Free speech allows us to be a people of law, not of popular opinion. It protects us from the lynch-mob mentality we worked so hard to overcome in the days when the government sanctioned racist hatred.

So now, we’re going to bring back the idea of reprisals against those we deem to be prejudice? Today we’re clamoring for Sterling’s head because of his racist views, but tomorrow the “prejudice” could be against sexist men or homophobe Christians or people wearing red.

Seriously. In certain parts of the city, wearing the wrong gang colors requires reprisal.

At some point, we citizens need to decide what our values are. Here in the US we talk a good game when it comes to freedom, but then a Donald Sterling tape surfaces, and suddenly “free speech” comes with the right to institute sanctions against “that kind of talk”—the kind that ought not to be allowed in the NBA or anywhere else, so the outraged say.

Well, yes, I wish people didn’t think less of others. I wish people didn’t judge others by the color of their skin. I wish people didn’t malign those with whom they disagree. But if they choose to do so, I get to say they are wrong, but I don’t get to hurt them or take their property or put them in jail or fine them.

It’s the downside of free speech, that people like Donald Sterling get to say offensive things. It’s the upside that the rest of us get to say how wrong he is without worrying that he’ll prevent those who wish to watch the Clippers from doing so.

Christians And Gay Rights


Anti-Christian_sign_in_Federal_Plaza_ChicagoYesterday the Arizona governor, Jan Brewer, vetoed a bill that would have permitted people to refuse service to gays and lesbians on the grounds of religious persuasion. You could think of it as the equivalent of the military’s alternate service for those drafted into the armed services who were pacifists. The intent, as I understand it, was to accommodate people who believe, based on their religion, that homosexuality is wrong.

Of course both local and national news shows, on every channel, covered the story, often tagging it as a clash between religious rights and personal freedom. I couldn’t help but think of the First Amendment to the US Constitution which guarantees a person the right to free expression of his religion. I don’t see anything in the Constitution about freedom of expression of a person’s sexuality.

I also have thought how early in the debate about “gay rights” those advocating for inclusion often argued that what a person did in the bedroom was their own business, no one else’s. That argument has been replaced.

Just last month a particular ethnic group here in SoCal held a parade. Originally a group of LGBT advocates were denied permission to be a part, but that decision was reversed. On parade day, the news shows covered this “happy end” to the conflict as the contingent of homosexuals marched behind their rainbow banner. Presumably what they do in their bedrooms is now something to celebrate.

Christians, who are uniquely singled out because of our opposition to homosexuality–not Muslims or any other group who also oppose that behavior–are portrayed with growing frequency as bigots.

The most bizarre news clip last night was the interview with a member of the LGBT community who was holding up pages and pages of pictures of lawmakers who supported the Arizona bill or who have taken a conservative position on marriage. This individual explained that all these lawmakers would be boycotted.

In other words, if a person says he opposes homosexuality on religious grounds, he would be discriminated against. But somehow, their boycott is not discrimination while exercising your right to express your religious beliefs, is.

The thing I don’t like is the fact that the news media is framing this discussion. Over and over, the same snippet came on the air showing people celebrating who were holding signs urging the veto of the bill. The implication was that this was a big crowd in front of Arizona’s Capitol. And yet the camera never panned out, never showed more than two rows of people, and the people they did show were not tightly packed together.

Of course, one station also aired their recent poll, showing that 52% of Americans now support same sex marriage. I think they forgot to mention the margin of error in the poll (usually a +/- 3%, sometimes greater) or whether it was conducted scientifically or informally. The point is, there’s a great attempt to create a bandwagon effect.

Homosexuality, which is sin, is now being presented as the position which a good, kind, caring person will naturally support. One Tweet, for example, thanked Christians who don’t discriminate.

Such loaded words. Once Christians who said homosexuality is sin were called homophobes. The name was used as a shaming tactic. No one wants to admit they’re afraid of “gayness.”

But the rhetoric has changed. Now homosexuality is getting traction as a civil right and therefore opposing it is discrimination and someone taking that stand is a bigot. This approach is more aggressive. It’s not shame but condemnation. It is a way of saying the religious person is wrong and the gay person is right.

Which reminds me of these verses in Isaiah:

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;
Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes
And clever in their own sight! (5:20-21)

At the root of the LGBT issue is the fact that those who are choosing against their God-given bodies are being wise in their own eyes. They know what they are like inside and ought not be hampered by the biological organs they’ve been born with–the body which God formed in their mother’s womb.

To me, what’s most interesting in all this is the admission of this inner being–you’d almost call it a soul or spirit–which the LGBT community listens to. If they feel like a woman inside, it doesn’t matter if they have a male body. The inside is what counts.

But that brings up the question: what happens when the body dies? The body, so many people say today, ends life. But this inside someone the LGBT community identifies as the stronger-than-the-physical entity of personhood–does it die with the body? This question, I would think, offers a conundrum for the gay person. If the body ends it all, then why should this inner person hold sway over the body? And if the inner person lives on after the body dies, does that mean there really is life after death, and a whole supernatural world with a God who will judge according to what a person has done during his time on earth?

As I see it, Christians have the greatest opportunity now to speak into the lives of people in the LGBT community. What they believe about their inner person determining their gender identity can open up a discussion about what happens to that inner person.

May we focus our attention on rescuing the lost and not on winning arguments.

Unstoppable


KirkCameronByLuigiNovi
Was it a glitch in the automation or something more calculated?

After actor Kirk Cameron who happens to be an outspoken Christian had the links to the trailer of his upcoming movie, Unstoppable, removed from Facebook, he publicly took issue with the action, saying on his Facebook page

that links to the website for “Unstoppable” had been blocked by the social network for allegedly being “abusive,” “unsafe” and “spammy.” The following day, he announced YouTube had done the same and had blocked the “Unstoppable” trailer because it was considered “spam,” a “scam” and “deceptive.” (Huffington Post)

In his appeal to fans to support him against Facebook and YouTube, Cameron said his movie is about

“faith, hope and love, and about why God allows bad things to happen to good people. What is ‘abusive’ or ‘unsafe’ about that?!” (Ibid.)

A day after Cameron went public with the issue, Facebook rescinded their block, saying that the address he was using for the movie site had previously been used by a spammer and therefore blocked by Facebook. Their automated system simply hadn’t caught up to the change.

Sounds reasonable.

But what about YouTube?

Apparently there’s an active attempt to have all Cameron’s YouTube videos removed, though they also retracted the “Unstoppable” block. Why would YouTube want Cameron’s videos taken down?

Without saying this is the reason, a USA Today article on the subject mentions that Cameron is “outspoken against gay marriage.”

Cameron himself addresses why people hate God in a new YouTube video, pointing first to the fact that they hate the moral standard.

So is all this a tempest in a teapot, a simple and understandable techno-glitch? Or is this a foreshadowing of what is to come for Christians who speak up for what they believe? I suppose only time will tell, but I find it sobering.

Social media has given every person a voice and an audience, but how quickly it could be snatched away. What if “religious topics” are one day considered too divisive, too inflammatory to be allowed?

After what happened with Kirk Cameron, that possibility doesn’t seem so far fetched any more.

I suppose for too long we Christians in the United States have felt protected by the First Amendment to our Constitution. It guarantees freedom of speech, doesn’t it? It guarantees freedom of religion.

Amazingly, the very clause that was put into the Bill of Rights to ensure that people could speak their mind and practice their religion, is being turned against people of faith. No “establishment of religion” has come to mean no allowance of religion.

First this was in schools, then government buildings. Now there are attempts to extend this to government property–like public parks and beaches.

While the shift is startling, it simply reminds me that government was never the guarantor for our freedoms. God is.

Should Christians face a period of persecution here in the US, we’d only be joining the millions of our brothers and sisters who are experiencing the same around the world. It’s not something I look forward to, but it’s something I expect. Could it be that the vitriol aimed at Kirk Cameron (see comments such as “Kirk Cameron is a sanctimonious, obnoxious f***knut and a washed-up former
child T.V. star…”), is an indication of what lies ahead for all believers? What do you think?

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