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.

People of Faith: Corrie ten Boom, Part 1

One of my non-fiction ideas is a book profiling twenty Christian women of faith. I’ve decided to post, in four parts, the chapter about Corrie ten Boom, the Dutch woman known for hiding Jews during World War II. Following a year of incarceration, during which her father and sister died, she began a speaking and writing ministry to proclaim God’s forgiveness and love. Late in life she moved to Southern California where she lived until her death at age 91.

Corrie ten Boom

Corrie ten Boom sat gazing out the window, alone with her thoughts, unable to verbalize her needs or even her love for those most dear. Solitary confinement was not a new experience for this eighty-seven-year-old woman, but this imprisonment during the last years of her life was far different from the one she endured thirty-five years earlier in a Dutch prison cell. In both instances, however, and during horrifying experiences in two Nazi concentration camps, Corrie put her faith in Jesus who she knew to be the Victor. In the face of inhuman conditions, mistreatment, sickness and death, she lived that faith day by day.

Corrie spent her first fifty-two years caring for her family and working in their watch shop in the Beje—the patch-work Dutch home of her birth, where the words “Jesus is Victor” were transcribed on the kitchen hearthstones.

Although she never married, her life was anything but solitary. She was one of four children in a close family, headed by godly parents. When she was a child, her mother’s three sisters moved in with the Ten Booms, adding to the activity swirling about the house.

As each of Corrie’s aunts declined over the years, she took on the necessary caregiving responsibilities until one by one they passed away. Eventually she nursed her own mother when a stroke partially paralyzed her and robbed her of the ability to speak more than three words—yes, no, and Corrie. Three years later, Mrs. Ten Boom died, leaving Corrie and her oldest sister Betsie to manage the house for their father and to work with him in the watch repair business.

Corrie’s next two decades in the family home were fulfilling. Through a providential sequence of events, she and Betsie switched roles which put Corrie next to her father in their watch shop keeping the accounts and waiting on customers, rather than in the kitchen tending to domestic duties. When Corrie was ready to move to more challenging responsibilities, her father patiently taught her the particulars of watch repair. Eventually she went to school to specialize in work with wristwatches and became Holland’s first licensed woman watchmaker.

Besides her involvement in the shop and with her family—including a happy assortment of nieces and nephews—Corrie developed a ministry with the mentally disabled and founded a Christian girls scout movement known as the Triangle Club. She and her family also welcomed into their home a succession of foster children over a period of ten years. Still they found time for a steam of visitors, whether policemen or derelicts coming for a bowl of Betsie’s soup or a cup of her coffee, or laborers and business professionals asking their father for counsel and prayer.

As far as Corrie knew, her life would continue as peacefully to its end as it had progressed to this point, but God had something considerably bigger in store for her.

When she was forty-eight, Adolf Hitler and an ever-broadening war disrupted Europe. Eventually German troops marched into Holland and after a five-day campaign, the Nazi war machine added another conquered nation to the list succumbing to its blitzkrieg.

During the first year of Nazi occupation, persecution targeting Jews began to creep into Holland, and Corrie’s town of Haarlem was no exception. Minor sporadic attacks occurred—a broken window in a business owned by Jews, offensive words graffitied on a synagogue wall. Gradually the symptoms worsened. Signs appeared in shop windows denying Jews service. Others forbade admittance to public parks, restaurants, theaters, the concert hall. A synagogue was burned down, but the fire trucks that answered the alarm worked only to keep the flames from spreading to other buildings.

Then an edict came singling Jews out by requiring them to wear bright yellow Stars of David sewn onto their coats and jackets with the word Jood (Dutch for “Jew”) prominently placed in the center. Disappearances began. No one knew for sure if the missing people had gone into hiding or were secretly arrested by the Gestapo. At any rate, public arrests became more frequent.

Eventually the Ten Booms discussed what they should do to help these persecuted people. Willem, the only boy of the family, had already successfully found hiding places for a number of Dutch Jews living in the nursing home he ran in nearby Hilversum. Should an opportunity arise, Corrie, Betsie and their father wanted to be ready to help as well.

To be continued.

See “People of Faith: Corrie ten Boom, Part 2.”

Published in: on May 15, 2012 at 5:00 pm  Comments (4)  
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Do People Everywhere Complain?

I’m convinced the US has become a nation of complainers. Just watch the news and you’ll see what I mean. Here in SoCal we have dire stories about impending drought leading to probable water rationing and horrific fire danger … until it rains. Then we have dire stories about mud slides and traffic accidents and horrific fire danger (because of all the new vegetation the rain generates, which of course will be dry when “fire season” comes along in a few months).

I don’t know about anyone else, but this complaining wears on me. When you couple it with the discontent fostered by advertising, it would be easy to think the US is worse off than any nation or people of any time.

We have budget problems and health care problems and now Tiger has gone over to the dark side. As if it wasn’t bad enough that Oprah is leaving (in two years)!

And I don’t have the latest iPod or newest Lexus or Wii or Kindle or … After all, I DESERVE those things. The advertisers told me so, and nobody in the media would fabricate such a thing. I mean, we have government rules against such things, so I know it’s true. I should have more and more and more because I deserve more and more and more. Woe, oh woe is me!

Wouldn’t it be a novel experience for us to practice contentment? We Christians certainly can do so. We understand what we actually deserve, yet we’ve experienced God’s mercy and grace. All contentment takes, it seems to me, is to focus on what we have rather than on what we have not.

We can go one step further and praise God for those things and most of all for Himself because clearly, we who are in Christ are rich beyond compare.

My new understanding is that I have exactly what God wants me to have as long as I am walking in obedience to Him.

So there was Job, walking in obedience, and what he had was three miserable friends accusing him falsely of sinful behavior and a body ravaged by disease. Oh, yes. He also had God. And in the end, Job realized when he looked at God … really saw Him as He is … that was enough. Confession replaced his complaints.

Recently I reread The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom with John and Elizabeth Sherrill and followed it with The Five Silent Years of Corrie ten Boom by Pamela Rosewell Moore. Let me just say, When I grow up, I want to be like Corrie! 😉

There’s a woman who knew a thing or two about being content. I’d say her willingness to walk through the fire without murmuring or complaining was a result of her abiding trust in her Heavenly Father. What a great example she provided.

So I guess I’ll have to start the ball rolling in my own life by stopping my complaining about complaining! 🙄 But I still have to ask, do people everywhere complain?

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