Lessons In Free Speech

Much outrage and analysis have been broadcast in the wake of the terrorist shootings in Paris. At the risk of adding yet another, here are some thoughts.

Did the publishers of the inflammatory cartoons at the core of this incident have the right to produce and distribute them? Yes. Did they have responsibilities associated with those rights? Yes.

Did the terrorist at bloody edge of this incident have the right to be angry? Yes. Did they have the right to pursue a violent response for this anger? No.

Worldview Foundations

“There is one that speaks like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise brings health.”
Prov 12:18

Fundamental to this situation are two worldviews. One which cared nothing for the feelings of others nor the consequences of their actions on the broader community. Another which teaches that influence and resolution comes mainly through violence.

The cure for this is the gospel. The worldview which teaches reconciliation not only to God but also to your neighbour.
The exact worldview much of Western culture is running from. Like kids who only know just enough to be dangerous to themselves, Western societies have spent much of their recent history rebelling from their roots. Have they now finally learned enough to return to what made them great? Or will they also continue to reach for wrong solutions?

“Free” Speech

In a global village with increasingly divergent views of what is right and wrong, there was a rare show of common support for free speech in the wake of this incident. Free speech is a gift and one to be protected as it is one of the foundations of freedom. However, like free will, it is a gift from God and one that is hard to justify without Him. Will this lesson be learnt?

“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.”
1 Corinthians 10:23

Aside from that, what also needs to be discussed more are the responsibilities which come with this gift. Free speech itself doesn’t come for free – there are consequences.
Are deliberately crude and inflammatory cartoons designed to offend the best we can do with it? Or should it be cherished as the means by which understanding, connection, love, grace and reconciliation can be extended to each other? If the latter, let’s defend it*. If the former, why bother?

“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”
Philippians 2:3

An awful price has been paid. Let it be for a call to a higher standard in our private and public interactions. The pen is mightier than the sword. Let’s wield it carefully.

“To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.”
G.K. Chesteron


*And if we are to defend it, let’s do so consistently and reconcile our differences non-violently. It is interesting to note that many who march for free speech are not willing to extend it to those of a different opinion.


Image©Kevin Tam

2 Responses to “ Lessons In Free Speech ”

  1. […] about the self preservation of the religiously minded but about the greater good. The greater good of freedom in one’s speech and one’s conduct. A greater good which blooms at the personal […]

  2. […] Offence just for the sake of it is offensive – with rights come responsibilities. But truth can sometimes cause offence. The real task is ensuring one isn’t offensive in stating it but state it we must.. Some points along this line… […]

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