The Freedom to Abstain

Freedom of speech is a hot topic these days. With campuses across the country protesting conservative speakers, half of Facebook consistently misquoting George Orwell, and everyone’s loud uncle exclaiming there is no room for reason or discussion anymore, what exactly is the Christian response to this freedom of speech issue? Some claim it’s as simple as the Bill of Rights, which has freedom of speech outlined in it; you can say whatever you want. I, however, have a guidebook in my life that transcends the Bill of Rights and it’s called the Bible I am seeing a trend of people confusing the two. Hey, be a proud American, I don’t care if you’re a patriot, but remember that when you label yourself as Christian, that label comes first in your life. Which is why I’m here talking about this. I’m here to discuss how far we need to take our individual freedoms and what sort of dialogue or ideas we promote as Christians through our compliance in hate speech or through our fight for freedom of speech. I believe the Bible limits my speech, and calls on me to do more than refrain from swearing and gossip.  In James 1:26 it says to “rein in my speech” which tells me to shut my mouth, even when the constitution says I don’t have to.

I think the biggest issue is this: we are Christians, not politicians. Is your God the God of Isaac and Jacob or the God of democracy, capitalism, and individual rights? Let me be frank: if you care more about your individual rights than esteeming others and living an ethical lifestyle, than you are embracing your American identity over your Christian identity. Freedom of speech can go too far. How does it make you feel when a TV show or movie pokes fun at our religion? We certainly get angry and want that to end. We boycott the shows that attack us or even simply disagree with an aspect of Christianity, make social media campaigns to force Christmas on our coffee cups, and throw diversity out of our schools. However, if a person stands up against the good ol’ boy American belief, they are a snowflake who hasn’t learned economics, history, mathematics, etc. That’s name calling and that’s unacceptable for a Christian to be doing.

 

Also, let’s all reflect on how we disagree with our president or lawmakers we deem unfit. It’s one thing to say the president is wrong or a lawmaker is unethical. It’s another to say this congressman is an idiot, or this person’s belief is that of rednecks, simpletons, or any other ad hominem attack. The last thing society needs right now is more people using poor tactics such as unkind personal attacks to win arguments, especially coming from Christian spheres. Christ gives an example of building others up and promoting speech that is loving, dignifying and encouraging to others. Ephesians 4:29 cements this idea saying, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Christ loved and continues to love everyone, even someone who votes conservatively or someone who may think socialism a viable option. We as Christians should be supporting positive dialogue, thoughtful reasoning, and words that love others. Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”  Retweeting someone calling another person an idiot, putting down a political party, or dehumanizing a people group is what someone does to show spite or prove they are better. This is not the humble, gracious reaction the Bible asks of us. You can argue that our constitution protects such speech, but you have a choice every day to either exercise that freedom or hold back. We as Christians should not be supporting hate speech or rude comments in the name of freedom. Only through Christ do we have freedom and sometimes, Christ really wishes we would all just shut our mouths.

Alanna is a senior majoring in Spanish and intercultural studies.

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