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EDITORIAL: The high calling of free speech

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Those of us who work for The Christian Chronicle feel doubly blessed by those words, ratified nearly 221 years ago as the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. A few of us can recite them by heart, along with Psalm 23 (“The Lord is my shepherd …”), John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world …”) and Acts 2:38 (“Repent and be baptized, every one of you …”).
We cherish the words of our forefathers, which give us the freedom to worship God as the Bible tells us — and to write stories that inform, inspire and unite believers in our nation and around the world.
The riots in North Africa and the Middle East reveal the dark side of the freedoms granted us by the First Amendment.
A shocking, poorly produced YouTube video, insulting to the Muslims’ prophet, Muhammad, sparked violence across the region.
In Libya, Americans who had dedicated their lives to serving the people of North Africa died in a terrorist attack, which we now know was unrelated to the protests.
We join our voices with those who have expressed distaste and disapproval of this insulting video. Jesus would not do this, as one of our experts says in our coverage of the violence. Just as we oppose any mocking depiction of our Savior, we oppose any demeaning portrayal of others’ beliefs.
We also add our voices to those who condemn the senseless acts of violence across the Arab world, carried out by Muslim extremists and those duped into following them.
We understand that, in many cases, the video is just an excuse. A host of social, political and economic factors contribute to the rage that we see on our television sets.
But no oppression — real or perceived — justifies the shedding of innocent blood. Only one being was pure enough that the shedding of his blood would free us from oppression. And the grave could not contain him.
Instead of clubs and guns, we believe that hateful speech must be combated with better speech — the words of life that have sustained followers of Christ for nearly 2,000 years.
Read this month’s Views column to see how Christians used these words to voice their opposition to an extremist group in our midst — the Ku Klux Klan.
The apostle Paul, in his letter to the church in Rome, gives us a wonderful example of the responsible, judicious use of free speech by followers of Christ.
Oddly enough, Paul’s example in Romans 14:14 doesn’t deal with what comes out of our mouths, but what goes in.
“I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil.”
May love guide our speech, and may God protect our right to speak.

  • Feedback
    We must keep in mind that in war there are no innocent parties. The United States has proven many times that killing civilians hurts the morale of the actual combatants. Anyone providing moral support to combatants are legitimate targets. Our embassies are the face of our country and therefore are targets and need to be protected. If the local government will not ensure protection we should leave and stop any foreign aid going their way. Paul’s comments are irrelevant to non-Christians.
    John Jenkins
    Gatlinburg, Tn
    October, 14 2012

Filed under: Editorial

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