|Series Theme: Difficult Questions|
Title: 7. Are we free to say whatever we want?
A series that helps consider difficult questions of the Christian faith
Why should we have any form of censorship? Why can't I say what I like?
Your question comes from the midst of a society that has lost it's anchor, that is drifting freely without restraint. As Christian theologian-come-philosopher Francis Schaeffer pointed out, the arts tend to be the first area of society that seek to push back boundaries.
It is the arts and the media today, in the West, that push the boundaries and who appear to have the strongest voice, and we seem to operate on the basis of “he who shouts loudest must be right.” Therefore we have interest groups who maintain that “free speech” is all important. They could be playwrights, film producers or editors of newspapers. We mention these in particular because each group have been known in recent years to call for greater freedom to say what they like.
Let's put it as simply as we can. Is it wrong to say, “I disagree with you”? No, there's nothing wrong with that. Is it wrong to demean another person's view of life by deriding it, deriding their beliefs? We would suggest, yes.
Is it wrong to speak untruths about another person, about their way of life, their way of thinking? The consensus is still that it is wrong.
Yet why is it wrong? The religious believer may say, because the author of all laws, God, says it is. The religious believer and the non-believer might say that lies demean human beings, and cause injustice, and may suggest that these are values a civilised society would want to hold onto.
Once we say it doesn't matter if we demean people, or it doesn't matter if we abandon justice, we are on the edge of a barbaric anarchy.
Many have said that rights also require responsibility! If we want to claim a right to something, we must remember that there is a responsibility that goes with it.
If we claim a right of free speech, we must remember the responsibility to respect others and uphold justice.
Why do you ask the question? What do you want to say and who do you want to offend, that requires you to ask this?
Is it necessary to offend others? Are you so arrogant (not wanting to be rude but just emphasise the point) that you feel you have the right to change other people by assaulting their sensibilities? Is straight, unemotional dialogue not sufficient?
If we claim a right to free speech, we ought to face the consequences of our words, and maintain the responsibility for them.
The book of Proverbs in the Bible has many things to say about the use of the tongue. You might like to meditate on some of them from Chapter 10 onwards.
Do you really want to use your tongue for good or evil? The way we answer that reveals a lot about the sort of person we are.