Fifty years ago, college students rioted to demand an end to the war in Vietnam, racial equality and free speech. The Free Speech Movement began when students at UC Berkley protested the university’s ban against political activities on campus.
Isn’t it ironic, then, that the current protests at the University of Missouri and Yale in part demands censorship of “offensive” speech. The very right their grandparents fought for all those years ago now threatens them, making them (dare I say it?) intolerant of words and ideas that challenge their liberal values. Free speech, in their minds, must restrict itself to liberal ideologies…it must not permit the open exchange of viewpoints.
Yes, I understand that they also protest other issues, and perhaps they have legitimate concerns (having grown up so near Berkley during the 1960s, I have a degree of empathy for these kids). Certainly, I deplore racial slurs, and agree that members of minority groups should be treated with respect. How many times have I endured people calling me “cripple,” “retard” and “spaz,” especially during my childhood?
But I want to risk over-simplifying matters because I see elements in their demands that threaten the freedom of speech for Biblical Christians. The world, largely led by academia and secular media, naturally hates Christ (see Galatians 5:17). As a result, it can’t help but hate Christians who uncompromisingly stand for His Word.
18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. ~~John 15:18-19 (ESV)
We must understand that Bible-believing Christians have very little time left in which we can legally proclaim the Gospel in the public square. And, even though obedience to the Lord will necessitate rebelling against those who would command us to be silent (Acts 4:18-20), we must prepare our minds for such limitations.
As it stands now, the Constitution of the United States guarantees both the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion. The call to penalize “hate speech” will most likely nullify those freedoms, particularly for those of us who take Scripture seriously. But rather than fighting to preserve rights that our government gave us and may revoke, let’s simply serve the Lord faithfully, regardless of man-made laws.