Evangelicals & Freedom of Expression
The right to freedom of expression is sacrosanct if a nation is to flourish. Whether it was Copernicus with the courage to speak about the scientific understanding about the geocentric model of Ptolemy that had prevailed for centuries, which had placed Earth at the center of the Universe or Martin Luther tenaciously speaking against the prevailing doctrinal malfeasance of the Roman Catholic Church regarding the doctrines of Grace. We remain indebted to the principle of the freedom of citizens possessing the rights of free expression.
That does not mean every expression carries the same weight or deserves the same consideration from the public. But it does mean that every expression must be allowed to enter the marketplace of ideas. Once the expression enters the marketplace of ideas, then may the best ideas win. That is the understanding the Greeks philosophers posited during the Greek Golden Age of Wisdom. This time in history, society witnessed some of the greatest thinkers who have ever lived like Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato.
It was during this time when well-reasoned arguments & logical cogency were required to gain public approval. We honored and respected the great thinkers of the day. We demanded that ideas but well-vetted and be filtered through the school of hard knocks. People refused to be swayed by emotive reasoning; they demanded hard facts.
The cultural elites have subtly changed the mean of expressing sentiments. The secularist has changed the correct verbiage from “I think” instead of “I feel” almost without detention from an unassuming and surprisingly naïve public.
So much has changed, and not much of it has been for good. College campuses, which used to be the bastion of vigorous debate and intellectual rigor, are now flooded with demands for “safe spaces.” These cries for safe spaces tend to be nothing more than shills for the silencing of views others believe have no place for public debate in public forums. The message communicated to Evangelicals is their local place of worship or within their home is the only acceptable local for religious expression. It is not to be part of the overall conversation for public consumption. It must be eradicated and never allowed to sway the hearts and minds of the general populace.
Faith-based organizations on college campuses routinely and increasingly come under duress with allegations of hate speech for merely seeking to live in full accord with their religious convictions. One recent college systemically denied a student the right to share his testimony on campus. First, the charge was the student did not secure the proper permit; then, after securing the necessary permit, the student was subsequently informed his proselytizing was considered out of bounds.
It took the Courts to finally permit the student the right to exercise his right to free expression. Still, this example shows the animus the cultural elites possess against true freedom of expression. We have every reason not to view this as a one-off event, which no one should attempt to make a big ado. Instead, we have excellent reason to see this as a concentration, calculating, and enduring ploy at Cancel Culture. Cancel Culture (or call-out culture) is a form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles online on social media, in the real world, or both. Those who are subject to this ostracism are said to be “canceled.”
You might interject how do I justify raising such a bodacious claim? I was made aware, just today, of the BLM movement’s successful attempt to stifle the message of a ministry committed to addressing the vexing problem of poverty. The action I am about to describe seems to be the new plan of attack taken directly from the Cancel Culture playbook,
Star Parker is a community organizer, fighting the good fight of addressing the issue of poverty. She has been working tirelessly through an organization she birthed twenty-five years ago called UrbanCare. Parker shares how UrbanCare purchased billboards in hard-hit cities across the nation and posted a short time-tested message that strikes at the heart of what drives poverty.
A fair question would naturally be: What drives poverty? Parker goes on to write, “The billboards show a picture of a young man or young black woman and says, ‘Tired of Poverty? Finish school. Take any job. Get married. Save and invest. Give back to your neighborhood’.”
Whether you believe these factors to be the true drivers of poverty is a fair question open for public debate and scientific scrutiny. I, personally, think these factors significantly impact the likelihood of one living beyond the poverty line. Maybe you come to agree, or perhaps you never will. The legitimate manner, the Democratic way to reach a conclusion, is to allow all the voices that desire to weigh in to be heard, and then we let the marketplace decide what is the best argument. The one thing we must not do or not allow is for any voices seeking to be heard to be silenced because of the toxic and insipid Cancel Culture gaining traction in America today.
Sadly, that is how our culture decides what ideas enter the public consciousness for contemplation and possible implementation. Ideas deemed unacceptable a priori either never reach the light of day, or if they do, then the proponents of Cancel Culture aggressively attack with immediate demands for removal from the public square upon the first sign of observation.
Lest you think my premise is unwarranted, I point to a recent Black Lives Matter (BLM) Movement immediate reaction to a public service announcement sponsored by the aforementioned grassroots organization UrbanCare. In a Facebook post to the billboard vendor, BLM said, “At the end of the day, messaging and narrative control is priceless.”
Yes, I most wholeheartedly agree with BLM’s worldview. If any person or any entity can effectively control the narrative, they can essentially eliminate dissenting views by fiat. We no longer have a free society; we no longer have a flourishing society. We can never have a Copernicus whose idea can change how we come to understand the Galaxy properly. We would never have a Luther who can become the catalyst for a great and momentous change in how we come to know how humanity develops and maintains a salvific relationship with God.
BLM believes controlling the narrative necessitates stifling any dialogue, which, because our culture capitulates to political and racial sensitivity, caves as a reflex action. The billboard company, Clear Channel Outdoor, responded to the demand of BLM and took down UrbanCURE’s, saying, “We strive to respect a wide variety of viewpoints on diversity and racial sensitivity.”
It is most lamentable the only entity that seems not to be respected is an explicitly Judeo-Christian worldview. It is shockingly odd if the pursuit is genuinely one of diversity why the Judeo-Christian is not allowed a seat at the table.
In a truly fully society, all competing views can flounder or flourish on its own merits. Evangelicalism seeks no special favor or preferential treatment. The American way of life is predicated upon the principles of free expression. Evangelicals understand no human agency can thwart the Gospel, so ultimately nothing is at risk, but we still seek to live as agents of God with no undue restraint.
Evangelicals can not control the direction our society takes. We humbly realize the future is beyond our direct control or influence. Yet, we understand our role as God’s steward of the world demands we fight to remain Light and Salt upon the Earth until our mission is complete. Maybe that will result in victory; perhaps that will result in defeat. Only God truly knows with absolute certainty.
The task of Evangelical is straightforward. We must let any eventual defeat be in spite of our best efforts and never because we shrink from fighting the good fight and running the good race.
Let me know what you think of my argument. Does the Evangelical deserve a full and unmitigated voice in the public square? If so, what will you do to ensure that to be the case in time and space in your sphere of influence?
Until then, keep your hands to the plow and seek to serve for an Audience of One.