Monday, January 12, 2015
Freedom's shame. . .
Though we may despise what is said, we insist upon the right of those to say it. But that is not where it ends. We may not and should not defer to an agency of government to censor what is said or published in the public square, that does not mean we should not police our own tongues and practice a voluntary restraint for the sake of virtue, nobility, and good. Discretion has become a hidden or forgotten virtue and its character is much in need in our broken and fearful world. But it needs to be the discretion of a people who know and highly esteem the cost of freedom and who refuse to abuse it by using its liberty in shameful ways.
On the one hand was must admit that Christians have long been the targets of the kind of rude and crude sarcasm that Islamic warriors found so offensive at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Alas, Christians are soft and easy targets because they do not take up arms to defend their faith or their God. I suppose that one may grant the authors and editors of Charlie Hebdo a certain amount of courage for taking the risk of offending Islam and not just Christianity. We all know that Europe has become an anti-religious atmosphere in which such satire is considered prime entertainment. It is sad but true that the places where the spires of great cathedrals pierce the skies have become more tourist destinations than the spiritual homes of the people who live around them. It is no less true, for example, in the Lutheran heartlands as well.
The murders were an act of terrorism and should be admitted as such and those who did them and plotted them treated as terrorists. That said, I hope for better from us as people -- better than the surrender of our noble freedom to simply offend. It only shows the poverty of our words and arguments when we choose to characterize our positions only with vile depictions of our opponents. We ought to be better than this, better equipped to propose our values and better equipped to defend them against those who disagree.
Freedom's shame is that those who are heirs to this precious gift of liberty squander it on things that do not build, encourage, uplift, help, ennoble, honor, improve, or elevate us as individuals and as a people. I am not at all suggesting that we should not discuss and even argue our positions on issues that divide us. Unity which cannot afford such open and honest discussion is a weak and fragile unity that will not survive. Yet we would do better to honor the sacrifice of those who have bequeathed to us this privilege by using the power of our arguments better than the crude cartoons Charlie Hebdo is known for. I am not saying that this will silence the terrorists or end the violence but it would better if we fought over ideas than over dirty caricatures of our opponents, over crude depictions of life, and over pornographic images. We dare not surrender this policing of our thoughts, speech, and publications to governments, agencies, or cultural warriors but we ought to do it ourselves for the sake of truth, honor, and freedom.