Do we even know what “freedom of speech” is, anymore?
Happily no one was killed at last night’s “Draw Mohammed” contest in Phoenix. There are a lot of angry people on hand, but there were also a lot of police who were ready to deal with any trouble. You will remember that, when they had a “Draw Mohammed” in Houston, people got shot.
Current events are confusing me. Apparently “freedom of speech” means you have an absolute right to insult religious people and mock their beliefs–something which Christians in America have known for quite some time, and Muslims are just finding out.
But apparently it also means that if you are a religious person, especially if you are a Christian, you may be forced to say and do things that are an outrage to your conscience: to take an active part, for instance, in a same-sex parody of marriage.
It seems to mean that a religious person, especially a Christian, must tamely put up with speech that seeks to refute his beliefs. But at the same time, no atheist has to tolerate seeing or hearing any kind of religious expression. One atheist can stifle a whole town’s prayers.
You can see how it gets confusing.
I don’t think much of Draw Mohammed contests. Other than to provoke Muslims to violence, what’s the point?
If it’s “to exercise free speech,” then it seems to be the kind of free speech exercised by Caliban, the monster in Shakespeare’s The Tempest: all he knew how to do was curse.
As a Christian, I naturally don’t believe in Islam. As a civilized human being, I hate the savagery practiced by Muslims all over the Middle East and Africa.
But is the only use of free speech to curse at things which others hold sacred? Is that all we know how to do with our freedom?
St. Paul preached to pagans. Did he ever try to convert them by telling dirty jokes about their gods? “So Zeus comes home drunk one night, and Hera’s waiting for him with a rolling pin…” No, he did not. Indeed, he cited their own poets in support of his Christian teaching, in his sermon to the sophomoric pagans of Athens (see Acts 17). Mockery was not found in Paul’s evangelistic tool kit.
If Muslims will make war, it’s righteous to make war right back at them, and defeat them–which the West could easily do, if the leaders had the stomach for it. If they will commit acts of violence against their neighbors, it’s righteous to punish them severely–whatever it takes to ensure the domestic tranquility.
But if they will live in peace, then Christians most certainly ought to live in peace with them. We do our Lord Jesus Christ no service by joining the Caliban crowd in gratuitously offending Muslims.
“Hey, guys! Now you know how we feel, when they hand over our tax dollars to some cockroach whose ‘art’ is to dunk a crucifix in urine! Now you know exactly how we feel.”
It’s what the ungodly do. It’s not what we should do.