Back in December 1964, protester Jack Weinberg told a reporter, “Don’t trust anyone over 30,” and with that statement the 1960’s youth movement was born (source here). Weinberg (born April 4, 1940) is an environmental activist and former New Left activist who is best known for his role in the Free Speech Movement at the University of California, Berkeley in 1964-65 (quote source here). The entire story can be read in an article titled, “The Free Speech Movement,” by Gene Marine, published on December 21, 1964 in The Nation at this link. Weinberg is now 76. I wonder what he thinks about his statement now?
I was 12 years old at the time the youth movement got it’s start. And back then it became a motto for an entire generation for those us of who were under 30. However, trust is a delicate issue at any age–young, old, and everyone in between. So is freedom of speech.
For those of us living in America, we are lucky to be living in a country where freedom of speech (sometimes also referred to as freedom of expression) is a Constitutional right given to us under the First Amendment which states:
The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble, or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the ten amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights. (Quote source here.)
The First Amendment as noted above also includes several other freedoms besides freedom of speech: the free exercise of religion, freedom of the press, and the right to peaceably assemble. These freedoms are rights that we should never take for granted.
For the purposes of this blog post the freedom in focus is freedom of speech/expression. It is defined as follows:
Right to express one’s ideas and opinions freely through speech, writing, and other forms of communication but without deliberately causing harm to others’ character and/or reputation by false or misleading statements. Freedom of press is part of freedom of expression. (Quote source here.)
Often in our society freedom of expression is used by some people or groups who are trying to silence others who don’t agree with their own particular view or agenda. For example, in this highly charged presidential election year here in America we often see the two primary opposing sides (and many of their followers) relentlessly badgering each other. While that is not unusual in political elections, trying to suppress or silence an opposing view of any kind goes against the rights of those citizens holding that opposing view, whether it is of a political nature, religious nature, or any other issue that is going on in our society.
Being human, we all have a tendency to think we are right while viewing those opposing us or our views as being wrong, or worse yet, as being irrelevant. Watching TV or spending time on social media on any given day gives us a wide variety of opinions of what people think on a particular subject/topic whether they are liberal or conservative or anywhere in between. And verbal fist fighting is nothing new when people disagree.
A friend mentioned a situation that came up recently in a church he knew of where a disagreement between the senior pastor and other members of the church leadership came to a serious disagreement that resulted in the senior pastor resigning from the church and moving to another state. My friend stated that in hindsight, the church leadership thought they were doing the right thing but ended up “shooting the pilot at 30,000 feet” and realized they had done some “really dumb things.” Unfortunately, the senior pastor won’t respond to phone calls, letters or emails. While this type of situation has occurred in other churches (often causing church splits), the travesty is when one side thinks their views are right and presses the point to where serious damage is the outcome. In this case the senior pastor resigned and now, apparently, the church leadership relents.
Unfortunately, we can destroy others with our words. Sometimes it’s intentional, and other times it is not (as is the case in the above stated scenario). Nevertheless, for the person being denigrated (or whose opinion is deemed to be irrelevant) the outcome can be ugly, and their point of view rarely gets a hearing.
In reviewing the definition of freedom of expression stated above, key in that definition is the right to express our opinion in various media forms “but without deliberately causing harm to others’ character and/or reputation by false or misleading statements.” With ever increasing frequency we tend to vocalize our views and disagreements, and in the process we can, whether intentionally or unintentionally, cause harm to another person’s character and/or reputation by spreading misleading or even false statements to prove our point of view or carry out our own agendas. And with all of the technological wonders and social media available to us to dispense our own views at a moment’s notice, it’s hard and sometimes impossible to tell the truth from the lies, especially if those being silenced are not allowed to present their point of view. It often seems that the loudest voices win, and others’ views are seen as irrelevant.
As for the loudest voices winning, sometimes it is very intentional. Smear campaigns are nothing new, and it’s a very effective method of destroying the opposition, whether in the workplace, or in the political arena, or in any other social and/or work setting. And this has nothing to do with freedom of expression that is our Constitutional right. Freedom of expression is a right of all Americans, and not just those with the loudest voices. And there are many in our society without a voice–the poor, the homeless, the marginalized, and the disenfranchised.
Jesus Christ faced constant opposition from the loudest voices of his day–the religious ruling class known as the Pharisees. With increasing frequency throughout his three-year ministry, Jesus encountered opposition from them right up until they got their way with his death on the cross. However, his resurrection on the third day brought about the way of reconciliation for all of humankind (see John 3:16-18).
Opposition and reconciliation are major themes in the Bible. Two well known stories of reconciliation are the subject of an article on “Reconciled Relationships” on Bible.org by Stephen J. Cole, pastor of Flagstaff Christian Fellowship. Here are the opening paragraphs to that article:
Two stories in the Bible evoke strong feelings in me every time I read them. One is the story of Joseph and his brothers. The other is Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. The reason that these stories often cause tears to well up in my eyes is that they are stories of reconciled relationships.
When Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, treats them kindly, and forgives them for the terrible thing that they had done in selling him into slavery, it is a moving testimony to the power of reconciled relationships. Later, when their father has died, the brothers fear that Joseph would inflict revenge that he had been withholding. But Joseph wept and treated them kindly because he recognized God’s sovereign purpose in what had happened.
In the parable of the prodigal son, the young man impudently rejected the love of his father and chose instead the company of his fast-living, fickle friends. The father’s broken heart longed for the return of his wayward son. When he finally saw him coming in the distance, the father felt compassion for him, ran to him, embraced him, kissed him, and joyously welcomed him back into the family. That powerful story shows the tremendous joy both of reconciled human relationships and also of sinners being reconciled to the heavenly Father.
God created us to have close, personal relationships with Him and with one another. Jesus said that the greatest commandment in the Law is to love God with our entire being. The second greatest is that we should love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 22:37-39). (Quote source here.)
Loving our neighbors as ourselves. . . . And it doesn’t come with any “but” statements, such as in “but I’m right and he or she is wrong.” James 4:1-12 states the root cause of our problem:
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us. But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?
As we can see from the above verses, humility has never been our strong suit. However, Philippians 2:3-4 states:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Being genuinely humble is at the core of all of our relationships with others and with God. I Peter 5:6 states, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” GotQuestions?org gives us the definition of humility:
The Bible describes humility as meekness, lowliness and absence of self. The Greek word translated “humility” in Colossians 3:12 and elsewhere literally means “lowliness of mind,” so we see that humility is a heart attitude, not merely an outward demeanor. One may put on an outward show of humility but still have a heart full of pride and arrogance. Jesus said that those who are “poor in spirit” would have the kingdom of heaven. Being poor in spirit means that only those who admit to an absolute bankruptcy of spiritual worth will inherit eternal life. Therefore, humility is a prerequisite for the Christian.
When we come to Christ as sinners, we must come in humility. We acknowledge that we are paupers and beggars who come with nothing to offer Him but our sin and our need for salvation. We recognize our lack of merit and our complete inability to save ourselves. Then when He offers the grace and mercy of God, we accept it in humble gratitude and commit our lives to Him and to others. We “die to self” so that we can live as new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). We never forget that He has exchanged our worthlessness for His infinite worth, our sin for His righteousness, and the life we now live, we live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20). That is true humility. (Quote source here.)
Keeping that in mind, I can think of no better verse to end this post with then Ephesians 4:32 which states . . . .
Be kind one to another . . .
Tenderhearted, forgiving one another . . .
As God in Christ forgave you . . . .
YouTube Video: “Speak Life” by TobyMac: