Five Things Christians can do to Keep Speech Free-

`The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools.
Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good- Ecclesiastes 9:16-18 NIV

It is becoming increasingly more obvious western society has gone off a cliff and lost its collective mind. How we approach speech these days is just one example of this phenomenon. 

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when the right to speak freely was considered sacred and unquestioned. Free speech was thought to be, by everyone except a few morons, the holy grail of freedom and democracy. There were of course, limits. It was never okay to yell “fire” in a crowded building. That being said, unless a person’s words were likely to cause real physical harm to a large number of human beings the speech was allowed. Not all speech was valued or appreciated. Some speech was simply endured, some was loathed but it was all okay. Those folks in the not-so-distant past were clever enough to understand that political and religious freedom and the democracy that undergirds political and religious freedom rests entirely on a person’s ability to say what they want to say when they want to say it. 

Unfortunately, that ship has officially sailed.  

In recent years some speech has been stifled, some has even been forbidden. All of this has taken place under the watchful eye of the news media and with the blessing of social media capitalists and many in government. Ironically, this squashing of speech has been done in the name of protecting people. There are those who sincerely believe words have the power to cause irreparable harm to others and therefore should be monitored for appropriateness and censored when found to be unsuitable. 

Here’s the thing:

Appropriateness of speech is totally subjective. The speech one person finds acceptable someone else might decide is wildly unacceptable.  It’s nearly impossible to find two humans who fully agree on every aspect of what’s okay and what isn’t okay to say. However, the biggest problem is with who gets to decide what’s okay and what’s not. Somebody has to be the decider. It’s simply a fact that anyone who believes they are qualified to decide what should and should not be said is very likely a narcissistic monster with a colossal god-complex.  

Sigh. 

The right to speak freely matters. It really is the foundation of every other human right. Furthermore, we live in a time when dangerous ideas about life, sex, and even what is real are being promoted almost everywhere. Someone has to be the voice of reason (Ephesians 4:15 and 25) as Christians we are obligated to be that voice because Jesus called us to co-labor with Him in setting the captives free from the lies of the enemy (Luke 4:18, Matthew 10:8). Furthermore, the ability to share the gospel, call out sin and preach the Bible hinge on the right to speak freely and without fear of government interference and/or retaliation.  It’s just a fact that all Christians are called to be a protective and healing influence in the society they live in (Matthew 5:13-16). This means all Christians in a free society play a part in keeping speech free. We can do our part to keep speech free by adopting the following five policies. Starting with:

Don’t be dumb-  

Seriously. There is a lot of unadulterated idiocy in this cultural moment. Christians should work really hard to not contribute to any of it. Pray fervently, do research on issues and train yourself to think deeply about all sides of an issue before you speak on ANYTHING (Proverbs 10:19). 

Learn to separate an opinion from a fact, only argue with facts- 

When doing research on a subject look for verifiable facts rather than just accepting someone else’s assessment of a subject. Remember, facts can be verified and repeated. Opinions are what one person thinks. An opinion formed using facts is okay, an opinion formed without verifiable facts backing it up should never be used in a discussion or argument. 

Don’t allow fear to control your tongue- 

Too many Christians with good ideas and well-formed opinions have kept their thoughts to themselves out of fear of not being liked.  This is a big part of what got us to where we’re at in this sketchy cultural moment. Change will only come if smart believers speak start speaking their minds on the issues in a respectful way. 

Don’t be a jerk-  

Don’t name-call, demean or disparage anyone while speaking out on issues. It’s tempting to be rude in a world where there are so many incredibly stupid opinions literally running amuck. Just don’t. It’s not Christ-like and won’t change anyone’s heart or mind. 

Be respectful- 

 It’s critical we remember the battle we find ourselves in is spiritual (Ephesians 6:12). The people are not the enemy. Our job is to free people from the real enemy. We won’t do free anyone being disrespectful.   

Avoid contributing to the problem with your dollars- 

This is two-fold, first believers should make every effort to avoid entertainment with themes that promote sinful messages. When we do we are literally being entertained by the very things Jesus died for and we are bankrolling an industry that cares nothing for our values or our God. Second, we should avoid purchasing from businesses that intentionally crush free speech.   

The world has never needed Jesus more than it does in this moment. It’s our job as Jesus followers to declare truth as winsomely as we possibly can. We can’t do that if we’re contributing to the foolishness. 

Beware of the Expert Trap-


“Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.”- Luke 11:52 

I have had a number of curious interactions both online and in-person recently. The finer points of the conversations vary but ultimately, each ends the same way. It begins when I say something that is in my opinion an innocuous common-sense kind of an assertion. These statements have included but are not limited to statements such as: online school is tough on kids, vaccinated people catch and spread Covid-19 and it’s questionable whether or not that proposed law would even pass constitutional muster. 

At this point the smug little wisenheimer I’m conversing with demands in a very chippy way I produce my early childhood education degree, medical degree, degree in immunology, law.  I then point out, as politely as I am able—that no one really needs a degree in a particular field—or any field for that matter to know whether or not whatever statement I made is true. The statement clearly falls under the heading of common sense, common knowledge or empirical wisdom. Nine times out of ten at this point in the conversation the smug little wisenheimer will tell me to come back when I have a degree in whatever field they deem essential to continue the conversation. 

Insert angry face here.

I hate these exchanges with a white-hot passion. These folks believe the only people who have any right to speak into or on any subject are those who are an “expert” in the field in question. If you take this lunacy to its logical end-game it means that, in order to make a statement like “I had a dog with the exact same problem and it turned out to be mange” one would need to be a veterinarian. Or to say “children ought to eat something besides candy and cake three meals a day” one would have to be a nutritionist or have a degree in early childhood development.

I have nothing against knowledge, education or experts. In fact, I am all for knowledge. I love education. Experts are great and certainly have their place. Additionally, I believe wise people freely admit when they are dealing with a situation above their paygrade or outside of their wheelhouse. Smart people consult multiple counselors before forming an opinion or making a decision (Proverbs 11:14, Proverbs 15:22, Proverbs 24:6). 

However, 

There are a lot of potential problems with choosing to only take advice from an expert. For one thing, who exactly gets to decide who the expert is?  Do we all get to pick our own expert?  Or are the people in power the people who decide who the experts are? Or is it the people in the media? 

It would be easy to settle on education as the qualifier. However, education alone cannot be the only deciding factor in what constitutes an expert, there are lots of folks who have similar or even identical educational experiences who have differing opinions on nearly every subject.  Who is or is not an expert in a particular field can be and often is politized in our increasingly political culture. It’s just a fact that one political administration may have an entirely different take on what makes a person an expert than the one before or after it. 

Furthermore.

Experts are only useful if they are totally unbiased or operating completely without an agenda of any kind.  This never happens because experts aren’t robots or computer programs.  Experts are just fallible human beings who spent a lot of time in school being taught by other fallible human beings. Unfortunately, people—even people with a great deal of education can be corrupted by money, media attention and/or the promise of power.  Experts can easily be bought.  Experts are also prone to having biases that may or may not be grounded in facts. Experts can be also swayed towards a particular perspective by peer pressure.  

Moreover.

Experts are sometimes just plain wrong. It was experts in the early 20th century who claimed the certain races were genetically inferior.  This belief led to the holocaust. It was experts who assured us margarine was healthier than butter. It was experts in theology during the middle ages who claimed the Bible was unnecessary for the common man or woman. 

But, by far the biggest problem with placing all our trust in “experts” is that doing so demands we stop thinking for ourselves, and sadly not thinking has become endemic in our society. Many have simply shut off their brains and let the experts decide what’s best and it’s not working out real well for anyone. Our society is falling apart at the seams in spite of all the “experts” we have advising us. 

 We have forgotten the hard truth that each one of us is ultimately responsible before God for the choices we make. No one gets to blame an “expert” for the consequences of a poor choice on judgment day. God gave us brains and He expects them to be used. We have to wake up and realize anytime we stop thinking for ourselves we become a sitting duck for those looking to deceive.  Instead of placing our trust in the experts we ought to go back to the age-old practice of seeking out a multitude of opinions, analyzing the data, praying like crazy for wisdom before deciding for ourselves.  

How Evil Takes Root in a Person’s Heart-

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done- Romans 1:28 NIV

 

Recently, I found myself in the unenviable position of attempting to encourage a relative of a professed Christian who is deep in the weeds of an ugly addiction. The addict flatly refuses to repent of their sin or even entertain the notion that their sin is a problem let alone a sin. To the dismay of the entire family the addict is willfully refusing to see the effect their sin is having on the lives of those they profess to love. Further complicating the whole messy mess, the addict is actively attempting to manipulate friends and family into believing that their perception of the situation is faulty and the obvious is not really true.  The addict has lost a lot and is on the verge of losing even more if they don’t make some changes.

 Sigh.

 According to the Apostle Paul individuals become fully entangled in sinful patterns of behavior because they develop an evil and “depraved mind” (Romans 1:28, Hebrews 12:1). Deceitfulness, addiction and the refusal to deal with issues related to dishonesty and addiction are not the only indications of a corrupted and depraved mind. Nor is evil and depravity reserved for serial killers, sex traffickers and child molesters. Anyone who runs headlong with reckless abandonment into sinful behavior and is determined to keep on keeping on in their sin is likely suffering from a corrupt and depraved mind.

 The Bible does not exclude professed Christians from thinking or behaving in ways ultimately lead to a depraved mind. Like most issues in life prevention is key. Once wrong thinking leads to an entrenched pattern of immoral behavior it is difficult (but not impossible) to come back from it (Luke 18:27).

 It is critical we remember that people, even unsaved people do not become evil or depraved in a day.  Developing a depraved mind is a process that begins with the willful decision to ignore a known truth about God. For an unbeliever this can be as simple as choosing to deny the existence of a Creator despite all the evidence that exists to the contrary (Romans 1:18-20).

 For Christians it begins with choosing to ignore a straightforward New Testament command (Hebrews 12:25). The next step is choosing to disregard the guilt that goes along with choosing to sin.  Then the person becomes bloated (metaphorically speaking) with pride. Pride convinces them they are beyond all the silly rules other Christians have to follow. They convince themselves they are special enough to sin without the consequences lesser humans inevitably suffer. Then they actively resist accountability by dodging anyone who might possibly attempt to talk them out of their chosen course of action. Eventually, sin becomes an addiction and the driving force in their lives. At this point the addictive behavior (sin) is just a symptom of a bigger sin: idolatry (1st John 5:21).

 Okay, so, a couple of things:

 First, when we see these situations in the lives of professed Christians we should never tell ourselves we are better than they are. That response indicates pride. Pride is a serious sin to be avoided at all costs. Partly because once we start thinking like that we are more likely to get tangled-up in the same sins (Mark 8:15, 1st Corinthians 10:12) and partly because pride is just super gross (Proverbs 18:13, 2nd Chronicles 26:16). Nor, should we ever help anyone escape the consequences of the choices they have made. The technical term for helping people avoid the natural consequences of their choices is codependence. The problem with codependence is that codependent people secretly think they know more than God does about what will actually help people. God knows everything about everything and He brings consequences into the lives of people because He is constantly working to mold Christians into the image of Jesus (2nd Corinthians 3:18, Colossians 3). No good ever comes from helping people avoid what God is using to make them healthier, wiser, and more like Jesus.

 Secondly, we should always be alert to sin in our own lives. The human heart is capable of an insane level of self-deception when it comes to sin (Jeremiah 17:9).  For that reason it is possible for Christians to be half-way to a depraved mind and not even know it. Therefore, it is critically important we take every opportunity to self-examine and evaluate our own moral and spiritual condition (2nd Corinthians 13:5).

 Finally, anytime we see another Christian struggling with sin our first response should always be to pray for them, not judge them. Once we’ve done that we need to beg God for the wisdom, grace and supernatural insight to know how to be Jesus to them in their time of need.   

 

 

No, Kneeling During the Anthem is Not Fighting for Civil Rights-


I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, 
tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb~ Revelation 7:9 NIV

 This post started out as an ugly rant about my personal loathing of purely symbolic forms of protest. Most of my anger was targeted at what I see as a stupid, futile and divisive effort to bring attention to the real problem of racism in America. After some thought I concluded that the subjects of racism and protests against racism are worthy of a slightly more nuanced approach than an angry rant.

 So.

 If there was ever a thing that was worthy of a protest its racism. Hating or discriminating against anyone because of their skin color is ridiculous, prideful, and anti-Christian at its core. Racism is not something that should be tolerated in Christian circles (more on that later) or in a civilized society.

 That being said.

Some have compared the protests of the 1960’s to athletes kneeling during the national anthem. There really is no comparison between the heroism of the Civil Rights Movement and the kneeling during the national anthem idiocy we see today.

Here’s why not.

 With a few notable exceptions, (all of them white and privileged) the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement were severely marginalized people who lacked power, money, influence and options. They literally had no other options open to them other than peaceful protest to draw attention to their plight. Furthermore, none of those protesters were attempting to vilify their country or the people in it. They were simply striving to bring much-needed attention to a very real problem plaguing our nation.

Furthermore, the Civil Rights Movement had an endgame in mind (an end to Jim Crow laws and the disenfranchisement of black voters). The leaders of the movement used protests in conjunction with legal action as they worked at a grassroots level to transform attitudes regarding race. The efforts of those brave men and women paid off. Hearts, minds and laws were changed. As a result America became a better country, not a perfect country by any means, but certainly a better one.

 The athletes protesting today are not marginalized poor people living out their lives on the fringes of society. They are some of the wealthiest and most advantaged people in all the world. If they wished to do something meaningful to solve the plethora of problems troubling the black community they certainly have the power, influence and financial resources to do almost anything they wanted to do.

But they don’t.

None of these athletes are interested in doing the work it takes to become change agents. They simply want to draw attention to themselves and bellyache about things they don’t like in the most public, contentious and annoying way imaginable. To add insult to injury, they malign the nation and the people who have made them wealthy beyond reason for playing what is arguably just a dumb game.

 Sigh.

 I do not begrudge anyone the right to express him or herself in any way they see fit. If overindulged athletes want to kneel rather than stand during the anthem that is totally cool with me. That said, I will not be purchasing any overpriced fan crap for my family.

 But, I digress.

 My biggest issue with these types of protests is that they are purely symbolic. No words exist for how much I despise pointless symbolism. The Civil Rights protests were not empty acts of symbolism. Protesters sought to bring attention to racial injustice by acting in ways that impacted the cities where the protests took place in peaceable, but consequential ways. Kneeling during the anthem is the equivalent of telling a homeless person to “go, be warm and well fed” (James 2:16). Symbolic fits of melodrama do nothing to solve real problems and ultimately just spread dissension and pit Americans against each other (Proverbs 16:28).

It’s just wrong.

 God does not see skin color the way we see skin color. When God sees the variations in our skin tone He sees the beloved creation that He declared to be “very good” (Genesis 1:27-31). It’s our responsibility as Jesus followers to help our foolish and sin-sick world see the issues of our day the way God sees those issues. We do that by living our lives in a colorblind fashion and by pointing people back to the God who loves everyone and hates biases based on superficial and irrelevant things like skin color (James 2:1, 8-9).

 And by shunning purely symbolic, stupid forms of protest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Offense Destroys our Effectiveness-

Many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.  Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many~ Matthew 24: 10-11 NKJV

 My Mother-in-law is a wise and perceptive woman. A few years back she attempted to warn me in a very friendly way concerning the character of a person I thought at the time to be a very close friend.

 Rather than simply taking her warning to heart, or perhaps probing a bit to try and find out what exactly caused her to come the conclusion she came to about that person- I took offense. I got mad at her for telling me something I did not want to hear.

 Long story short, I continued to share way too much information that person, who turned out to be not at all trustworthy. I will not bore you with all the details of the long-term consequences of my idiocy. I will tell you that to this day I am paying a price for ignoring the wise counsel of my Mother-in-law.

 I recently found myself on the other side of a similar situation. It all started when I attempted to warn someone to some potential pitfalls I perceived in a particular situation. The person I tried to warn took obvious offense and assumed I was being critical rather than helpful. As soon as I realized I had caused offense I apologized and moved on.

 Finding myself on the receiving end of someone else’s offended-ness got me thinking about the whole issue of offense. Unless you have been living in a cave for the better part of the past decade you know that we live in a society full of people who are easily offended by pretty much everything.

 I recently read about a group of women who have decided it is a form of cultural appropriation for white women to wear hoop earrings (no lie). These women have posted some rather intriguing rants describing in vivid detail exactly how offended they are that white women wear hoop earrings.

 Seriously. Google it.

 One definition of offense is a feeling of displeasure caused by the words or actions of others. We all get offended from time-to-time, and sometimes our offense is truly justified. Some words and behaviors really are offensive and should not be tolerated. Nonetheless, living life in a perpetual state of offense will eventually wreck us because…

 Offense sets us up for deception-

 In Matthew 24 Jesus describes what life will look like prior to His second coming. Jesus predicted that as we near the end of this age people will take offense at just about everything. Offense will lead to hate and betrayal. Out of all that hate, betrayal and offense, false teachers will arise and lead people away from truth. Jesus was doing more than giving as a vision of future events in this verse. He was providing insight into the very nature of offense. Offense by its very nature causes us to become heavily focused on feelings. When feelings are running the show we become unwilling and/or unable to comprehend truth that doesn’t line up with what our feelings are telling us. As a result we become sitting ducks for false teachers who tell us what we want to hear, rather than what we need to hear (2nd Timothy 4:3).

 Offense derails us from God’s mission for our lives-

 Most people do not drop out of church or ditch ministry because of big doctrinal disagreements, insurmountable scheduling conflicts or lack of time. Those are the excuses people use to drop out of church and ministry. Most folks drop out of church, and derail God’s plan for their lives in the process due to some petty personal offense they simply refused to let go of.

 Offense produces bitterness-

 Offenses and insults that are not quickly forgiven and forgotten inevitably breed bitterness. Hebrews 12:15, teaches that bitterness is a choice, a choice that defiles and ultimately destroys those who choose that path.

 Continually picking-up offense is a sign of pride-

 Usually we become offended because someone tells us an unpleasant truth about ourselves or points out a fact we missed.  Pride was the sin that motivated my knee-jerk response to my Mother-in-law’s wise insight concerning my “friend”. I have since learned it is the height of pride to believe that we are so clever we never need to be enlightened, taught or redirected. Proverbs 16:18 tells us that pride comes before a fall. Falls nearly always occur because a warning went unheeded. 

 Because offense causes us to become dangerously self-focused, we are never more open to pride, bitterness and self-deception than when we are offended. It is impossible to live in this world without becoming offended, but it is possible to assume the best about other people’s motives and to forgive quickly when we do become offended.