Why We Should All Care About Our Liberties
Why should a Christian pastor care about free speech? It’s got nothing to do with defending “my rights.” I sent the following opinion piece to the newspaper…
In July 2017, the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner accepted a complaint against my church. The allegations included things that I wrote on my blog in 2011 in defence of marriage.
I bear no hard feelings whatsoever towards the complainant or the Commissioner.
The problem is the Act itself, which prohibits “any conduct which offends” another person on the basis of thirteen attributes.
There’s no doubt that the Commission would have to call Jesus Christ Himself to account, if He taught in our streets today. Jesus did not hold back when it came to exposing human evil, and statements like the following would have exposed Him to prosecution-.
“From within, out of the heart of human beings, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
Are Jesus’ words provocative, upsetting? Deliberately so. Are Jesus’ words unkind? Quite the opposite. His tender love for lost and suffering humanity motivated every word. “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Every word was lovingly intended to wake people up to the help that He longed to give them.
Jesus’ immediate listeners took offence, and it is no surprise that people still take offense to His teaching today, whether through reading His words in the Bible, or hearing His words taught by Christian teachers.
And so I have two reasons for fighting the complaint, neither of which are about defending my personal rights…
First, the Act stands over every Tasmanian. It shackles our mouths and our pens; it muzzles us into a single worldview and message. That is why I have opposed the “religious exemption” amendments to the Act. Why should only a “religious” person have the freedom to speak their mind?
No one should be free to defame another with lies, or to harangue a crowd into violence. And the community should expose and refute false and hateful words.
At the same time, we should defend Article 19 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
As a Christian I love my city and my nation, and so I join the struggle against unjust laws that deny this basic human freedom.
Second, as the values of our society drift further away from our Christian heritage, the Anti-Discrimination Act will increasingly exclude the words of Jesus and the Bible from the public sphere.
Just last week the Queensland government proposed restricting children from talking about Jesus in the playground. (You can talk about Buddha, Mohammed, Marx, Lenin, Lennon, Stalin, and Mao as much as you like. Just not Jesus.)
It is difficult to overstate the tragic consequences of this…
The startling words of Jesus Christ, spoken through his prophets and apostles in the whole Bible, have for thousands of years pushed and prodded humanity.
History proves that his words have woken us up to the evil of slavery, prostitution, and child-abuse. They have promoted a good sexual ethic, which protects the male-female bond, and the children that are so often born from such bonds. They have stirred scientists to greater inquiry, and artists to sublime creativity. They have inspired the building of schools, hospitals, orphanages, and universities.
Jesus’ words have kindled a Jesus-like culture of charity and self-sacrifice, and the protection of society’s most vulnerable.
Conversely, history shows that forgetting or repressing Jesus’ words has opened the door to wars, crusades, inquisitions, and pogroms; to child abuse, to the fracturing of family, to a might-is-right ethic, and to a rancid “I-centred” selfishness.
Above all, the words of Jesus have pointed humanity, shackled to frustratingly short and painful lives, to something far greater than ourselves: to a living God of mercy and love, and the joy and eternal life that is found in his care.
Every Tasmanian should reject the Anti-Discrimination muzzle. And many Christians will join the fight, to protect above all the public proclamation of the life-giving words of Jesus.
Pastor of Cornerstone Church, Hobart