Freedom of Speech threatened?

As a Christian, my understanding is that God created us with the gift of Free-Will. Some of us may question the wisdom of this from time to time, as most of us have made choices that we regret, but freedom was so important to God, that in His great love, He required that our love was also freely given. This gift He gave at great personal cost to Himself and great sacrifice. He gave Himself for this Freedom.

The consensus of democracy and good government has always been the exercise of this freedom – especially held dear in the Western World. Freedom to agree or disagree; freedom to hold one’s own beliefs; freedom to express those beliefs; freedom to practice one’s own religion; freedom to protest and demonstrate.

Of course one must not break the law of the land in the exercise of these freedoms. Though this is where the ground can become a shifting foundation. There are necessary laws against violence, hatred, discrimination, inciting hatred and other crimes against a person or a group of people. The key to safeguarding the fundamental human right to free-speech is in the interpretation of the charge of ‘inciting hatred’, or ‘hate-speech’. As a Christian the over-riding rule is always the law of love and mercy.

Today, Finnish Member of Parliament Päivi Räsänen will face a criminal trial because she tweeted a Bible verse about marriage and sexuality in a 2019 tweet, on a radio-show and in a 17 year old church pamphlet. The Bishop who published her pamphlet also faces trial.

According to an article by ADF, Räsänen is officially being prosecuted for the crime of ‘ethnic agitation’, under the section of ‘war crimes and crimes against humanity’ in the Finnish criminal code. A total of three criminal charges of ‘hate speech’ were brought against Räsänen in April 2021 by Finland’s Prosecutor General.

This is the government threatening prison and punishment for beliefs held by a large group of people. She could now be sentenced to two years in prison.

Does this disregard the fundamental right to freedom of speech?

Of course some people might be offended by Räsänen’s views and some may disagree with her choice of words. But is it about whether you agree or disagree with Räsänen’s statements? There are a great many viewpoints, opinions and beliefs held and expressed in the media, in literature and in human discourse that I find quite repulsive, offensive or some other negative reaction. But I vehemently defend the right of people to have and express those views in a free-society!

Is it not important that we have each a right to have our own opinions and to express them. If minority view points are offensive and punished, where are the safeguards against complete censorship and totalitarian control by powerful leadership?

Could any of us be confident that every sentence we have ever written, or recorded, was inoffensive to somebody? Is this censorship, or cancel-culture, something to be concerned about? Should we be silent or ‘politically correct’ for fear our truth may offend somebody, somewhere? Am I allowed to disagree with the government, or with popular opinion?

I include a short – 6 minute – explanation of the main points of the right to Freedom of Speech, made clearly by ADF, who say it more succinctly than I can.

five points made in 6 minutes about the importance of free-speech

I encourage you to defend the right to freedom of speech and freedom of belief and of religion. Please also pray for justice in our governments. Pray that we will all speak the truth in love.

Please feel free to disagree!

I include some links to other posts I have written on this subject: Speak Up The Sun Still Shines

It was in the plan!

Last week, while scribbling out my pen and paper rant on freedom, I also had a go at God, (which I chose to omit from the blog) for giving us this so-called ‘free-will’, but knowing the mess and suffering it would cause. I felt, as I considered the ‘options’, that ‘free-will’ had been a mistake, and not real freedom, as it felt like another, “Do it my way or die!”

I didn’t publish that thought, or a few others, as it was already becoming too complex for my little brain to hold together in one post, but I had asked God the question and a couple of days later, a clarity and peace infused my fragile doubts with a sweet smile. I will share those thoughts that were given to me:

The answer I heard, soothing my itching distractions, was that God knew! He knew we would make mistakes all the time. He knew it would take us lifetimes to learn. He knew we’d never get everything perfect, BUT He cherishes our freedom, He cherishes our feeble attempts, He cherishes our creative, eruptions of joy and kindness and love, because they are real expressions of a love response. We are made in the image of Creator God who is love. Just like we love to receive and treasure those cards and offerings lovingly made by our adoring children, so does father God enjoy our love offerings.

AND He KNEW we would need direction and teaching and He PROVIDED it. He knew we would need a role model, constant support and encouragement and He provided it. He knew we would need forgiveness over and over again AND an ‘out of jail free’ pass. He knew and He planned and provided for it all, before He even created us. At human creation, in God’s own image, the redemption plan was already in place, even then. God knew that He would love us to death, that He would become one like us, and with us, and have to sacrifice His life, so that we can be free of death, to be one with Him in His Kingdom and glorious delight. But He knew. It was not a mistake or a trick or an illusion. (Now as I read this back, I’m reminded of Max Lucado’s excellent story, ‘Because I love you” – He made the wall, with a hole in, and a staff to come find us when we climb through the hole!)

God provided for us a Perfect Role-model, directions, a conscience, support, encouragement, love, mercy, forgiveness, healing, restoration, the Holy Spirit to remind us of what is good – He gave Himself as our deliverer and Redeemer. So what do we need to do? We need to listen to the guidance He gives and to know that every time we slip or tumble, we can admit it, repent and get back up for another go. Persevere in doing good. Always get back up.

That love is an example for how we are to live, for our children and for one another. Not just forgiving ‘my brother’ when he says sorry, but a constant holding lightly of our strict expectations of perfection. Forgive as He has forgiven me. Let me give you room to practice using your own feet and discover your own wings, not shackle you to the confines of my own limitation. Let me be expansive with my children and myself and to remove the concept of ‘failure’ as that ugly, smelly, untouchable thing to be feared, but to look at it as an opportunity to learn, to be humble, to grow and stretch out my wings…

Lord, if you give someone freedom, you give them freedom to make mistakes and get it wrong – let me give others freedom to make mistakes and get it wrong too and allow for that in how I live – to encourage, support, tolerate, love – as others also make mistakes… just like young infants learning to walk or talk, we don’t punish them for not speaking a clear sentence, we coo and clap and encourage each sound and attempt and we cherish it.

The stress and devastation of perceived personal failure can leave people in utter despair. The stress of expectation for achievement and acquisition in our world and communities can seem unbearable.

Let us offer an antidote to these cruel pressures and offer encouragement and support to choose life-affirming things, remembering that we need role-models to show us healthy, excellent ways to live, we need unconditional love, ready forgiveness and grace to support and restore the falling and fallen… we need this in our homes, relationships, schools, churches and communities.

We need to encourage one another to ‘have a go’, to ‘follow our dream’, to ‘step out of our comfort-zone’, to try something different, to create something new – to re-create a culture of exploration and creativity, but before we do this, we need to acknowledge, that like the baby learning to walk, that our new venture and our daring to change may land us on our bottom or nose, time after time, it may hurt and seem hopeless, but with practice and perseverance and baby-steps… one step at a time, one day at a time, one smile at a time, one more encouraging word… How many times? “Seventy times seven” – every time!

imperfectly full of treasured love.