The right to freedom of expression has become a prominent issue over the past couple of weeks, mostly due to the Charlie Hebdo murders.
I remember a disagreement I had with someone about a similar topic on a Christian forum a few years ago when several people were asserting that freedom of speech was a God-given right.
My view is that God does not endorse freedom of speech/ expression. There are countless cases in scripture where some aspects of speech are forbidden or condemned, things we are NOT free to express.
Here are a few examples that quickly come to mind:
- You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name (Ex 20)
- You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour (Ex 20)
- But among you there must not be … obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking (Eph 5)
- Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. (James 3)
- …if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. (James 3)
- I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgement for every empty word they have spoken. (Matt 12)
There would certainly be many more examples than these, and this is why I’ve expressed concerns about Christians identifying themselves with “Je Suis Charlie” when Charlie Hebdo’s freedom of expression was often used for extremely ungodly purposes. While their mocking of Islam has received most coverage (due to the horrific response by some who took offence), they have equally mocked other religions.
Stephen Glover wrote in the Daily Mail:
Not many among the millions of people who have identified with Charlie Hebdo can be aware that its raison d’etre is a hatred of all religion. Stephane Charbonnier, the magazine’s editor who was murdered last week, once asserted that his magazine was ‘above all secular and atheist’.
That was a very revealing thing to have said. His atheism, and that of his colleagues, was not the easy-going sort of non-belief so widespread in the modern West, which can happily co-exist with religious faith. No, it was a militant, campaigning credo which wished to mock, attack, defile and excoriate religion in all its forms.
Before standing up and supporting freedoms, considering them to be “God-given”, it would be wise for Christians to see what is being supported. The case of Charlie Hebdo and the “Je Suis Charlie” movement is a clear, currently topical example. While the current news focuses on their treatment of Islam and Mohammed (and the abominable acts of Islamist extremist murderers), some Christians might think it is okay to stand in support of the paper. But I wonder whether that support would last if they check the Daily Mail article linked above to read examples of Charlie Hebdo’s commentary on Christianity, God and Jesus.
The examples given are so shocking that I won’t repeat them here. The author of the article himself apologises for sharing the content, saying: “
I am sorry to have to describe these obscenities in such minute detail, but there is no other way of conveying just how unbelievably awful these cartoons are.”
Professing follower of Jesus, can you read that and still say “Je Suis Charlie” and make “freedom of expression” the focus of your life?