Thursday

No Freedom of Speech

As we exited the Smithsonian metro station, my daughter and I stumbled upon what was billed as "the largest gathering of nonbelievers." By my estimation, there were between 300 and 500 people huddled under umbrellas around a stage bigger than their gathering. On March 31, in an article entitled"Atheists Rally on National Mall; the 'Reason Rally' Largest Gathering of Nonbelievers," Huffington post reporter Kimberly Winston reported that an estimated 8,000 and 10,000 people attended the event. * 

One of us miscounted. 

As we made our way to the Tidal Basin to enjoy the Cherry Blossom Festival, the voice of the rally's speaker carried clearly across the largely empty grassy area. I only had to listen for a moment to realize two things. First, he was angry. Angry enough to rail at people of faith. Angry enough to curse them. Ironically, I wondered if there was much power in damning people in the name of a God he didn't believe in.  

Second, I realized that although the staging area was ringed with uniformed police officers with fierce-looking canines, the authorities allowed the speaker to rail and curse unmolested. His right to freedom of speech is guaranteed by the First Amendment, and the police officers who guarded this area also guarded his right to say anything he wanted.  

I realized this atheist was exercising a freedom that I as a Christian do not have. 

I cannot curse those who don't believe as I do.
  
I cannot express hate or disdain for those who criticize what I hold most dear. 

I cannot outshout or bully or taunt them. 
 
I cannot exercise the liberty of free speech, because I answer to a higher law.
   
Instead of the First Amendment, which says I can say anything I want, regardless of its destructive power, I answer to the Word of God, which tells me to

"Bless those who curse you."(Mt. 5:44)

"Speak the truth in love." (Eph 4:15) 

and "not let any unwholesome talk come out of (my) mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." (Eph. 4:29)

Can I say angry, bitter, destructive words to those who disagree with me?

Yes.

Should I?

No.

The love of God compels me otherwise.

 "But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

  Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness." (Jas. 3:17).

That day, walking away from the "largest gathering of nonbelievers," I chose to exercise my God-given freedom of speech.

 

 I chose to "pray for those who despitefully use you." 

 

 And I did it out loud. 



*(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/24/atheist-rally_n_1377443.html).

This devotion is an excerpt from Lori’s new book, Hungry for God … Starving for Time, 5-Minute Devotions for Busy Women.

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20 comments:

  1. Anonymous7:41 AM

    Thanks for sharing this. It's a good reminder of how Christians are to honor the Lord in our speech.

    pat

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment, Pat. While in DC I also saw the words of Martin Luther King on his memorial -- "Hate cannot overcome hate; only love can. Darkness cannot overcome darkness, only light can." As believers, that is our mission.

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  2. This outburst of hate must have been very vexing to your spirit.
    Thanks for accomplishing something positive out of it - your blog.

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    1. More than anything else, Buffy, it was sad. . . sad because I know that true happiness doesn't come from casting off the "shackles of religion," but in embracing the abundant life that God wants to provide. (John 10:10)

      "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." (John 3:17-18)

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  3. Thanks for sharing this powerful post.

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  4. Wow. Very powerful indeed. I have an extended family member that had signed up to attend this rally. My heart aches so much when I think of her and how she has led her family astray from the Truth. How her two beautiful girls are biased against Truth. But I pray. You're right, our First Amendment rights as Christians are often non-existent. My right to pray is not. So I pray. I've been woken up in the middle of the night to pray for this family member and her family. I've cried out to God on their behalf. I've begged the Lord not to let them perish before they come to Him.
    So yes, I might have limited rights in public but in private, I can storm the Throne Room and our Lord never wearies from our prayers. I take solace in that fact. When I can't speak my heart/mind, I go to God and let Him handle it.

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    1. You're right, those who are so blind to God's presence everywhere just break our hearts. I am comforted by the fact that God found me when I wasn't even looking for Him. He can draw even the hardest heart to Himself with His winsome, compelling love. 'Tis a great comfort. Keep praying (Gal. 6:9)

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    2. Ah! Love this!
      Especially this part
      "Ironically, I wondered if there was much power in damning people in the name of a God he didn't believe in."
      I do no think Atheism is what people think it is. They say they do not believe in God, but if they truely believe He does not exist, why spend so much time trying to tear other's faith down?
      Wouldn't it make more sense if they just ignored us because they don't believe the same? I've never seen an anti-tooth fairy rally.
      Thank you for being true to what we believe. For not getting angry at those who are snatched up in Satan's grasp possibly without even realizing it. We need more people like you who are willing to respond the Christian way and pray for those who despitefully use us.

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    3. "If they truly believe He does not exist, why spend so much time trying to tear other's faith down?"

      First, atheists don't have to 'believe' that god doesn't exist, any more than they have to 'believe' any other fact. Belief is only required for religion because adherents are required to believe in something for which there is no tangible proof. That's why 'faith' is so strongly stressed in books like the Bible.

      Second, a 'rally' to loudly proclaim about atheism is really no different than one of those massive church services or other public events where they promote religion while 'tearing down' atheists, is it? It's just a bunch of like-minded individuals getting together to celebrate their shared views.

      Just as you are convinced that if everyone believed in your religion, they'd be happier and the world would be a better place, atheists feel the same about their position. What's more, they know that religion tends to do more damage than atheism does - no one has ever gone to war in the name of atheism, while plenty of people have gone to war in the name of their god.

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    4. Hi Sarah,
      Thank you so much for your comment. I appreciate the respect and thought you put into it. I also appreciate that you've entered into the conversation. A mature exchange of ideas is always a delight.

      I'd like to share a few thoughts in response to yours. First, I have to disagree that it doesn't take faith to embrace atheism. Dictionary.com describes faith as "confidence or trust in a person or thing." When a person chooses to base her life on the opinion that there is no God, then she is exerting faith (i.e. confidence or trust that there is no God.) I think faith is belief to a point of action, which is what I do as a Christian, when I base my life decisions on the words of Christ, and what atheists do when they base their life decisions on the opinion that there is no God.

      Second, you're absolutely right -- there is no difference between atheists gathering to celebrate their philosophy and Christians gathering to celebrate theirs. That's what's so cool about our country -- that we have the freedom to assemble to celebrate whatever we believe. The only thing I took exception to was that the speaker couldn't celebrate his belief without condemning mine. And, sadly, you're right, many religious gatherings do the same in reverse.

      Third,you mention that religious people need faith because there is no tangible proof for what they believe. Perhaps it's appropriate to share a bit of my own story here.

      Before I became a Christian, (and I'll differentiate here between "becoming a Christian" and "practicing religion," because at this point I was reared in a religious home, but did not have a personal relationships with Christ)this is what my life was like:

      Despite having everything that outwardly should have made me happy --a steady boyfriend, a full-tuition scholarship to the college of my choice, graduated 4th in my class, etc., I was often overwhelmed by fear, worry, and emptiness. I lacked direction and purpose for my life, had an inability to improve myself,and a constant struggle with selfishness, mean-spiritedness, anger, and the tendency to hurt others with my words. I was living my life my way, and I was miserable. I did things I despised, regretted, and wished I could turn my back on, but had no power within myself to change.

      Then one day I reached the end of myself. I said to God, "I've been living my life my way, and I"m not doing a very good job of it. I know I have done things that have offended you, and I am truly sorry for those things. I don't want to run my life anymore. I want to surrender it to you. If you'll come into my life and change me, I'll follow you for the rest of my life." I didn't have much hope that such a simple prayer could do very much, but I meant it with all my heart.

      Sarah, I'm not sure if I'd believe what I have to say next, but it's true, so I'm sharing it with you. That was 25 years ago,and looking back, I can honestly say that God took me at my word. I entered into a relationship (vs. a religious ritual) with him, and he began to change me. Not overnight, but sometimes so subtly I didn't even notice until I looked back, he gave me purpose and direction. He took my fear away and replaced it with confidence. He changed my selfish spirit, my cruel tongue, and my mean spirit. He gave me peace instead of fear, trust instead of anxiety, and kindness and love instead of hate and anger. The changes God made in me when I surrendered my life to him is tangible proof for the validity for what I believe.

      And my story is not unique. God does it and has done it down through the ages, century, after century, after century, in life, after life, after life. And so, I have to disagree and say that my relationship with God isn't based on something I cannot see, but on something I can -- what he's done and continues to do in my life that defies any other explanation. (continued in next comment box)

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    5. (To Sarah, Continued)

      If I reach the end of my life and find out that I am wrong -- that there is no God, then I have lost nothing by living my life based on his principles God. I will have loved, given, demonstrated kindness, gentleness, self-control, peace, mercy, and unselfishness. I will have lived a moral life free from many of the diseases, conflicts, and consequences of self-centered living. And I will die and return to the earth. I will have lost nothing.

      But if I reach the end of my life and find out that I am right, I will have gained it all, and that's a risk I'm willing to take.

      Thank you so much for giving me the chance to share my story with you. :) Lori



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  5. Interesting, the disparity in the numbers from the reporter. I think this happens more often than we know. Thanks for encouraging us to live out the words of truth, not just be a bystander to them.

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  6. When I clicked over from Time-Warp Wife, I expect to read a post that was written with the tone of a "rant". What I found was an awesome reminder that we do not have the rights that we think we have. As Christians, we do not have a right to many of the things that we Americans assume that we have a right to: free speech (as you have pointed out) or to comfort, safety, or health. God doesn't promise these things. What He does promise that we have a "right" to is a peace that passes all understanding, an eternal life, a hope, joy, and the love of God!

    http://www.domesticblissdiaries.com

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  7. I actually think I remember hearing about those distorted numbers.

    Our pastor preached on loving our enemies recently--very hard to put into practice. Thanks for sharing with WIP!

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  8. I try so hard to be patient with people who are out on a soapbox and yelling whatever they think we all need to hear. Mostly, I keep moving. We get a lot of yellers in San Francisco, and it can be a bit much to absorb. Sometimes I pray they'll find what they need in this life, that they will become aware that it's better to just be welcoming of all points of view than it is to tell others what to think. After all, we all just need to "be still and know that I am God." There's something nice about the stillness :)

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  9. What great points you made about freedom of speech for atheists compared to a Christian. Thought provoking. Thank you for linking up with WholeHearted Home this week.

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  10. I have never really thought of this in that way... Thanks for linking up with Thrive @ Home. I always enjoy reading your posts!

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