Free Speech? Of Course. Suppress Only Wrong-Headed Speech
People have freedom of expression, blah blah blah, but until we make those people pay for their wrongheaded beliefs, they’ll continue to hold them. Tony Woodlief at Patheos
It has not always been the case that someone expressing a viewpoint with roots in Christian teaching was accused of discrimination. It has not always been the case that someone expressing a viewpoint different from the majority was accused of discrimination. The new wrinkle in the culture is that someone expressing the majority viewpoint, Christian or not, is accused of discrimination. The really new wrinkle is that someone who supports a viewpoint validated in millennia of human history is accused of discrimination.
This is what is happening to people who support the definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
Something more mind-boggling could hardly be imagined.
The concept of marriage as the union of a man and a woman has never been questioned throughout human history till now. In fact, except for dictionary devotees, the specification that the parties to a marriage will be a man and a woman has not needed to be discussed. It has not been a uniquely Christian idea that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. Archeology and paleontology alike demonstrate that humans have always viewed marriage as the union of a man and a woman, and humans have always considered marriage to be the foundation for a family. Only recently has it become necessary to argue about what constitutes a marriage or a family.
What happened to the culture?
Human society has many ongoing arguments. Who ought to be in charge, and how ought a group of people figure out who should be in charge? What is worth fighting about? What is a fair fight? There are a lot of arguments that are not yet settled. But the definition of marriage and family were settled so far back that except for the revelation of the creation story in Genesis, nobody would know how marriage began. The record of human life on earth shows that marriage has been the normal basis for family in all human groups, almost as if it were written on the human heart.
That fact meant that until very recently, anyone who used the word marriage did not need to define it or qualify it. The word itself was sufficient to convey the intended meaning. It also meant that until very recently, nobody would have had any reason to write laws about the language used for marriage or sexual orientation or gender identity. The issue of sexual orientation was settled by the recognition that normal human beings are attracted to the opposite gender, and the gender of a normal human being is the gender of the DNA (of which there are only two options – male or female). All other expressions of gender, sexual orientation or sexual union were abnormal simply because they were not normal. It wasn’t discrimination to recognize that fact; it was plain common sense. It still is. Unfortunately, plain common sense does not seem to be valued very much in the language of marriage, family, gender identity or sexual orientation.
The fact that a marriage was expressed as a union of a man and a woman throughout human society meant that when religions used this definition, it was not regarded as privilege, oppression or discrimination. It was considered normal. Any other definition would have been regarded as bizarre and would have resulted in ostracism of its practitioners for engaging in behavior equivalent to wearing aluminum foil hats.
Where do Christians get their definition of marriage?
Christians use this definition of marriage for the same reason as humankind at large; it is normal. However, when the definition is challenged, as is common in contemporary cultural disputes, Christians actually have a basis for defending their contention that it is normal. They don’t rely on the fact that people have used this definition for thousands, perhaps millions, of years. They rely on the revelation of the Creator, God Himself. The Bible records that God created humans male and female and ordained marriage as their proper relationship. God further ordained that they produce children within that relationship and nurture them to adulthood, each generation teaching the next the things they needed to know in order to have good lives – God’s truths, skills for daily living, and so forth. Human failing and wicked acts have not changed God’s truth: marriage is the union of a man and a woman.
What justifies suppression of anybody’s speech?
Which brings the subject back to freedom of speech. The culture is busily attempting to suppress the freedom to speak of marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Someone recently said that the culture war is necessary in order to make speaking of heterosexual marriage as unacceptable as suggesting that slavery is good. To that end, the army of LGBT activism persuaded Mozilla to fire a man whose only crime was to express his legitimate view on the definition of marriage. To that end, JP Morgan quizzed its employees to determine who is and who isn’t an ally of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. To that end, the Department of Justice demanded that employees not only tolerate homosexual colleagues but also express their delight at the opportunity to support their lifestyle choices. Freedom of speech necessarily requires the culture to permit people of all viewpoints to express their viewpoints. There must not be penalties for expressing minority viewpoints. There must not be penalties for expressing majority viewpoints.
Yes, the majority must be free to speak of marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Because most American citizens, the majority of the population, holds the traditional view of marriage, those citizens must be just as free to express and act on their definition of marriage as the minority, a very tiny minority, who want marriage to include homosexual union, polyamory and bestiality. The US Constitution protects the right of a man to donate money to a political action group that promotes traditional marriage. Marriage. The only marriage that is marriage. The Constitution says that people have a right to their opinions and a right to express their opinions and a right to advocate for legislation in keeping with their opinions.
To have an opinion at odds with the latest Twitter hashtag campaign ought not to be grounds for dismissal from a job or for exclusion from the cultural conversation. Tony Woodlief points out that the culture wants the dissenting opinions on the subject of marriage, or any other subject in fashion at the moment, to be gone. Snuffed out. Squashed. Shut down. The only real way to defeat that objective is to be tireless in support of one’s viewpoint and be willing to pay the price the opponents will impose. Woodlief is right. Those who never give up their unwanted opinions will be made to pay, because the opposition will continue to exact the price. Those who support normality and common sense must be willing to pay in order to continue to hold their views.
What should we do?
The opposition says, “People have freedom of expression, blah blah blah, but until we make those people pay for their wrongheaded beliefs, they’ll continue to hold them.” We who love the Lord and trust the Bible for guidance in faith and life say, “People have freedom of expression, because God gave people this right, and we will advocate for the preservation of that right for as long as it takes.”