Tuesday, 20 January 2015

A Hangover From Christendom

The Secular State Will Betray Free Speech

More than a few think that all free speech, by virtue of being free, is righteous speech.  Confused protagonists assume that as long as speech is a freedom right, everything uttered must be regarded as good, and never criticised.  Thus, when voices have been raised criticising the Charlie Hebdo portfolio as being extremist, blasphemous, illiberal, immoderate and crude, others have slam dunked the critics by accusing them of being anti-free speech.

Of course there are ethical limits to free speech.  Speech can be good or evil.  Moral or immoral.  The Scriptures unequivocally state that speech can very definitely be evil, and, more often than not, it is so.  Consider one of the Bible's declarations on the subject:

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.  From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.  [James 3:1-10]
Or consider the Larger Catechism's exposition of the Ninth Commandment, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against they neighbour"
Question 144: What are the duties required in the ninth commandment?

Answer: The duties required in the ninth commandment are, the preserving and promoting of truth between man and man, and the good name of our neighbour, as well as our own; appearing and standing for the truth; and from the heart, sincerely, freely, clearly, and fully, speaking the truth, and only the truth, in matters of judgment and justice, and in all other things: Whatsoever; a charitable esteem of our neighbours; loving, desiring, and rejoicing in their good name; sorrowing for, and covering of their infirmities; freely acknowledging of their gifts and graces, defending their innocence; a ready receiving of a good report, and unwillingness to admit of an evil report, concerning them; discouraging talebearers, flatterers, and slanderers; love and care of our own good name, and defending it when need requires; keeping of lawful promises; studying and practising of: Whatsoever things are true, honest, lovely, and of good report.

Question 145: What are the sins forbidden in the ninth commandment?

Answer: The sins forbidden in the ninth commandment are, all prejudicing the truth, and the good name of our neighbours, as well as our own, especially in public judicature; giving false evidence, suborning false witnesses, wittingly appearing and pleading for an evil cause, outfacing and overbearing the truth; passing unjust sentence, calling evil good, and good evil; rewarding the wicked according to the work of the righteous, and the righteous according to the work of the wicked; forgery, concealing the truth, undue silence in a just cause, and holding our peace when iniquity calls for either a reproof from ourselves, or complaint to others; speaking the truth unseasonably, or maliciously to a wrong end, or perverting it to a wrong meaning, or in doubtful and equivocal expressions, to the prejudice of truth or justice;speaking untruth, lying, slandering, backbiting, detracting, tale bearing, whispering, scoffing, reviling, rash, harsh, and partial censuring; misconstruing intentions, words, and actions; flattering, vainglorious boasting, thinking or speaking too highly or too meanly of ourselves or others; denying the gifts and graces of God; aggravating smaller faults;hiding, excusing, or extenuating of sins, when called to a free confession;unnecessary discovering of infirmities; raising false rumours, receiving and countenancing evil reports, and stopping our ears against just defence; evil suspicion; envying or grieving at the deserved credit of any, endeavouring or desiring to impair it, rejoicing in their disgrace and infamy; scornful contempt, fond admiration; breach of lawful promises; neglecting such things as are of good report, and practising, or not avoiding ourselves, or not hindering: What we can in others, such things as procure an ill name.
Given that speech can be so evil, why ought anyone for a moment consider that speaking freely should be a human right?  The answer is straightforward.  Not all sins are crimes.  In fact very few of them are.  Essentially the right of free speech asserts that the state has no (or very limited) jurisdiction over the thoughts and words of human beings.   But God, the Judge of all the earth, does.  As always, the Judge of the heavens and the earth has total jurisdiction over mankind, including what men say. 

Consequently, one can both defend Charlie Hebdo's crude blasphemies against the murderous rage of Islamic warriors, as well as against the rule and power of the French imperium--and, at the same time, consign the content of Charlie Hebdo's speech and the speakers to divine wrath and judgment to come.  These positions are not contradictory.  They turn upon the greater principle that Christ alone is the judge of the heavens and the earth; all human judgment is a delegation from Him; it is necessarily limited, finite, and incomplete because no creature carries the infinite authority of the Creator. Therefore the Christian is able to tolerate all kinds of evil amongst human beings, without condoning any of it.  Rather, we keep entrusting ourselves to Him who will judge righteously and exhaustively on that great final day. 

The only alternative is propounded by the secular atheist state.  Since there is no acknowledgement of God, there is no higher power than the state to whom justice and judgment can be appealed.  The state alone is the judge of the heavens and the earth.  Judgment upon all kinds of  manifestations of evil can be appealed no further or higher than the state itself.

Consequently, free speech cannot survive in the modern secular atheistic state.  It is a "hangover" from a Christian past.  For secular society and the atheist state, all sins are implicitly crimes.  Speaking hatefully about a person is a sin.  The modern secular state is rapidly turning it into a crime.  This is why all atheistic states trend towards authoritarianism and, eventually, totalitarianism.  It is also why free speech rights are eroding so rapidly throughout the West.  (See the postscript below)

Meanwhile, our defence of free speech rights must remain Christianly based.  Unbelief waxes between two poles.  The one makes all speech sacrosanct and holy--beyond any judgment, moral or otherwise.  The second constantly agitates to employ state power to make all our speech "righteous".  In a secular atheistic world, the latter will always win, because, not to put the matter too finely, the state carries a big gun.

Christians believe, and insist upon, free speech rights because Christ is the Judge of the heavens and the earth, and man is not.  The present secular state, albeit a divinely appointed servant, is in rebellion against the Lord.  In the longer term, however, these things will not always be so.  In the Christian world--the only real and substantial and abiding world--the secular state cannot and will not survive.  From the Christian perspective, the secular atheistic world is merely a temporary, passing chimera. 


Peter Hitchens writes about the late Mr Harry Hammond, an elderly eccentric living in Bournemouth.
Mr Hammond, a passionate evangelical Christian in his late sixties, liked to preach the Gospel in the open air of Bournemouth, whether anyone was listening to him or not.  In April 2002 he was prosecuted under the Public Order Act of 1986, which makes it an offence to display any writing, sign or other visible representation that is threatening, abusive or insulting, within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm and distress thereby.  Mr Hammond's crime was to display a placard--now destroyed by order of the bench--on which was written: "Stop immorality.  Stop homosexuality.  Stop lesbianism."

As Mr Hammond hoisted his six-word manifesto in the centre of town on a busy Saturday in October 2001, a small crowd gathered round him, partly hecklers but mostly curious onlookers.  The hecklers were rough with him.  A young woman tried to tug the placard from his hands.  During this tussle, Mr Hammond fell flat on his back and had to be helped to his feet by security guards from a nearby shop.  Soon afterwards, Mr Hammond's enlightened liberal critics flung clods of earth at him, one striking him on the chest and one on the head.  Another of these campaigners for tolerance crept up behind Mr Hammond and emptied a bottle of water over his bald cranium.

When the police were called, it was Mr Hammond who was arrested.  Mr Hammond's case may well be the most bizarre arrest in the history of English policing, since the two officers involved disagreed over what to do and did not resolve their disagreement.  A more experienced male constable, Wayne Elliott, thought that Mr Hammond should be protected.  His younger female colleague, Nicola Gandy, thought that he should be taken in.  They argued for 20 minutes before her view prevailed.  At the trial the two officers gave evidence on opposite sides, PC Elliott appearing of the defence, while PC Gandy spoke for the prosecution.  The Crown Prosecutor laid into Mr Hammond as if he were a serious malefactor  He said the offending placard was "insulting to people and people's intelligence.  It was insulting to gay people and gay people's friends and he knew that."  A magistrate ruled that the sign "clearly insulted members of the crowd who had gathered round him."  She pronounced him guilty and fined him 300 [pounds], plus 300 [pounds] in costs.  She also ordered that his placard be destroyed. . . .

PC Gandy stood by her decision to arrest Mr Hammond. . . . Asked about her motives for taking a strong stance, she explained: "My agenda was to try to maintain the peace.  I was not very impressed with Mr Hammond's conduct, I don't think he is a very good representative of the Christian faith."  It is interesting that police officers now feel able to comment in public on the religious opinions of citizens.

Mr Hammond planned to appeal, but died in the summer of 2002, before his case could be heard.  He would have been disappointed, but not surprised by the failure of his posthumous appeal in early 2004.  [Peter Hitchens, The Abolition of Liberty: the Decline of Order and Justice in England (London: Atlantic Books, 2003),   pp. 245-247.]
Mr Hammond, formerly of Bournemouth: RIP in the presence of your Saviour and Great King.

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