Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Speak your mind or mind your speech?

From the Church Times:
The liberties we enjoy in a demo­cracy are inseparable from freedom of expression. The exercise of that freedom makes demands on us all. Nowhere are those demands more highly charged than where religious groupings believe their faith has been insulted.

Those sections of society that are unable to tease out the relationship between freedom of expression and self-restraint, or to understand that, when offence is given, challenge — rather than violence or prohibition — should be the response, pose a threat to the fabric of a democratic state.

FREEDOM of expression is a dearly bought and cherished attribute of democracy. Respect and consideration for the sensi­bilities of others should be equally valued. The freedom to hold an opinion does not confer the right to express it regardless of context. Neither does personal or collective offence necessarily license pro­hibi­tion of offending material.

There is no right to be protected from offence, but there is a right — even a duty — to engage in debate, and thus to challenge the giver of offence. It is through debate that we learn what may be tolerated and what must be proscribed. Violence of speech or action short-circuits this civilised usage, and gives rise to oppression, fear, and resentment.

Prohibition has reinforced the idea that violent protest is the only response to false­hood....defamation must be met with dialogue. Neither tolerance nor self-restraint is learned under the rule of the censor.
Prohibition of free speech isn't as far as you think. In seminary, a friend was called into the dean's office for using biblical language about God - because some people found it offensive. You can't imagine the opprobrium - the violent political moves and abuses of professorial power - that is heaped on anyone who would limit feminine universals in language...but masculinity is ruled right out. It's tragic because in losing God's masculinity we lose God's transcendence...and we are placed on the road to paganism and panentheism.


Elliott Scott said...

I once heard the late Elizabeth Achtemeier give a powerful teaching on why using feminine language for God leads directly to pantheism, which in turn leads to complete despair.

Her basic moves were as follows:

1. A feminine concept of deity leads to the concept of God "giving birth" to the world, which as you have pointed out, leads to pantheism and a loss of transcendence.

2. Pantheism means that everything as it currently is, is a part of God.

3. This means that all of the world's miseries - pain, war, crime, evil, etc. - are also just another aspect of God.

4. Which means we have no hope of God ever rescuing the world from these things.

5. Which means we're toast.

Well, I don't think she actually used the word "toast". I've always found it a powerful argument for retaining the traditional language for God.

Presbyman said...

When I was in the second grade, I didn't always do well on spelling tests. One mistake I made was to spell out "wimmin" for "women."

Apparently my second grade spelling test mistake is now the official nomenclature at LPTS.

John Erthein
Erie, PA

Dave Moody said...

Guess you were just, uh, *progressive* for your age there John... who knew, eh?

Rev'd Chris Larimer said...

I'd say all around, the level of emotional maturity was roughly equivalent.

...Why isn't everybody agreeing with me? WAAAAAAH!