A long, long time ago St. Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth that “All things are lawful for me but not all things are beneficial. All things are lawful for me but I will not be dominated by anything. All things are lawful but not all things build up.” That seems like pretty ordinary common sense, doesn’t it? Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should do it.
Free speech is highly valued in the West but we all recognize that it is a limited, not an absolute right. Legally, it is hedged in by libel and slander laws and, more recently, by decisions in colleges and universities across the nation to kick Christian groups off-campus if they won’t allow non-Christians to be leaders in their groups. Free speech is also limited by wisdom, by good taste, by love. The law can’t be a tool to enforce these latter limitations, but we count on the good will of people to restrain themselves.
St. Paul also said that the way we grow up into mature adults is by “speaking the truth in love.” Truth can be a weapon of destruction in the mouths of cruel people.
Does a French magazine have a legal right to publish cartoons of Mohammed? Of course. Is there any wisdom, any common sense, any love involved in doing so? None whatsoever, especially when it is done immediately after the murders in Paris.
I applaud all those marchers around the world who joined together to publicly affirm the rights of freedom of speech and of the press. But I condemn as immature, foolish, and profoundly unloving for the magazine to thumb its literary nose at Islam by publishing a second cartoon of Mohammed just a few days later. That is an abuse of freedom, deliberately published despite knowing how much harm would come from it and how many lives are now endangered by it.
How odd that we in this country fight so hard to limit free speech in some ways (such as by demanding that the Washington Redskins change their name because it is offensive to native Americans) and then fight just as hard to defend the right of the French magazine to be far, far more offensive to Islam. Or to defend the right of artists to portray someone urinating on Jesus Christ.
Will we never grow up, never mature?