Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Right to Offend and the Right to do what is Right

Having been a subscriber to the weekend editions of the Toronto Star for the past ten years, I was not really surprised by the latest anti-Christian diatribe published in today's Ideas section. It is rare that the Star mentions Bible-believing Christians at all and when they do, it is almost always in a negative light. But so be it; that is their right as a vehicle of free expression (more on this in a moment).

But the comments by Ken Gallinger, the Star's ethics columnist struck a note particularly vehement, almost reminiscent of the ancient Roman accusations of Christians being immoral, incestuous, cannibalistic atheists. Responding to the question as to whether those who support the idea of a literal six-day creation should be called "stupid", Gallinger responded, "Creationism is not the first nonsense the Christian Church has unleashed upon the world. And, unless you factor in the risk of turning your brain into silly putty, it's considerably less dangerous than such other ecclesiastical offerings as anti-Semitism, misogyny, the ‘domination' of nature, or gay-bashing ... all of which are solidly rooted in Christianity's Holy Book."

Talk about unleashing nonsense upon the world! As a Bible-believing Christian, I (as have most of us) recognize how, throughout history, the Bible has been misused to support such terrible things as Gallinger mentions. But they are just that; a misuse. They are not solidly rooted in the Bible, contrary to Gallinger's assertion. Make no mistake, Gallinger is not criticizing how people have used the Bible; he is criticizing the Bible itself. One must question how an ethics columnist can justify the "rightness" of publicly calling one of the world's great, historical religions a repeated unleasher (i.e. promoter) of nonsense and accuse its sacred text (2/3 of which is also held sacred by those of the Jewish faith) of teaching anti-Semitism, misogyny, environmental destruction, and hatred towards homosexuals. He may have the right to say such things (the freedom of expression includes the right to offend), but is it right to do so? (I have posed this question to him, by the way. I hope that he will respond. Stay tuned).

How should we respond as Christians? First, we need to recognize that in a free society, Gallinger does have the right to say such things. As I said earlier, the right to free expression does include the right to offend (and he certainly exercised this right this week). But freedom of expression also includes the right to defend. We have the right and obligation to counter his accusations and correct such prejudicial comments. We do not protest that he has said such things but we can stand against what he has said. We protest what he was written not the fact that he has written it. This is the nature of apologetics, to expose the truth that has been hidden behind the lies, misunderstandings or misinformation of our accusers. Our call here is not to ask for an apology from the paper that such nonsense was written. The paper does not need to apologize for offending Christians; to call for this would be to call for the suppression of the freedom of expression. Our obligation here is to present the truth and call for ethical behaviour by the ethics columnist. The right to say something does not mean that it is always right to say it, especially if what you are saying is based on innuendo and falsehood.


crooked deep down said...

Good point! So often when Christians are criticized publicly, we bite back with vitriol to match our criticizer rather than thinking through what a Christ-like response ought to be. We have to be distinctly different from the world in how we respond to things like this-- i.e. not pouting like a 2-year-old, pretending as if everyone is conspiring to destroy us, and demanding that our opponents shouldn't exercise their right to free speech. This is a very wise and thoughtful post and I definitely appreciate it.

nachtwache said...

I agree with the first commenter fully, the post is very well written.
When people have differing opinions and cannot agree, attacking each other only creates conflict, sometimes it's best to agree to disagree and keep things decent and respectful.

Eunice said...

I thoroughly agree with 'crooked deep down's' comment on your blog, Glenn. What is so important to remember that those who oppose us have the right to free speech as well. Are we using our words to attack or to share truth with courtesy and respect.