Letter

From Jim O'Brien
July 20, 2018

America's New Civil War

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Hi Friend,

Alexis de Tocqueville said America was the country with the greatest freedom of speech and the least freedom of thought. For people who are justifiably proud of the 1st Amendment, it may be facing its most serious test.

Often overlooked in the discussion is that freedom of speech is not the central focus of the 1st Amendment. It is the by-product of the right to worship God. Without the right to express ideas freely there can be no freedom of religion. And freedom to worship God is the key reason the Pilgrims came to America.

Pilgrim means "religious wanderer" and these people had wandered from one shore to another in search of a place they could worship in peace-and freedom. Finally, they boarded their families, their tools, their clothes and a few animals onto the lower deck of two wooden vessels, the Speedwell and the Mayflower and set off for a three-month voyage to the Promised Land. Almost immediately the weather turned bad, the Speedwell began to leak and they returned to port where most boarded the already crowded Mayflower.

The two freedoms-the one to worship God and the second, the liberty to express ideas-are indissolubly connected. Overlooking this fundamental reality, Christians in America may be unaware that the forfeiture of free speech will inevitably lead to the loss of opportunity to worship God.

Already the Bible is considered hate speech by some and is banned in certain circles.

Where are we headed? At a college campus in California on Constitution Day in 2013, a decorated military veteran (who also happened to be a student) attempted to hand out copies of the Constitution and was told he could not.

A few months later college students in Hawaii were told they could not give fellow students the constitution outside of a "free speech zone."

Recently students and faculty have joined forces to exclude campus speakers whose opinions they dislike. They are called "disinvitation seasons."

The newest trend is something called 'trigger warnings". Professors who are about to discuss a subject that may be uncomfortable for some students must alert the class. Books and essays must warn students that they are about to read something that may "trigger" a negative emotional response.

Is it possible under such circumstances to "teach" history? Can a teacher say that Hitler was evil or that the Holocaust even occurred? But how does one define evil if the events of the past are too uncomfortable for students to hear?

The history of Christianity is filled with the stories of unknown martyrs who gave their lives in order to "speak" the Gospel. These dedicated men and women sacrificed themselves to pass on the "Word" of God to future generations.

The Apostle Paul faced death on many occasions. "Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;" (2 Corinthians 11:24-25 KJV) These things did not happen to Paul because he was leading an army. He was speaking a positive message of hope to an audience composed of mostly peaceful people. But a minority did not want to listen to his ideas and worse-didn't want anyone else to hear his words.

Paul was executed for doing nothing more than expressing his opinion. But his words lived on and started the greatest revolution the world has ever seen.

Has America become so intolerant of opposing opinions that we are headed for another civil war? Some think we're already in one. If our nation has moved that far down the road, there is a scripture we should heed. The Psalmist wrote "Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them. " (Psalm 119:165 KJV) Odd as it may sound, the road to peace is to love the Law of God. There is something about having a love for God's Laws that prevents a person from being offended. America could use a healthy dose of law to bring about peace.

Until next time,

Jim O'Brien