Why Free Speech Is a Christian Virtue

Caryn Rivadeneira

Caryn Rivadeneira
April 10, 2017

In a time when free speech is labeled "hate speech" on many college campuses, and writers are afraid to wade into politics, Christians should uphold the freedom to make bold, even offensive proclamations.

April 10, 2017

I've missed your perspective here at TC lately, Caryn! So glad you shared this reflection.

I wholeheartedly agree with your premise. And I would take it a step further and say that I believe Christians are peculiarly called to "take a hit" when it comes to being offended--for the sake of winning the offenders. How we respond to things that we don't agree with often says more than the content of our disagreement itself.

As with so many things, there's a wealth of gray area where it can be hard to know where to hold the line and where to "turn the other cheek"--that is, when one is actually the more loving thing to do. Refusing to "speak the truth in love" when we sincerely disagree with someone is just as cowardly as abruptly silencing them (or shouting them down) without trying to hear what they're really saying, no? Yet I think you're right: we err on one position or another not from an attitude of love for the other, but out of a fearful desire not to be assaulted--or, worse, from a self-righteous conviction that we need to control others.

I think the hard part is that many Christians who are willing to be charitable toward those who disagree with them are hurt by the fact that so many of those on the other side--that is, those with genuine antipathy toward the exclusiveness of Christianity and its gospel--are unwilling to extend the same courtesy to us. And in this, your message is a difficult and appropriate Lenten reminder: as followers of one who was unjustly crucified for the love of those who crucified him, we dare not plead "it's not fair" when our love of others costs us. It's fair for us to want to treat others in kind. But it's Christlike when we're content to endure mistreatment and misrepresentation for the sake of love.

April 10, 2017

Thank you for your cogent remarks, unpopular as they may be with people like this agent. The more we engage in self-censorship, the further we often get from sharing the full richness of the Gospel.

John Twinem
April 11, 2017

There is imprecision in the title of the article. Free speech is not a virtue; in fact, horrible things might be said in the course of someone's speaking freely. The virtue lies in our protection of others' right to speak freely--and then in vigorously disagreeing with them if what they say opposes virtue.

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