Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Time to Speak

     This is my first blog entry in quite some time.  Although there are many reasons for this I believe the best one is due to the fact that I believe that God encourages us to hold our tongues until we have something important to say.  Well, at least I think He tells me to to hold my tongue.  The lack of blogging on my part is also due to the fact that I really didn't have anything that I thought was useful to say.  Sure, I could have written about how my health was coming along or the Presidential primaries but I thought it was important for me to wait until I felt a true sense of purpose to, once again, invade this space with my thoughts.  As it so happens, I do have something to say and I do feel it is the right time for me to speak...so here it goes!
     I am an history buff.  I studied history in college and enjoy learning about to this day.  I am not an historical scholar but I am also no slouch when it comes to the facts of history.  I write this only to say that I do have some knowledge of the past and am able to see where that past intersects the present and makes its impact felt.
     For quite some time I have been interested in watching how our society is dealing with itself.  What I mean by that is how our society is changing at such a rapid rate.  Through technology our world has become connected in ways that could have never been imagined by the people of the 19th century.  News is 24 hours,  social sites enable us to share our thoughts with the world on any issue we choose, and blogs, such as this, make the ordinary man or woman into pundits about everything.  Indeed, we have at our disposal tools that can make our world a greater place but, sadly, we choose not to.
     In September of 1787 the Constitution of the United States was adopted and on June 21, 1788 New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify it thereby fulfilling the ratification requirements set forth.  It was at this time that an incredible thing happened...people were given rights and one of those rights was the freedom of speech.  We had come from a people who had experienced the quick justice at the hands of our oppressors for anyone who might speak ill of the crown to people who now were able to say whatever they wanted, within reason, about anything they chose.  What a right!  And for 234 years people have used that right to express their opinions and others have used that same right to refute the opinions of others.  Our country was dedicated and founded on the rights of others to speak their minds and I would have it no other way.  But something happened on the road from 1788 up to today that has saddened me.
     It used to be that men and women could express their opinions in civil ways.  Yes, free speech has always raised the blood pressure of some leading to a vitriolic blowup from some crazy blowhole, that's democracy.  It is true that the writings in "The Age of Reason" by Thomas Paine caused excitement and, no doubt, the spouting's of Hitler caused a world to stand up and fight against evil.  But nowhere can I find a time in our country's history when disagreement in ideas have caused so much hate.
     We no longer see honest debate in the halls of our government we see dissent and disgust.  The aim no longer seems to be seeking what is best for our country but what is best for the politician.  CNN bad mouths FOX and MSNBC bad mouths everybody.  FOX calls itself "fair and balanced" but it obviously isn't.  Topics discussed on TV no longer contain thoughtful ideas from either side they are just stepping stones for each side to call the other side names.  Comment sections on blogs or internet news sites aren't being used for true comment or honest disagreement they are open space for vile name calling.  If you don't believe me go to any news story on the web and scroll down and read the comments section.  Fair warning...don't let your nine year old do this!
     I guess this is my point...Just because everyone of has the RIGHT to speak doesn't mean we should.  I'm not suggesting some Pollyanna idea of, "If you don't have something nice to say about someone or something don't say anything at all!".  That's ridiculous.  We have the right to disagree with with each other but my problem is the WAY we disagree.  My faith teaches me that homosexuality is wrong and that's what I believe.  Go ahead disagree with me, that's fine.  If you believe different say so but don't belittle me because of my belief.  If you think that gay marriage or abortion is wrong then say so but don't abuse your right to speech by calling those who believe it is okay by certain names.  For the love of everything that is holy I don't hate you..I just disagree with you!
     Much has been said and written lately about the demise of our nation and the reasons for it.  Some, like me, believe it is because we have strayed from the moral guidelines that God gives us.  Others believe it is because people like me are so narrow minded and socially ignorant that I am trying to drag the world back into the time of the Inquisition!  However, I am beginning to believe that our country is going to hell in a hand basket for one very simple reason...we're so stinking mean to each other!  Disagreement has turned into dislike and dislike has given birth to hate.
     We spend so much time arguing about who and what this country was founded on that we forget a very important point..the founding fathers didn't agree on everything all the time either.  Huge disagreements presented themselves in the forming of our country but someway, somehow, they got the job done.  Seeing prayer taken out of our schools or the Ten Commandments stripped from our government buildings doesn't upset me as much as watching the people of this country using one of our greatest rights as a tool for hate.  I don't know, maybe I am naive to believe that we can disagree in a civil way but I don't think I am.  Watch television, read the newspaper, listen to conversations on the streets.  We are divided like we have never been before and we use that division as a reason to hate.  I don't blame the founders for wanting us to have free speech  I blame them for having the faith that we would use it appropriately.
     If this country has even a slim chance of not going the way of the dodo we have to change.  Notice I didn't say we had to start agreeing with each other.  No, disagreement is good.  Real discussion and debate helps us clarify what we believe.  I will never stop believing that God should be the focus of our nation but I also know that there are others who will never believe that.  How do we have that discussion with calling each other names and resorting to violence?
    Some will say, "Well, that's what happens when people believe something so deeply".  You know what, that's just an easy cliche to avoid acting like a civil human being.  We need to change!  So, I encourage you today to take a good look at yourself and see what you can do to make this country better.  I need to take a look at myself and see where I can better display Christ's love instead of partisan hatred.  James 3:6 says,"The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell."  
     Be people of conviction, yes! But let us not allow our convictions to become opportunities to  tear down others.  Remember, FREE speech shouldn't mean ANY speech!  America, we are better than this!

Just something to think about!