By David Hegg
I find it both interesting and important that July 4, our national celebration of liberty, of individual and corporate freedom, falls on a Sunday this year. Why? Because on Sunday some choose to exercise their freedom to go to the beach, sleep late, read the paper slowly over coffee and cinnamon rolls, while others choose to exercise their freedom to worship their God through prayer, praise, preaching and proximity to others who join them in that freedom.
For centuries these two freedoms have co-existed peacefully, although – to be fair – some did consider the other party’s freedom to be misguided if not wrong. Beachgoers thought churchgoers were wasting a perfectly good day off, while churchgoers thought those who weren’t living out true faith were wasting their lives. But, somehow, each recognized the other’s freedom to do what they wanted on Sunday. This peaceful coexistence was foundational, not only when it came to how we lived our lives, but also dictated how we operated as a nation “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men (and in Lincoln’s understanding of language in his day ‘and women’) are created equal.”
Sadly, today it is a different story. Understandably, I speak as a Christ-follower who by choice am a clergyman dedicated to the biblical worldview. Nevertheless, I prize the spirit of America that is personal freedom of thought, word and deed. And while we have laws that create boundaries between deeds that are acceptable and those that are punishable, the greatest threats to our liberty today are attempts by some to punish thoughts and words with which they disagree.
For example, 25 years ago if someone told your father or grandfather that he was a woman in a man’s body, the reaction would have been incredulity on the basis of absurdity. But today, everything has changed. Not only is it demanded of us that we accept this new kind of truth but we must also applaud it. If we don’t, there are those who will demand that we be canceled even though in those 25 years the genetic laws of chromosomes have not changed one iota.
It is the equivalent of beachgoers trying to shut down churches because some in the church think going to the beach on Sunday is an offense against God and should be punished.
Here’s the deal: I think the best place for folks to be on Sunday is in a church where people care, and truth matters. In fact, I think the whole of life should be surrendered to Jesus Christ and aligned with the standards given in the Bible. But I also think atheists, agnostics, secularists, beachgoers, and adherents to other religions have the right to think differently, and even voice their objections and their arguments for their way of life. Do I think my view is best and believe everyone would be better off thinking and living the way I do? Of course! And you can bet those just mentioned think I’d be better off thinking and living the way they do.
This kind of peaceful co-existence facilitates mutual respect and self-restraint in order for true freedom to reign. But we’re watching this essential freedom not only be pushed to the margins of our society, but clear off the page. Those who self-qualify themselves as “hate speech” monitors are out to cancel anyone whose proclamations, articles, lectures, columns, posts, opinions, or sermons don’t align with their ideology. Understand this: When thoughts and words are treated as crimes, America’s freedoms are already being eroded if not destroyed.
What’s the solution? The truth is that “thought police” gain their power not from the veracity of their pronouncements, but from the failure of truth-loving people of every worldview to rise up against the absurdity of their actions. We need to wake up to the fact that a few are intimidating the many, and our silence comes across as affirmation of their disastrous mission.
I believe church is a good thing, God created male and female, and God’s rules for life in the Bible are our very best option. I also believe loving my neighbor means treating them with love, respect and self-restraint, especially where we differ. I also strongly believe that those who attempt to criminalize or even marginalize my thoughts, beliefs and speech are not walking the path of either freedom or love, and are actually seeking a culture of anarchy for their own totalitarian purposes.
So, on this July 4 weekend, as you gather with friends and family, be thankful for the liberty you have to think, speak and act as you choose. And then determine to be on guard against those who, one day, will try to determine just what you can say or not say in the coming years. God bless you, and may God bless America!
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.