12 February 2006

A Lack of Civility

The Church Times carries this article by Archbishop Rowan Williams regarding the current brou-ha-ha over 'freedom of speech'.

The Archbishop characterises the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad (PUBH) by the Western media as 'a lack of civility'. As is often the case, the Archbishop speaks wisely, in my view.

I appreciate that many Westerners and many Christians will likely disagree with me, but I believe that - at least from the point of view Christian theology - scripture itself is quite clear that the Godly use of 'freedom' is 'freedom for' not 'freedom from' (See Paul's first letter to the Corinthians).

As Christians, we are set free from sin in order to love; we are set free from selfishness in order to give service to God's Kingdom.

When a society sees 'freedom' as 'freedom to say things we know are inherently insulting to another culture, just because we can', then society is acting like a petulant teenager. This is not a responsible use of freedom, it is a gratuitous and pointless use of freedom to tear down rather than to build up.

I cherish the freedom of speech that we have in the West. There are certainly instances where, as Christians, it is legitimate to speak out against an extreme form of Islam that nurtures and engages in terrorism. But it is only a responsible use of our freedom of speech when we stand up for what we believe to be the Truth. 'Freedom to be offensive' is not, in my view, a Christian way to utilise free speech.

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