Category Archives: Meditations
By. Rev. Ray Atwood
Four Freedoms: Freedom of Speech
“For freedom Christ set us free: so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:13).
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered one of his most powerful and memorable speeches on January 6, 1941, eleven months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. In it, he articulated four freedoms that form the basis of our republic. This speech is the subject of our reflections this month.
The first freedom was freedom of speech. This fundamental freedom is enshrined in our Constitution. Speech is essential for a free republic to survive. If we cannot freely express ideas, then we cannot live and grow as free people.
God gave us the gift of speech in order to communicate truth, dialogue with one another, and share ourselves. In order for speech to be effective, it must be freely expressed. This means that individuals and groups must be able to freely express thoughts, ideas, and reflections. Through this expression people can grow and learn together. It must be used for good ends.
Throughout Scripture we are reminded that speech is a gift from the Almighty. We saw in the Book of Genesis what God did when men decided to make a monument to themselves. At Babel, they built a city and a tower, called a ziggurat, in order to glorify themselves (Gen. 11:1-9). They were able to use the gift of language to cooperate in this vain venture. He confused their speech, and the project abruptly ended. Only at Pentecost was the punishment of Babel reversed. The Apostles were gathered in the Upper Room, the Holy Spirit came in the form of wind and tongues, and the Apostles went outside and spoke in the languages of the world. Interestingly, God did not restore one language to the world, but instead empowered the Apostles to speak in the various languages present. It seems that multiple languages is a permanent fixture of the human condition since Babel. But God overcomes all barriers, including speech.
Today colleges are creating “free speech zones” and “safe rooms” where overly sensitized students can go to hear ideas that make them uncomfortable. Entire campuses used to be free speech zones. But times have changed, for the worse, I’m afraid. Our young people are being poorly prepared by college administrations that empower this kind of excess sensitivity. They won’t be able to handle the “real world” when they enter it.
As we celebrate Independence Day, may we appreciate free speech in this country, and use the God-given gift of speech for the glory of God and the common good of society.