Saturday, April 22, 2006

Free Speech and Free Offers of the Gospel

Numerous bloggers are commenting on a decision by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that a school had the right to require s student to cover up a tee shirt with an anti-homosexual message printed on it. The shirt had the words "Be Ashamed, Our School Embraced What God Has Condemned" on the front and "Homosexuality is Shameful" on the back. After the school required the student to put another shirt on over it, the student sued the school.

Because the 9th Circuit is so frequently overturned, and overturned unanimously, the enduring validity of its decisions is always an open question. However, a number of political conservatives have commented negatively on the decision as a free speech issue. The Volokh Conspiracy calls the decision "deeply unsound." Mark Rose calls it "typical liberal elitism and intolerance." Taking a different direction, Ann Althouse questioned an analogy in the dissent and asked commenters to opine as to whether the school's response resulted from the shirt's disruptiveness or whether the school was attempting to support its official viewpoint.

Because I am no longer doing legal or political issues at this site, I want to open a discussion in a little bit different direction. From the standpoint of Christian ethics and practice, why would a student do such a thing? What was he trying to accomplish? Was he trying to prove his supposed courage by calling out those people? If not that, then what?

For the sake of argument, let's stipulate that the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin. Of course, the Bible teaches that numerous other things are also sins -- things that we do, fail to do, think, fail to care about, and so forth. While the Bible teaches that such sins have rather disturbing implications regarding our standing before God, it does not require us to deny civil rights or human compassion to sinners. If it did so, all of us would be in a great deal of trouble. Homosexuality is not a sin with which this author struggles, but there are many others -- pride, greed, lust, and on and on, I am sorry to say -- with which I do. No one, to my knowledge, is insisting that I should be treated rudely based on the fact that I am a self-acknowledged sinner.

Sinners are the sort of people that the Christian message is made for. The most notable spokesman for the early Christian message, the Apostle Paul, even referred to himself as the "chief of sinners," perhaps recalling his own pre-conversion complicity in a Christian's persecutorial murder. This is not to say that Christians should not call sin by that name; but it does mean that people should not be treated obnoxiously. They need the Gospel.

Messages of condemnation unaccompanied by offers of hope and forgiveness found in the gospel do not reflect the message of Christ.

1 comment:

Donna Locke said...

That's the sort of thing that gets people killed. I know.