Freedom of Speech, Religion, and Stupidity
Remarkably, we're having to have this blog post today, because this should be self-evident after years and years of dealing with varying degrees of stupid in America. Yet, somehow, we still feel the need to have uproars over everything. Here's a summary statement, and then we'll go from there:
The freedom we have in America, freedom of religion and freedom of speech especially, includes the freedom to do and say things that are patently offensive, morally repugnant (if not illegal), completely disagreeable, and inherently stupid.
That means that if Muslims would like to build a mosque and community center at the edge of Ground Zero in Manhattan, whether it's insensitive or not, they have the to do so, because it's their property.
That means if this pastor in Florida wants to burn Qurans, Talmuds, NIV Bibles, or copies of my book (once it's written), he can.
Look, we've had court cases determine it is legal to burn American Flags. We've had court cases determine you can't discriminate against building churches.
Whether we like it or not, freedom only exists if it exists for those who are rude and insensitive, who are offensive and disagreeable.
That being said, burning a Quran ranks up there with burning any other book: all you're doing is creating publicity that makes the other side look smarter than you. We have had conservative Christianity rail against Harry Potter, did it help? Nope. Probably would have been better otherwise.
Building a mosque where people don't really want one isn't exactly a flying start for "community dialogue" or whatever the aim is. You can exercise that freedom, but it will likely backfire on you. Especially true in New York. New Yorkers, from all I can tell, don't like to be told what to do or not to do, so I'm curious how long it will take for a hot dog vendor to set up on the public sidewalk by the Park51 building. How long will he be extended freedom and tolerance to sell pork products? Just wondering…
As to restricting speech over "this will cause an international backlash and put our troops at risk by offending Muslims:" every ounce of freedom in America is offensive to the Taliban. From voting to women wearing pants to eating bacon, these folks don't like us. If it wasn't this, it would be something else, even if it wasn't true. To restrain free speech, you have to give a better reason than "perhaps there might be trouble." Our country was founded by people who gathered and made speeches that caused trouble. Had King George III individual locked up every person who spoke in a way that endangered Redcoats, we'd still sip tea and say "Your Majesty."
Now, I think that we should do everything we can as Americans at home during a war to protect and support our soldiers fighting to secure our freedom, and I think this guy is stupid and wrong for doing this. However, to bring to bear the weight of the US Government against him to pressure his speech to stop is also wrong. Do you want the government telling you to shut up because you might cause harm?
As to the question of is burning a Quran the way to show Jesus' love to the world? No, of course not. That's not this guy's goal. His goal is to show the world and America how bad he thinks Islam is.
Finally, and this is as much an internal question for myself, but I think it applies to true Christians at large: with this nut in Florida and the fruitcakes in Kansas at Westboro, you have no more than what, 150 people? Why do 100 million or more American Christians have to respond to everything these idiots do in the name of Christ? Given that it's obvious even to the non-Christian world that they are wrong, can we not ignore them, stop giving them publicity, and take away their motivation for this stupidity?
Really, do we see the Pope apologizing for fringe, Pope-ignoring groups that claim to be Catholic? Heck, the Park51 Mosque/Community Center Imam won't even call Hamas terrorists when they blow up grocery stores in Israel. Why do we feel the need to insist ordinary Baptists come up with anything to say about this stuff? Westboro, the folks in Florida, all they really want is the publicity. Quit giving it to them, even in "condemning" them, and they will go away.