The 1st Amendment
In the United States of America, the 1st Amendment to the Constitution reaffirms our God given right to freedom of speech. The text clearly states that Congress shall not make any laws that limit individual or group use of speech. There is no mention of any technicalities or extenuating circumstances that limit speech in any way.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
The reason that only Congress is mentioned in the 1st Amendment is because they are the Legislative Branch of our Government. In other words, the Constitution only grants Congress the authority to create laws. Therefore, the heart of the 1st Amendment is this… The United States Government cannot make speech or any form of speech illegal.
The consequences of making words illegal
Those calling for the abolition of certain words or forms of speech are missing a very important point. If the Government can limit some forms of speech, it can limit any form of speech. One may believe that another shouldn’t be free to use hateful speech, but who should be responsible for defining what is considered hateful speech? The Government? The problem is that what one individual believes is hateful speech, another may believe that it is not. And advocating that the Government should intervene in what should or shouldn’t be said by citizens could lead us to a never ending path of speech control.
Our nation was founded on the idea that government should be restrained from limiting individual liberty. The Founding Father’s believed with good reason, that an individual’s right to speak was more important than an individual’s right to not be offended. In other words, one could be free to speak their mind and the other could choose how to respond. “A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise commends knowledge,
but the mouths of fools pour out folly.” Proverbs 15:1-2
Speech that pleases God
God never gave the Government the authority to limit speech of individuals. When we decide that Government should determine what we say or don’t say, we have created a false idol for ourselves. This is an idea the Founding Father’s understood well. God should govern our speech, not Government. Government should not govern over every detail of our lives because that role has already been filled by a loving Heavenly Father.
As followers of Christ, there are words that we should not speak. We should seek to glorify God with our speech and let His word guide us in doing so. The 1st Amendment ensures that as U.S. citizens, we can say whatever we want, but as followers of Christ we should say only that which brings God glory. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29
We should allow God’s word to transform us instead of allowing the Government to conform us. Let us put into practice what pleases God… “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;” James 1:19
A timely reminder
As Britain has recently demonstrated, national independence is still valued by a large number of people in the world. #Brexit became a more trendy hashtag than many members of media might have originally expected, once the final vote came through. And as Britain exited the European Union, many Americans were reminded of another quest for independence, which occurred almost 250 years ago.
The founding father’s reasoning for declaring national independence was in large part due to their desire to worship God as they believed He led them to. Consider the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights… “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The founding father’s didn’t want the government to force people to worship based upon laws given by the state. The First Amendment was written with the idea of people freely worshiping God in mind.
National independence is good
National independence has at times been criticized by Christians. It has been said that the independence that we have experienced in the United States has led to apathy among Christians. And that apathy has led to lukewarm faith. However, it can be argued that our apathy has been accelerated much more by our own selfishness and sinfulness as a group of individuals, than our experiencing independence as a nation. Apathy is not produced by national independence or the lack there of. Apathy is produced by a lack of faith or a lack in our individual relationships with Christ.
We have become apathetic because we have forgotten how to love God and one another. “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Romans 12:9-13
God made the nations so that they would inhabit the whole earth (Acts 17:26), but not for the nations to become dependent on each other. He made the nations independent so they could independently remain dependent on Him. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!” Psalm 33:12
Pursuit of happiness
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” While many debate the intent behind the founding father’s reference to a “pursuit of happiness”, it seems reasonable to believe that at least some of them believed that it equated to the pursuit of God.
“There is no maxim in my opinion which is more liable to be misapplied, and which therefore needs elucidation, than the current one that the interest of the majority is the political standard of right and wrong. Taking the word “interest” as synonymous with “ultimate happiness,” in which sense it is qualified with every necessary moral ingredient, the proposition is no doubt true. But taking it in its popular sense, as referring to the immediate augmentation of property and wealth, nothing can be more false.” James Madison
As we celebrate this Independence Day, may we remember that God gave us independence and the freedom that we have so that we would choose and pursue Him… “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him…” Deuteronomy 30:20
Conspiracy theorists are crazy
Mel Gibson starred in the 1997 movie “Conspiracy Theory“, and portrayed a seemingly crazy man (Jerry Fletcher), who believed in a variety of conspiracy theories. It turns out that he was correct about at least one of the conspiracy theories he believed in, as Dr. Jonas (Patrick Stewart) actually attempted to keep conspiratorial secrets hidden by drugging and abusing him.
We should admit the fact that conspiracy theorists are crazy, right? And since they are crazy, it is perfectly acceptable to condemn them and look down upon them, right? After all, the Bible doesn’t speak to conspiracy theories or even mention the word conspiracy. The majority of people don’t seem to believe in conspiracy theories, so why should we? Why should we believe in conspiracy theories, when the government, Hollywood, and mainstream media generally reject such crazy ideas?
After all, conspiracy theories such as MKUltra are absurd, right? As Lee Corso (ESPN, College Game Day) would say, “not so fast, my friend”. It turns out that MKUltra was proven to be a very real mind-control test that was authorized by the CIA in 1953. Test subjects were given mind altering drugs, such as LSD, while having the impression they were assisting in medical research. The MKUltra conspiracy theory was found to be a conspiracy fact in the 1970’s.
Jesus is arrested
It is interesting how often Christians use the phrase “don’t judge people”, yet when someone mentions a conspiracy theory, many Christians harshly criticize and reject the conspiracy theorist. Many times we judge others simply because their ideas don’t conform to our preconceived notions of truth. Yet, how do we know that our preconceived notions of truth are correct? Have we really researched everything we believe to be true?
The word conspiracy is found in the Bible. While different words (schemed, consulted, plotted) are used in place of conspiracy in some translations, they all have essentially the same definition. In fact, the most important conspiracy of all time is recorded in the book of Matthew. “Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him.” Matthew 26:3-4
Jesus was the victim of a great conspiracy. The chief priests and elders conspired against Jesus by having Him arrested and killed. Of course, Judas played a role in the conspiracy against Jesus as well. All this to say, that if you believe God’s word to be true, you also believe in at least one conspiracy theory that is now known as conspiracy fact. Interestingly enough, the disciples seemed to believe Jesus when He foretold of this conspiracy. “…”Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?””
Conspiracies do exist
A conspiracy is defined as “a secret plan made by two or more people to do something that is harmful or illegal”. Therefore, a conspiracy theory is simply a belief of a plan between two or more people to cause harm. These days there are too many conspiracy theories to even begin to keep track of. And the truth is that there are some conspiracy theories that are factual and some that are fiction. It is as simple as that. Since not all conspiracy theories are fiction, we should at least be open to hearing about them.
Don’t be fooled into believing that all conspiracy theories are true, either. There are some conspiracy theories that are far from the truth. We shouldn’t believe everything we read or hear (1 John 4:1). However, we should be willing to follow the truth wherever it leads us. Whether we are watching t.v., listening to the radio, reading the newspaper, searching the internet, or talking to friends, we should be cautious in what we believe. Pray to the Lord for direction in the things you should believe to be true and research multiple sources before arriving at a conclusion. “The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps.” Proverbs 14:15
At the same time, don’t be too quick to dismiss someone’s thoughts just because they are different then your own. Maybe you will learn something from someone else, if you take the time to listen to what they have to say. “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;” James 1:19 Most importantly, if you don’t know what to believe, take it to the Lord. He will guide you to the truth!
Jesus doesn’t endorse Socialism
Socialism is not a new idea. As a political movement, socialism began during the Industrial Revolution. However, it has been a thought in the minds of men and women for much longer. There are those who say that even Jesus taught us the principles of Socialism. Although, it goes without saying that many people have a misunderstanding of what socialism is and what Jesus teaches in regards to money.
Socialist apologists explain that the greatest benefit of Socialism is that it creates equality and it provides prosperity for all. Socialism is “a way of organizing a society in which major industries are owned and controlled by the government rather than by individual people and companies” (Merriam-Webster). The key ingredient in Socialism is government control.
Jesus’ teachings on money are not an endorsement of socialism. Socialism is government enforcement of the redistribution of wealth. Jesus clearly teaches us to make a choice to give what He has first given us, void of government intervention. “Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” ~ Matthew 19:21
Pay your taxes
Jesus commands us to pay our taxes (Matthew 22:21). Paying our taxes involves an act of obedience to Him. It is tempting to view taxation as an us versus them mentality. However, this command from Jesus applies to both citizens and government officials. “Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” Romans 13:7
Jesus commands all of us to “give what you owe them”, so it is applicable to the tax payer and the tax collector (e.g. Matthew). Jesus does not condone government abuse of collecting taxes. Biblically speaking, taxes are used to collect money for the benefit of the nation, state, or city (Ezra 6:8). Taxation becomes theft when one individual’s money is taken from them and given to someone else.
That doesn’t mean we should stop paying our taxes when the government abuses their power with that money. Jesus did not give us conditions for paying our taxes. However, it does mean that the government officials who abuse their powers are accountable to God for their sins. Taxation for the purpose of legal plunder is not glorifying to Jesus. It is theft! And God’s word declares to everyone… “You shall not steal.” Exodus 20:15
Jesus desires generosity
God’s word makes it clear that Jesus is not a Socialist. To be fair, Jesus is not a Capitalist either. He is our king! Although free market Capitalism most closely resembles Jesus’ teachings in regards to money. Capitalism in its purest form allows individuals to make choices in regards to what they do with the money they have been blessed with. Skeptics of the free market claim that Capitalism is flawed because it leads people to greed. However, this is a flawed perspective. Greed abounds in any economic system (even Socialism), because we are sinful beings.
Socialism does not make us equal. In fact, it does almost the exact opposite. Socialism takes from some and gives to others. Eventually it leads to less production, since many individuals no longer desire to work once they no longer have to. In essence, Socialism promotes laziness. Socialism may be the radical idea of sharing, but not the kind of sharing that Jesus teaches. Jesus never commanded the government to force us to be generous. He commands individuals to be generous by giving to the poor out of love.
Pray for our government
“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-4
When was the last time you prayed for our government as a whole or individuals who serve in government? Maybe you pray for our government daily. Or maybe it has been a really long time. Or maybe you have never prayed for our government. Well, today is a great day to start. In case you haven’t noticed, our government as a whole, is not following God. Although, there are a few members of Congress who do have a relationship with the Lord and demonstrate it by what they say and do. For example, Thomas Massie, Justin Amash, and Rand Paul are all men who follow Christ and live out their faith as public servants.
We suggest that all of our representatives need to be kicked out, because none of them do any good. While many of our representatives have forgotten what made our nation great, we still have a small minority of officials who do remain loyal to their oath to uphold the Constitution. Why are we not spending less of our time complaining and more of our time in support of those officials? And for those who have forgotten their oath, maybe we should be reaching out to them and sharing what God has placed upon our hearts.
Scripture makes it clear that we are to pray for, petition, and thank those who are in authority. Notice that God didn’t tell us to just say a lukewarm prayer and then move on. Maybe one of the reasons our government has become so corrupt is because we don’t pray fervently on their behalf, petition them when necessary, and thank them when we should. It is safe to say we don’t pay enough attention to our government. Yet, we should, because doing so leads to a quiet and peaceful life.
Prayer demands action
We know that praying for the needy is important. When someone needs something like shelter, we pray for them. However, we don’t stop there. We offer a place for them to stay or we find someone else who will take them in. “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” James 2:15-17
However, when it comes to politics, many times we say we will pray for our government, but then we stop there. We tell those in public service to “go in peace, be warmed and be filled”. We say that we pray for government, but we don’t really support the candidates that are actually doing good and we don’t reach out in love to those who are doing wrong. Did you know that you can contact members of congress at any time? You may not always be able to speak with a member of congress directly, but they will respond sometimes. And even if you are only able to speak with a member of staff, you can still have your voice heard and get valuable feedback. Sometimes you will get frustrated, but if that happens, be encouraged and press on.
It seems that at some point we got frustrated with our elected officials, to the degree that we no longer feel the need to reach out to them. We sound spiritual when we say we pray for them, but we don’t act. We have stopped voting because we say it doesn’t do any good. We have stopped contacting our representatives, because we say they will never change. We have stopped participating in town hall meetings, because we say no one will listen to us. We have decided that ignoring the problem makes us feel better, so we have given up.
God’s Word tells us to never give up. So pray for, petition, and thank those who represent you. Go to your Heavenly Father in fervent prayer so that He will hear us and heal us. “And My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14