Freedom v. Freedom

The ultimate stalemate of modern Protestant liberalism will come when the freedom of speech meets freedom of religion in an immoveable-object/unstoppable-force collision. In a recent case, a Pakistani Christian mother and field worker was sentenced to death when she was accused by a fellow worker of insulting Muhammed. The modern liberal may have to flip a coin to decide this one, because there is nothing that would inherently allow him to favor one side or the other in this case.

Anyone who wholeheartedly endorses the freedom of speech would certainly encourage her to speak her mind. But intercultural tolerance of the modern variety and the foundation of contextual morality beneath it would require us to allow other cultures to be governed by their own norms and values. The theological liberalism of the 20th century has never in fact held strongly to the idea of religious freedom, except insofar as it allows for the rejection of orthodoxy, fundamentalism, or church authority. However, when the religion is not Christianity and the place at issue is not the U.S., there is an expectation that cultural respect and toleration will give discretion to other cultures to govern themselves by different ethics, sacred texts, and social norms. If respect for religious diversity does not extend to fundamentalists in Kansas, it should nonetheless for other reasons be granted to zealots on the other side of the world.

Thus in the face of a working mom who spoke her mind, Protestant liberalism can offer little more than a shrug. That is, of course, if it wants to be consistent. But then maybe consistency is the value that will give way.

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4 thoughts on “Freedom v. Freedom

  1. Even freedom of speech has its limits (i.e. yelling ‘bomb’ on an airplane) as does freedom of religion (altar calls in a public school classroom). Neither should merit the death penalty, in America or elsewhere.

    As flawed and inconsistent as we are in this nation when in comes to applying these principles, it’s difficult to think of many countries with a better implementation of free speech and religious freedom.

    As this recent Pakistani case shows, it’s far easier to be a Christian in the U.S. than other places. (no thanks to Protestant liberalism)

  2. Just finished my second reading of your comments about modern Christian liberalism and suspect there is a limit to acceptance of social and religious norms in any culture when the message of Jesus to all seems to prohibit harm to another of a magnitude that includes a “death penalty”. Open to discussion.

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