Wow, today was a big news day for free speech. College campuses are up in arms as students demand they be guaranteed “safe zones” where they can be protected from hearing ideas that they don’t like but openly criticize anyone with ideas that don’t match their own. Let’s see, last time I looked, if you are only fed one set of ideas day and night, isn’t that brainwashing? Isn’t that what cults do to capture the minds of their initiates? When did we stop teaching our children to embrace the process of evaluating and thinking through ideas to their logical conclusion?
I don’t necessarily like listening to someone with ideas that do not fit my value system. But, listening to those ideas and running them through the sieve of what God’s Word says strengthens my discernment of what is God’s way of approaching life compared to the world’s way. Being aware of the contrast benefits me. When our children were young, we didn’t shield them from all television; we talked about events in the news. We discussed various ideas around the kitchen table. We taught them how to discern good ideas from bad ideas by following each to their logical conclusion and seeing the result of that line of thinking. Yes, they were shielded from truly harmful things but not from what would make them think.
It seems America has raised a generation of children who have grown up into adult bodies (though not necessarily adult behavior) with the belief that they are entitled to do anything they want to do and entitled not to do anything they don’t want to do. Famed attorney Alan Dershowitz (whose views are generally not conservative) told Fox News on Thursday, “The last thing these students want is …diversity of ideas…They want complete control over their personal lives, over their sex lives, over the use of drugs, but they want mommy and daddy dean to please give them a safe place, to protect them from ideas that maybe are insensitive, maybe will make them think…It is ‘free speech for me, but not for thee’.”
So, how should Christians think about that?
Well, for one thing, Dershowitz unknowingly describes sin—the active rebellion kind. If you are a parent, make sure your child knows what sin looks like. Talk about these attitudes and relate them to our rebellion against God. It’s okay to call rebellion “sin.” A demand of entitlement is sin.
For another thing, if you are a helicopter parent who has been over-protecting her child, training that child to take offence easily (you know who you are), as Bob Newhart says in his famous video, “Stop it!” See the logical result of such over-protection and just stop it. We can train children to be sensitive to not hurting others without making them so weak they can’t handle conflict.
Thirdly, help your child be ready to live in the real world, which does not guarantee continual protection from anything, including the diversity of ideas. All of human history argues against this expectation of “safe zones.” Discuss ideas. Take each one to its logical conclusion to see the results and the impact on others besides ourselves. As Paul says, “We tear down arguments and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
Read the book of Acts. God through His Spirit working in Paul’s life actually used the diversity of ideas in each culture to His own advantage, drawing many to Himself. And, it wasn’t safe! For Peter or Paul. Or, anyone else trying to change the world for God. Yet, the Spirit working in the proclaimer started with the ideas expressed in each culture and turned them into a reason to trust in God instead. Maybe we need to practice that a bit more.
Radical Acts Bible Study (read online)
Radical Acts Bible Study (download pdf)
Acts of the Holy Spirit Bible Study (read online)