November 2006 - Volume 11, Issue 4

Freedom Of Speech

By Rev. Mark Connolly

A photo of the Declaration of IndependenceOne of the greatest qualities of our country is the fact that we have freedom of speech. Freedom really gives us permission to speak our mind, to utter our thoughts and to be quite powerful when we have to state a conviction. One of the tragedies of freedom of speech is that it can easily be violated. For example, you have all heard the phrase, you cannot yell "fire" in a crowded theater simply because it would cause chaos and serious harm to those who are there. When any of us has to go to court we have to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If we violate that oath, we can be placed in jail and our freedom temporarily taken away from us because of a jail sentence. If you study the Gospel, there is that great line where Pontius Pilate says, "what is truth"?

That is what we have to ask ourselves today. Is it possible that so many people don't know what truth is? Now we are hearing over and over again that the President of our country, based on the intelligence that he had, did not tell us the whole truth of why we should invade Iraq. We all remember we were told we had the threat of weapons of mass destruction and if we did not act it could be possible in years that a mushroom cloud could over our heads or a warfare which would do devastating damage to our country. The tragedy of taking truth for granted is that it lessens the society and the integrity of the society of the people who are in it. If you and I tell a lie because we can get away with it or because it is not going to do any immediate harm then we continue it. If others do the same, tell a lie and feel they can get away with it and cause no harm, then they propagate that same bad habit. If you get a country with people filled with the idea that lying is not a form of dishonesty and it really is not hurting that many people than you can see how our country will get into series moral and spiritual trouble.

Telling the truth is what we tell our children to do. We tell them it is wrong to cheat on exams in school. Yet we hear in some of the most prestigious academies and universities that cheating is a way of life. We tell our children to be totally honest in school and yet many of these same parents do anything to cheat on their income tax.

We have forgotten that Jesus Christ died on a Cross because of his conviction to be totally truthful. He told His people that He was here to redeem them and save them. He gave His people a code of ethics and a set of values that many of them rejected simply because they did not want to experience truth in their midst. Shakespeare has great line, "to thine own self be true". And it is something we have to take to heart. If our country is to grow and flourish, it will grow and flourish when people recognize the value of telling the whole truth in their relationship with others. So many of us have heard over the years mental reservations, a half truths, a partial truth, that we know have now masked the idea of even telling the whole truth to those who need to give the whole truth. We are afraid to tell people if they are drinking excessively or they are drinking too much. It is the same thing with gambling. If they are gambling too much we are afraid to tell them. We have become a nation of truth dodgers. You don't have to be that accurate in telling the truth. You can let things be partially interpreted and that is okay. This is the mentality that pollutes the integrity of our country.

When you think of the fact that the founding fathers of our country signed the Declaration of Independence on the dotted line because they wanted to impart values of honesty and truthfulness to us that should be a reminder of the price that some people paid to preserve the truth. If you study the crucifixion of Christ, whose whole life was one of truthfulness, we also know he paid a price. But in reality, when you break down the values of a nation that is totally truthful or not, you have a nation that is going to achieve greatness or not. One of the great qualities we have is the value of freedom. Christ has told us over and over, "the truth will set you free". We have no choice but to follow him if we want to protect our church and country.