On the Brink of the Election

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There’s palpable tension in the air as we approach the presidential elections. It’s not only because the two candidates are polarizing the country in ways not seen in my lifetime. It’s not only because a businessman with no political experience is running against the first female presidential nominee. And, it’s not only because many people feel that neither candidate is a viable option.

Much of what people are sensing is that which is looming under the surface. The election concerns are simply the visibly churning waters above. What exactly does lie beneath?

1. A largely manufactured race war. Yes, there is widespread and severe economic inequality. Yes, there are serious issues that need to be addressed between communities and police departments nationwide. And yes, there is real racism in American society. But none of these are necessarily new phenomena.

What is new is that more Americans are on some form of welfare than ever before. This fuels the fatherless family syndrome, especially in impoverished communities. Poverty and desperate conditions perpetuate the frustration that often gets aimed at police. And, as always happens, every group is blaming some other group (tribe) for its problems. This is further encouraged when rock-throwing rioters are referred to as “peaceful protesters.”

2. The rise of Islamic terrorism in the US. Of course, this follows on the heels of what’s already occurring in Europe. Yes, Islamic terrorism is a legitimate threat. Yes, it is wrong to assume every Muslim is a terrorist. And yes, many Muslims eagerly embrace the American political system and don’t support sharia law.

But the fact is that government policy and the media keep downplaying the notion that a Muslim could possibly be involved when a terror attack occurs. Then, when it emerges that the suspect is indeed a radicalized Muslim, the obvious motives are obscured under the smog of political correctness. In the meantime, nothing is done to secure the borders or improve the vetting process. And everyone seems shocked when it happens again…and again…and again.

3. The economy is teetering on the brink. Yes, a few select individuals and a number of corporations are doing very well financially. Yes, there are a handful of factories that actually still produce something. And yes, the dollar is still the world’s reserve currency.

Nevertheless, nearly half of all unemployed Americans have given up looking for work. Tent cities are burgeoning in and around numerous cities. The middle class is shrinking, and food costs have risen exponentially. The national debt has doubled since 2008. An increasing number of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. And, adding insult to injury, real wages haven’t risen significantly in decades.

Just one of these three factors–racial tension, Islamic terrorism and economic hardship–is enough to destabilize a society when left unaddressed. But when all three exist within a nation, well, you have the perfect powder keg begging for the stray spark.

It’s no wonder people are feeling uneasy. These are uneasy times.

It’s no wonder Americans are clamoring for a new leader, someone who will reverse the course the country is on.

It’s no wonder that people are fearful for the future. There’s a lot of scary stuff going on out there.

Truth be told, I’m not sure that things can be reversed. Sometimes a nation goes so far that there is no turning back, even if a sincere and wise leader happens to be given the reins of power. Philosopher kings, however, are in short supply.

And when the people of Israel persisted in demanding a king to solve their national woes, well…that didn’t turn out so well.

The types of news stories that I observed once a month a few years ago, or once a week in 2015, I now see daily. It would be foolish to ignore what’s going on in our society. It would be unwise to pretend that looming problems will simply go away.

And I would be fearful if it weren’t for the assurances I have as a Christian. Jesus said,

For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on…for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things…So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.

Pretty simple, right? God knows we have needs. God knows the future. And, God is in control.

These verses don’t mean that things won’t get really bad. They certainly have in other parts of the world at various times in history. However, God promises to take care of those who trust and obey Him:

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

And that is the part of the message that is so often ignored.

The question is not: Are you ready to meet the uncertain future in your own limited strength and finite wisdom? The question is: Are you right with God?

God is steadfast in His love and faithfulness toward His own people. Come what may, the Lord will never leave or forsake those who belong to Him.

Jesus died and rose again so that we might be reconciled to God. This is the best news in these uncertain times. This is the only news that will guarantee an eternally secure future.

So with the elections looming, riots increasing, terrorism on the rise, and economic growth stagnating, I can confidently say, by the grace of God, that I am not afraid. I know Who I am trusting for my future security.

Do you?

 


Scripture reference: Matthew 6:25-34

 

   

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Bursting the Campus Bubble

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The college campus is a social system unto itself. We outsiders refer to it as academia. We expect the freedom and funding that academia receives to give us intellectual advances in civilization. We expect the recipients of higher education to be innovative, productive and on the cutting edge of science, technology and the arts.

We acknowledge that the campus is a bubble, an incubator for young, virile minds. We acknowledge that the time one spends within the walls of this bubble should be an educationally worthwhile season. And though we rib with tongue-in-cheek those professors who never leave its enclaves, we give them a pass because they are preparing others to go forth and carry abroad their messages of intellectual freedom and, hopefully, some notion of ethical obligation.

We don’t expect the bubble to become an end in and of itself. We don’t expect the graduate to enter the real world just as mentally and emotionally immature as when they entered the bubble. We are stunned by the outrageous cost of tuition verses the comparatively meager return. We feel sorry for the person holding a bachelor’s degree who can’t find a job because they majored in popular culture or puppetry or theme park management. In short, we expect more from the bubble.

Instead, we get a multitude of college grads who should have saved their (parents’) money. They should have gone to a vocational school. They should have gotten an entry-level job and worked their way up the ladder. They should have nurtured a creative idea and started their own business. They should have, at the very least, taken a year or two off to travel, meet people and figure out what they actually wanted out of life.

Instead, they learned how to view pornography. They learned how to mix drinks. They learned how to hook up. They learned that capitalism is bad, that western civilization is hurtful and that the most productive thing to do with one’s time is to worry about a statue of a man who had slaves and incidentally penned the Declaration of Independence.

The bubble has betrayed us. Perhaps we ignored it for too long. We assumed all was well within. We shrugged because we were once in that bubble and we turned out okay. Perhaps we forgot that there is a whole generation of people who were raised in a culture of the screen, with a smart phone glued to their hand.

Those same naïve youngsters then go to an institution that teaches them equality is God and no one should be left behind. It teaches them that the worst sin is to possibly hurt someone’s feelings, and that any perceived offense deserves to be punished. It teaches them that only certain people and groups have free speech, that one person can decide what books don’t get read, and that professors can be bullied into submission.

These institutions of higher education foster the notion that nothing is as important as getting a “like” on social media. They encourage narcissism, racial division and a loathing of costume parties. They lure these youth into a bubble, coddle them and send them forth completely unprepared for life, not to mention, in debt.

Yes, the bubble has betrayed us. And we’ve yet see the full consequences of this betrayal on society.

A Small Step for Freedom

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In my first post of the new year I’m pleased to write about a positive development. Irish evangelical pastor James McConnell was found not guilty. This is a tiny ray of hope in the encroaching darkness of religious censorship.

It’s tragic that charges were brought against McConnell in the first place. Thankfully, the judge had enough sense to not overstep the bounds of his legal jurisdiction, correctly stating, “The courts need to be very careful not to criticise speech which, however contemptible, is no more than offensive. It is not the task of the criminal law to censor offensive utterances.”

Well said, judge. It is not the job of the courts “to censor offensive utterances.” If it were, then speech would simply be judged in the court of public opinion. The problem with Mr. Public Opinion is that he is used by those in authority positions to condemn what they personally find offensive. That’s today’s tyranny.

Today’s tyranny doesn’t don military uniforms. Instead, it parades around in pin-stripe suits.

Today’s tyranny doesn’t pound a podium in the middle of a packed stadium. Instead, It raves and rants about microaggressions and reparations in ivy-league classrooms.

Today’s tyranny doesn’t scream and yell, spittle flying. Instead, it talks in measured and soothing tones while sneering at anger as an inappropriate reaction to the loss of liberty.

Today’s tyranny doesn’t have its detractors disappeared into the night. Instead, it openly, and with a straight face, has pastors prosecuted for “offensive” sermons.

Today’s tyranny doesn’t refer to the perpetrators of religiously-motivated violence as Islamic terrorists. Instead, it demonizes peaceful, evangelical pastors as criminals because they dare to speak their minds.

Today’s tyranny doesn’t take over newspapers and raid its opposition. Instead, it buys off its competition and ridicules “fringe” media.

Today’s tyranny doesn’t blame societal problems on a culture of violence and death. Instead, it projects the illusion that guns themselves are responsible.

Today’s tyranny is the most dangerous yet to be seen because it wears the guise of political correctness. It scoffs at those who disagree as uneducated and backward. It promotes freedom of speech for itself alone.

SO, it’s refreshing to see than in at least in one courtroom in Northern Ireland a judge refused to violate a man’s right to express a personal belief. It’s a small victory for freedom and a not so insignificant chink in the shiny armor of tyranny.

May 2016 see more of the same!

 

The Pulpit is a Free Speech Zone

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The trial for the evangelical Irish pastor James McConnell is gaining international attention, and well it should be. He is charged with making “grossly offensive” comments from his pulpit, statements that went out as a broadcast over the internet. Hence, the charge specifically reads, “improper use of a public electronic communications network.”

This begs the question, what were these comments that were so offensive they call this man to be brought up on criminal charges? It’s no surprise in our current political climate that the comments in question have to do with Islam. McConnell referred to the religion as “satanic” and “heathen.”

I’m not going to opine on the Muslim religion here. I am going to rant about freedom of speech. If it’s not protected in the pulpit, it’s not protected anywhere.

I’m not sure if Northern Ireland has a First Amendment, per say. But they are a part of the United Kingdom, whose political heritage claims the Magna Carta, John Locke and the balancing power of Parliament. We’re talking about the soil upon which the notion of individual liberty budded. It is in McConnell’s natural right as human being within a supposedly democratic and free society to preach what he desires from the pulpit.

I can see McConnell not being able to make such comments in Saudi Arabia without legal (and perhaps lethal) repercussions. But for him not to be able to say what he said in Northern Ireland is a slap in the face to freedom. Shame on the government of Northern Ireland.

Shame on them because freedom of speech covers offensive speech. After all, anyone’s opinion will inevitably offend someone. To prohibit “offensive” speech is to ban talking all together.

But of course, banning all speech is not the intent. Banning certain kinds of speech made by certain individuals is. McConnell’s evangelical opinions are condemned. But what about the imams in Northern Ireland who preach that Christianity is “satanic” and that western civilization is the “Great Satan”? Maybe I missed the simultaneous trials going on targeting Muslim clerics who’ve made “offensive” statements against Christianity. 

This is nothing less than selective enforcement. Only particular religions and groups enjoy free speech.

The spin placed upon this case by the courts is this: because the statements went out over the internet, they are liable for prosecution. I thought speech was still free on the internet. I guess not.

I’m a Christian. I’m an evangelical. I often preach from a pulpit. And I say what I feel God lays upon my heart. If I were to heed the social critics, I would hang my head in shame. I would apologize for what I believe. I would put duct tape over my mouth and grovel at the feet of political correctness.

But I’m not going to do any of that.

I wrote The Hidden Altar back in 2009 (but didn’t publish it until 2012). One of the main characters is an American pastor who is charged under anti-terrorism laws for a comment he inadvertently makes from the pulpit. I’ve had people that read the novel tell me they really enjoyed the story, but the scenario seemed unrealistic.  

When I read an article like this, it only confirms to me that in fact The Hidden Altar’s story-line is not fantastical. We’re seeing it happen right now.

At risk of getting preachy here, I have to ask. Where do you stand on this issue? Will you tolerate the selective persecution of free speech? Will you remain silent? Today it’s some unknown Irish pastor. Tomorrow it will be an American pastor. Soon enough, it will be you.

   

I Weep For Huck Finn

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I liked Huckleberry Finn. It’s been a while since I’ve read it. I should probably read it again to see what I think about it these days. Regardless, I am considering buying a few extra copies and handing them out. Talk of book banning always motivates me to promote “seditious” material.

Of course, striking ole’ Huck from a school reading list is nothing new. It’s also merely symptomatic of much, much bigger problems. All I can picture is bonfires surrounded by masses of students, gleefully tossing “offensive materials into the flames as they wear malicious smiles and smugly think themselves progressive. How terrifying. (insert shudder here)

According to this article, …a Montgomery County school removed Huckleberry Finn from its curriculum after a group of students said the book made them feel uncomfortable.”

So feelings have really become the new standard by which we decide what can be read and what can’t? I guess that means I can run around demanding that anything that makes me “uncomfortable” must be struck from society. Even if I could do that, I wouldn’t.

The annoying thing about free speech is that it includes all speech—even the speech you or I don’t like. The satisfying thing about free speech is that Mark Twain is allowed to write what he wants. That means you and I are too.

Some white people in nineteenth-century America used offensive, racially-charged language.

Shocker, I know.

Part of learning who we are and where we’ve come from is reading books that were written in time periods when people spoke and acted in ways that aren’t socially acceptable today.

One way to ensure that a student doesn’t receive an education is to filter the information he receives so that he never learns to think for himself. Another way is just to ignore the parts of history and literature that she might not like.

I think the scariest statement in this article is: 

We have all come to the conclusion that the community costs of reading this book in 11th grade outweigh the literary benefits.

Community costs? Where did that come from? Mao’s Little Red Book?

All I can say is look out when classic literature begins to be sacrificed for community “feelings.” Suddenly it’s normal in a free society to ban a book because someone might get their feelings hurt. Truth be told, the very idea of catering to community costs offends me. 

Libertybased societies emphasize the freedom of the individual. Collectivist societies emphasize the good of the community. In the latter some bureaucrat gets to decide what is best for everyone and enforces that idea via state directive. You and I don’t get to choose what we think is best. It is decided for us.

I’m glad I took the time to read it Huckleberry Finn. You may disagree that my time was well spent. That’s fine. But please, Mr. Principal (or whoever else), don’t pretend that you decree the standard for making judgments on behalf of the community.

I don’t have a right not to be offended.

I accept that.

In this real world in which we live there is no “safe space” from offense. The First Amendment is politically, culturally and socially the safest space for us all.

The Murky Swamp of Libertarianism

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I read with a chuckle today this Washington Post article. The writer is perplexed and annoyed that Trump would go on Alex Jones’  radio show. The charge leveled at Trump is that his “more controversial assertions…come from the murky swamp of right-wing, libertarian and flat-out paranoid sources.”

I’m not a Trump supporter, but goodness me, I didn’t realize that libertarian views slithered out of a murky swamp.

Let me try to understand. Free speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion (the First Amendment) slithered out of a murky swamp. The right to privacy (the Fourth Amendment) slithered out of a murky swamp. The right to a speedy trial and a jury (the sixth amendment) slithered out of a murky swamp. After all, the Bill of Rights is a “libertarian” document.

That must mean that “safe spaces, the banning of classic literature, the promotion of internet censorship, the attack on Christmas, and mass government surveillance floated down from the heavenly spheres.

Apparently, if you question the official story about anything you yourself crawled out of the murky swamp of slimy libertarianism. 

What I find interesting is how obviously terrified the writer of this article is of rising “fringe” media. Apparently I should trust the traditional media outlets but turn my back on information I might stumble across in the backwaters of the internet.

How about this. I’ll receive all my news with a healthy dose of salt, mainstream or otherwise. I’ll do my own research. I’ll come to my own conclusions.

I’ll hold Trump to the same standard that I hold Hillary, or Bernie or Obama. That is, when it comes to my political views, I’ll hold them all up to the Constitution, Bill of Rights and ultimately, to Scripture. I’ll dunk them in the murky swamp of libertarianism (they might meet folks like John Locke and Thomas Jefferson hanging out down there). I might even be tempted to consider an article from a “fringe” website.

I might be tempted to do that because freedom of the press means anyone can take up the reporter’s mantle. What makes me leery is not an investigation of the moon landing. What makes me leery is some reporter from the Washington Post presuming to tell me what I’m supposed to believe and what I’m not.

That, my friends, is totalitarianism. But maybe totalitarianism floated down from the heavenly spheres.

Hugging is a Crime in a Culture of Doublethink

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If you’ve missed similar stories like this one over the last few years, you don’t yet know it is now against the rules to hug. I had friends in school that would have had to be tied up to have kept them from this common assertion of their feminine humanity. It was in their nature, simply part of who they were. There was nothing sexually suggestive about it. Hugging was these gals way of expressing themselves.

I also saw some public displays of affection go on in the hallways of my high school that made me blush (or would these days, anyhow). These acts were light years beyond a hug and are arguably inappropriate in any public setting. But this poor girl in question got suspended for only trying to cheer up a friend.

It is the hypocrisy that drives me crazy.

We live in a sex-saturated societyThe US is the top producer of pornographic DVDs and web material, producing in excess of 400 porn films every week. Pornography addiction is rampant. Even “regular” TV increasingly pushes the limits. Now with the internet and smartphones, younger and younger children are exposed to what used to be considered a strictly adult domain.  

Children and teens are bombarded with sexually-explicit material. Some are seeing porn as young as 2 years old and for many children viewing porn often becomes a routine practice by their pre-teen years. Even if parents manage to keep their children relatively protected from the internet, prime-time TV and advertisements bombard our society and teach both explicitly and implicitly that extramarital and illicit sex is normal and expected.

But now, schools suddenly begin to punish children for what…being sexually active? That in and of itself wouldn’t make sense considering what our children are exposed to on a daily basis. But more ludicrously, what they actually are being punished for is hugging. How can society unabashedly promote sexual promiscuity and experimentation and then suspend a girl for hugging her friend?  

It’s not only the hypocrisy and the absurdity that bothers me, but also the mixed-message that is sent in the process.

How does a developing mind process this obvious practice in doublethink? It doesn’t.

Children need clarity. The brain functions most proficiently when instructed according to innate principles of logic and equipped with classical reasoning skills. But when the “pornography is good but hugging is bad” pseudo-rational is peddled, healthy mental development is impaired. What is taught is that there is no reason to reason.

It’s tragic enough that multitudes of children are growing up addicted to pornography. Adding insult to injury, they are then told that innocent hugging is a punishable offence.

It’s a very similar scenario to the gun demonization going on in schools. Children grow up watching simulated violence and playing first-person shooter games. Then a boy happens to bite a pop-tart into the shape of a gun and is suspended from school.

When societies begin to promote decadence and simultaneously indoctrinate in doublethink, look-out. Populations are not primarily controlled by force. That is only the final step. Long before we get to that point, we are manipulated into mental submission and docility. And this mind-control occurs when two opposite messages are offered, destructively implying that both can somehow be correct.

Confusing? That’s the point.

   

The National Security Myth

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With each passing day, the consensus grows that the Russian airbus that fell out of the sky over Egypt was taken down by a terrorist act (here). This could very well lead to further western involvement in Syria. Regardless, as a result one thing is for sure: we will all feel increased pressure from the security state.

Ever since 9/11 “national security” has been the phrase used to justify everything from mass-surveillance to invasive airport screenings, from international wars to domestic checkpoints, from illegal detentions to “free-speech zones.”

The 9/11 highjackers attacked the US because, in the words of George W. Bush, “they hated our freedoms.” Apparently they’ve accomplished their mission to take those freedoms away. Now, 14 years later, the average American citizen has suffered loss in regards to virtually every right embodied in the original ten amendments of the Bill of Rights. Pardon me, I err. I haven’t yet had to quarter troops in my home.

How was this accomplished? The answer is quite simply fear. There are real terrorists out there, no doubt. But the thing about terrorism is that it can strike anywhere and at any time. It’s kind of like life in that way. Car accidents and cancer diagnosis are typically unexpected, unpredictable and life-altering. We can make cars safer and implement early disease detection procedures, but in the final tally, we are not safe. And no one–least of all the government–can guarantee our safety.

We live in a scary world in the best of times. However, there is something I fear much more than the potentiality of terrorism. What I fear is the loss of liberty. I can accept terrorism because I know we live in a fallen world where sin runs rampant. I am thankful for security protocols and I acknowledge the need for vigilance, especially for those who are in law enforcement. However, realistic preventative measures must come from an informed and alert citizenry. Only together can we guard against both terrorism and tyranny.

But if we give into fear, then we will lose everything. And we’ve already gone a good ways down that road. If we are willing to give up freedom for security we will lose freedom without ever actually becoming safer. I fear tyranny more than I fear terrorism. Terrorism is typically random, sporadic and rare. Tyranny is coordinated, concentrated and historically-speaking, all too common.

Somehow we in the US and in Europe have allowed ourselves to be bullied into fearful submission. If the government demands capitulation, we all too often concede without question. For those who raise their hands with the query of why, those same hands are slapped down by the ever-ready rod of national security. Eventually, if the current state of affairs continues, any remaining dissent will be dealt with through the time-honored method of boot and cudgel.

Above all, let’s guard against fear. Let us neither fear the state nor terrorists. It’s the former, however, that possesses the power to take away our civil liberties.

People will worship something. The heart is designed in such a way that it will seek out an object upon which to fix its affection, an ideal of which to ascribe, or even simply a reason to get out of bed day after day. Worship is intuitive.

And regardless of whether a person acknowledges God’s existence or not, he will worship nevertheless. Let us stand in fearful and worshipful awe of the Lord; not in fear of mere men with misguided notions of idealism, and certainly not in fear of the all too fallible state.

Spreading Democracy (A Bad Idea)

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The twentieth-century is lauded politically as the age of the victory of the democratic ideal. The United States has seemingly appointed itself the dispenser of democracy worldwide. The problem is that the US is not a democracy.

The US is a constitutional republic. And it’s not merely a matter of semantics. There are fundamental differences between a democracy and a republic. These differences are important enough that they need to be rightly recognized and understood. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to give the textbook answer. I will, however, attempt to offer my views on the distinction.

A democracy at its most fundamental level is mob-rule. The majority triumphs. The winner takes all. Athens and other Greek city-states operated as democracies. Aristotle was skeptical of this form of government. The framers of the Constitution knew the dangers as well and attempted to avoid the pitfalls that a pure democracy would inevitably produce.

The most obvious danger of a democracy is that men are too easily swayed by charismatic personalities. If an elegant and influential speaker can convince his hearers that his position is preferable, he can secure the majority’s vote. It is all too easy for truth and logic to be cast aside in favor of the “best” argument.

In a pure democracy there is very little to anchor policy. Laws continuously evolve according to the whims of the populace or its leaders and thus too easily morph into something completely different than was their original intent. Therefore, the unique and necessary feature of a constitutional republic is that it is firmly fixed upon the rule of law. This defining characteristic in the US is known as the Constitution (with its accompanying Bill of Rights).

Everyone from presidents to police officers takes an oath to the Constitution. Yes, government officials do represent the people, but first and foremost their job is to uphold the rule of law. Officials are not elected to to make their own renegade decisions. The Constitution offers the governmental and civil framework through which elected representatives of the people perform their duties.

The American founders were concerned that both the people and the states be represented in government. They acknowledged how crucial it is for the citizens to have a voice. They also understood that their needs to be a balance between the people’s voice, the states’ sovereignty and the rule of law. This is where the little understood electoral college comes in. Because of it, American citizens indirectly elect their government officials. The states appoint their respective electors, which, in theory, honors the power of the states without annulling the people’s desire.  

Why is all of this important? A pure democracy is easy to manipulate or corrupt. A purely republican form of government, though representative, has no anchor to check and stabilize man’s perpetual propensity toward the accumulation of absolute power (tyranny). A constitutional republic, however, has as its foundation a fixed and stable constitution. A constitutional republic not only ensures representation of the people and the states, it simultaneously safeguards– through its constitution–the inalienable rights of the individual.

It is entirely possible that the American people and states no longer meaningfully exercise their legitimate authority. It is possible that the Constitution is largely ignored. And it is possible that our “elected” officials simply make their own decisions according to the desires of those who know the locations of the closets where the ugliest skeletons reside. I hope not. Yet, it is possible.

The next time someone insists the United States is a democracy, beg to differ. The Founders surely would have.

What Terrorism is NOT

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Sometimes there is a news story so outrageous that I can’t help but sound off about it. The most recent of these concerns the indictment of fifteen people in Georgia on charges of terrorism. What did they do? When I hear of a charge that severe, a charge that carries up to twenty years if convicted, I think of certain activities that are horrendous, unspeakable, activities that take lives or attempt to do so.

I think about all of those horrific images we associate with terrorism: explosions, blood, smoke and carnage. I think about the Middle East and northern Africa, the IRA and Al-Qaeda. I think about extremists and ideologies, threats and coercions. I think about all of these things because they are traditionally synonymous with terrorism.

Terrorism is an attempt by its perpetrator to instill terror into its victims. As we all know all too well, there are those who will stop at nothing to do so.

What I do not think about when I hear the word terrorism is waving a confederate flag and getting into an altercation as a result. But these are apparently now activities that will get one brought up on charges of terrorism. This deeply concerns me. And for anyone who values liberty, it should concern you too.  

Before I go any further let me make clear that I do not fly a confederate flag. I have no interest whatsoever in doing so. That said, I do think the history of the confederate flag is much more complex than the simple and naive perception that it represents racism and nothing else. However, the issue at hand has nothing to do with the confederate flag. It has everything to do with the First Amendment.

The details of the story are still in question. The group, Respect the Flag, claims they were swarmed by African-american party-goers who threw rocks and threatened them with weapons. The party-goers claimed that the flag-flyers parked nearby and began making threats and yelling racial slurs.

Okay. Let’s see here. If there were only insults hurled from either side, that is not terrorism. If there were actual threats made, that is still not terrorism. Even if there was physical abuse, that is not terrorism. The latter is called assault and charges should be made accordingly.

The members of the flag-flyers were accused of “criminal gang activity” and charged with making “terroristic threats” against the party-goers. By that standard I guess we can expect people involved in inner-city gang violence to be arrested and charged with terrorism in the future? Probably not.

The definition of terrorism is: the use of violence or intimidation in the pursuit of political aims. As with any law we have to look at its intent, not search for ways to stretch and distort said law to encompass any action or activity that might conceivably be twisted to fit the definition. If all of a sudden flying a confederate flag is terrorism, where does it stop? What other flags or symbols or emblems will be banned? And do we then make “racist” comments an act of terrorism?

The First Amendment protects all speech, even the speech you or I may not like. Unless the prosecutor in this upcoming case can prove that the intent of the Respect the Flag members in question was to promote a political ideology through violent means, it is not terrorism. Even then, we have to be extremely careful in distinguishing between run-of-the-mill criminal threats versus actual terrorism. The line is not thin. It is dangerous to make it so.

When people are afraid to express their opinion because of possible reprisals, the First Amendment is in jeopardy. You must protect the rights of everyone to express their views or you will eventually lose your right to speak freely. Am I being too severe in my appraisal? No, because the threat to individual liberty historically always starts small. Now I don’t consider this recent episode a “small” matter, but I am aware that others might feel the severe charges are appropriate.

In larger context, consider the parallel rights along with speech contained in the First Amendment: religious liberty and freedom of the press. As a conservative, evangelical Christian I am all too aware that beliefs I hold dearly and proclaim openly are certainly “offensive” to some people. If I don’t defend the rights of someone to wave a particular flag and express a particular opinion (even when I do not agree), then I will eventually find statements I make also forbidden. I might be called “hateful” because something in a sermon I preach is unpalatable to a certain group of people. Suddenly, a charge of terrorism is bandied about because some special interest group or federal judge is offended.

Too far fetched? Not at all. Both Hitler and Stalin used “anti-terrorism” laws to arrest their political enemies and to suppress freedom of speech, religion and the press. This could never happen in America? Look around. Maybe it already is…