There are two big pop-culture news stories of late that I’ve reserved comment about in favor of waiting for more information. The first is the Elon Musk take-over of Twitter, the second is Jonny Depp’s defamation lawsuit against his ex-wife Amber Heard. I also held back because I needed to think through what could be an apparent contradiction: can you support Musk’s desire for free speech and support Depp’s defamation lawsuit? I think you can. More than that, I think you should. Explanation below; but first the stories:
Elon Musk is in the process of buying Twitter out from under its status as a publically traded platform in a transparent effort to make that de facto public square more transparent. While this article isn’t the space to debate Twitter’s untoward practices (I’ve never even used it), I am personally convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that whatever rules of engagement they created were simply not being applied fairly. Conservatives are undeniably shadow-banned across social media (if not outright banned, even for making jokes); meanwhile, there are literal terrorists around the world who are allowed to remain on these platforms spewing hatred and actual calls for violence while a sitting president and a Christian satire site get banned for dubious reasons. True story: there was a time in the not-so-distant past that you could have been banned for asking questions about the presidential election; you could have been banned for saying you should or should not wear a mask (depending on when you said what); in early 2021 you could have been banned for saying the v*x didn’t preclude a C*vid infection (which financially undermined relationship between Washington, Big Pharma, as well as their publicity campaign); you could have been banned for questioning the efficacy of homemade cloth masks (as opposed to N95’s, ala the CDC); you could have been banned for sharing Hunter’s laptop story (which polls consistently show would have changed several voters, especially in swing states). Now all of these facts are accepted and obvious, proving my point: in their war against “disinformation,” Twitter et al inaugurated themselves as the Truth Police, and if you told the truth or even asked questions against the grain at the wrong time you were throttled or banned. Even more alarming, the press secretary of the current POTUS called upon social media to crack down on what that administration considered “misinformation.” Of course they did: something like 98% of Twitter’s employees donated to DNC candidates. Yes, Section 230 has been bandied around for the last few years, but for all its bloviating even the GOP failed to act when they had a super majority. Don’t bother with partisanship: no one is safe from criticism and failures. Anyone who wants to “protect” you from misinformation is not your friend—they are captors who want to “protect” their hostages.
Anyway, long story short Musk bought Twitter with his own money, and the MSM is losing their collective minds because they’re afraid he’ll do the same thing that they’ve been doing for years—in fact, the more they complain the more they accidentally say the quiet part out loud and show themselves to be hypocritical charlatans actively stifling free speech. Whether Musk will open Twitter up or not is irrelevant, but the Left’s screaming only proves my point. The entrepreneur who did and is doing more for green vehicles and environmentally friendly consumerism than anyone in the world left California because of that state’s stifling political bureaucracy, and he simply wants the rules of engagement to be applied equally in the public square. At least, that’s what he says. Time will tell, I suppose.
On the other channel, there’s Jonny Depp, an actor who is a victim of domestic violence, slander, and libel—this is undeniable, per his ex-wife’s own testimony. Whether or not Depp is also a perpetrator of abuse is not on trial; the lawsuit is about defamation. It certainly looks like Amber Heard took advantage of the cultural climate a couple years ago and decimated Depp’s career in the court of public opinion. (Although I’m not sure if a straight-to-VHS Pirates of the Caribbean: The Search for a Decent Sequel would’ve done the world any more favors.) For that, she is being sued for a cool $50 mil. Not being a lawyer, I at least know that the bar is set extremely high for defamation, and rightly so. Regardless of the outcome, we are watching Edward Scissorhands rocket back into popularity, whilst Heard will likely drop back to landing two-bit parts in crappy superhero movies—if she lands on anything.
Musk’s apparent involvement with Amber Heard notwithstanding, these two stories are events are related in the greater cultural battle for truth and the freedom of speech. If you are a part of the Christian church, I believe these topics also relate to your spiritual freedoms (and responsibilities) as a Christian living in America. For starters, to every citizen of this country belongs the freedom to speak, and that is a self-evident human right which is enshrined in the bedrock of America’s Bill of Rights. Only you can silence your tongue, and part of what made this political experiment so successful is the lack of governmental intrusion on any personal opinion, religion, or creed. The only caveats are certain tangible and appropriate consequences for speech that exist for the protection of your neighbor: for example, if you explicitly call for violence (like pro-abortionists after the leaked SCOTUS opinion … gee I wonder why they’re still on Twitter), you should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the laws that already exist. If you slander/libel someone and cause them to lose their livelihood, you should be sued for defamation. If you offer an opinion about something in the public square, you should be prepared for someone else to hold a contrary opinion and serve it back to you. That’s the beauty of our system: due process and laws exist both to protect your freedom of speech and encourage the integrity of truthful speech. But it is harder—and should be harder—to prove defamation than it is to hinder free speech. No matter the speech, it should be defended as free to be said, provided real crimes are not committed and lives are not destroyed.
What does this have to do with being a Christian? Because if one voice is squashed, no speech is safe, and that would make the church’s mission a heck of a lot harder in America. The open and free exchange of dialogue, which often carries great peril of discomfort, ensures the greatest dignity granted to those made in the image of God: the dignity of thinking for yourself and being able to change your mind.
As a Christian, you have freedom of speech—but only if the truth is what you speak. Let’s not forget that repentance—not Big Brother—is the modus operandi for the church. The 8th commandment prohibits lies; the corroborative community is required for reconciliation; the tongue is the most dangerous muscle in your body. And while at the same time significantly limiting your own tongue to speak only truth, the sophistication of the Lutheran doctrine of two kingdoms (the church and the world) also allows for the paradoxical support of brazen, unadulterated, even Satanic free speech of our fellow citizens. Simply put, if you do not support the full freedom of speech as a citizen of the world (yes, even the screamers who hate your guts), you cannot be surprised when a sermon on Ephesians 5 is labeled “hate speech” or your church is deemed “non-essential.” You reap what you sow. Besides, if no one is silenced, then perhaps reasonable minds can debate ideas and facts, sometimes even changing their opinions. Musk and Depp are reminding us of that.
There are no safe spaces for your ears, because life isn’t safe. Remember, Jesus was accused of fomenting violence. Jesus was accused of plotting an insurrection. Jesus was accused of blasphemy, lies, and heresy. Jesus was cancelled on the cross. Why? Because Jesus told the truth. Period. And not only did he accept the consequences, but he gave his church his Spirit so that they too could speak the truth. So that more people could know the truth. And that Truth sets us free by his death and resurrection. The First Amendment is by no means necessary for the church to thrive, but why would you want to give that up?
In conclusion, please don’t roll over and say that the church doesn’t have any say in the world’s laws, especially the freedom of speech. In Christian freedom, I can and should step into that left-hand kingdom and fight for the freedom of speech for all people. This is first for the sake of my neighbor, because the more truth is throttled the more of my neighbors go to hell.