The following story, originally titled Land of the Free, Home of the Brave is based on recent events on America’s college campuses. Enjoy . . . and do not forget to leave a comment and subscribe to receive future updates!
The older man carefully positioned the last of his displays in the free-speech zone of the university campus. Students passed by, disturbed at the imagery and the message. A growing tension filled the open area. It was almost palpable, as though a collective consciousness was forming words: Wasn’t anyone going to do something?
Finally a young man stepped forward. “You need to take those down right now.”
The older man stood up. “Why?” he asked.
“You need to take those down right now or I am taking them down for you.” Other college students began to applaud. The young man was standing up for justice.
“You have not answered my question,” the older man asked. “Do you have no answer?”
“Of course I do,” the young man said. “It is because they are offensive. They are disgusting. They are promoting hate and bigotry. We do not want bigots around here.”
The older man studied the young man’s face for a moment. “Do you know what free speech is?”
“Do not lecture me on free speech, old man. I know what free speech is. This is not free speech. This is bigotry and hate pretending to be free speech. This is bigotry under the guise of religious freedom. This is plain wrong. Take your displays down or I will take them down for you.”
“Have I said I hate anyone? Besides, I do not believe you understand the principle of free speech or the principles that have governed this nation, or the or the right of its citizens to speak the truth — ”
“F*** truth,” the man said. Look, I told you once already. What you are doing here is wrong. I don’t have time to dialog about ideas and principles and truth. I stand for justice.” The college students applauded again. They agreed. Now was not the time for a lecture on freedom. Now was the time to stand up for what was right.
The older man looked to the crowd. “Would you like me to take my principles and ideas about truth —”
“Bigotry you mean!” A student yelled from the crowd. Like the young man, he was also brave. He was willing to stand up for what was right.
The older man continued, “Would you like me to take my truth and leave this campus and never return?”
“Yes!” the crowd answered with even greater applause.
“Tell you what,” the older man responded. “I will do exactly that. I will even burn these displays myself and never prop them up on any public space again. I will remove myself from your presence completely.” The crowd cheered even louder.
“Provided,” the older man continued, turning to the young man, “you can tell me why what I am doing is wrong, and why what you are doing is right.”
The crowd said, “Do it! Tell him! Yeah, do it!” But the young man just stood there and then said, “I don’t have to stand around here and ‘reason’ with you.” But the crowd said, “No do it, man! Give him hell!” He was their hero.
The older man responded, “You stand for justice, don’t you? Your desire is to see bigotry stamped out in this nation, wherever it exists? Then this is a deal of a lifetime. You can tear down all my displays today, and I will have them back up tomorrow, here or at another campus. You can extinguish my presence here, but I will establish my presence somewhere else.
“But you have my word: If you show me why your are in the right and why I am in the wrong, I will never show my face again, anywhere. So which you rather have, justice for a day, or justice for a lifetime?”
The crowd continued to prod the younger man. Do it. Tell him. “Okay,” he said. You are on.”
“Good. Now the only thing I ask is that you refrain from the following words: Bigotry, Hate, Intolerance, and anything ending in the word ‘-phobia’.”
“And why should I do that?”
“Because they are imprecise terms, that is why. They are merely labels, and slapping labels on someone or something is not an argument. Calling me a bigot may serve to justify your rage, but it does nothing to convince me what you stand for is right, and what I stand for is wrong. Deal?”
The crowd had gotten just a few decibels quieter. They were good at denouncing things, so they liked labels. They were less capable of forming arguments. “Don’t do it man,” some said. “He’s just trying to trick you.”
But the older man turned to the crowd and responded, “How am I trying to trick you? You are university students, are you not? This is a place of higher education, is it not? Even Kindergartners can master the art of name-calling. Certainly your skills to formulate what you believe and why you think you are on the side of justice has developed past that stage?”
The crowd was silent, but they were now offended. They were good at being offended.
“At any rate,” he looked back at the young man, “you calling me a name is not the same as you telling me why I am wrong and you are right. But I will perfectly understand if you simply are not able to tell me. In which case, my displays remain.”
The younger man hesitated, so the older man continued. “This should be an easy thing for you. After all, you clearly feel strongly about this; otherwise you would not be here. Certainly you are able to explain to me, and to all of us, why you feel you are the champion of justice, and why what I am doing is, as you say, ‘wrong’.
“But who knows? Maybe your sense of what is right and what is wrong runs no more deeply that your ability to slap labels on people who are different from you. Maybe you do not stand for justice at all. Maybe you are the one who is a bigot.”
“You better watch what you say, old man.”
“Or what?” the older man responded.
The younger man did his best to look intimidating but his opponent apparently had been at this game longer than he had.
“Now this is interesting. I have come on this campus peacefully to engage students with an important issue. So far I have been told my right to free speech does not matter, but apparently yours does, since you have had no problem calling me hateful and a bigot. But when I suggest that perhaps you are the bigot, exercising the very same right you have just exercised, you threaten me with violence.”
The older man then turned to the crowd. “I must admit,” he continued, “I expected more from college students. But go ahead: Tear down my displays. Violate the exercise of free speech in the one place in this country that should stand for tolerance, open dialog and the free exchange of ideas. Maybe that is the best you can do. Maybe the real truth is you are incapable of formulating an argument. Perhaps you have no idea why you believe what you believe. That is why you must silence and shut down those who disagree with you: It is your only line of defense.”
He then turned back to the younger man. “Or am I wrong about you?”
The crowd of students which had steadily grown was silent for a brief moment. Several of them had broken out their phones and were now recording the event. The older man had a frail look about him, but not as frail as he had seemed. The younger stood not far from him. Behind both, the students could clearly see one of the displays. It was offensive. It was disgusting. It was mentally distressing and emotionally violent. It was a violation. It was wrong.
The younger man looked back at the man. “Yes, you are. And I will show you for the ignorant bigot you are.”
*** to be continued ***
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9 thoughts on “A Social Justice Warrior Meets Jesus”
I will have to wait until the next episode to discover what the posters had on them to make this young man so upset, but until then I will speculate.
If I were to guess why the young man acted the way he did, it is for the following reason:
“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people [the young man, in this case] loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.” (John 3:19-20)
I’m guessing the posters exposed the young man’s evil deeds or evil thoughts. The young man would like his evil deeds and thoughts to stay in the darkness. This is why he wanted to rip down the posters.
Hopefully one day, the young man will come to know these truths:
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live” (Deut. 30:19)
Thanks for stopping by, darlenemollis! And yes you will 🙂 This fictional account was inspired by a real event this past week, where a young college student hurled insults at an elderly man who had put up pro-life signs in a free speech zone at a college campus. The student proceeded to destroy all the displays. The other college students applauded and called him a hero because the pro-life signs were “mentally distressing”. Blessings.
The Old man shook his head. Why, when he was their age and he got his girlfriend pregnant, all he had to do was deny that he had done the deed. As a man, his word was accepted without question. All he remembered about back then was that he had heard that she had been given an educational opportunity on the other side of the country with some relatives of hers for several months. Odds are it was just the acceptable version of events while the truth was hid: she was being sent to have the baby in utter secrecy and adopting it out so that the shame of it all didn’t affect her everyday life back home when it was all over with. That’s just how things were done and should always be done. Perhaps his pro-life crusade was just his way of atoning for that old sin. Meanwhile, the anti-LGBTQ crusader next to him was cheering him on while he was standing up to those young whippersnappers.
Hi Jamie! Thank you so much for stopping by. I am happy to see my fictional account has inspired you. I think there are so many issues this small event raises. What issue is most pressing to you?
By the way: The displays in this fictional account may or may not be pro-life (cliff-hanger). Stop by any time!
I think that ultimately, all the parties in question; the old men who are pro-birth but care little for already-born children, the young men who stand with the common teaching of the day, the women who should be central characters as the issues affects them most of all – forget that no two experiences are alike. Some of the most ardent anti-abortionists tend to view it as acceptable under certain conditions: when a child is the product of rape and/or incest. When I was looking up information about the world’s youngest mother, she was five years old when she gave birth to her son. A number of young girls were impregnated somewhere between 10-13 and because their countries didn’t always have access to abortion, they had little choice but to risk their own health in the process of giving birth. These aren’t the faces of the typical woman people think are getting an abortion – some party girl who wants to erase a problem so that she can get back to the scene before it gets stale or some such thing. But back in the old man’s day, things weren’t necessarily that much better. Before Christians earn my respect in being anti-abortion; they have to be the ones advocating for adoption and shifting the tax money to assist mothers of newborns, have better maternity and paternity care (America’s is the worst of all countries!), it’s not enough to be pro-birth and wash your hands of any obligation to the children in question.
Thanks Jamie. First of all, please know the central characters in this fictional account were based on an actual event in which the main characters happened to be men. I know it has become important for main characters to be female else the inference is that one is promoting patriarchal stereotypes, but this was not the case here.
For what it is worth, I personally have no desire to obtain your respect as a Christian; I only ask for your respect as an individual.
The injustices you raise are important. Certainly everyone would agree that if anyone is uncaring toward the newborn or children — be it a man or woman, young or old — this is not virtuous. But from my experience (admittedly limited), I have found the very same Christian institutions who are most pro-life do in fact offer adoption and placement alternatives and services for unwanted pregnancies. My own wife was a young single mom, and her church provided much assistance and support when her children were young. Whether this is more the case or the perspective you hold largely would boil down to the statistics. Either way, not caring for the young mother would not be right.
But with respect, I am not convinced failing to care about young children negates opposing the murder of the unborn, nor does caring about young children justify it. In other words, the issue is whether abortion is the ending of life or not. If we had a practice of allowing mothers to upon delivering their child to taking them out back and shoot them, then whether the mother cares about her other children, or whether those who would oppose such a practice do not care about children, would be beside the point. I recognize you may hold a different view as to the ethics of abortion; my point is simply that whether abortion in fact is the taking of life is the issue that drives all other aspects of the issue.
Really enjoyed dialoging with you. And oh yeah, the fictional account is not about abortion 🙂 Have a great week.
Its interesting that I have recently been in a very similar situation, and a relationship was destroyed because the other party, like the college students had decided that their view of what is right and what is wrong superseded someones right to free speech. Very few people, in my experience, truly understand that the freedom of speech is not just for ideas you agree with, it is also for ideas/images/speech that one finds repugnant.and makes the blood boil.
“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”
PaulG: Thank you for your insight and I could not agree more. I was speaking with someone in a forum who also seemed to fail to grasp that her views existed and were unique to her, let alone the virtue of others opinions being protected. I am not sure which is more terrifying. Thanks again for your comment.