Freedom of Speech does not mean Freedom from Consequences

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Duck Dynasty Season 3It is one of those double-edged swords that provides power, though it may be a power that creates an ever-graceful arc that glides around us until we kick ourselves in our own asses.  At least once a year there is a news flash about an actor, athlete, or other well-enough known person expresses something startling enough the grab a TMZ or Twitter moment.  Recent memory brings up Paula Deen and that guy from that bounty hunter show, but I’m sure there are other forgettables responsible for one of those “Did you hear what whoever said about gays or African-Americans or Mexicans or …”

And when those things are said, there are several things that happen:

  1.  The television network or other outlet leaps into action and takes the person off the air.
  2. The “personality” issues an apology.
  3. A certain segment of society cries “bigot!” and “racist!”
  4. Another segment cries “Freedom of speech!”
  5. We eventually forget about it until a late-December yearly retrospective drags it up again.

What confuses me, however, is the reason people get upset in the first place.  I’m not saying people should not get upset, but I am saying that the essence of the situation has been overlooked.  In the most recent verbal explosion, a rather scraggily-looking yet rather wealthy man named Phil spouted off with the following:

Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men. Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.

What he said, however, was not very original.  Here’s a similar statement that has not gotten nearly as much repercussion:

Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people-none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.

The statements are not very different, yet the first one seems to be the subject of a very negative uproar.  The second has been received quite the opposite.  In fact, the second statement is part of a rather glorious celebration on a weekly, sometimes a daily basis.  It is also known as 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.  Why is the Bible’s version revered but Phil’s version reviled?  Perhaps that is what we should really be upset about.

Just about one-third of the planet is Christian.  That doesn’t mean that those 2.2 billion people endorse the Bible, but it is a good start.  What is not a good start is how many of those people will accept what’s in the Bible as their personal law.  For example, in Judges 19:16-24, which echoes Genesis 19:1-11, a gentleman by the name of Lot invited two angels to stay in his home.  A group of men saw this and came to Lot’s house, demanding he allow this group to have sex with the angel.  Lot was appalled at the desire for homosexuality and attempted to quell the crowd by offering his virgin daughters.


Interesting.  Let me see if I got this right.  Bible wielders want us to turn to their book for lessons regarding the “wrongness” of homosexuality, and in that lesson there is a man who would prefer a group of men gang rape his virgin daughter instead of having sex with another man.  I’m curious if the Sarah Palin’s of the world, those who condemn homosexuality would prefer to see female children gang raped instead.

I’m sure that many, likely most of those 2.2 billion Christians are counting on that Bible as their “death pension,” something that preserves their afterlife reservation.  I’m sure they’re hoping that all that is promised will be delivered, just as it is written in their holy book in Revelation 21:4.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Perhaps what we should be upset about is not Phil.  Maybe we should look more carefully at what we choose for guidance.  Phil?  Nah, I’m not worried about him.  I’m sure he’s quite harmless as an individual, and I doubt anyone is wearing a bracelet that says “What Would Phil Do?”  I can forgive him.  He knows not what he speaks.  At least I hope he knows not.

However, Phil is not much different from all those other people, the 2 billion plus driving in and out of church parking lots every Sunday.  They, as a group, are who we should be worried about.  Our neighbors, school board members, friends we ask to babysit on weekends.  They who, as a group, have a greater effect on our lives.  Or senators, congress people, lawmakers, judges, and other politicians.  After all, every time one of them screws up, kind of like Phil did, one of the first things they do is turn to the Bible.

Yeah, the one that seems to prefer child rape instead of homosexuality.

That Bible.


60 thoughts on “Freedom of Speech does not mean Freedom from Consequences

  1. the old testament is certainly a tale that includes a rogues gallery, but I suspect that despite your fear of Christians, the people may be looking at the new testament where it says do unto others as you would have others do unto you, or invoking charity, truly what you did for the least of these, you did for me.

    Merry Christmas

    • Although I won’t agree that I have a fear of Christians, I will admit that my position maybe like standing on an island And not realizing you are on an island Until you get off.

      What I do have towards Christians (some, certainly not all) is more like confusion. The way I see it, if you are going to stand behind the Bible, then you stand behind all or none of it. If you (not you personally of course) are going to say or do certain things because the Bible approves or preaches to do so, and if you employ the Bible for spiritual guidance, then I fail to see how it is okay to pick and choose which parts are your principles and which parts you will distance yourself from if they happen to be brought up.

      • The way I see it, and I came to be a Christian later in life after more than a few adventures – is that the old testament is the story of the law, and how we cannot meet God’s standards on our own. It’s full of heroes and scoundrels – some like David are both depending on the time.

        The new testament is redemption and love – and we need to use that filter to make decisions. It doesn’t always work right, human decisions are fraught with influences that can distract us – but from how I lived before and after – it’s a good compass to have.

      • Maybe to some people this question is silly and obvious, but how likely is it that the New Testament came about because Christian leaders at the time feared that the Old Testament was scaring people away?

      • In regards to billgncs’s comment: old testament = law, new testament is a tool (filter) to guide decisions against the old testament – very interesting, I’ve never heard that before. I think I need to read both a little more thoroughly with that lens in place. Previously I’ve never made it through even the old testament because it was just so preposterous and the idea that people were taking this as their guiding light for living their lives was rather astounding to me. Thanks for sharing this, I hope this can give me a better lens to see religious folks through.

      • happy to help, although i don’t exactly know how i helped because i think you know more than i do. however, if you’re thanking me, then i accept! happy holidays.

      • Well, I was more thanking billgncs for his (her?) comment which pointed me to a new way to interpret the old / new testaments, but also thanks to you for writing in a sane and level-headed manner about the current dust-up about “OMG Freedom of speech!” vs. “I’m offended and someone must do something about it!”. A couple of my favorite camps.

  2. Hey Rich,
    I understand where you are coming from here, but you’re completely misreading Genesis. Just because someone does something that is recorded in the Bible, doesn’t mean that God approves it or wants us to emulate it. Lot, Abraham’s nephew (I think that’s right) was a pretty messed-up individual. No Christian approves of gang rape!
    You know that. You’re using hyperbole to make a point. I get it.
    I struggle a lot with the whole homosexuality question. I know that many sincere, well-meaning, lovely people are gay. I believe, at this point in my walk with God, that it is a type of emotional disease like any other…. bipolar disorder, alcoholism, depression, addictive personalities, etc. Just because someone is born with or acquires certain behavioral tendencies doesn’t mean that they are good for the individual or society. You wouldn’t hand an alcoholic a bottle of whiskey and have a parade, right?
    I could be wrong, but that’s where I am now with it. God only wants what’s best for us, always. I believe He is good and loving. Still sorting out some of those other things, slowly and with a very open mind.

    • God ordered the Israelites to kill all the Canaanites when they stole their land; he personally sent angels to murder all the first born sons in Egypt; he made life miserable for Job by killing, maiming, and otherwise persecuting Job’s friends and relatives, all on a wager with Satan; the list could go on and on. The OT has plenty of outrageous injustice perpetrated by the “good and loving” God himself.

      • You have to look at the whole story, and how God sent multiple warnings to the Pharoah before the plague of the death of the first-born, as well as the moral lesson in Job. Just because God loves us doesn’t mean he spares us all trials or heartache, and if we don’t follow his rules there are definite consequences, especially in the Old Testament. It was a very harsh world they lived in, and these things were part of the whole landscape. The Canaanites were participating in horrible religious practices and would have killed all the Israelites, given have a chance. The reason for wiping them out was so that their culture would not contaminate the special one God was creating, from which to bring the Messiah into the world.

      • And the right reason varies according to how rough the times are; could be that if you just warn somebody a lot of times, it’s ok to kill everybody.. Who knew God was a situational ethicist?

      • Reminds me of those people who call themselves ” brutally honest” or ” honest to a fault.” Interesting how they think their opinions are justified, regardless of how hurtful, as long as they follow it with ” hey, just being honest.”

  3. I think also that sodomy may have been part of the pagan religious practices (temple sex) that God was trying to keep his people from participating in, but I don’t know that for sure.

    • True paganism was non-religious. Paganism was about worshiping nature, no type of God at all. That is why early Christians painted paganism as if it were Satanism, Which of course it was not. But too early Christians, anything that was not In the name of god was against god.

      • No, it’s not Satanism but there were some really horrible practices in the neighboring religions, whatever you choose to call them. Orgies were used to try to convince fertility and nature gods to be generous. Babies were burned alive on statues of Ba’al.

        “Special ceremonies during extreme crisis saw up to 200 children of the most affluent and powerful families slain and tossed into the burning pyre. During the political crisis of 310 B.C., some 500 were killed. On a moonlit night, the body was placed on the arms of an effigy of Baal made of brass. The Priests lit fires that heated the effigies from its lower parts. The victims were placed on the burning hot outstretched hands. As they were burned alive they vehemently cried out. The priests beat a drum sounded flutes, lyres, and tambourines. This drowned out the cries of the anguished parents. The father could not hear the voice of his son, and his heart might not be moved.”

        Regarding homosexuality in Roman times, presumably referred to in the Bible:

        “The conquest mentality and “cult of virility” shaped same-sex relations. Roman men were free to enjoy sex with other males without a perceived loss of masculinity or social status, as long as they took the dominant or penetrative role. Acceptable male partners were slaves, prostitutes, and entertainers, whose lifestyle placed them in the nebulous social realm of infamia, excluded from the normal protections accorded a citizen even if they were technically free. Although Roman men in general seem to have preferred youths between the ages of 12 and 20 as sexual partners, freeborn male minors were strictly off-limits, and professional prostitutes and entertainers might be considerably older.”

        The problem, as always, is interpreting the Bible in light of the context in which it was written. 2,000 years later we have practically no understanding of what is being referenced, and sadly most pastors don’t do the research needed to teach their flocks.

      • The point being… if you are performing homosexual acts on a slave, entertainer, young boy or someone helpless to resist IN ORDER TO PROVE YOUR VIRILITY that is wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

        I learned something today. Hope you did, too. Glad I made a donation to Wikipedia!

    • Read the article… the word that is translated in the Bible as homosexual acts refers (very likely) to this particular practice.

      Regarding atrocities… feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, educating the ignorant, building homes for those devasted by disasters, ministering to the imprisoned, working to free the oppressed… these are horrible atrocities indeed.

      • I never said that Christians did not do good things, so that part is a little unfair. There are wonderful Christians out there. Every religion, culture, and society is made of both good and bad people. Historically, when you go back centuries upon centuries, I don’t think any other religion or culture has spread as much hate and destruction as Christians. That’s what the Crusades were all about.

  4. I liked this post Rich. Spot on. What I was wondering yesterday when all this was so blown up is where are the ones that interviewed him in all this? Why ask him about it in the first place? Then leak it out so all this uproar goes on and their readership skyrockets. Why don’t they get blasted for asking these stupid questions anyway? They knew who they were interviewing, I’m sure they did their homework. Where is their culpability in all this crap? What they needed someone to tear apart or let readers tear apart and they just glorify in the aftermath of readership? I think it’s crazy and unethical of them. Do I agree with what Phil said. No. But I don’t have to that is the glory of free speech. I too have wondered about the things you talk about in your post.

    • One thing I find interesting is how people with money or on television or both make statements that are far more closely examined than the rest of us. It is like when there is a school shooting and Samuel L Jackson allegedly makes a comment about gun control. People seem to take it more seriously than if you or I say it. People start to feel more comfort when celebrities agree with us, as if they have some special knowledge that we don’t have.

      • If the media didn’t have such a pack mentality even if you were rich or famous, if you said something stupid no big deal. The media is mostly to blame for blowing it all up and not letting it go. But what you say is true, which I find terrible. Does no one think for themselves anymore?

  5. I would have liked you to have developed your opening statement a bit more, that freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences. Firing Phil for having stated his views is not censorship, and, in fact, is entirely irrelevant to the first amendment. Phil’s employers simply do not want their customers to associate them with those ideas, which, incidentally, they may very well share. They believe that they will lose a significant amount of business if they keep him on. It’s about the money, purely a business decision, between a man and his employers. No law was passed forbidding this man to state his opinion publicly, so none was broken. Freedom of speech has not been violated.

  6. I couldn’t agree with you more, including your original point that freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences.

    You have some interesting responses here. I lived in Chelsea in New York, my family went to Provincetown every summer, I experimented fondling other girls in high school in a manner we all thought was more or less normal, and I had a couple of relationships with women although most people see me as straight. In other words, I’ve always seen homosexuality as perfectly normal.

    That part about people picking and choosing which parts of the Bible to believe in is something I never quite understood either. I guess it’s good that they do. I don’t want to argue them into being fundamentalists. My own take on it is that few people really believe.

      • I visited Provincetown once back in the late 80’s. At the time, I knew nothing about it. I was in the area to play golf and bring my kids to the beach for a week. Provincetown was described to me as an “artsy” kind of place, but I did not know how to translate that.
        On the way there we passed a town called Gay Head, And that understandably made me laugh. When I saw the gay and lesbian couples very openly Going about their day in Provincetown, I was surprised yet happy. It was like an enclave in which they could be themselves, except the unfortunate couples who ran into my mother in law at the time. A female couple was engaged in a more than average public display of affection when my mother in law tap them on the shoulder and said, ” you want to calm it down?”

      • My parents had been going there since the fifties or sixties, when it was more ‘artsy’ and not yet the world’s ‘premier gay resort.’ Back in the twenties, if I’m correct, some people from Greenwich Village made a little summer outpost in Provincetown. For a long time it reflected that, with a large gay contingent, but with a lot of others as well. A lot of people complain nowadays that it’s gotten too expensive and attracts a different, although still gay, crowd. I think it’s still a fun place, but I know people who used to get summer jobs there and live there for a summer but now it’s too expensive for that and workers are actually bussed in from nearby towns. In fact, someone was just talking to me about that a few days ago.

        My parents have always been supportive of gay rights. When I was younger, I didn’t realize that it was odd.

        I remember when I was in high school having a discussion with several friends about sexuality and the overall agreement was that homosexuality and heterosexuality weren’t binary choices so much as the extremes of a gradation. I also said that I didn’t myself know if I was really heterosexual or if I was socialized that way. In a way, I still don’t know. I’ve had such good luck with men and I’ve never had sexual contact with a woman that I didn’t initiate it. When you have perfectly nice men approaching you, it doesn’t make sense to keep putting yourself out there and getting rejected by women.

        What do women want anyway? 😉

      • what do women want? i hope it’s just to be happy, but that opens a whole different case of worms.

        the small town i now live in has an unusual number of high school kids in gay relationships. i wonder if it’s just people who want attention. my daughter claims that a few of the boys who have announced themselves as gay are not really gay but hoping that a girl will try to “convert” them. if that works, i might give it a shot. 😉

      • I think it’s normal for teenagers to explore their sexuality. One of the reasons I think that I’m the one who always has to approach women is because most people look at me and assume I’m straight. I’d guess that since there’s less of a stigma to being gay these days, they’re doing the same sort of exploring I did, only it’s more in the open.

        I actually always gave gay men a wide berth. After all, who wants to be rejected? So, if it’s a tactic, it could very well backfire.

  7. Hi Rich,
    Glad to see your take on this issue and you stirred up some interesting comments. I was raised in an evangelical church, rejected it when I was in my teens, which caused a scism with my mom and dad, so I’m on the same page.
    Recently, our sorry U.S. Senator, Mark Pryor, starting running TV ads in which he is holding his Bible and saying, “I’m not ashamed to say I believe in God and I believe in his word.” He goes on to say the Bible is his “north star and compass.”
    Really, Sen. Pryor? Do you believe in the part that says a person should be stoned to death for working on the Sabbath? Do you believe that women shouldn’t be allowed to teach, as Saint Paul instructed? Do you believe divorce shouldn’t be allowed, as Jesus told the woman at the well? And many more.
    Well, I guess we’re both headed to hell. I’ll bring hot dogs to roast and you bring the marshmallows. Ron

    • and the pop tarts. thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. i guess senator pryor knows his constituents and, much like ted cruz, can be as wrong as possible but still get all the votes he needs because those around him agree with him.

      certainly makes it even more important to (as stephen colbert says) “know your district!”

    • I saw those too, Ron. If Sen. Pryor does really believe and try to follow the teachings of Jesus, I have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is using Jesus to as an advertising tool to get votes. Personally, I detest Tom Cotton (Pryor’s opponent) and his tactics too. Once again, it’s going to be a lesser of two evils election choice.

      • Those are the worst. Lesser of two evils. I would like to see a voting option in which you vote not to vote. So instead of just not showing up, you vote not to vote so both candidates can know that you don’t like either of them. Would love to see that on the big tote board when cNN reports election results.

  8. Now, back to the subject of free speech and stating your opinion. Around my neck of the woods we have a saying, “Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one.”

    I’ve watched Duck Dynasty a couple of times, and don’t see why so many folks are attracked to it (or any of the reality shows for that matter).

    A lot of people say things I don’t agree with, but I stll respect their right to free speech. What really pisses me off is that the people who scream the loudest about tolerance and gay rights are the ones who are the most intolerant of others.

    • If someone dislikes gays because somewhere in the Bible it says that being gay is a sin, I can understand that. There is at least an influence and a basis of reason. But when someone dislikes gays because they fear that someone who is gay will try to convert them or pursue them, or they believe that gays equal pedophiles, then you need some education.

  9. Let’s face it, Rich. The real issue was advertising dollars. Phil’s words, though personally abhorrent to me, are his right to say. The problem is the outrage from the groups affected which might possibly lead to loss of viewership (and/or loss of merchanising revenue. Can you believe how much Duck Dynasty shit is for sale?) and from there loss of advertising revenue. Nothing in our current corporatist society is about principle, it’s about money. Always.

    • If it is on TV, it is because someone thinks it will make money. And that show has been on a lot longer than people think. I remember friend telling me about it roughly 3 years ago

      • They have a monopoly on the duck call market. They’re multi-millionaires. This won’t effect them at all in the end.

      • but here’s what i wonder – what do they have to gain by doing the show? have you seen “secret princes”? i’m sure that’s fake because, if they were real princes, they have nothing to offer their family other than embarrassment being on that show. one recent guy was (allegedly) from the medici family in italy. this family practically owns italy, especially florence. they owned leonardo da vinci. i can’t imagine for a second that they’d be okay with a relative making a fool of himself on american tv.

      • Reality tv is highly staged. I’ve actually been on an episode of a show and they staged many “spontaneous” events.

  10. Instead of going at this for the religion, I’m gong to look at it from the Constitution … after all, freedom of speech doesn’t protect freedom from stupidity. Meanwhile, I can honestly say that I never heard of Duck Dynasty until this news.

    More importantly, Merry Christmas to you!

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