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The Character Of Courageous “Hate Speech”

Category Articles
Date November 8, 2005

The English define a gentleman as someone who uses a butter knife when eating alone. Student-body president Noah Riner, this Fall, in his speech to the Dartmouth freshmen defined character in a similar way: “character is what you do when no one is looking.” Character has always been the test of a meaningful life. In Robert Bolt’s drama A Man for All Seasons its star has such “character”- personified by the life of Sir Thomas More. In the story, More (Lord Chancellor of England) encourages Richard Rich, a young Cambridge graduate who seeks from him promotion at Court, to become a school-teacher. Rich objects: no one sees a good teacher. More retorts: “your students will see you; you will see you and God will see you.”

Later, the same Rich, in exchange for a plum position as Lord Chancellor of Wales, perjures himself and sends More to his death. As Rich walks by, the condemned More utters one of the best lines of the movie: “Richard, what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, but Wales!?” According to the Dartmouth student speaker, Noah Riner, character is still the great issue and ultimate goal of true education. To this point, he had the freshman crowd with him. Then he pointed out that each of us is flawed: “In the words of Cassius in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, ‘the fault, dear Brutus is not in our stars but in ourselves.'” He went on: “Character has a lot to do with sacrifice, laying our personal interests down for something bigger. The best example of this is Jesus. In the Garden of Gethsemane, just hours before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed, ‘Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.’ He knew the right thing to do. He knew the cost would be agonizing torture and death. He did it anyway. That’s character.” We see here an example of modern-day character from this Christian student who knew he would be “crucified” for his plain speech. He went on: “Jesus is a good example of character, but He’s also much more than that. He is the solution to flawed people like corrupt Dartmouth alums…Jesus’ message of redemption is simple. People are imperfect, and there are consequences for our actions. He gave His life for our sin so that we wouldn’t have to bear the penalty of the law; so we could see love. The problem is me; the solution is God’s love: Jesus on the cross, for us.”

Had Riner mentioned the Buddha, the Dalai Lama, or Mother Teresa, he would have been fine. But the mention of Jesus, not only as model but as Saviour brought the wrath of Dartmouth down upon him. How things have changed. Dartmouth was established with a royal charter to evangelize the Indians of North America. Now the very mention of Jesus is the equivalent of hate speech. A petition drive against the young student-body president is being contemplated. A vice president of the Student Assembly wrote to him, “I consider your choice of topic for the Convocation speech reprehensible and an abuse of power. You embarrass the organization, you embarrass yourself.”

The erstwhile Sixties architects of “free speech” are now crafting laws outlawing “hate speech.” Masquerading as tolerance and inclusiveness, an almighty totalitarian agenda intends to impose its “spiritual” values on the culture, whether we like it or not. The Jewish commentator, Don Feder states that “the ultimate goal of the homosexual movement is to use the state to crush dissent.” In Scandinavia and Canada, discussion is already outlawed. Ministers have been threatened with jail for expressing the biblical teaching on homosexuality. In the USA in 2004, four members of the evangelical group Repent America were arrested for preaching, displaying banners and singing hymns at Philadelphia’s “OutFest 2004.” Though a judge ultimately dismissed all charges, they could each have been sentenced to 47 years in prison. From a broader perspective, nothing has changed. Tacitus (AD 55-117) charged Christians with hate speech. He called them “haters of humanity.” It was their speech about the vanity of pagan gods, about humanity’s sinfulness and need of a savior that provoked such a violent reaction in the mind of this Roman orator. It was speech that disturbed the religious and social pax romana but eventually turned the ancient world upside down. I thank God for the Riners who are willing to face the struggle ahead and pray that we can train more young people with character, namely the courage to speak the truth about Jesus, whatever the cost, in an increasingly pagan world.

Peter Jones Christian Witness to a Pagan Planet

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