Freedom of speech at its best

A Christian Science perspective: A spiritual response to our right to free speech.

The recent cartoon contest sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative with the intention of satirizing the prophet Muhammad triggered a shooting by two Muslim-Americans who injured a security officer and were shot down (see “Anti-Muhammad cartoon contest: Free speech or deliberately provocative?,” As Monitor columnist John Yemma pointed out in his May 6 editorial, “Free speech and wise speech,” freedom of speech in the United States does include the constitutional right to “use certain offensive words and phrases to convey political messages,” but it does not include the right to “incite actions that would harm others” (see “What Does Free Speech Mean?” However, courtrooms, organized groups, and individuals are continually interpreting – often battling – this issue that has now come to Garland, Texas.

Rather than enter the debate of human law, I am prompted to pray – to take this to a higher, spiritual authority where wisdom and love prevail. Through my study and practice of Christian Science, I have turned to the law of God, divine Love, many times to examine my motives and be guided on what to say or not say in sensitive situations – political or otherwise. In each case, I have been led to answers that have contributed to solutions that benefit everyone. Through these experiences, I have come to recognize that talking with God in thoughtful prayer is the freedom of speech I cherish the most because it helps me to carefully consider what I say before I say it.

In his three-year healing ministry, Christ Jesus valued and relied on the constant communication he maintained with God, often referring to this eternal, protecting power as Father – the Father of us all. No matter the circumstance, he was always free to converse with God, the one Mind, and this Mind responded with guidance in the form of spiritual intuitions, inspiration, love, and healing.

Jesus’ speech was always led by what God was communicating, and to engage in this communication, he often went apart from others to be alone with God in prayer. If he couldn’t be off by himself, he sometimes paused right in the midst of a crowd to wait for direction from God before responding to an intense situation (for example, see John 8:3-11). This approach brought purposeful and healing resolutions again and again.

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, was also keenly aware of the rights of man to think, speak, and act rightly. She found that humbly praying and living the Christ-example to the best of one’s ability would do more for mankind than anything else. In her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” she guides her readers on how to do the most good when she says, “Right motives give pinions to thought, and strength and freedom to speech and action” (p. 454).

Freedom of speech in the United States is intact today, but power is afforded to those thoughts and actions that are impelled by the highest motives – motives compassionately intended to lift the burden of sin off the human heart and cleanse the soul. Antagonistic, fearful, and hateful motives open the door to violent, discordant, and malicious acts. We have strength and experience progress when we align our aim with good – the Word of God that brings peace and harmony. That’s the real power that needs to be behind freedom of speech. And this freedom is at hand and waiting to make a difference for the better. Speech spiritually impelled by divine Love, with the pure desire to bless everyone, is a peace-giving influence in society.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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