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PROFESSOR MALIGNS BARBARA BUSH ON TWITTER WITH NO CONSEQUENCES
TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, last week, we spent some time remembering Barbara Bush and her passing and the Bush family. When we were doing that program, you said that now was not the time to critique her life. We’ll leave that for the biographers later down the road. When we were doing that program, it was the time to remember her, embrace the family and pray for the family.
However, there was one individual out of Fresno State University, a professor who didn’t take your advice. She went to Twitter and she said some rather vile things that I’m not going to repeat here but I’m sure many of our listeners have heard about these in the news. But, as a professor of Fresno State University, not only did she say these vile things, but she also bragged about the fact that she had tenure at this university and there was nothing anyone could do about it.
“I’m making $100,000.00 a year,” she said, “I will never be fired. I will always have people wanting to hear what I have to say.”
DO EMPLOYERS HAVE RIGHT TO CURTAIL SPEECH?
DR. REEDER: And, of course, her president of the university said hey, this is a matter of free speech, and I affirm that, by the way. I think the president is right. Now, the president has the full authority to determine employment boundaries on speech and what is appropriate and that’s obvious because that’s why she immediately affirmed her tenure, saying, whatever your boundaries are, anything you create now cannot affect my employment because of my tenure. Now, boundaries previously established could — that’s getting in the weeds on tenure.
However, there’s a couple of things that come up from this and one is the freedom of speech does not mean we affirm their speech, but we affirm their freedom of speech but, secondly, we also affirm that employment can be conditioned on the content of your speech so it is absolutely appropriate, when you employ someone, to have standards of conduct, including speech that is acceptable and unacceptable.
Another side issue to this, this is why I don’t believe in tenure. In fact, every good teacher I’ve ever met is not a big supporter of tenure and the reason why is, one, they have a constitutional right to freedom of speech, but they also recognize that the university has a right to determine the extent of speech in their classroom and then, three, they know, I don’t need tenure. Good teachers are always desired. You don’t need tenure to keep your job; you just need to do a good job.
AS CHRISTIANS, HOW SHOULD WE TEMPER OUR SPEECH, BUT NOT OUR MESSAGE?
Tom, whenever I hear this kind of ugly and destructive discourse in public, I’m immediately challenged, first of all, as a Gospel minister and, secondly, as a Christian. I’m so grateful I have the freedom to share the Gospel in public arenas, but I also understand, when I’m on someone’s podium, they can determine what they want spoken on that podium or not — they have that freedom as well.
We know that this program is devoted to analyzing events from a Christian world and life view, propose this analysis to the listeners and then provide Gospel decisions to it. We know that people have the freedom to cut it off or ignore it or challenge it. That’s perfectly appropriate.
However, what about when we speak in public and how we speak in public? Well, for me as a Gospel minister, I’ve recently been challenged on this. There are many podiums I’ve gone to surrounded by people and symbols that I would not want to be identified with but, just like the apostle Paul was surrounded by all of those idols at Athens, he went to the heart of the matter. And the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart and the only solution to the heart is the reconciling power of the Gospel but you have to determine how are you going to say it.
IS THE GOSPEL OFFENSIVE?
The Gospel is offensive to the natural mind, but does that mean we have to be offensive in the way we talk? The content of what I say may be offensive in the Gospel because nobody wants to be told they’re a sinner in need of repentance and reconciliation to God. Nobody wants to be told those things unless the Lord is working in their heart.
I love the picture of Jesus the sower — He’ll go all over the field to sow the seed. He is willing to be called names, not so veiled names, when He sits down to eat with prostitutes and tax gatherers. They’re making innuendo about why would He be sitting with prostitutes because he is seen sitting with prostitutes, which he has to do if He’s going to share the Gospel with prostitutes.
The apostle Paul, where he’ll actually use quotes from the philosophers he’s confronting at Mars Hill in order to bring them to repentance and he goes after the issue of their heart. I also noticed that, no matter what the case, that there is non-discriminating casting of the Gospel wherever they go. And you know the message is going to be offensive, but you also note that they don’t personally try to be offensive. The only time we see the stiffening of their language is when they challenge those who would condemn what they do when they go to people who need to hear the Gospel.
TREATING OTHERS WITH DIGNITY HELPS THE GOSPEL HAVE POWER
The question for me is never where will I speak — I will speak anywhere I have the opportunity — the question is really what do you speak and how do you speak? And I know the Gospel is scandalous but I try to tell myself, “Don’t be scandalous. Try to treat every person with dignity.”
Whether I am in an LGBTQ forum surrounded by their symbols or recently when I spoke to a historical event surrounded by symbols and others, I try to keep the main thing the main thing: identify sin, here’s the solution, the Savior, and here’s what the Savior will do in your heart and from your heart into your relationships in life so that the culture can be changed all around us. And know this, that every time you share the Gospel, you’re planting Gospel seeds that may not bear fruit then but may bear fruit later.
Secondly, always know this: When people do come to Christ through the proclamation of the Gospel, there’s a party in Heaven — angels rejoice — and it doesn’t matter whether the person that is saved was promoting and practicing sexual immorality, or whether they were racist or whatever because every time they’re saved, angels rejoice. It’s only the elder brothers of self-righteousness that question it.
CONVERSIONS BRING JOY IN HEAVEN AND HOLINESS TO SOCIETY
And also know this: that, while there’s rejoicing in Heaven, there is also the blessing of the landscape of culture that is gradually changed through the changing of people so that, as I’ve recently said, a culture of repentance and reconciliation can replace the culture of chaos and destruction.
Oh, I long for the new heavens and the new earth where we don’t have to deal with the consequences of sin any longer and where the victory over our sin will be in consummation and completion when Jesus comes again. So, I just end this program, come quickly, Jesus, but until You come, help us — unlike this example in Fresno State — help us to speak truth freely, courageously, but thoughtfully in the public square and please bear fruit for your glory and the salvation of others.
ALFIE EVANS: AN ALARMING EXAMPLE OF WHAT STATE OVERREACH IS TO COME?
TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, on tomorrow’s edition of Today in Perspective, I want to take you to Liverpool, England, where the parents of another toddler, this time Alfie Evans, are being told, “You cannot take your son to another hospital in another country for further treatment.”
DR. REEDER: So, Tom, just as we have had to address what is the right use of the right of free speech and how, as Christians, we need to take advantage of it, here is another right, natural right, that is foundational to a culture and that is the supremacy of the rights of parents to take care of their children, now superseded by the state. Are there times that this should happen? Yes. But is this the time that it should happen and is this time in England — and, by the way, perhaps in the United States as we see tomorrow — is this time revealing that, instead of a state in an extraordinary moment having to step in for the benefit of the child, is this an example of state overreach beyond the parent, not for the benefit of the child but for the benefit of the state and its financial resources?
Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.
This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.