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A View from the Altar / Freedom, abused, is lost
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Freedom, abused, is lost

This runs on two tracks, one spiritual and one shamelessly political.

On the spiritual side, this is just a friendly reminder for my Christian brethren and sistren that conservative media personalities are occasionally our cobelligerents in the culture wars, but they are almost never our friends. That was clarified for me recently while listening to Neal Boortz. A guy called in to ask Mr. Boortz why he was banging the Christians so hard. Boortz’s reply meandered into his scorn for Christians who believe in creation (“S-s-stoopid!” he said with the ‘s’ drawn into a protracted hiss, “can’t learn.”). He then baited the caller with his unorthodox views on hell, claiming himself to be a Christian, then hiding behind a risibly self-serving interpretation of “judge not.” Translation: I get to trash anything I want, but you mustn’t challenge that.

Okay, says Bro. Steve, it’s his show; he gets to say what he wants. My response: Click him off.

For those of a more irenic temperament, here’s the deal: Christianity subsists in matters of belief. People may embrace whatever beliefs they please and can even make up their own religions like Fred Sanford did to get a tax deduction, but they can’t do that and call it Christianity. Doctrinal cherry pickers are no more genuinely Christian than the illegal alien who comes here for a job is genuinely American. Bona fide Americans rightly say such people are economic squatters who know nothing of what it really means to be an American.

In just this way, Christianity is more than hoisting the flag because you like the pretty colors. It’s a matter of deeply held beliefs. People with a public axe to grind cannot be prevented from glomming onto the name of Christian when it suits their purposes. But if you want Christians to regard your claims as credible, you’ll need to embrace genuine Christian beliefs. And here’s a special note to the arrogant: If you honestly don’t care whether other Christians regard your claims as credible, that’d be all the more reason to doubt those claims yourself.

Now for the politics: Talk radio people make their money by making people mad. Insult is the coin of the talk radio realm because outrage gets the ratings; the nastier and more inflammatory, the better. This is America, so they can do that… for now. But I’m going to argue that it’s likely a gig with an expiration date on it.

If there’s anything we should have learned through the past 30 years of gradual American decline, it’s that if you misuse your freedoms long enough you will lose them. Consider the following ten examples of lost or diminished freedom:

Smokers abused their freedom to such an excess that smoking is now permitted only when standing in the exact geographic center of nowhere and not exhaling. Some communities have even proposed laws that would make it illegal to smoke in your own private home. Likewise, people putting giant pig farms next to residential neighborhoods provoked homeowners to agitate for land use laws. They got them, and of course that has run its course until the term “private property” is almost an oxymoron. That same psychology has worked against all sorts of other property rights. In Florida, for example, you can’t even install a window in your own private home without buying permits from the state, obeying restrictions on the size of the windows and (I’m not making this next part up!) the efficiency rating of your air conditioner, and getting in-home visits from inspectors.

Some businesses polluted the countryside, so now we have the EPA preventing business from operating at all. Other businesses were careless about worker safety, so now we have OSHA-crats meddling in every detail of business in the name of safety. When people bribed politicians through campaign contributions, we ended up with restrictions on free speech. When hiring managers rejected people on account of race, we ended up with diversity laws enforcing reverse discrimination.

It goes on: If graffiti is a problem in your town, you probably have restrictions on buying spray paint or even Sharpie pens. I’ve seen this process affect street preachers who yell too loudly or intimidate passersby, so we end up with laws restricting where they can preach and how loud. In cities with aggressive bums, even the panhandlers get regulated and in some cases outlawed entirely.

Think about that last one: The law says they can’t even beg. And we call this the land of the free? Who are we kidding? American liberty looks like a stop sign in redneck country, shot full of holes. And mostly we have ourselves to blame because the natural result of misusing freedom is to lose it. In virtually every area of American life, the misuse of freedom has resulted in its being curtailed or, in many cases, eliminated. Freedom, abused, is lost. It’s just the way life is.

How long does this have to go on before Americans truly learn what they profess to know, which is that freedom demands responsibility? Talk show controversialists, especially the conservative and libertarian varieties, should long ago have been the first to see this, take the lesson to heart and use their bully pulpits to preach it. Instead, many of them are using their freedom in a way that’s provoking too many people to wish radio talkers didn’t have quite so much freedom. If that sentiment gets deep enough and wide enough and lasts long enough, broadcast freedom will suddenly vanish into a mist of rules, licensing requirements, continuing education requirements, demands for equal time, lawyers multiplying like fleas in the carpet, and a legion of petty, ignorant broadcast-o-crats explaining how they’re making everything more fair by slaying winners and feeding their flesh to losers.

If you think this means all conservative communications has to degrade into lukewarm, dispirited, milquetoast mush, consider my previous sentence.  We can be spirited and, when the occasion calls for it, get in people’s faces.  But if you escalate nastiness every day just to exceed the level of yesterday’s outrage and keep your listeners, you’ll end up losing the ability to speak your mind at all.  And it doesn’t matter whether that’s good, bad, wise, foolish, politically left, right or center. It’s just a fact of life. Talk radio guys, please deal with that before it deals with you.

otherbrothersteve@gmail.com

2 Comments

  1. I didn’t know that factoid about Neal Boortz. I guess I’m naive and believe that most conservative pundits hold at least a semblance of basic Christian belief. You’re right, the doctrinal cherry pickers have no claim on Christianity.. yet they sure can make a mess of things.

    I don’t listen to most of them anymore, not necessarily because I don’t want to, but because I live in an area where the frequency doesn’t come in. I’ve learned though, that the longer I stay away, the less impressed I am when I do happen to catch a segment of their shows. I think I’m becoming a bit of a tv/radio snob actually… the only people I care to listen to are those who lead virtuous lives…at least, for as much as their fruit can tell.

    Posted on 25-May-11 at 22:18 pm | Permalink
  2. Ole Rocker

    Good article. I e-mailed the link to this to several friends. Keep up the good work!

    Posted on 26-May-11 at 8:22 am | Permalink

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