Monday, July 31, 2006

The Last Day

Yesterday was my last day as pastor of Jackson Grove Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Kentucky. As is often the case with good-byes, yesterday was an emotional day for just about everyone. A few of the members hated to see us go, period. Others were personally sad that we were leaving but believed it was best both for the church and for us, and a few were glad that we were leaving (or at least that I was leaving).

The times ahead will be challenging for both me and the church. I will probably go insane if I have to go very long without preaching, plus there's this little manner of trying to find something to help pay the bills until I'm called to another church. On the church's end, my departure probably won't be felt as much as that of Maria, at least in the immediate future. She was the music director, youth director, VBS director, church clerk, planned most of our outreach events, and took care of all the decorating for holidays and special events. Not to mention that she is such a warm and loving person toward everyone. (No wonder that several of the members chipped in to give her a very nice necklace yesterday and didn't give me anything!)

It was unlike any other pastoral departure I had witnessed, but I've only gone through this twice (three times if you count an interim who was forced to leave because the church found out he was using church resources to start his own church and was recruiting the church's members). In the church I attended as a youth we had a pastor leave, but I don't recall much about his last day. Then in the church we attended before I became a pastor, the pastor (who was a good friend) suddenly announced his resignation. On his last Sunday, he sneaked out of the building during the closing prayer and left without giving anyone a chance to say good-bye. My departure was considerably different in that we had a transitional time in the service when I introduced the interim pastor (our DOM), and then there was a dinner after the service.

I am grateful that my departure from Jackson Grove was amicable. There were several times since the first of the year when I really thought that the end, whenever it came, might be acrimonious, but once I announced my resignation at the end of May most of those who were opposed to my leadership suddenly developed a more positive attitude toward me. It may not have ended as I would have liked, but it did end better than it could have.

So where do I go from here? I'm still sending out resumes to churches; I have about 25 doors that are cracked open to various degrees, but as of yet none are wide open. I've contacted some of the DOMs in the area to let them know I am available for supply work. And I have a temporary position lined up at the local university bookstore starting in mid-August; that should last about a month, and it will actually pay quite a bit more than the church did. After that, I have no idea what I will do.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Florida Baptist Witness Interview with Frank Page

In the most recent edition of the Florida Baptist Witness, there is a series of brief articles based on a July 12 interview of SBC president Frank Page by Witness editor James Smith, along with an introductory editorial by Smith. In the editorial, Smith strongly urges all Southern Baptists to give Frank Page the respect and support he deserves as SBC president. The interview itself covers a broad range of subjects---the Cooperative Program, some of the theological issues that are being hotly debated in the SBC, Page's change of position since 1980 on the role of women in ministry, his election as SBC president, and some of the things he wants to emphasize as SBC president. To no surprise, Page is candid and forthcoming throughout the interview. The interview, along with Smith's editorial, can be found at the following links:

In both the editorial and the interview, Smith is balanced and fair. This piece is neither an effort to smear Page nor a pro-Page propaganda piece. Smith raises some difficult issues, but he allows Page the freedom to explain his position. Basically, Smith believes that Southern Baptists need to get to know Frank Page and see how he leads the SBC before deciding that he is unfit for the position. Thus, he expresses his disapproval with the maneuvering by some within the SBC to run a candidate against Page next year in San Antonio:
One of the tangible ways that those who supported a different candidate in Greensboro can demonstrate their support of Page today is stand down now from any political organizing and seeking to run an opponent to Page at next year’s Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in San Antonio. Shouldn’t he at least have a chance to prove himself before folks attempt to deny him a second term, a tradition granted to most Southern Baptist Convention presidents even during most of the heated years of the conservative resurgence (with some exceptions)?
The interview gives us a clearer picture of where Page stands on certain issues and some of the things he would like to see happen within the SBC. As is to be expected, not everyone in the SBC will be pleased with what Page says in this interview. For that matter, even though I supported Page during the election, I am disappointed by some of his responses in this interview. Does this mean I no longer support Page? Absolutely not. If I had known then what I now know about some of Page's positions, I still would have supported and voted for him. I may disagree with him on some specific issues, but on the broad themes that defined the election---the Cooperative Program, broadening the base of participation in SBC leadership, openness and transparency---I believe we share a similar perspective.

The most troubling thing in the interview is Page's discussion of the IMB issues regarding the policies on tongues/private prayer language and baptism. My disagreement with him on this matter is at the most fundamental level: he believes that "it is proper for the IMB to set theological policies which are not explicitly addressed in the Baptist Faith and Message," while I believe that this makes the BFM irrelevant and basically allows our trustee boards to redefine our doctrinal positions without us as a convention having any say. This also opens the door to the potential embarrassment of having entities that officially adopt doctrinal positions which are diametrically opposed to those of another entity. In such a case, which position would be the Southern Baptist position? That is why we have the BFM---to declare what our common doctrinal positions are---and no SBC entity should be allowed to redefine these positions.

I also find Page's position on the tongues/prayer language issue to be somewhat inconsistent. On one hand, Page states his concerns with the policy on prayer language: “'I just think in that one area there is a possible interpretation of a private prayer language [in Scripture] that we need to be very careful about saying, no. If there is some scriptural possibility there, [a policy forbidding it for missionaries] makes me nervous.' Page cited 1 Corinthians 14 as a passage which may be interpreted to permit a private prayer language, while noting that he does not personally have a private prayer language.” Just a few lines later, however, Page is quoted as supporting the exclusion of persons from missionary service who advocate and practice tongues. While I agree that 1 Corinthians 14 may be interpreted to permit a private prayer language, there is no doubt that this same chapter clearly says not to forbid speaking in tongues. In the same way that there is not agreement about whether this chapter allows for private prayer language, there is not agreement over whether tongues refers to a known human language or a completely unknown language. So how can a person say that we should be careful about prohibiting a private prayer language because Scripture may allow for it while at the same time prohibiting the use of tongues even though Scripture clearly says not to make such a prohibition?

On the baptism policy I also find myself in disagreement with Page. According to the Witness, "As to the IMB’s baptism guideline, while Page said he was not familiar with the details, he affirmed that he believes re-baptism is necessary in the case of a person who was baptized by immersion following salvation in a church with 'incorrect theology,' including one which rejected eternal security of the believer — which is the requirement of the IMB baptism guideline." I have discussed my opposition to this policy in depth (also in the comments here), so I will not go into detail about why I disagree with Page on this point. Let me just say that on this issue I see a bit of inconsistency in Page's position as well. In the interview he says, "We just need to be careful in our trustees that we hold to guidelines that are explicitly biblical and do not go beyond that," but this policy that he supports does not rest on one single explicit biblical statement or principle.

The interview reminds us that Page was a member of the Resolutions Committee in Greensboro that presented the surprisingly controversial resolution against the use of alcohol. To his credit, in the interview Page does not try to make an argument that it is wrong in and of itself for a Christian to drink alcohol in moderation. He describes his support of the resolution in terms of trying to preserve our witness. In many areas of the Bible Belt the use of alcohol, even in moderation, would seriously damage a Christian's witness (at least a Baptist's witness). However, there are other parts of the country and the world where drinking in moderation would have no negative effect on a Christian's witness. Why should a Christian have to abstain in these places? Why support a universal resolution in response to a regional matter? Why not simply pass a resolution encouraging us to set aside our freedom in certain situations if the exercise of our freedom would hurt our witness?

You may be thinking by now, "Why does this guy support Frank Page? On some of these controversial issues they are in total disagreement!" That's true, but on these issues the president of the SBC has little direct influence. On the broad themes that I mentioned earlier, however, the president's role is pivotal. It is in these areas that I believe Frank Page can make a significant change for the better within the SBC:
  1. The Cooperative Program---Before the election there was a great deal of discussion about the Cooperative Program, with close attention being given to the CP giving of the candidates' churches. Page won in no small part because his church gives much more to CP on a percentage basis than his opponents' churches. Page's church demonstrates that a church can give sacrificially to CP while simultaneously engaging in missions work. Hopefully this is a model that other churches will emulate. Unlike those whose churches give low percentages to CP, Page has the moral authority to challenge SBC churches to renew their commitment to CP. He realizes that for this to happen, people and churches must believe that their CP dollars are going toward worthwhile ministries that are making a real difference.
  2. Broadening the base of participation in SBC leadership---Describing recent SBC elections, Page remarked, "We’ve not had elections; we’ve had coronations." Page's election marks a new day in the SBC, at least temporarily, when a small group of leaders no longer decides who will serve as president. In the interview, Page announces his intention to "intentionally seek out pastors of every size church, including small and medium-size churches, young pastors and older pastors who are godly, conservative men who need to be involved." Since Page is not connected with the "Good Ol' Boy" system that many believe has tightly controlled the SBC for 25 years, expectations are high that he will appoint new faces to those committees chosen by the president.
  3. Openness and transparency---This is seen most clearly in Page's response to the recent revelation that in his doctoral dissertation he strongly advocated the view that women can serve in any position in the church, including that of pastor. Rather than avoiding the issue, Page acknowledges that questions about the matter are appropriate. He admits that in his dissertation he tried "to conform biblical passages to some cultural preferences of the time." He now refers to his former position as "extreme" and admits to being embarrassed that at one time he held to this position. It would have been easy for Page to say as little as possible about this issue, but he seems to believe that it is best to be candid and open about the truth, even when it is a bit embarrassing. In this he has set an example for all of us to follow, especially if we are leaders.
This interview gives us a good idea of who Frank Page is and what he brings to the presidency of the SBC. I have only touched on parts of the interview; be sure to read it in its entirety (use the links at the beginning of this post). What will Frank Page's presidency mean for the SBC? Only God knows, but in the interview Page explores the possibilities:
Speculating on what his election means about the future of the Southern Baptist Convention, Page offered two scenarios — a “blip on the screen” which would not result in meaningful change or a “true heart change” in which “the Cooperative Program is going to be strengthened and that we’re going to truly involve a larger number of godly, conservative men and women in the convention. And, instead of a tightly controlled convention, that it’s going to be more open for, I believe, healthy dialogue and debate.”
I am hopeful that we will see a "true heart change" in the SBC as a result of Frank Page's election.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

"Is the Battle for the Bible Over?"---A Response

In an article posted on the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention's web site, Gary Ledbetter, editor of the Southern Baptist Texan, raises the question of whether the "battle for the Bible" is really over within the Southern Baptist Convention. Certainly, one would be hard pressed to find a current leader in the SBC who would deny the inerrancy of Scripture. It might be accurate to say that the battle regarding inerrancy is over within the SBC, but can we really say that the battle for the Bible is over? Ledbetter asserts that the battle for the Bible is not over, and on this point I fully agree with him. As you will see, however, we have different reasons for believing this.

Ledbetter is right when he says, "The battle for the Bible will not end until time does." As long as Satan is operating in this world, he will attack the inspiration, truthfulness, and authority of the Bible, because the Bible is the Word of God. So in this sense the battle for the Bible is something we will always be engaged in. We must always be vigilant against efforts to denigrate the inspiration, truthfulness, and authority of the Bible. If Ledbetter had stayed with this theme, his analysis would have been completely on the mark. Unfortunately, he carries his argument too far and confuses biblical fidelity with subscribing to a particular interpretation of Scripture.

Ledbetter indicates that there are Southern Baptists who profess to believe in inerrancy but who are not really faithful to Scripture because they accept unbiblical doctrines. He mentions the recent, and often contentious, discussions about baptism and church membership, tongues and private prayer language, and the use of alcohol as examples that the battle for the Bible is far from over in the SBC. Certainly if someone denies the deity or the humanity of Jesus, or that salvation is found only through Christ, or anything else that is clearly taught in Scripture then that person is being unfaithful to Scripture, even if he or she claims to believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. However, the examples given by Ledbetter do NOT meet this standard because on each of these issues the view that is predominant among Southern Baptists does not rest on clear and unambiguous biblical teaching. These views reflect a specific interpretation of what the Bible says about each subject, but while the Bible is inerrant and infallible, our interpretations are not.

I believe that there is a new "battle for the Bible" coming to the forefront in the SBC. Whereas during the Conservative Resurgence the battle was over the inspiration and authority of the Bible, the new battle for the Bible is concerned with the sufficiency of Scripture. The key issue for our generation within the SBC is not, "Is the Bible really the Word of God?" but "What does the Bible itself say about [insert topic]?" It is because we acknowledge that the Bible is the Word of God that we examine everything, including issues that Southern Baptists in the past have almost universally agreed upon, in light of what the Bible actually says, and also what it does not say. This has resulted in some contention within the SBC, as many of us have become convinced that the predominant views on some issues within the SBC are lacking in clear and unambiguous biblical support. This is certainly true for the issues that Ledbetter refers to in his article.

Ledbetter and I agree on what needs to happen in our churches if we are to be faithful to Scripture. At the end of his article he says:

A systematic preaching and teaching of the whole Bible will cover everything eventually. It’s not commonly done. It is more loving for us to pass along as much of what God has taught us as possible than it is to teach to perceived needs or trendy subjects. That way our children and our other disciples can learn to love God and his truth in the same way we have.

“Inerrancy” is still a good and serviceable term. It’s got to be more than that, though. If it is our conviction regarding the nature of God’s revelation of himself to all men, we’ll do something about that. We’ll learn it, love it more than other competing versions of the truth, and we’ll teach all of it to those who follow us.
I agree with this statement. However, if we actually do this--- systematically preach and teach the whole of Scripture as it is written---I believe the results will be different from what Ledbetter expects. Ledbetter seems to think that such preaching and teaching will lead future generations of Southern Baptists to embrace the predominant views on the issues mentioned above. I believe that the opposite is true. Such preaching and teaching will result in a diversity of views on these issues, because the Bible does not address these issues with perfect clarity. If we teach the Bible as it is written, then we will have agreement on those issues where it speaks clearly, diversity on those issues where it does not speak clearly, and unity in the midst of this diversity. To me, this would be a victory in the "battle for the Bible."

Thursday, July 13, 2006

In Not Of

In her post The SBC's Forgotten Missionaries, Kiki Cherry recounts some of the challenges encountered by our SBC Mission Service Corps (MSC) missionaries in their efforts to raise the funds needed to support their ministries. (For more information about MSC, read Kiki's post and go to the MSC home page.) MSC missionaries make up a large percentage of NAMB's missionary force in North America, and they are on the front lines in some of the most challenging ministry environments in North America. Many MSC missionaries serve in areas outside of the Bible Belt, and most of those who serve in the Bible Belt are ministering to some of the most needy and neglected segments of our society. In short, most MSC workers are serving in environments that are very different from what most SBC church members and pastors are accustomed to. While many, if not most, Southern Baptists live inside a church bubble, our MSC missionaries are at the forefront of a missional movement within our convention. Because they have broken outside the church bubble, they are often misunderstood and criticized for the way they minister to people. Kiki describes a couple of encounters that illustrate the difference between a church bubble mindset and a missional mindset:

We also were challenged in aspects of our ministry. One man objected to us "interacting with homosexuals." Another lady was appalled that we would "allow non-Christians to come to our group." She was concerned that they might tarnish our Christian doctrine if they were allowed to participate!!!
A church bubble mindset, as exemplified by the critics, is concerned with maintaining the purity of the institution. There is a fear that interaction with people whose values and lifestyles are non biblical will lead Christians away from the truth. Homosexuals, drug addicts, prostitutes, drunkards, etc., are to be shunned and avoided until they give up their sinful behavior. If we were to associate with such people, others might assume that we are condoning their behavior. Outsiders are welcome to come to the church, as long as they conform to the church's norms of behavior and appearance. The church is a safe and comfortable refuge from the big, bad world out there. It is not a place for questioning; it is a place where all the answers have been found.

A missional mindset, on the other hand, is concerned with bringing the message of redemption to a fallen world. Missional Christians recognize that the world is a dirty, sinful, sometimes scary place. They also realize that it is the place where lost people are and that if these people are going to be reached with the gospel then Christians are going to have to go to them. Furthermore, to reach them we must go to them not in fear, not with a judgmental attitude or critical spirit, but in love. So we need to interact with and minister to homosexuals, drug addicts, prostitutes, drunkards, etc. When they act like a lost person, instead of criticizing them we need to love them. We don't condone their behavior, but we realize that we cannot expect people to live a godly lifestyle until they are disciples of Jesus. Being missional also means that we accept people's questions as legitimate and that we listen to what they have to say. Instead of becoming defensive, we should welcome their questions as they push us deeper into the Word to find real answers.

It may be a cliche, but we have to be "in the world but not of the world" if we are going to reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Gone are the days when the church could simply say, "Here we are! Come to us!" and see people respond. Like it or not, we are living in a secular world filled with secular people who are not clamoring to join a church. Indeed, many of them see the church as irrelevant at best and dangerous at worst. However, they are looking for something real and meaningful to fill a void in their lives. Only Jesus can truly fill this void and give them that real and meaningful something they are seeking, but we have to take Him outside of our church bubble and into their world if they are going to know Him. The lyrics to the song, "In Not Of" by Avalon describe the journey of a believer from a church bubble/protect us from the world mindset to a missional/redeem the world mindset:

I hide me far away from trouble
The world outside me grows darker by the day
So I promise to stay here close beside Him
Surely God would want His children safe

Then reading, how my eyes were opened
I find that He is leading us out into the world
Into the middle of fallen saints and sinners
Where a little grace is needed most

Come take the Light to darker parts

Share His truth with hardened hearts
We are not like the world
But we can love them
Come bring the Hope to hopeless men
Until the lost are found in Him
He came to save the world
So let us be in it, not of it

Wait a minute, if we say we love them
Why are we not in it? Why we run and hide?
Entertain a stranger, maybe entertain an angel
The danger is if our worlds don't collide


We've cursed the darkness far too long
We need to hold the candle high
We have to go and right the wrongs
We need to touch the world with love
With His love

Wait a minute, if we say we love them
Why are we not in it? Why are we not in it?


Wait a minute, if we say we love them
Why are we not in it?

Written by Nick Gonzales and Grant Cunningham.
Copyright 1999, Vogon Poetry (ASCAP) and River Oaks Music Company (BMI)

As God's people we have two options in this ever darkening world. We can retreat into our safe and comfortable church bubble, but in doing so we limit our ability to minister to people and reach them with the gospel. Or we can go out into the world, where lost people live, and love them. We'll have to put up with a lot of stuff that bothers and offends us, but how else are we going to reach them?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A Letter to John Floyd

The eyes of the Southern Baptist Convention will be on the IMB Board of Trustees as they meet in Richmond, Virginia, next week. It seems to be a given that the issues relating to Wade Burleson will garner the most attention. The way that the board has handled these issues so far has resulted in a lack of confidence in the board on the part of many Southern Baptists, including myself. However, the IMB Board of Trustees has a new chairman, Dr. John Floyd of Tennessee, so there is a possibility that things may be handled differently. Today I sent the following email to Dr. Floyd suggesting some things that need to be done to restore our confidence in the IMB Board:

Dear Dr. Floyd,

My name is Tim Sweatman. I am pastor of Jackson Grove Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Kentucky, as well as the owner/editor of the blog The View from the Hill. As you may be aware, I have been highly critical of several decisions made by the IMB Board of Trustees over the past several months and of the leadership provided by former Chairman Tom Hatley. As the new chairman of the IMB Board, you are doubtlessly aware that many in the Southern Baptist Convention are watching closely to see the type of leadership you will bring to the board. It is my sincere prayer that God will give you wisdom to do what is right so that our work in worldwide missions can go on without the distractions posed by the aforementioned board decisions and the controversy surrounding them. I pray that the board meeting next week will begin the process of putting these distractions behind us. I believe that the following steps would do much to eliminate these distractions and controversies and restore the confidence of all Southern Baptists in the IMB Board of Trustees:

  1. The board needs to examine its doctrinal requirements and remove any that go beyond the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 so that no Southern Baptist who is in agreement with our common confessional statement is disqualified on doctrinal grounds. It is improper, albeit legal, for the IMB or any other SBC entity to establish doctrinal requirements or standards for its employees that go beyond the BFM. The BFM serves as our convention's common statement of faith. Any Southern Baptist whose doctrinal views are in alignment with this statement should be allowed to serve with any of our entities. Of course, there must be other standards such as character, previous church service, calling, education/experience, etc., but the BFM should be the doctrinal standard for employees of SBC entities (including missionaries). We have established our trustee boards to operate our entities, not to redefine our doctrinal views.
  2. Forums and executive sessions should be used only in cases where the security of our missionaries requires secrecy or when legally confidential matters are discussed. As the sole member of the IMB, the SBC has a right to know about what is happening within the IMB. With the exceptions noted above, all business of the IMB should be conducted in open plenary session.
  3. When accusations are made against an individual trustee, that trustee should be accorded the right to speak on his or her own behalf before the board. Also, no public accusation should be made before that trustee has been privately confronted. Furthermore, if there is a need for an accusation to be made public, the evidence for the accusation should also be made public at that time, and the accused should be allowed to present his or her own evidence.
  4. The prohibition against trustees expressing their disagreement with board approved actions needs to be repealed. Again, the SBC has a right to have our trustees speak to us openly and honestly. Of course, any disagreement should be expressed in a Christlike manner, but to be fully informed we need to hear all sides of an issue.
  5. Regarding the decision of the SBC to refer the Wade Burleson motion to the IMB Board of Trustees, I expect that you will bend over backward to make sure that no one can accuse the board of trying to sweep the matter under the rug. To be honest, I think it is unwise to have a body investigate itself, but that is what was decided. Your leadership on this particular issue could do much to give credibility to this process. I hope that you will seek to appoint to this committee trustees who are impartial and have not been directly involved in these matters. I also believe that you should give Wade the right to veto any selection. Only by the appointment of trustees who are acceptable to both sides can we have any degree of confidence in the committee's findings. Furthermore, if any of the parties involved disagrees with the findings of the committee, such disagreement should be incorporated into the final report.
The firestorm caused by the passage of the policies/guidelines on prayer language and baptism and the various issues related to Wade Burleson have cast the board in a poor light among many Southern Baptists. If there is anything positive about all of this, it would be that a number of Southern Baptists are for the first time really paying attention to the workings of the IMB. Of course, I'm sure that you join me in wishing that everyone was talking about reaching people groups and penetrating cultures of lostness instead of these controversies. I sincerely believe you are in a position to provide the necessary leadership to put these controversies behind us and help us focus on what really matters. I and many others are praying that you, Wade, and all the other trustees will speak and act with wisdom, courage, and grace as you deal with these issues. Thank you for your service, and may God bless you.

In Christ,
Tim Sweatman

P.S. I will be posting the body of this email on my blog. However, I will NOT post your response unless you give me your permission to do so. In that case, I will post your complete response so that nothing you write will be taken out of context.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Afraid of Freedom?

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, the day that we as Americans celebrate our nation's independence. But we celebrate more than the fact that our ancestors successfully revolted against Great Britain and established an independent nation. The Fourth of July is a celebration of freedom. If there is anything that sets America apart from other nations, it is the degree to which we identify ourselves with the concept of freedom. Our National Anthem refers to America as "the land of the free." In the Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln spoke of America as a nation that had been "conceived in liberty." It is nearly impossible to think of America and not think of freedom. However, it seems that here in the early 21st century, we Americans are increasingly afraid of freedom.

Freedom is a messy thing. Freedom means that people can express views that you or I find repugnant. Freedom means that others can live in a way that we find immoral. Freedom means that people can make unwise choices. It is precisely because freedom is so messy that periodic efforts are made in the name of security, stability, or tolerance to place restrictions on freedom. Two recent examples from the news demonstrate that those on both the left and right sides of the political and ideological spectrum are increasingly uncomfortable with freedom. Both are examples of a growing trend to attempt to suppress expression that some find offensive.

  1. In Clark County, Nevada, school officials cut off the microphone of valedictorian Brittany McComb during her valedictory address when she deviated from the pre-approved text of her speech to talk about how Christ has brought true meaning and fulfillment to her life. School officials claim that people might have construed McComb's remarks as a promotion of religion on the part of the school district. Give me a break! In all my life, I have never met one person who thought that a high school valedictorian spoke on behalf of the school rather than himself or herself when giving his or her valedictory address. I know that when I gave my valedictory address in 1990 that I was speaking for no one other than myself.
  2. Last week in the United States Senate there was a debate and vote on a proposed constitutional amendment that would give Congress the power to prohibit the desecration of the American flag. The amendment fell one vote short of the two-thirds vote it needed to pass. This is a tough one. On one hand, an overwhelming majority of Americans want to criminalize flag desecration. But on the other hand, one of the things that makes this such a great nation is that we allow people to express unpopular and even offensive views.
One of the costs we pay to live in a civil society is that we give up a degree of freedom. Even in America, we have never been promised absolute freedom. Freedom does not allow a person to do everything that he or she wants to do without any restriction. Freedom of speech does not give us the right to commit perjury or to say something that places others in danger of actual harm (the famous example of screaming "Fire!" in a crowded theater). Freedom of the press does not provide an excuse for libel. Freedom of religion does not allow parents to practice child sacrifice. Each of these limitations is based on a clear public interest. That historically has been the standard by which we evaluated restrictions on personal freedom. But today there is an increasing effort to restrict freedom, especially freedom of expression, on grounds that it is offensive or because we do not agree. If we continue to curtail freedoms because of personal preference rather than on clear public interest, then we will cease to be a free society.