Deplatformed! The Tech Left's Attack on Free Speech and Why Christians Should Object, Part II

So the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, "[There is] still one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the LORD; but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil" (1 Kings 22:8).

The First Amendment deals with the issues of free speech and the freedom of religion.  It's not an accident that these two concepts are linked.  For Christianity, and it was Christianity that the framers of the Constitution had in mind, is a religion of the Word.  "How can they hear without a preacher?" was Paul's rhetorical question to the Romans.  The obvious answer is that unless men are free to preach the Gospel, sinners never will hear of salvation by belief alone in Christ Jesus. 

Christianity's emphasis that salvation comes only by understanding, and agreeing with, the propositions of Scripture, requires that men be able to speak that truth freely.  Hence it is every Christian's concern that the liberty to speak and to discuss the Word of God not be inhibited by legal restrictions. 

And because Christians are commanded to treat others as they themselves would like to be treated, one of the implications of Christianity is that all should enjoy to right to freely discuss their ideas without fear of legal sanction.  In a Christian society, there are no such things as thought crimes.  We leave that mistaken notion to the Marxists, the fascists, and other authoritarians.

Christianity is not, as the ACLU would like you to believe, hostile to free speech.  Rather, it is it's only source and guarantor. 

Because free speech is both an implication of Christianity and necessary to its propagation, the maintenance of free and open discussion is of great importance to Christians.  Likewise, when free speech is threatened, it is incumbent upon Christians to come to its defense. If, when the free speech comes under attack, Christians remain silent, we do so, not only to our shame, but to our own harm as well.

It is with these thoughts in mind that I undertook to write about the deplatforming of Alex Jones and other prominent conservative and libertarian thinkers last week, and it is why I'm writing about it again this week.  Whatever one may think of Alex Jones, Mark Dice, Diamond and Silk, Daniel McAdams and Peter Van Buren - whether you love them, hate them, or never watch them, it matters not - the fact that these individuals and others have been the targets of an apparently coordinated attack by Big Tech is a matter of great concern. 

If Christians stand by and say nothing while Apple, Spotify, Facebook, and Twitter deplatform Alex Jones simply because they don't like what he says, they should not be surprised when these same organizations target them for deplatforming at some point in the future when it becomes politically expedient to do so.

Now, some may argue that these are private companies, and private companies have the right to regulate what is said on their own platforms.  I agree.  But that said, I am also of the opinion that there is more to this situation than private businesses simply running their social media platforms in the way they see fit. 

A strong circumstantial case can be made that the deplatforming of conservative and libertarian voices - a deplatforming that has been going on for some time and one which has recently picked up steam - is really a joint venture of between privately owned social media enterprises and the Deep State, the permanent, unelected government that largely runs the country the way it wants to, regardless of what politicians happen to be in power.

Lord willing, I shall make that case in a future installment.  But for today, I'd like to dig a bit deeper into the Scriptures to show just how strong the Biblical support for free speech is.

 

Examples from the kings of Israel and Judah

"You are the man!" These were the crushing words of Nathan the prophet when he confronted King David with his sins of adultery and murder. 

David is described in the pages of Scripture as a man after God's own heart.  But as students of the Bible know well, David almost inexplicably fell into deep sin, committing adultery with Bathsheba and then having her husband, Uriah the Hittite, murdered to cover up his sin. 

But when the Lord sent David's friend Nathan to confront him, what was David's reaction?  Did David say, "How dare you speak to me this way!  Don't you know who I am?  Why, I'm the Lord's anointed!  Off with your head!"?

No, he did not.  What was his reaction to Nathan's words?  Scripture tells us, "So David said to Nathan, 'I have sinned against the LORD' " (2 Samuel 12:13). 

David did not punish  the prophet for confronting him with his sin.  That is to say, David believed in free speech.  In fact, it almost seems as if David were relieved that Nathan said what he did, for David repented of his egregious sins and was forgiven by God. 

Another incident from David's career is illustrative as well.  When David was on the run from Absalom,  a certain Shimei came out to curse him while he and his men were travelling.  As Shimei cursed, one of David's men spoke up and said, "Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king?  Please, let me go over and take off his head!"  To which David responded, "So let him curse." 

David could easily have put an end to the cursing but did not.  As the Scripture reports, "And as David and his men went along the read, Shimei went along the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went, threw stones at him and kicked up dust" (2 Samuel 16:13). 

Shimei, it would seem, put on quite a show.  Yet David let it go on.  Not that he couldn't have ended it any time he wanted.  But David perceived that the Lord had ordered Shimei to do what he did and accepted the rebuke. Once again, David supported free speech.

David, of course, was not the only Hebrew king to be confronted by one of the prophets.  But not all of them reacted the same way David did.  Some repented, others became enraged that anyone would dare question their authority.

In fact, the reaction of a king to prophetic criticism, that is to say, the degree to which a king supported free speech, could almost be seen as a litmus test for what kind of man he was, whether he was a good and godly king, or a scoundrel. 

Consider the quote at the top of this post.  The quoted words are those of King Ahab of Israel, who, as the Scriptures tell us, "did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him" (1 Kings 16:25).

And as we would expect from a man who despised the Word of God, unsurprisingly, Ahab also had a problem with free speech.  Unlike David, Ahab did not, in general, react well when confronted with speech that contradicted him.

For example, Ahab openly expressed his hatred for the prophet Micaiah.  And why did Ahab hate Micaiah?  Ahab tells us plainly it was Micaiah's prophesying against him. 

Micaiah was already in jail when Ahab expressed his hatred for the prophet to Jehoshaphat.  We don't know exactly the reason Micaiah was locked up, but, given Ahab's words, it likely was due to something the prophet had said to Ahab on an earlier occasion. 

When Ahab finally did drag Micaiah out of prison, so he could weigh in on Ahab's plans to attack Syria, the prophet foretold Ahab's defeat and death.

And what was Ahab's reaction to the bad news?  "Put this fellow in prison, and feed him with bread of affliction and water of affliction" (1 Kings 22:27).

Ahab, unlike David, did not believe in free speech.  In Ahab's eyes, Micaiah had committed a crime by not telling the king what he wanted to hear and was deserving of punishment. 

As a follow up, when King Jehoshaphat, a godly man and Ahab's ally, returned to Jerusalem after the military debacle against Syria, he too was confronted by a prophet named Jehu.  Jehu said to the king, "Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD?  Therefore the wrath of the LORD is upon you.  Nevertheless good things are found in you, in that you have removed the wooden images from the land, and have prepared your heart to seek God" (2 Chronicles 19:2,3). 

Scripture does not record Jehoshaphat's reaction to these words of rebuke, but given the overall positive view that Scripture takes of his reign, the most reasonable conclusion is that he accepted the words of the prophet and repented. 

King Ahab's wife, the remarkably wicked Queen Jezebel, didn't believe in free speech either.  For it was she who killed the prophets of the Lord.  Those who survived her purge did so as a result of the faithful actions of Obadiah (1 Kings 18:13). 

Or consider the case of King Jeroboam of Israel.  He's the one who instituted idolatry as the state religion of the Northern Kingdom.  When the king had set up a golden calf and was prepared to burn incense on an altar he had built, Scripture tells us that a man of God confronted the king and prophesied against him. 

Jeroboam reacted by calling for his arrest.  Clearly, Jeroboam did not believe in free speech.  It should come as no surprise, either, that his reign is viewed in the pages of Scripture as decidedly negative.  The Bible tells us, "After these event Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way, but gain he made priests from every class of people for the high places; whoever wished, he consecrated him, and he became one of the priests of the high places.  And this thin was the sin of the house of Jeroboam, so as to exterminate and destroy it from the face of the earth" (1 Kings 33, 34).

Worth noting here is that Jeroboam not only disdained free speech, but he also violated the principle of the separation of powers as established in the Law of Moses.  According to the Law, priests only were to sacrifice to God, but Jeroboam did not hesitate to combine the role of priest with his role as king. 

If we were to couch this in constitutional terms, we would say that Jeroboam did not respect the separation of church and state as required in the Antiestablishment clause of the First Amendment.

In effect, evil King Jeroboam trashed both major provisions of the First Amendment, if I may use such an anachronism.  In the first place he prohibited free speech in that he called for the arrest of the prophet sent by God to rebuke him, and in the second in that he involved the civil government in religion in a way that was unlawful.

One last example of the attack on free speech in the Old Testament is worth exploring, the case of Jeremiah.  Jeremiah exercised his prophetic ministry in the final years of the Southern Kingdom.  It was a troubled time for Judah and Jerusalem, as the specter of coming the Babylonian captivity casts its shadow across the pages of the book that bears the prophets name.  Jeremiah's message was as simple as it was unpopular with the power brokers in Judah:  Surrender to the Babylonians and it will go well with you; Resist, and you will die.

Scripture records at least two serious attempts to deplatform and kill Jeremiah during his ministry.  After preaching a particularly unpopular sermon in the court yard of the temple, Scripture tells us, "So the priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the LORD.  Now it happened, when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking all that the LORD had commanded him to speak, to all the people, that the priests and the prophet and the people seized him, saying,  'You will surely die!  Why have you prophesied in the name of the LORD, saying, 'This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without an inhabitant'?' And all the people were gathered against Jeremiah in the house of the LORD."  The princes of Judah also piled on Jeremiah, saying, "This man deserves to die!  For he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your ears" (Jeremiah 26:7-9, 11).  Jeremiah was able just barely to avoid his deplatforming and death, when he convinced the people and the princes and the elders that he spoke for the LORD. 

Some of the elders even cited an earlier example in Judah's history when a prophet named Micah of Moresheth prophesied the destruction of Zion in the days of Hezekiah.  These elders asked, "Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah ever put him to death?"  The answer was, of course not.  Hezekiah was a righteous king and his tolerance for unpopular speech is evidence of his faith. "Did he [Hezekiah] not fear the LORD and seek the LORD's favor?," asked the elders. 

Some time later, after Jeremiah had been imprisoned, the prophet was faced with a second serious attempt on his life.  The princes of Judah complained to the king that Jeremiah's message of "defect to the Babylonians and you shall live!" was weakening he resolve of the men defending Jerusalem and demanded, "Please, let this man be put to death."  King Zekediah agreed to turn Jeremiah over to the princes, who lowered him into a well, and leaving him there to die. Jeremiah survived this second deplatforming attempt when an Ethiopian court eunuch organized a rescue party to pull him out. 

It's been said that the principle of free speech does not exist to enable us to talk about the weather.  Free speech is about protecting unpopular speech.  Today we looked at a few examples from the Old Testament and found that the godly kings did not punish the prophets who brought bad, that is to say, unpopular news, but rather supported their right to speak the truth.  These kings supported free speech and didn't believe in shooting the messenger.  Wicked kings, on the other hand, would go to extreme measures to silence their critics.  In this respect they acted very much like liberal critics in the mainstream media, in government and the heads of Big Tech companies.  These individuals prefer to silence alternate viewpoints by deplatforming their critics rather than fairly debate the issues with them.

This attitude, so prevalent among academics, government officials and Big Tech executive represents a toxic mixture of intellectual cowardice, institutional hubris and power.  It needs to stop. 

Next week, Lord willing, we shall take a look at the implied support of free speech found in the New Testament. 

(To be continued...)

Steve MatthewsComment