Do your kids like Mr. Bean?
I’ve got a video for you that is worth checking out as a family.
But it’s probably not what you’re thinking.
Artists are prophets.
All art at one level is prophetic, speaking about the age we live in, sizing it up and holding it up to judgement.
Mr. Bean, I’m sure you are well familiar with, is a character played by Rowan Atkinson.
Rowan is an artist who, last year I believe, came forward in favour of proposed changes to legislation in the UK, for keeping speech, free. His words are wonderfully clear and helpful, prophetic.
‘Feel Free to Insult me..’
…is the slogan, and it pretty much summarises what we all need to talk about regarding the growing level of ‘you can’t say that’ in our societies.
You see it seems that western democracies around the world are facing a blackout.
The Christian heritage that has given these societies their principles of equality, justice and freedom is now being shunned for a preference for State enforced intolerance against views that may be deemed to harm someone.
Of course, we are primarily referring to the insistence of LGBTQI advocates that any speech, private or public deemed potentially insulting, hurtful or damaging to their mental wellbeing should be neutered, silenced, prosecuted and punished.
Though it is not exclusive to such advocates, the same could be applied to advocates from other groups such as Muslims, Scientologists, Christians, Atheists or anyone who wants to censor others out of the public space to avoid being offended.
Only last week I read of an advocate for mental health describing the current situation as a ‘contest’ between privately and passionately held religious beliefs versus the mental health of individuals of the LGBTQI community. He said, in such a contest, mental health must ‘win’, thereby justifying the right to silence and censor any speech deemed harmful.
In recent times we in Australia have seen this very controversially played out between Rugby player, Israel Folau and the termination of his lucrative football contract for posting Bible verses such as 1 Corinthians 9:1-11 on his Insta feed. Recently he settled his damages claim against Rugby Australia, who apologized to him, for an undisclosed amount.
But what we don’t hear about so much are the many other victims of nobody’s, uncelebrities who suffer the same injustice but without the ‘oxygen’ of media coverage to assist them.
Rowan Atkinson makes his stand, not for himself but for the ones who don’t share the limelight and who will suffer, in silence and un-assisted by the media.
What he describes, accurately I think, is the dangerously intolerant and censorious society that we are creating for ourselves. He rightly ridicules the progressive, liberal thinker, who proudly announces that they are intolerant of intolerance.
More speech, not less
The solution is not less speech, but MORE speech. Not hateful speech, but a willingness to be hurt. A willingness to be insulted, so that robust discussion and exchange of ideas can flourish. Without such we send ourselves down a draconian, authoritarian, Big Brother like state, which approves and enforces upon all, a censorious and over-bearing intolerance.
Why Christians must be willing to be insulted
The crucifixion is the world saying to God, ‘get stuffed’.
It’s the world not tolerating God, rejecting him.
God, through our treatment of his Son, is the offended one.
But the mystery and profound wisdom of God is that Christ came to ‘bear our offences’ through the crucifixion. His death is at the same time a substitution for our death, the punishment we deserve for our intolerance of God.
Consequently, in the same moment that we punched God in the face, He graciously wiped our guilt and shame. Isn't that just astounding?!
As Christians, (that is when we join Jesus by faith in Him), we too become ‘the offended ones’, bearing what remains of his suffering.
The world hasn’t gone away, and though we have been changed by faith in Him, the world hasn’t. The hostility toward Jesus, continues to this day, aimed at his followers.
Consequently, we willingly bear the insults directed at us, as directed at Him.
The Christian knows true freedom, true justice, true equality in Christ. Through our bond with Jesus, we know how to bear insult. We are shown the way by our teacher and guided by His Spirit to testify to the truth.
Bearing such insult as we testify to the truth is, as it was for Jesus, not primarily for our benefit, but for the benefit of the insulter.
We allow their insults, so they may come to know the truth.
If we were coercive, shutting down their insults, there’d be no speech, no room for anyone to be saved, to hear the good news or see it in action as we bear the world’s hatred.
So we are ready to continue being insulted…but how about the rest of the world?
Why Christians should NOT be the only ones willing to be insulted
Unless we want a society in which we cannot have art, nor comedy, nor entertainment or debate lest someone might take offence then we really need to all learn to accept that insult will come. We all need to absorb these offences in a constructive way that encourages more speech, more debate, less ignorance and greater tolerance.
Less speech is less tolerance.
Less tolerance is more preference for some and denial for others.
Denial and intolerance for some is just one group gaining the upper hand, inequality.
Naturally we are not talking about speech that clearly serves to incite violence and promote civil disorder in society or against a minority. Our police and government, our law makers are here to wield their swords to punish the wrongdoer. But they are not here to silence and censor every little murmur, Insta post and comment that may be hurtful or insulting to some.
You may not like it, but at least you’ll have your oxygen, like everyone else. You might also become less ignorant and you might learn to compromise and respect other’s views. Why, then you’d be…tolerant.
I encourage you to watch the video, then watch it with your kids (if over 10 years of age) and discuss the implications of what he is saying.
You can check out the video here on Anton's Facebook page too: