We take it for granted too easily…but we live in a country that champions freedom of exchange of information. It underlies all other freedoms in society. The roads to dictatorships have mostly been paved by one or other faction holding the press captive. It is through this freedom that citizens can be challenged to lend or deny their support to the many ideals that sustain society’s functioning. The quality of public morality is served by citizens having the freedom to express and defend whatever values of excellence they champion. Ideals can only prove their worth when they are exposed to the judgment of thoughtful men and women through the freedom of expression.
Allow me to share a modest experience I had in this respect. It concerns the reality of the preponderance of hand-guns in the land and the many deaths in its wake. I realize that not even believers can agree on the matter of guns. But, I thought, curbing guns would save lives. I thought that it is a matter of public morality. So I started a correspondence with our Congressman. From my view point, limiting of distribution of hand-guns will not happen unless Congress takes action. Hence my contact with our local Congressman. He was very prompt in answering my mail. And it was plain that he answered with care. He assured me of his concern. I found this form of contact very encouraging.
But I also learned that the exchange about ideals is not simple. The possibilities are many. Patterns will arise. In the case of my Congressman it was that he related every concern I addressed to him to an existing law or a Federal program. I had hoped that, as an elected representative, he would have evidenced some prophetic qualities in his answers, but he shied away from that.
As we discussed the gun issue, I suggested that guns and fire-arms should be made less readily available. He responded by quoting the Law. He referred to the Second Amendment and constitutional rights, etc. I asked how he personally felt about it and would he publicly defend his convictions. That’s when he became very guarded. He, of course, was very aware of a multitude of different opinions among his constituents. Some feel strongly that the Second Amendment must be defended at all cost. They connect it with personal safety. Others – of whom I am one – point out that the US has, proportionately, the highest number of guns among its citizen, but also the highest number of killings. It’s a vicious circle: the more guns, the more killings, the more killings, the more guns. But the Scandinavian nations bear out that fewer guns result in fewer killings. Are Scandinavians better people than Americans…?
The Christian Reformed Church has always been concerned about sounding a biblical testimony in the face of society’s moral issues. I sat in on some of the discussion that preceded actual expressions. That’s when I became aware of the difficulty of formulating Christian positions and answers. And even among Christians there are many differences of view-point. But even so it is helpful that believers discuss issues together.
In the meantime I will remain in contact with our Congressman. I will encourage him to quote more than existing laws, but to be a proponent of moral excellence and to challenge his constituents accordingly. And I think that he will appreciate it.