Anglo Honesty and Free Speech

In my starting post on Christian Politics, I listed 7 Divine Rights, which I defined as “rights that men have that, if violated, will be avenged by God, as revealed in Scripture.” And you’ll note that several rights we take for granted in America, notably freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the right to bear arms, are not among them.

Today I’d like to touch on cultural norms.

Freedom of speech in America is derived from Anglo-Saxon cultural norms. It’s also derived from an Enlightenment-era tactic designed to overthrow Christendom (which has, thus far, worked exactly as designed), but the American expression of it is derived from Anglo-Saxon cultural norms, specifically the Anglo-Saxon obsession with honesty.

I am not a history buff, but I often bunk with history buffs, and my last history-obsessed roommate told me that under ancient Saxon laws, if you killed a man, but you told the first person you met, you might be acquitted due to self defense. But if you kept it secret, you were considered guilty of murder.

There is an idea in American Christianity that if you a commit a crime, the Christian thing to do is to turn yourself in. But this is nowhere taught Scripture! Corinthians commands us to settle our legal disputes among ourselves instead of dragging each other before the courts, and Ephesians instructs the penitent thief not to turn himself in, but to exchange thievery for honest work and generous giving.

Many an English speaking atheist has held Jesus to be a liar because when his family asked whether he was going to Jerusalem at one point, he said “No,” instead of “Not yet, but I will later.” But neither Jesus, nor his apostles, nor most of the world consider it dishonest to play your cards close to the vest this way, and it is Jesus, not Ye Olde Randome Englishman, who gets to choose the rules.

The Anglo-Saxon norm of honesty is stricter, harsher, and more extreme than God’s norm of honesty.

Now I am not suggesting you take up lying as a hobby. Nor am I here to map out where the boundaries lie between Biblical honesty and Anglo honesty. Nor am I suggesting that Anglos are more honest than other folk: only that their cultural norms emphasize honesty more than other cultures.

What I am saying is that to an Englishman, and especially to the Englishmen of revolutionary America, winnowed and sharpened by a century in the wilderness, the idea of punishing a man for honestly speaking his mind is anathema.

Freedom of speech is not a Biblical concept. Indeed, in his pastoral epistles, Paul straight up says that false teachers “must be silenced.” The closest you get to freedom of speech is in Acts when the apostles are forbidden to preach the gospel by the Jewish authorities and they respond “we must obey God rather than men.”

However, where the spirit of Anglo-America remains, some form of free speech will likely be demanded. The ability to be blunt and honest without fear of reprisal is dear to Anglo-Americans, and there is nothing wrong with this cultural value that is not also wrong with all cultural values (that is: any cultural value may become evil when we allow it to take precedence over the Law of God). So what should we do? What position should we advocate?

  • To advocate an Anglo-American state without free speech is as unlikely to work as to advocate a Chinese nation without tea. That is to say, pretty damn unlikely, but just barely possible. Of course, as America fractures and reforms in the future, there may not be any shards of heritage America large enough to form a coherent state, but I am hopeful in that regard.
  • Free Speech is not an absolute God Given right, and should therefore be regarded as a treaty. Any right not granted by God is not absolute, and absolutism on that point will inevitably result in contradiction. For instance, freedom of speech cannot be absolute because it requires a man to allow the enemies of freedom of speech to propagandize the masses. It similarly cannot be absolute because otherwise the pornographer must be permitted to sexually assault the minds of children. Therefore, the only coherent implementation of free speech must permit exceptions of this nature.
  • The Average Person needs some defense from the Slander Machines. The First Amendment was penned in a world where dueling was legal. Thus, our current world, where an average man slandered by the media men can neither challenge them to a duel nor summon the financial means to sue them, is legally imbalanced in a way the original framers of the Constitution did not intend. Either dueling must be reinstituted or the average citizen must be given some legal recourse equivalent in power to being able to challenge a man to swords at dawn.
  • Blasphemy Laws are not an abrogation of Free Speech. Because Free Speech is not a right granted by God, but a contract drawn up by men, there is no reason we cannot squeeze another generation or two out of a given civilization by forcing its enemies to hold their peace until a generation rises up that does not remember why the blasphemy laws were penned.

Now for the bit that my ideological enemies won’t read.

None of this is my preference. I identify strongly with Anglo-American culture. I am a child of the accursed Enlightenment. My instinct and preference is free speech absolutism.

But my loyalty is to Truth and to the Holy Scripture. So what I want is not relevant. The relevant thing is what Scripture and plain reason tell us.

The best accommodation I can make between Truth and my preferences is to say that an Anglo-American ought to have freedom of speech just as a Japanese man ought to have the loyalty of his grandchildren. It is a cultural norm that is not evil in and of itself, and which should be permitted within its culture so long as it does not conflict with the Law of God.

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