Saturday, February 04, 2017

What qualifies someone to speak in public?

What qualifies someone to speak publicly about their opinion or beliefs or criticism?

I have been wondering this in the face of cries for "celebrities" being told to stay out of the political debate. Numerous stars in various entertainment industries are using social media to express frustration, anger, anxieties, and opinion about politics. That seems to be a platform of expression for all people. Even the President chooses to "vent" on Twitter, a limited but widely embraced channel of expression.

The pushback against the opinions of celebrities tends to fall into the attitude that they are unqualified to speak into politics. The tone that I have seen used is usually marked by offensive language or examples of behavior that would be unacceptable in civil discourse. Honestly, can you say that you have watched anyone in normal conversation say to the other in that conversation, "Shut up and go back to your own area of experience"? I really don't know that there is any face-to-face conversation that can sink to the vile level that online conversations reach.

So how is it that celebrities do not have the qualifications to speak their opinion? How is it that Joe and Jane American are more qualified to use social media to spout their own brand of criticism? How is it that there are a group of people that are citizens of this nation, under that same rights and freedoms of speech, who should be reminded to keep their opinions to themselves?

There is some considerable amount of debate surrounding the Johnson Amendment since President Trump has marked it as a target for destruction. That piece of legal binding has been used, theoretically, to restrain pastors from speaking their opinions about political leaders and issues. There is a debate as to how effective it is in doing so. But for those who feel that it is law (such as myself), it has been a nice deterrent to restrain opinion from being mistaken for Good News in the pulpit. I choose to observe the practice of not using the pulpit to endorse or condemn a particular candidate. I have spoken on issues, but I try will all my ability to represent all sides of an issue before offering my own point of view. But does that legislation make me unqualified to speak?

I do not use social media to promote my opinions about politics much. Sometimes there are things that I need to express my feelings about. But I consider social media, in particular Facebook, to be an extension of my pulpit. This space, though, is my place to open myself up a little. It is relatively safe. And it takes a choice on the part of you, the reader, to be here. Facebook, Twitter, and the like are designed to put in front of you what another person has shared. You can mediate it to some degree, but most people do not. So I come to this place to let my voice be heard.

If you feel that you see something worthy of sharing with others, that is your right. This is an open forum of ideas. I will not demand removal or dismantling of any links that you may create. If there is a negative reaction or counterpoint offered to what I post, then that is the natural consequence of being expressive. The only comments that I will remove will be ads/scams/phishing links or anything that may be abusive or so completely offensive as to warrant legal intervention. I respect the right to freedom of expression. I welcome opportunity for debate. And we are all better served by dealing with contrarian ideas so that we may reflect upon our beliefs and opinions. Through the challenges we express to one another, we have the opportunity to grow.

If we desire that.

And that dear readers is what I believe is truly at the heart of the issue. Those celebrities are completely within their right to express their opinion. They are completely qualified to possess those opinions, however they may come to them. The ones who would attempt to silence them are small people with small minds who have no desire to grow. They do not want to question their closely held opinions. Because if they examined them, then it may become very apparent that their worldview is based on something weak. Maybe it is because they are afraid that someone may have a better grasp on what is happening. Perhaps it is just as simple as their concept of freedom and rights are too small to include ALL people in this nation. It may be that their concept of the land of the free only includes certain races or genders or sexual bend. It may be that their concept of rights do not apply to those who hold a different approach to things that are bigger than they can conceive.

I don't like the way some people express their beliefs or opinions. I don't agree with the violence that has been used on both sides of arguments, violence against property or body or heart or mind or soul. When I falter in my place and I am guilty of these, it breaks my heart to see how inhuman I become. But to relish in that abuse or to take pride in that level of violence doesn't make people big. It proves how small they are.

You, my dear reader, are qualified to form opinions. It is your God-given gift to possess a brain that can put together ideas and emotions to form opinions. It is your right as a member of the society that is the United States of America to express those opinions. And it is the right of others to agree or disagree. So live into your gift and right to enjoy the freedom we live within. And if there is threat to you or your right or your freedom, make sure your voice is heard.