Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Censoring Censorship

I am a Christian who is against censorship. In fact I'll go further - I don't believe that Christians ought to support 'censorship' at all.

For the purpose of this argument, censorship is defined as the imposition by the state on what individual may or may not view in the privacy of their own home.

Censorship is one of those convenient words - a shorthand that has so many meanings that one has to be quite specific concerning its use.

In fact most of us practice censorship every day.

Every time one stops to think before speaking in order avoid misunderstanding, unnecessary offense or boorish behaviour, it is a form of censorship.

This is a good thing, it makes society a nicer place to be.

Self-censorship is only an unnecessary attribute if you're a hermit.

We have a national film and television classification board whose role in years gone by would be described as censors.

Now no one could argue that classification is a bad thing.

People then make their own decision how they exercise their internal censor (it used to be called a conscience).

Jeffrey Overstreet, a film reviewer with Christianity Today addresses this point in a fine essay on the subject of R-rated films.

Many Christians are not comfortable with art that reflects the complexity and the darkness of the world. Many would prefer movies that make them comfortable, or that steer their attentions away from the problems in the world and the rough edges of worldly people. They prefer movies that tell them that Christians are clearly "the good guys" and everybody else, well, they're the bad guys.

And they do not discern the difference between portraying/exposing wickedness — and actually condoning wickedness.

They want Christian critics to condemn movies that portray the reality of evil, because dealing with evil is a discomforting, painful, sometimes horrifying process.

They have accused me of celebrating works that 'advance profane causes' rather than considering the truth that I hope they will see in contemporary cinema."
The statement is true beyond reel life too.

To avoid confrontations with evil, the profane or the gratuitous by suggesting 'somebody (usually the government) should do something about it' is laziness at best and negligent at worse.

And to be even more clear here, it's not only Christians who are guilty of thinking like this.

The case in point is the Federal Labor Government's decision to make content filters mandatory on ISPs and requiring people to opt out.

This is in stark contrast to previous Liberal Government's provision of home PC based filters on which the onus was on the computer owner to request. That's the equivalent of classification. It became the responsibility of the homeowner, not the state.

In addition to the technical difficulties and civil liberties concerns, there is an another issue that has only been touched upon perfunctorily and that is parental responsibility.

From a Judeo-Christian perspective we are taught that the responsibility for moderating our own behaviour and that of raising children is our own. Not the state's.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
Why? So as adults..

...we henceforth be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the sleight of men and their cunning and craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; (Ephesians 4:14)
And as someone who hung around with prostitutes and standover merchants, Jesus was sure to have encountered plenty 'naughty' frescoes but he never called for the Romans authorities or the Jewish religious hierarchy to put in the 1st Century equivalent of an Internet porn filter.

So why not?

Jesus replied, "You, too? Are you being willfully stupid? Don't you know that anything that is swallowed works its way through the intestines and is finally defecated? But what comes out of the mouth gets its start in the heart. It's from the heart that we vomit up evil arguments, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, lies, and cussing. That's what pollutes. Eating or not eating certain foods, (ritual) washing or not washing your hands—that's neither here nor there." (Matthew 16-20 [The Message Bible])
There you have it.

Until you change the heart of the person so they don't get off on gratuitous violence, revel in hatred or see sex as some sort of spectator sport instead of an intimate act of love, no amount of government regulation or control is going to stop it.

It's a pointless and fruitless exercise.

Christians are called upon to make their own hearts right on a daily basis.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)
We're not called to be cowards and feebly plea for someone else to save us from the nasties of the world.

We already have our Saviour in Christ. He's completed his mission here, now it's time for us to step up to the plate. We're called to be sharp and not flabby in our own thoughts and actions.

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. (Matthew 10:16).
Sadly many parents, both religious and secular have been extremely lazy raising generations of people who are not psychologically, emotionally or spiritually robust.

Failure to do Parenting 101 (see Proverbs above) has left young people vulnerable to unhealthy behaviour in all aspects of their lives.

So don't be fooled by Stephen Conroy's rather specious argument:

"Labor makes no apologies to those that argue that any regulation on the internet is like going down the Chinese road," Conroy said.

"If people equate freedom of speech with watching child pornography, then the Rudd Labor Government is going to disagree."
The best porn filter is parents who have a great relationship with their children, who train them from a young age to know right from wrong, encourage them to do what's right even when it's not convenient, and who illustrate by their own example that a lifelong marriage is the most satisfying type of sexual relationship.

The Federal Labor Government would do a whole lot better leaving the Internet alone and get on with running the economy.

Christian groups would do a whole lot better leaving the Internet alone and focus on their assigned mission:

"Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand — shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16 [The Message Bible]).
-- Nora

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