Sex, politics, and religion. When I was growing up my families conversations were always economic, but there seemed to be an unspoken rule that these three topics, were a no-go zone. They may have been too awkward or perhaps they were just subjects to avoid when talking with neighbours. However, in the last fifty years I’ve found that sex, politics and religion contribute a quite a lot to our relationships, sense of purpose, and state of mind. Can we talk freely?
A lady friend of ours said that a women’s brain is her most important sex organ, meaning that what a woman hears, and consequently feels about herself and her life, enables her to respond, or not. If our friend is right, then talking becomes very important. Sometimes the idealism of 18th century romanticism still influences the way we navigate our relationships. Romanticism suggests that if one finds their soulmate, their minds will be so in sync, that they will fully understand each other. They will not have to explain their feelings or how they have been hurt, because if their partner really loves them, they will know what the other is thinking.1 But, most of us find that to be untrue and that talking freely and honestly about what each can do better, is the only way forward. We realise that there are no “perfect” people, only partners that match our own brokenness. So, life is not a quest to find a soulmate without “issues” but a challenge to be a better person, and the more we learn about love and how to express it, the less important it is who we married. In our closest of relationships, speaking the truth is sometimes painful but always helpful.
In my twenties I began to compare religions and still encourage it for all thinking people. If there is someone more amazing than Jesus, who walked on water, healed the sick and rose from the dead to give us hope, I want to hear about it. The world has benefited by comparing Christ, Muhammad, Guru Granth Sahib, Buddha, and Moses along with their teachings. Becoming aware of a “better” truth may be hard but it’s not harmful, and it is always best in the end. I once drove up a one-way street in France the wrong way and had the locals shout at me. It was embarrassing, but I was grateful they told me before I hit a car! People deserve to hear if a religion, can offer life and hope beyond the grave. Jesus told his disciples to tell the world of His offer of forgiveness and give people the dignity, of deciding for themselves whether to accept it or not. I was glad someone spoke up.
On the farm in the “60’s” we knew who to vote for. “Our party” created policies that helped farmers and kept the world as we wanted it. End of discussion. Today politics is in our face as the woke cancel-culture movement spawns across the globe. Socialists, disguised as single-issue groups, push the United Nations code words of tolerance, social justice, equity, reproductive rights, safe schools, inclusion, and diversity.2 To speak out against it, can mean being labelled a bigot, racist or right-wing, but because too few have spoken up boldly, we may end up living the dystopia of the novel “1984,” in 2024. Brave speech is necessary to expose threats to society or to challenge the “status quo” which often assumes its own correctness. Let’s speak up.
The communists starved to death the twin sisters of free speech and free access to information. Recently regarding Covid, Ms Ardern said, “We will continue to be your single source of truth.”3 I don’t think she was claiming to be divine or communist, but she assumes the right to decide what is truth for us all. Social media platforms have banned both people that they disagree with and content they deem to be misinformation. Some of it may be, but if we can only access permitted viewpoints, or our government “single source of truth,” we will never know the truth about anything. The free flow of ideas, ideals, and ideology is critical to technological advances, human progress and social good. “Group think” has never fostered innovation in business, and it can only hinder progress in a nation. If Copernicus’ ideas had been successfully shut down by the rulers of the day, we would still believe that the earth is the centre of the universe.4 If Wilberforce had been silenced by the majority would people from Africa still be still taken as slaves today?5 It takes mothers, doctors, politicians, truck drivers and every “unknown soldier” who feels the pressure to be mute, to raise their voices for freedom.
Of course, there should be limits on what can be said and for that reason, we have laws that make commercially dishonest, or hateful speech illegal. The Bible sums it up nicely “Speaking the truth in love”(Ephesians 4.15). We are to speak truthfully, unhindered by the fear of man, and with the highest good of the hearers in mind.
In New Zealand we are free to talk about anything including sex, religion, and politics. This even includes people who say what they think before they think about what they are saying. Not all speech is equally valuable and neither do we have to listen. Nevertheless, it seems to me that the greatest danger to freedom and strength in our homes, our hearts, and our nation, is not that we don’t have freedom to speak but that so few of us are speaking freely.
Let’s keep talking!
Jim Shaw is a retired minister of the New Life Church in Manurewa, where he served for 30 years. A keen writer of many articles on issues of the day, he has a BA in Theology and MA in Biblical Studies.