This July my wife, Lea, and I visited Haarlem, The Netherlands, where the Christian family, the ten Booms, ran a watch store as a front for a safe haven for Jews and the Dutch resistance during World War II. Willem ten Boom opened their shop in 1837, and his son, Casper (1859-1944), celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1937, three years before the German invasion of the Netherlands. Read more
Posts By Dr. Mitch Land
Recently, a journalism professional who works in a developing country asked why ethics matter, especially where government is repressive and people treat their profession as a job rather than a vocation. In other words, if journalists are going to behave irresponsibly either because of fear of repression or out of a quest for material benefit, then what’s the point of teaching ethics? Read more
Why does the History Channel’s recent series, “The Bible,” appeal to so many viewers? The message of the Bible reaches into the very soul and spirit of humankind because its progressive revelation is the Greatest Story Ever Told: A transcendent God who reaches down from heaven in pursuit of every human being—not just a God of judgment quick to stomp out the human race.
Daniel Wattenberg’s story in The Washington Times reported that audience ratings for the March 10th telecast of “The Bible” drew more viewers than anything broadcast on NBC during the entire week. The ratings prove there’s a vast audience willing to tune out the competition to see the Greatest Story Ever Told. Read more
The concluding dialog in this trailer for The Bible, the 10-part mini-series which aired on The History Channel March 3, includes a question: “What are we going to do?” The actor replies: “Change the world.” This is precisely a major theme at Regent University: Equipping Christian leaders to change the world. Our accelerated programs inspire and equip Christian leaders who are also storytellers and whose works will inspire, transform and enrich our culture through media. Read more
A Dec. 3 online news site headline warned “ … the UN is coming for your internet.” A number of concerns emerged from the December meeting of The World Conference on International Telecommunication in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Some 2,000 delegates representing about 160 countries met to review and revise the global treaty on international telecommunications regulation. Read more
Freedom of speech – guaranteed by the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights – is under assault at home and abroad.
On September 11, angry Muslim protesters stormed U. S. embassies and consulates in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, resulting in the deaths of four Americans in Libya—among them two Navy SEALs and the U. S. ambassador. Mobs stormed the German embassy in Sudan and protests erupted across the Middle East, North Africa and Asia. Bomb threats were made at the University of Texas and North Dakota State University that caused disruption in the lives of more than 50,000 students, faculty and staff. The violent reactions were allegedly provoked by a YouTube trailer for a film ridiculing Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. Reports have surfaced that the film was a pretext for a planned attack by Al Qaeda and its adherents on the anniversary of 9/11.
The Egyptian president called on President Obama to “put an end to such behavior” like the anti-Islam film that allegedly sparked the violence. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made it clear that the U. S. government cannot prevent the airing of such videos because of the Constitution’s free-speech protections. Despite this affirmation of the First Amendment, the net effect could be the stifling of debate, criticism and honest evaluation of extremism. This is called the chilling effect.
Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses, was forced into hiding for a decade when a fatwa was issued by Iran for his assassination. Despite his 1990 published apology and affirmation of Islam, his sentence was renewed last month in a new Iranian fatwa with a hefty $3.3 million bounty for his head.
Violent reactions occurred in 2006 to editorial cartoons depicting the Prophet of Islam in Denmark’s Jyllands Posten. Some 139 people were killed and 823 wounded in protests across the Middle East and Africa. Riots led to widespread destruction of private and public property. A reprise of protests over the same issue erupted in 2008, leaving a trail of death and destruction.
The context of the Jyllands Posten cartoons is instructive. It was in reaction to chronic self-censorship on the part of artists, educators and writers in Denmark because of radical Muslims who objected to the most benign readings or illustrations regarding the Prophet.
The editor of the Posten, Flemming Rose, wrote in 2005 that the imposition of extremist religious views is incompatible with contemporary democracy and freedom of speech.
Clearly, these events remind us that the price of freedom is measured by the blood shed for its defense. This country was populated in its early days with individuals escaping restrictions on their freedom to worship and to express freely their opinions on all matters secular and religious.
In the United States, we live in a democracy in which multitudes of offensive opinions, language, visual representations and religions abound. I get as angry as the next person when someone curses the God I love, the Christian beliefs I embrace and makes fun of Christian leaders on late-night talk shows. It offends me to see God’s name taken in vain on screen and in theatrical performances. I can appreciate the feelings of devout Muslims whose faith and prophet are mocked. I don’t want my faith and God insulted either.
Moreover, I firmly believe that just because we have a right to express an opinion or publish a cartoon or a scathing editorial doesn’t always mean it’s the right thing to do. On the other hand, I much prefer living in a world where the freedom to offend me is allowed so that my freedoms are protected. A scholar paraphrased Voltaire’s treatise Essay on Tolerance in these words, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” I also embrace the wisdom of the English scholar, John Milton, who expressed confidence in Truth published in Areopagitica in 1644: “Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?”
 The Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution thanks to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who wanted to protect individual liberty. It limits federal and state powers, protecting individual rights from government oppression. The First Amendment, however, doesn’t protect individual rights from the court of public opinion nor does it guarantee the public’s so-called right to know.
 Evelyn Beatrice Hall, The Friends of Voltaire, 1907. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Rom 8:28 (NIV)
I realize it shouldn’t take a lifetime for us Christians to embrace the truth expressed in this good word from the Apostle Paul to the Romans. But I needed this truth to help me through the loss of my son, Austin, 22, who was killed by a drunk driver in 1996.
For three long years I walked through the valley of the shadow of death David wrote about in Psalms 23. I lost the joy of my relationship with God. I stopped engaging in praise and worship at my church. I wouldn’t communicate meaningfully with my wife and three children. I sought refuge through long hours at work avoiding the pain of returning home where I had last seen him. Austin was to me as David was to Jesse and Joseph to Jacob. He would sit at my right hand at the dinner table. When his eyes gazed into mine, I would see admiration and unconditional love for me, his father. His passion for God was as intense as his physical prowess and beauty. He was an outstanding national athlete; he modeled for Tommy Hilfiger and was engaged to another model as passionate for God as he.
God worked in many ways and through many people to help me through the darkest period of my grief. Near the end of the third year following his death, a former graduate student of mine, David, told me he had come to know the Lord at Austin’s funeral when he experienced a praise service rather than a morbid death ceremony. Immediately, as he shared with me over lunch one day, I heard in my spirit the voice of God telling me this as David continued to speak: “My child, since the world revolves around you and your needs, I’m willing to send Austin back to you. But you must realize that David won’t come to know me, the Muslim student Austin was witnessing to won’t repent and commit to me, and many others who have been transformed by his death will never know the abundant life. And, by the way, he’s kicking and screaming because he doesn’t want to return.” I shared this word from God with David right then and there: “David, even though I hear this message from God right now in my spirit, I will have to tell him that Austin can stay in heaven. The world doesn’t revolve around me. I know God’s plan is the best plan even though the pain of this loss is almost more than I can bear and will linger with me forever.” As I gazed into my student’s eyes, I realized anew that all things do work together for good even when it seems so bad.
Originally published in 40 Days of Purpose Devotional Guide, 2011, Regent University