I suppose living in a country that affords me so many freedoms means I have to put up with others having those freedoms as well. Since I enjoy freedom of speech and freedom of expression, I need to live with others expressing themselves freely, even if I find it stupid or offensive. Maybe especially then.
This notion was brought home to me over the summer, as our family was driving up to church-sponsored family camp. Since fireworks aren’t sold in our state, but they are in neighboring states, we pass a number of billboards loudly proclaiming their availability. We decided to hold a family contest to predict the number of fireworks billboards, and soon the kids were busy counting and tallying as they peered out the windows of the car. After awhile, my youngest, proud of his newly acquired reading skills, suggested that we also predict “Adult Superstore” billboards. As his older siblings snickered, I sighed. Of course, I had been studiously avoiding pointing them out, but such signs were at least as ubiquitous as the fireworks advertising. It was naïve to assume the kids would have selective blindness for the ads I wished they didn’t see, no matter how jarring the juxtaposition of such messages with the Christian music playing on our radio seemed.
Like so many generations before me, I am frequently appalled at the images and messages to which my children are exposed. Swear words in songs on the radio? ‘Male enhancement’ commercials on TV? Casual sexual hookups in shows aimed at teen viewers? And of course that doesn’t come close to what they can access on the Internet. Yet I don’t believe it’s smart or maybe even possible to shelter them from every unpleasant image. Instead, I make sure I’m around and frequently visible as they’re online or watching TV, and I often sit down to watch with them. If they’re uncomfortable with me there, we know the show or website is probably one to avoid. Messages that conflict with our values provide a great opportunity for discussion. And it’s also a good time to point out how our Christian faith informs the decisions we make about the way we live our lives.
Recently the town of Abilene, Kansas, attempted to pass a law that would ban billboards for “adult” stores. Lawmakers backed off when they realized how similar laws had been overturned. Locals were upset, but ultimately decided to practice their own rights of free speech. Now, those who drive along the highway will notice that the “Adult Superstore” advertising is dwarfed by the following inspirational Christian message: Jesus Heals and Restores. Pornography Destroys.
Now that gives us a good point for discussion.