For the Best

How do you grieve the death of a life you almost knew – a dream you were living & forced to wake up from? What do you do when you feel called out of something you felt called into?

I poured my whole heart and soul into working with my students, and huge parts of my identity were wrapped up in the work. I thought I would be with them for several years, but God has other plans for me and for the church. Losing this position has been deeply emotional, and my identity has been shaken. This is one of the most difficult and painful experiences I have ever lived. But I’m learning.

I wanted to share how my spirit has been encouraged through all this. I get a verse of the day on my phone. I think they are pretty random, and we need to be careful with verses out of context. But I do believe that God uses these to talk to me, and this is what I feel He’s been telling me over the last week.

Wednesday.

I learned my position was being cut, and they gave me a couple days to decide if I wanted to try and do my job part-time. Matthew 5:10, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Let me be clear – no one is persecuting me. But I was really definitely attacked by the enemy that day, so this was good to hear.

Thursday.

I had to tell the church I was officially moving on, and then I had to tell my whole team. Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” There is a lot of anxiety here for me. I don’t know what’s next. I have so many questions. But every time I think of this, I feel like my heart is being wrapped up in a blanket of peace.

Friday.

The announcement went out, and I had to write a letter to our families. Proverbs 16:9, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” I had a plan. I had so many plans with my students and for my students. But God is in control here, and He’s the one leading, and I know He has a better plan for them and for me at work here.

Saturday.

Things got very quiet. I started to feel very lost. Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Those words made me feel found again

Sunday.

I haven’t had a Sunday with my students since March, and I had no idea that was my last one. So the grief became very present and very real. And I got 1 Peter 5:10, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered for a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” Right now, I’m in that suffering for a little while part, but I know that soon I’ll be restored, strong, and faithful again.

Now these verses came from all over the place, and they are all very different. And right now, I’m all over the place, and all the hurts and hard things I’m dealing with are very different. But we have one great God who just covers & comforts it all. And He is working to redeem and restore and bring us to better and better. And it will all be better. If there is one thing I want my students to take from me and my story and my time with them, this is it: Sometimes everything sucks and we have to suffer, but God is doing some beautiful refining work.

I don’t always know what is going to happen next. I have no idea what is coming next for me. But I wholeheartedly trust that God is in control and whatever is next is going to be for the best.

I know, and I hope you know – God has already won.

better & best

i don’t know what i did

to deserve you, but

if i could i would go back in time

to do it all over again.

//

i wish i met you sooner

so i could love you longer,

but we were different people then.

maybe we never would have been.

//

i feel like i’ll never do enough

to love you like you deserve, but

i’ll work every day from here on out

to do everything i can.

//

if i had met you sooner,

we’d have more days together;

but i was not looking for you then,

maybe we never would have been.

//

i know that you have changed me

to a whole new better person, and

i hope that you can see how

to do what you love too.

//

if you had found me sooner,

i like to think we’d be better;

but there’s no way to tell,

maybe better is the wrong word.

//

i am yours and you are mine, promised

to each other for the rest of our time.

i know i am at my best when i have you

to hold me and keep me and put me to rest.

a lament for the victim

Jesus.

When my heart is this heavy, I find it really hard to find the words. I don’t even know what to ask you for. My spirit is grieving. I know that your love covers all, but I’m begging to feel it. I’m begging for your peace and patience. I know I have sinned a thousand times over, and I ask that you would remind me that I’d be just as lost if not for you. Don’t let me think of my enemy as evil, don’t let us harbor ill against or toward my enemy. Do not let the evil one keep us dwelling on the past.

I ask for your healing. I ask for more healing. Steady us and take away our trembling. Overflow our hearts with your eternal strength and peace. We’re on our knees, broken before you. You’ve redeemed us already. Remind us of how much you love us, how worthy and forgiven we are because of you. I ask again and again for your healing hand. You do not leave us.

Jesus, take her heart into your hands. Guard and protect it. Fill her with your love and your peace. Heal her. Cover her in your grace. Keep her thoughts fixed on you and her gaze fixed on things to come. Jesus, help her see what you see. Love her. Wrap her in your love. Use me and all the safe people you’ve placed around her as vessels for your love in her life.

My spirit is asking for more than I have words for, and I pray that you hear those, too. We praise you for you are the wonderful counselor and mighty God. We ask all these things in your name and power.

In the holy and precious name of Jesus.

Amen.

Where is the Media Free?

When examining both Chinese and American free speech laws, numerous complexities arise. The Chinese government tries to use the “privilege” of free expression to seem less totalitarian. Still, they practice complete control and censorship over what common citizens might think or say. All content is monitored and censored by the government their speech laws are oppressive of their citizens’ rights.

America is on the other side of the spectrum. Where the Chinese government is quick to silence any criticisms, the American government is frequently a proponent of free speech. Even the nation’s leader will jump to the defense of the people’s First Amendment right. This was seen when Obama defended the Trump supporter because America “respects free speech” (Abbey-Lambertz par. 7).

As discussed throughout this series, American free speech laws are more liberal than Chinese free speech laws, and American citizens have easier access to uncensored truth. How can one discover the truth for themselves if they cannot grapple with it openly? All people everywhere deserve access to the unbiased truth, and they deserve to openly wrestle with their opinions. This is how people become well-informed citizens.

Courtesy of How Stuff Works

Freedom of speech is indeed a privilege, but it is granted to Americans as a Constitutional right. Bearing in mind the oppressiveness of the Chinese free speech laws, an American citizen should be increasingly grateful. They should be careful to speak, knowing and appreciating the weight of their words. In a world where people are denied the right to seek the truth and express their opinions, Americans should be conscious of their freedom and learn how use it intentionally.

Abbey-Lambertz, Kate. “Obama Shouts Over Crowd To Defend Trump Supporter At Rally.” The Huffington Post. HPMG News, 04 Nov. 2016. Web. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/obama-defends-trump-supporter-video_us_581cebe0e4b0d9ce6fbc0910

A More Direct Comparison

We discussed some history, looking at how the governments have shaped modern practices in both countries. We looked at modern conditions. Let’s take a moment to revisit some key differences between American and Chinese free speech practices.

Freedom of Opinions

As mentioned before, the Chinese are only allowed access to sites that are regularly monitored by their government. In America, one can safely post their opinion as long as it does not include child porn, libel, or copyright infringement. Meanwhile in China, every opinion is scrutinized by the Communist Party and filtered through the state’s best interests.

Removing the Mask

The Chinese “free-speech elite” makes it appear that their government grants freedom of expression as a privilege to a few fortunate members of society. However, common citizens have no platform where they can openly express their opinions. The government monitors and censors all content that is distributed publicly, revealing how oppressive their speech laws are regarding their citizens’ rights.

On the other hand, American free speech laws are protected by the First Amendment. Still, content is subject to limited censorship. When compared to the Chinese laws, American laws are for more progressive in their execution. Now, what does this mean for the press in both countries? Since the Chinese government regulates their media so intensely, it would seem that the United States’ press is less censored.

Renowned street artist Banksy’s commentary on Free Speech. Courtesy of the Clyde Fitch Report.

China: Missing Information?

In an article for The New York Times, Beijing writer Hung Huang explains that their media censorship has in some respects loosened up. Specifically, she claims that her magazine has not been censored for the past four years, even though they have published some fairly sexual photoshoots. Because of this, she argues that Chinese citizens do not feel censorship like most Westerners assume they do (Huang par. 1).

Censorship Does Happen

She recognizes, however, that the state does censor political information. For example, when Chinese infants were sickened by contaminated baby formula, no state-operated media reported on the debate (par. 4).

Another example of Chinese media censorship happened when the wife of the director of the Chinese Olympics channel disrupted a news conference to inform the world of her husband’s extramarital affair. This incident happened on live television, but no other stations dared report on it, and the only video of it that was posted on the Internet was later removed by censors (par. 6).

Christopher Lee as evil mastermind Fu Manchu in 1965. Courtesy of CBS News.

Huang put it best when she wrote, “Yes, Fu Manchu as Big Brother is among us.”

par. 4

From Huang’s article, it can be inferred that most of the Chinese media’s censorship goes unrecognized. So, it is probably safe to assume that most common Chinese citizens do not even realize that they are being deprived of knowledge. Their television stations are under rigid control (par. 6). As discussed earlier, their journalists are frequently imprisoned, and their Internet is regularly monitored and blocked.

They do not understand that they are uninformed because they do not know anything else. They only know media filtered through their Communist government. Even if they want to further research an issue, they can only pull from sources that their government has deemed unthreatening to the Communist agenda.

American Freedom and Misinformation

How Much is too Much?

Clearly, the constitutional right of free speech reigns supreme in America. But how much freedom is too much? Some argue the autonomy of the American media has led to issues being blown out of proportion. Further, they propose that many American citizens are misinformed.

In an article for The Washington Post, Jennifer Hochschild and Katherine L. Einstein explain how American politics contains several great examples of how citizens can be misinformed. Many citizens have expressed concern over a media bias.

An editorial cartoon on media bias. Courtesy of The Boston Globe.

The media tends to exaggerate problems while highlighting the issues that it wants voters to focus on. By controlling what the people see, the media can paint a positive or negative picture of a candidate, and these pictures can often be far from the truth.

Consequently, American voters have pieces of information that might contain facts, but do not accurately reflect the situation. Ultimately, they end up making misinformed decisions, but they are not completely uninformed (“No, We’re Not Arguing from the Same Facts” par. 7). Hochschild and Einstein go on to deduce that:

“In some cases –such as parents’ refusal to vaccinate or Americans’ belief that the Iraq invasion was necessary in order to eliminate the country’s weapons of mass destruction–people died because of the choice to act on misinformation. In other cases–such as opposition by the uninsured to the Affordable Care Act or liberal African Americans’ support for confirming Clarence Thomas to be a Supreme Court justice—people have relied on false ‘knowledge’ to make choices that ended up violating their own interests as they defined them.”

par. 6

Here, Hochschild and Einstein assert that misinformation is a serious problem because it leads people to act contrary to their actual beliefs. Still, it is important to note that the access to accurate information is available to American citizens.

Even though certain media outlets may be biased, any American citizen can easily pull news from the Internet and properly research their beliefs. If an American citizen is misinformed, they are at least partially responsible for themselves. While their opinion might have been influenced by media bias, there was no reason not to research the topic.

Hochschild, Jennifer, and Katherine L. Einstein. “No, We’re Not Arguing from the Same Facts. How Can Democracies Make Good Decisions If Citizens Are Misinformed?” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 21 July 2015. Web. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2015/07/21/no-were-not-arguing-from-the-same-facts-how-can-democracies-make-good-decisions-if-citizens-are-misinformed/

The Espionage Act vs. Free Speech

The Pentagon Papers

Even though there is risk involved when releasing classified information, the First Amendment typically trumps the Espionage Act. The Pentagon Papers case set the precedent.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara commissioned the papers, and they were officially titled “Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force” (“Pentagon Papers” par. 1). In 1971, small portions of the Pentagon Papers were leaked to the media and distributed throughout the country. They revealed that the U.S. was intentionally expanding its role in the war, even after President Lyndon B. Johnson promised that he would not.

Lawsuits followed. Ultimately, the Supreme Court allowed the press to publish government secrets when The New York Times ran the truth about the Vietnam War (“Pentagon Papers” par. 4).

The New York Times ran the story on their front page in June of 1971. Image courtesy of The Real News Network.

“Pentagon Papers.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web.