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Freedom of Expression

From the October 3, 1977 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel


People who live in democratic societies generally cherish their liberty to express themselves relatively free of restrictions. This right is exercised in diverse ways. One individual may convey ideas through the written or spoken word—another through artistic expression. But whatever avenue one chooses, the practice of this right without undue interference is generally considered fundamental to a free people.

This kind of basic human right can lend itself to abuse. In theory, a free people presume that their fellowman will exercise his freedom of expression in a way that will not harm. In practice, however, this trust is sometimes breached. People often do express themselves in ways that offend—ways that the majority may feel are detrimental to society. The temptation, then, is to restrict the freedom of expression.

Opinions will vary widely over how to achieve a proper balance between rights and responsibilities. Some will feel that freedom of expression should be absolute. They may argue that even though it makes for a rocky road, it's the only way to preserve freedom and provide the kind of climate where fresh and useful ideas can emerge. Some of the bad, it is said, is the price we pay for giving human thought the opportunity to sprout potentially useful ideas.

But others will argue for stringent rules, regulations, and guidelines to be strictly enforced in order to weed out what many feel are unhealthy and perhaps morally objectionable actions and ideas.

Both approaches have their limitations. Neither one has really solved some of the basic problems that confront people who cherish freedom but find it susceptible to abuse. Christian Science provides a basis for resolving the dilemma.

There is an element of ultimate truth in this whole question concerning freedom of expression. God is divine Principle, Mind, the eternal Father-Mother of all that is perfect and true—all ideas, in the eternal, spiritual sense. Man, in his true spiritual nature, expresses God. This is man's purpose. This is what gives him being, fulfillment, and identity. In its fullest and most accurate sense, freedom of expression is man's unrestricted manifestation of his true selfhood. That selfhood is rooted in God—in Life and Love.

Humanly we all feel, in some degree, the desire to express, free of confinement, our individuality. Those who glimpse something of their spiritually true nature, and cultivate and defend the desire to express it, will find that their activities promote purity, constructiveness, wholesomeness. These activities of thought heal and uplift human experience. Those, on the other hand, who are entirely unaware of their true selfhood, leave themselves open to the perversions of mortal mind. This so-called mind would claim that man can think and act contrary to God's will—in opposition to the allness of good. This is a lie about man, and it must be recognized and exposed.

As the Christ, Truth, dissolves the illusion of restrictive mortality, human thought needs to be steadied and guided by the truths of Christian Science. Otherwise, in the process of shedding materiality, human thought may move toward imprisoning rather than freeing activities. Mrs. Eddy discusses our need to break out of the limitations of materiality, but she includes a warning: "Mortals must emerge from this notion of material life as all-in-all. They must peck open their shells with Christian Science, and look outward and upward. But thought, loosened from a material basis but not yet instructed by Science, may become wild with freedom and so be self-contradictory." Science and Health, p. 552;

Certainly there are instances when human freedom has been so unwisely expressed that its new channels have actually become bonds. What was thought to be freedom was in the end recognized as a contradiction to freedom.

But when freedom of expression begins to take root in an understanding of God as the source of all true being, all true activity, all true thought, mankind's practice of freedom will be on a far more stable, progressive basis. We can let the roots begin to grow in our own experience. We read in the Bible, "For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God." I Pet. 2:15, 16;

This is a specific and essential step each of us can take. In so doing, we can play a productive role in channeling human thought into constructive activities. Our most effective contribution will not be so much in terms of demanding of our fellowman what we feel is right, but by instructing ourselves on a thorough, spiritual basis; this is, by learning and practicing the truths of being with such firm conviction that our own individual expression of freedom will be honest, pure, and strong.

Mrs. Eddy writes, "As mortals drop off their mental swaddling-clothes, thought expands into expression." Science and Health, p. 255. True freedom of expression is the liberty we discover in expressing God. As this freedom is understood and faithfully expressed, it will uplift and bless every legitimate human activity.

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