The Free Speech Apocalypse
The Queer Shall Inherit the Earth” reads a banner held by angry protesters at Doug Wilson’s “Sexual by Design” lectures at Indiana University in 2012. The students clutching the banner amid their disruption eventually leave as the lecture proceeds, but the message lingers, inviting more reaction than reflection. They have an end game, too; we might even call it an eschatology. That end game, professed by the “gay mirage” crowd, as Doug Wilson describes them, is not simply to obtain equal rights with everyone else. It is that everyone must praise their position. Fundamentally, the ideology they promote must be celebrated and named as good.
The Free Speech Apocalypse, directed by Darren Doane, is perhaps Doane’s best film. It most certainly and undoubtedly is his most important one. Collision will remain one of my personal favorites, but I think most will be hard-pressed to disagree with my own assessment to follow. Although this film is a documentary, it projects a different feel than most others in its respective category. The stereotypical expectation that a Christian movie is probably going to be bad should be suspended upon watching this film. The creative use of camera angles, interview texts, and even the end credits feels fresh throughout its entirety. Cinematically, there is nothing to draw the viewer to a yawn.
Throughout the course of the film, two basic lines of thought emerge from the footage of Doug Wilson’s lecture, interspersed with a personal interview. The first line of thought pertains to tolerance, and the second to parallels from the Civil War. This last year alone has witnessed a tsunami of current events that are all tied to the ever-fluid word “tolerance.” In an interview with Apologia Radio prior to this film’s release, Darren Doane described these events and weaved together an eerie thread of continuity between one news headline and the next.
All of a sudden, April 24th, Bruce Jenner says he’s a woman. June 16th, Rachel Dolezal says, ‘I’m black.’ But before we can make fun of that, one day later, June 17th, was the Charleston shooting, and that was the Confederate flag, and it was like, ‘Whoa, things are moving.’ June 26th was gay marriage. And I couldn’t even keep up with it--we had transgender, the military, we’re figuring things out, and then BOOM. Planned Parenthood hits.”
Doane went on to explain that after the avalanche of these events and what he thought was the end of filming, the Kim Davis drama hit the news.
If I may crudely erect a four-tiered hierarchy of dialogue, it may prove useful for illustrating the “free speech apocalypse” as opposed to the quality dialogue we should be aiming for. Let’s imagine the top tier of dialogue being occupied by two religious systems of belief—such as Christianity and Islam—which willingly enter into a formal, moderated debate. These systems, though deeply divided, are at least able to deal with each other honestly and rigorously because they can display a level of tolerance in the truest sense. Then imagine that the next tier down is the kind of dialogue in which the participants—to use a familiar quip—“agree to disagree.” They too hold onto an admirable level of tolerance, but engagement with one of an opposing view is less frequent; getting along with each other is of a higher moral good in this tier. Yet another tier down would be an inter-religious dialogue in which the two sides unite around the “least common denominator” between their faiths—the “we both believe in one God” cliché that is often employed. Lastly, the bottom tier is occupied by the kind of dialogue illustrated in this film: “If you don’t praise my position, then shut up; if you speak against my position, you’re hurting my feelings and should be silenced.” It is truly baffling the immaturity we have seen unfold with this rhetoric, and it is simultaneously alarming what some will do to silence opposition and garner praise.
1) Mutual Scrutiny