Children, God, and Human Nature: How Being a Nanny is Teaching Me About the Universe

In my day job, I work as a nanny for three adorable children. The brother-sister twins are almost a year and a half, and their older brother, Sam, is four. I’ve learned some things that I more or less expected to learn after taking this job: how to change a diaper, how to prepare bottles, how to spot from across the room a baby chewing something he’s not supposed to chew. However, I’ve also learned some things that I didn’t expect as much. Continue reading Children, God, and Human Nature: How Being a Nanny is Teaching Me About the Universe

Rooted in Love–What We Can Learn From the Flowers

Humans have an innate appreciation for nature.  Except for the occasional bee sting or troublesome allergies, nature often enchants all of our senses.  Smelling the crisp scent of evergreens, tasting the salty sea air, feeling the soft grass against our toes, hearing the chirping of the birds, and seeing the beauty of God’s creation around us are a few examples of how we experience and enjoy nature.  It is natural and good that we thank God for giving us these good things.  But to stop with gratitude would be to limit ourselves to self-centered appreciation of God’s creation.  We should step away from our own experience of nature and engage with something much bigger than ourselves.  If we allow ourselves to listen, the flowers remind us of the vanity of our own existence and the reality of our eternal value in Christ.

Christina Rossetti, a 19th century poet, is widely known for her gloomy, yet biblically centered poetry.  Hope and despair are prevalent themes in her writing.  While Rossetti often despairs about earthly griefs, she remains grounded in her eternal hope.  In her poetry, Rossetti constantly uses nature to re-ground herself in her hope. In “Consider the Lilies of the Field (p24,25), she writes:

“Flowers preach to us if we will hear…
Men scent our fragrance on the air,
Yet take no heed
Of humble lessons we would read…”

Anyone can smell the flowers and take pleasure in it.  However, very few actually learn from the flowers.  Learning from the flowers takes humility and a willingness to experience nature in a way much bigger than our own personal enjoyment.  It is easiest to view the flowers in their relation to us.  “Thank you God for allowing us to enjoy these beautiful flowers.”  And that response is perfectly acceptable.  However, the flowers can teach us so much more rather than just reinforcing a me-centered existence.

It is the natural human tendency to think of our existence in terms of ourselves.  Well, duh, you may say, we are the ones existing.  However, in a God-centered universe, we are never the main focus.  We may be the ones doing the actual living, but nothing we do can give value to our lives.  Yet we are never perfect at living a God-centered life.  We forget how fleeting and invaluable we are on our own.

This is not a new problem.  In Psalm 90:12, the Psalmist asks God on behalf of the Israelites, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  Israel forgot how short their life was.  Disobedience to God’s commands is the natural result of forgetting your place in eternity.  After experiencing punishment for embarking on a self-centered lifestyle, they come crawling back to God asking him to help them remember.  In a God-centered universe, a self-centered lifestyle does not satisfy.  Especially when you are being directly punished by God!

Isaiah says, “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.  The grass withers, the flower fades… surely the people are grass… but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:6-8). The quickly fading flower reminds us that our “blossom” is but a brief moment in eternity.  Hopeless can often be the result of this realization if we view our brief existence simply in terms of our life here on earth.  However, investing in an eternal hope through Jesus Christ allows us to live a hope-filled life while here on earth.  We live full lives here on earth, all the while knowing our ultimate value is not found in this world.  Nature can remind us of how small we are on our own and allow us to re-ground ourselves in truth—that true value can only come through God.

But the flowers’ teaching does not stop there.  They remind us of something much greater than our own insignificance.  They remind us of God’s great love for us in spite of our puny existence.  In Luke, Jesus says “If God so clothes the grass.. how much more will he clothe you(Luke 12:28).”  Nature IS beautiful! Even though a flower only blooms for a short time, it is none the less beautiful! So it is with us.  Even though we are seemingly insignificant, God values us.  Even though our life is but a moment, God concerns himself with the details of our life.

In her poem, “Consider the Lilies of the Field,” Rossetti continues,

“Flowers ….
Tell of his love who sends the dew,
The rain and sunshine too,
To nourish one small seed.”

The flowers do not just tell us truths about ourselves, but truths about God, too!

Contrary to what you may be thinking, this is not just a happy go lucky post.   Life is not just daisies and roses.  Even with a firm understanding of your eternal value and God’s love for you, life sucks sometimes.  Sadness is a natural part of life.  From Rossetti’s poetry, it seems like she was seriously depressed most of the time.  We would be lying to ourselves if we tried to never experience sadness.  Even Jesus wept.  But at the same time, we should never be guided by our emotions.  When experiencing despair, we should always anchor ourselves in our eternal hope.  Rossetti got through her darkest moments because of her eternal hope.  So also should we, in moments of despair, cling to the One that can never be taken away from us, Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Taking a moment to listen to the flowers can help reground you in what is truly valuable.

Whether it’s in the simple hustle and bustle of everyday life or one of your darkest moments, grounding yourself in Christ’s deep love for you gives you strength to carry on.  However, being reminded of your true value in Christ is worthless if your actions do not change.   Taking a moment to listen to the flowers can help you live your life in a meaningful way.

So next time you are outside, stop and listen to the flowers.  What are they saying to you?

“In this world you will have tribulation.  But take heart, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

*Quotations taken from “Christina Rossetti: Selected Poems.”  Penguin Classics.




Spiritual Warfare is Guerrilla Warfare

Spiritual warfare is hardly a neat war between the uniformed armies of equal countries, snapping up this bit of land with all those nice mines and factories in it or grabbing up that lucrative trade route. Spiritual warfare is guerrilla warfare. Satan is in a rebellion against God, so he can hardly sign a peace treaty and must fight to the bitter end, with dire consequences for humanity. Although we are bound up in an irregular war that defies neat solutions, although Christians are on the legitimate side and have to follow rules that the enemy does not, and although the smallest failure is a setback for the kingdom of God, Christians are free to pursue unconventional solutions, rely upon power that the enemy will never have, and the smallest victory is a step forward for the kingdom of God. Continue reading Spiritual Warfare is Guerrilla Warfare

Was C.S. Lewis A Calvinist?

In a previous post, I mentioned in passing that J.R.R. Tolkien, though a devout Roman Catholic, filled his works with a distinctly Reformed or Calvinistic attitude toward fate and free will.  If you ask the direct question, “Was J.R.R. Tolkien a Calvinist?” the answer is obviously no.  But I believe that while Tolkien clearly rejected a bad cariacture of Calvinism (human beings are mere puppets on divine strings, etc), his deeper appreciation of acient northern culture lead him to hold divine providence and human freedom in a constant tension, with neither ever overwhelming the other, but with the greater emphasis always upon providence.  Without getting into the specifics of works and meriting salvation, this basic view is no less than the classic Reformed understanding of Philippians 2:12-13. Continue reading Was C.S. Lewis A Calvinist?

“Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History”: A Rant

I have a condition. Whenever I see one particular bumper-sticker, my skin starts to crawl. My lips and fingers itch and ache to burst with rational objection. I may need a doctor’s note to excuse me from ever again reading those six words. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll bare my biases – I’m on the feminist side of things. I don’t consider motherhood and marriage to be necessary goals in my life and my walk with God. I tend toward what Biola-folk call egalitarianism; I qualify terms like “obey” when used to describe relationships between humans. All the same, I think suggesting that motherhood and marriage and marital obedience are for second-tier women – in short, the statement “Well-behaved women rarely make history” – isn’t a healthy view.

Let’s take this in two parts:

“Well-Behaved Women”

In proper accordance with the genre bumper sticker, the slogan doesn’t define the terms. I tentatively submit – based on the implication of the whole phrase – that “well-behaved women” could be operationalized as “women who act as society recommends”.

I’m aware of a hazard here; since I’m about to challenge this statement, it’s problematic that I’m developing the definition for it. This could easily become a straw-man argument, where I’m playing both sides – “You’re saying this, and it’s wrong!” However, considering the slogan’s overall implication, I can think of few likely interpretations that would be unrelated to “women who act as society recommends”. I could be wrong. Take it or leave it.

“Rarely Make History”

From a feminist standpoint, one could argue that history as taught in schools is a man-made patchwork of selected true events (and don’t read that as “human-made”). In this definition, making your way into the history books is an arbitrary fact having less to do with whether you did something significant than with whether you fit into the story that men in power want to tell. By contracting the “go-make-history” infection, the bumper sticker slogan – despite its attempt to cast off patriarchal control – is really striving to fit into a masculine system. So why don’t we come up with a more grounded definition of significance?

Even if you don’t buy the idea that history books are arbitrary patriarchal constructions, it’s still hard to defend the slogan’s assumption that getting in the history books is intrinsically good. Atrocities make history. The slogan operates on the understanding that there is some intrinsic value to “making history”. I doubt that value. I wonder if women (with our comparative absence from history books) might be able to provide medicine to this potentially unhealthy way of viewing significance if we weren’t busying ourselves playing the boy’s games by their rules. The fact is, well-behaved men also rarely get into history books. As a rule, people rarely “make history”. Maybe women who don’t bother with the silliness of getting into the books could have some wisdom to offer on what makes the majority of  human lives significant.

If one challenges the idea of history as “stuff-in-a-book” – if history is, instead, the actual story of humanity told through the continuing growth and flourishing of the race – well-behaved women have made a lot of history. The real history of the world has mothers and wives and “well-behaved women” as intricately involved as rebellious women, well-behaved men, and rebellious men. These people raised people, loved people, helped, created, aided, wrote, lived, loved, healed. Did women who obeyed their husbands have less of a role in the grand dance of human history than did women who went their own way? Was Alexandra Romanov less important than Joan of Arc? Did either of them really, truly live more than the other? I’m not saying all women must behave as society recommends; I’m just saying that those who do shouldn’t be treated as less significant. Perhaps society’s recommendations coincided with their own desires.

Lastly, just to put the nail in the coffin, a good number of the best-known woman in history books were rather “well-behaved.” Mary the mother of Christ, Eleanor Roosevelt, Queen Victoria, Mother Theresa.

So, do well-behaved women rarely make it into the history books? No.

Is it a failure if they don’t? No.

Do they lack significant contributions to human flourishing? No.

Is this slogan tacitly buying into the worldview it’s fighting? Yep.

Is there any aspect of this bumper sticker that stands up to healthy critique?

Image via Flickr.

All the Married Ladies: A Response to Kate Bolick

Ever wonder how Conservative women compare with their feminist counterparts?

My latest piece is up at the newly launched today: a response to The Atlantic’s November cover article.

Though I was deep in the throes of giving birth, I couldn’t help smiling at the nurse’s shocked face. She’d noticed my wedding ring. “You’re married?” She paused, and I watched her count backward on her fingers. “This baby wasn’t conceived until after we were married” I gasped, as another contraction took hold. The look on her face made me laugh out loud, despite the pain. “You waited?” She was shocked. “I deliver babies every day and I never see married couples in here!”

I suppose her reaction shouldn’t have surprised me. I gave birth in a prosperous neighborhood, at a well-respected for-profit hospital. Even so, my story, which a generation ago would have been commonplace, now defies modern conventions across all economic levels. Women with lives like mine will only become more unusual as cultural attitudes toward marriage and parenthood continue to shift—and if The Atlantic’s November cover story is any indication, that’s bad news for all of us.

Read the whole article here.

Image from Flickr.


Sacred Spaces

A blank canvas does not carry much meaning as a work of art until the artist begins to use lines to create shapes and figures, separating each section of the painting from the others. A place, much like a work of art, is endowed with definition—and therefore, with meaning— by its history and purpose.

Walter Brueggemann, retired Old Testament scholar and professor emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary attributes to human nature the tendency to sanctify a certain space as a sacred place. “Place is a space which has historical meaning,” he says,“where some things have happened which are now remembered and which provide continuity and identity across generations. Place is space in which important words have been spoken which have established identity, defined vocation and envisioned destiny. Place is space in which vows have been exchanged, promises have been made, and demands have been issued.”

That place is a space with accumulated meaning is no less true about a family living room than it is about a church sanctuary. Each has its own history and has been set apart for a particular purpose. It is precisely the act of setting spaces apart that allow them to be sacred. Frederic Debuyst, Belgian architect, author and monk, defines the Christian church building as “a Paschal meeting room, a place where the assembled community experiments and exercises the full impact of the Paschal Mystery. This reference to the central event of our faith, in its always renewed Eucharistic expression . . . is and remains the specific note which distinguishes the Christian church from any other religious or secular building.”

For this reason, the pastors of Aldersgate Methodist Church in Alexandria, Virginia, and of Heartsong Church of Cordova, Tennessee, should have said no when approached by Islamic groups wanting use their churches for prayer. This is not because I do not respect their need for a place to worship. I do. I understand the importance of sacred religious places, and a church sanctuary is not a multi-purpose room, but a room dedicated to the worship of the Triune God. A sacred space is, by definition, set apart for a particular use. For Anglicans (like myself), as well as for Lutherans and Catholics, a church sanctuary is even more than a room reserved for corporate worship. It is, as Debuyst noted, the Pascal meeting room. It is the space where the Eucharist is celebrated—where the Real Presence of Christ is in the bread and wine, the remains of which may be kept in the tabernacle at the front of the church long after the Sunday service is over. This only serves to underscore what all Christian sanctuaries have in common: they are the space used for the worship of the Triune God.

But why does it matter if the space is used by another group who also wants to participate in their own religious acts of worship? I am sympathetic, and I understand that, to the extent that religious worship would be taking place, the sacredness of the space would be maintained. However, as blank canvas has no meaning without definition, so space cannot remain sacred for long, once lines are removed. Philip Bess, director of graduate studies and professor of architecture at Notre Dame, summarizes this line of thinking well: “A sense of the sacred therefore necessarily seems to include a sense of prohibition as a precondition.”

John Bergsma, associate professor of theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, makes a similar assertion, that sacred places should be distinguished. Removing the distinction of sacred spaces does not lead to the sanctification of all space, but to its profanation—now no place is sacred because there are no limits.

And this position that conveys dignity to all other groups as well. Allowing another group to use Christian worship space for their purposes would not only violate our space, but would also be demeaning to them and their own understanding of sacred space. That action would convey that others are, in fact, so unimportant, that we would allow them to violate our sacred traditions; they are not relevant enough to threaten our customs.

My position is not so much about who to keep out, as it is about what to keep in. It is not that I care too little about others. It is precisely because Christians and Muslims alike believe that devout worship matters, that I would insist on remembering the sacredness of space.

An Open Letter To Mohamed Abdel Moniem El-Sawy

An open letter to Mohamed Abdel Moniem El-Sawy:

I must admit, I don’t understand everything about the different segments of your Islamic faith—anymore than I understand everything about all the different denominations of Christianity. But they say actions speak louder than words, and I do understand that you and thousands of other Muslims in Egypt were willing to put aside differences in creed to unite for the sake of peace in your nation.

Thank you for being willing to protect the Coptic Christians in Egypt who were afraid for their lives this Christmas. You put yourselves in very real danger when you offered yourselves as “human shields.” Fortunately, the deadly New Years’ Eve attack was not repeated, and no one was hurt.  Thank you, all the same, for being willing to sacrifice yourselves for my Christian brothers and sisters.

I admire the theme emerging from your actions: “We either live together, or we die together” for indeed, these were no mere words. You were willing to literally put your life on the line in support of your fellow Egyptians, despite the religious differences which can so easily separate neighbors.

Just as we Americans learned from Abraham Lincoln that a house divided against itself cannot stand, the world can learn much the same from your actions last Thursday. We do not have to be threatened by all of our differences, and it’s good to be reminded that, for the sake of a nation, people will act on the courage of their convictions. There is much here to be admired.

Thank you.

Editors note: We offer our sincere condolences for the families of those who were shot on an Egyptian train today.

Image credit

We Need a Darker Christmas

Tis the season to be trite: twinkling lights, evergreen branches, sentimental images of multigenerational gatherings, and the ever-present stars.  Everywhere you look it is happy, gleeful, giggly, cinnamon-sugary.  All is bathed in warmth and light, with no room for darkness.  And few of us think to question it.  Christmas celebrates the birth of the Christ Child.  Everyone knows births are happy, and if He was the most important child to be born, how much happier the celebration!  Christmas escapes the darkness that surrounds the other great Christian holy festival looming in the spring. On Good Friday we must stand at the foot of the Cross before we can revel in the joy of the empty tomb on Easter morning.  Christmas, on the other hand, is the all-happy holiday.  Sure that trip on the donkey from Nazareth to Bethlehem must have been dusty and the whole “no room at the inn” part of the story seems like it was a bit inconvenient.  But it makes cute slogans for a Hallmark card and we need a little Christmas, so haul out the holly, right?

There are two dangerous errors in the way most of modern American culture—especially the modern American church—chooses to celebrate Christmas.  First, particularly destructive for the church, is that it completely negates the original intent of the ancient celebration of Christmas.  As cozy as the wintry image of Christmas is, Christ wasn’t born in the bleak midwinter.  According to historical records of Roman census, they seem to have taken place in the spring or summer, a time more conducive to the widespread travel that such an order would have demanded.  But there’s a good reason why the early church moved the celebration of Christ’s birth to December 25th.

It’s easy for those of us living in the age of indoor heating, grocery stores, and electricity to forget, but December is the bleakest time of year in the western hemisphere.  With the arrival of the winter solstice, it is literally the darkest time of year.  It’s cold, too, and in the years before globalization and the local cornerstore, the hungriest.  The timing of the celebration of the Christ Mass was by design.  The early church made sure we’d remember in the year’s cruelest moment that Christ came to us.

But we’ve Thomas Kinkaided the beauty of that stark contrast to death.  Now it’s all glowing cottage windows and twinkling trees, presents under the tree and luxury cars with bows atop in the driveway.  We’ve wiped any trace of discomfort from the holiday, eradicated any hint of darkness, so that now even the light seems dim.  The sorrow Simeon said would pierce Mary’s heart has become nothing more than a Precious Moments frowny face.

It’s no wonder we’ve done this.  How else can we expect to survive a world that is unremittingly vicious?  We numb ourselves with trinkets.  We distance ourselves with promises of nice and happy.  But God doesn’t want us to have nice and happy, because He knows it will never satisfy.  He offers Good, True, and Beautiful and knows our souls, made in His image, can settle for nothing less.  Nevertheless, we hunker down with flocked trees and smiling wise men, watching our kids unwrap the toy that will be the best thing they’ve ever seen for a grand total of one week if we’re lucky, and we tell ourselves that if we just make enough gingerbread men together, maybe we can stave off the darkness a little longer.

And that’s the second reason why modern Christmas is killing us.  Linus knew it all along.  All the toys we want to buy won’t give us Christmas—because it’s not Christmas.  And the longer we pretend our tinsel and candy canes can make us happy, the more people we’ll lose along the way.

In the early days of the Industrial Revolution, the coal industry around the world boomed.  With “progress” the god of its day, demand for the black mineral soared, sending hundreds of thousands of lower class workers into treacherous mine shafts fraught with cave-ins, suffocating gases, and threatened explosions.  To defend themselves against disaster, miners would take a delicate creature with them into the mine – a canary – whose sensitivity to changes in heat and atmosphere turned the tiny yellow bird into a portable early warning system.  If the canary keeled over, the miners knew it was time to get out.  But that was little consolation to the canary.

Our culture, like all those that came before it, is a coalmine of a different sort.  Surrounded by materialism, apathy, and exploitation in the name of self-interest, our souls are in danger of being crushed under the debris of our own distraction.  We don’t even preach against gluttony any longer.  Churches run diet groups that rely on getting participants to focus on God’s love for them just as they are to motivate themselves to put down the brownies and pick up the carrots.  No one ever mentions that the chocolate from the brownies probably came from child slave labor plantations where children are beaten with bike chains if they don’t pick cacao beans quickly enough.  Where Christ would rush in, we’d rather that He assures us that He loves us even if we have no self-control.  We don’t want Him to tell us we don’t need our Christmas presents.  We want Him to assure us we deserve them because He loves us.  That will let us stay distracted from the painful beauty of the world around us just a little bit longer.

The trouble with this attitude is that we are surrounded with what Dr. John Reynolds calls canaries.  There are people all around us who haven’t learned to pretend as well as we have.  They are the artists and poets.  They can’t look away from what we refuse to look at, the overwhelming awfulness of this existence.  Their words are hard to hear, and they threaten our carefully constructed worlds of nice and happy.  We want to sing “I’ll be home for Christmas” with Bing Crosby and ignore the millions who will mourn when loved ones don’t come home this year.  We want to watch Disney’s latest nature adventure with anthropomorphized penguins, but don’t want to think about the fact that the polar bear cubs will starve to death if they don’t eat the cute seal pups.  We love to quote John the Baptist when he proclaims the coming of Christ, but we end the story long before his grisly, senseless death.  We wrap ourselves in the happy part of the story and try to ignore the rest.

We need to stop.  We’re losing the people who can’t pretend right along with us, and not just figuratively.  Every year, people take their own lives because they think they must be crazy to see what the rest of us pretend we can’t.  The carnage wrought upon our own souls isn’t inconsequential, either.  The more we train our souls to hide from the reality of our cursed world, the more we dull it to the radiance of the Light of Light who descended from the realm of endless day.  We needn’t dwell on the darkness, but we need to recognize that we live in the midst of darkness, for it’s only the people who walked in darkness who have seen a great light.  Only then can we distinguish the true light of Christ from the cheap thrill of a string of lightbulbs, and only then can we begin to bring the wonder of that Light to a dark world.

Free Speech, Amazon and Your Community

In the name of supporting freedom of expression and consumer choice, Amazon made a controversial book available for sale to Kindle users: “The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: a Child-lover’s Code of Conduct.” According to an MSNBC news article, the book offers “advice to pedophiles afraid of becoming the center of retaliation.” According to the author, his work is (misspellings his own) his “attempt to make pedophile situations safer for those juveniles that find themselves involved in them, by establishing certian rules for these adults to follow.”

The reviews on the book’s page reflected the outrage of many of Amazon’s patrons, to whom Amazon defended their choice to sell the book. Responding that “it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable…we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions.”

The purpose of free speech

Amazon is correct in that they do have the freedom to publish such material. But does that mean they should?

When it was included in the Bill of Rights, free speech was not designated arbitrarily. It was included to protect an individual’s rights from being trampled by the federal government—not to give the individual permission to do whatever he wanted. Freedom of speech is foundational to all other freedoms because it preserves space for dissent, for ideas and opinions to be heard—but it is not freedom to say whatever you want. It is freedom to pursue truth.

In order for truth to surface in public dialogue, there must be public space for a free exchange of ideas. Wendell Berry, in his essay “Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community” argues that freedom exists because people will disagree, and that freedom is “a way of guaranteeing to individuals and to political bodies the right to be different from one another.”

Notice that Berry does not say that free speech is protected for the purpose of doing what we want—it exists for the good of society. Because freedom is not the license to do whatever we please, our individual freedoms come with corresponding duties to our communities. In the case of this book, Amazon is the private individual and the community is all the families that shop

Why Amazon was right to remove the book

After a few days, Amazon removed the book from its site, presumably because of the public outcry and threats of boycott. And they were right to do so. Respect for the community should not be taken lightly. According to Barry, only the sphere of community can mediate between public and private interests.

Community “identifies itself by an understood mutuality of interests”—namely, virtues such as trust, temperance, mercy, kindness, and forgiveness. In order for communities to flourish, they must encourage these virtues. Properly functioning communities will “invariably, not as a rule . . . enforce decency without litigation.”

Absent this idea of community, where decency is encouraged, “private” comes to mean an area which individuals defend as space for doing what they please, even if this includes limiting or destroying the rights of others. The community alone has the power to influence behavior by dictating “what works and what does not work in a given place.” Only a community can determine for itself what is good and what is harmful.

Community has an interest in being able to protect itself. And for the sake of freedom of speech, the public ought to let it. But free speech is not an absolute right. It only exists as people concur that it should. Says Berry, “One person alone cannot uphold the freedom of speech…[It] is a public absolute, and it can remain absolute only so long as a sufficient segment of the public believes that it is and consents to uphold it. It is an absolute that can be destroyed by public opinion…If this freedom is abused and if a sufficient segment of the public becomes sufficiently resentful of the abuses, then the freedom will be revoked. It is a freedom, therefore, that depends directly on responsibility. And so the First Amendment alone is not a sufficient guarantee of the freedom of speech (emphasis added).

The standards of a community ought to be considered because the community is a part of “the people” whose support is necessary to uphold free speech as a right. This is why it is not right for Amazon to ignore the opinions of the community in the name of free speech alone.

Amazon is correct: individuals do have the right to make their own purchasing decisions. However, when the community complains, Amazon ought to listen.  Communities are rightfully interested in their own self-preservation, and this includes upholding some sort of moral standard. Where public laws exist to bind the government to a particular arena, communities exist to uphold morality and decency, and to tell people how they ought to live. The government should not do this, and an individual alone cannot. Therefore, we must rely on the community to be the mediating pathway in many areas. If a community determines that it ought to uphold certain standards of decency, the public sphere ought to listen. If free speech exists only because the majority of people support it, individuals should not destroy that which allows the community to flourish with their freedom– lest they lose it.

Finally, it is right that the government not control what books Amazon sells. It is dangerous when the government involves itself in our ability to freely exchange ideas. Yes, “The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: a Child-lover’s Code of Conduct” is offensive. However, the government should not make a law, and it will not have to, if the community is allowed to function properly. Decency will be encouraged, and there will be no desire—or need—for litigation.