Guest Post - Jim Denison
Is Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter good news for free speech?
Elon Musk has been called “America’s most powerful man.” The world’s richest person, he runs Tesla, the world’s most valuable car company, as well as a rocket maker, a tunnel-digging firm, and a brain-tech company. Now he has purchased Twitter for $44 billion.
After the announcement, Musk said, “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.” Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey called Musk’s takeover and privatization of the social media platform the “right path” for the company, tweeting, “Elon’s goal of creating a platform that is ‘maximally trusted and broadly inclusive’ is the right one.”
But is this the good news for free speech and for conservatives that it is being called?
Writing for National Review, Dan McLaughlin notes that with his purchase of Twitter, “Elon Musk is a hero to conservatives.” Then he warns us, “But here’s the important thing: he was once a hero to liberals and progressives, he wasn’t always a hero to conservatives, he’s not anything resembling a consistent conservative, and the day will come sooner or later that we are forcibly reminded that he is not one of us.”
In other words, Elon Musk is not “the light of the world.” That job has already been taken.
The only flashlight in a dark room
This week, we’ve discussed ways to be the change we need to see by defeating our “besetting” sins and living in the victorious power of Christ. This issue is vital not only for our souls but also for the future of our democracy.
Jesus called his followers “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). The definite article shows that we are the only light of the entire “world.” If I have the only flashlight in a dark room, the darkness is my fault. But when I display my light, it defeats the darkness every time (cf. John 1:5).
As a result, the morality our democracy needs depends on Christians following Christ so passionately and obediently that others want to follow Christ. Such a moral transformation cannot be catalyzed by secular leaders, no matter how wealthy and powerful they are, or by secular institutions, no matter how pervasive and influential they might be.
“Religion and morality are indispensable supports”
In a brilliant analysis of our cultural moment, writer and attorney David French make this point by reference to a historic document I often cite. John Adams, our second president, wrote a letter in 1798 to the officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts (his home state). In it he makes the famous observation, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
It is Adams’ reasoning behind this assertion, however, that the French want us to consider: “We have no Government armed with Power capable of contending with human Passions unbridled by morality and Religion. Avarice, Ambition, Revenge, or Gallantry, would break the strongest Cords of our Constitution as a Whale goes through a Net.”
This is why the US Constitution is adequate only for a “moral and religious People” and cannot govern any other.
The Constitution and the American legal system built upon it can help to restrict and punish immorality, but they cannot prevent it. If someone wants to slander you or steal from you, they can likely do so. At best, our system will help you seek redress and punish them for their crimes, but it cannot change the character that enabled such immorality.
Adams was not alone in his opinion. George Washington noted in his Farewell Address, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” He added, “Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
“The something I ought to do, I can do”
French concludes: “When our crisis is one of hatred, anxiety, and despair, don’t look to politics to heal our hearts. Our government can’t contend with ‘human Passions unbridled by morality and Religion.’ Our social fabric is fraying. The social compact is crumbling. Our government is imperfect, but if this republic fractures, its people will be to blame.”
The bottom line is that our democracy needs Christians to act like Christ, to demonstrate the “fruit” of his Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23), and to declare and defend biblical truth in love (1 Peter 3:15–16; Ephesians 4:15). We must not allow the urgency and enormity of the challenge to paralyze us into inaction: we are not responsible for what we cannot do, only for what we can.
In the famous words of Edward Everett Hale, “I am only one, but I am one. I can’t do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.”
Here’s the key: to represent Jesus in public, we must worship Jesus in private. To be much for him, we must be much with him. To reflect his light on our dark world, our “mirror” must focus on him. The closer we are to Jesus, the more powerfully we can draw others to Jesus.
Theologian N. T. Wright was right: “You become like what you worship. When you gaze in awe, admiration, and wonder at something or someone, you begin to take on something of the character of the object of your worship.”
Who or what is the “object of your worship” today?