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Free Speech (or Not)

 Therefore this is what the Lord says about the people of Anathoth who are threatening to kill you, saying, “Do not prophesy in the name of the Lord or you will die by our hands”
Jeremiah 11:21 (NIV)

I have been intrigued to observe what has transpired in our culture over recent years with regard to our freedom of speech. I’ve watched the proliferation of social media in which every individual has a megaphone with which to broadcast their thoughts, opinions, and little kitty pictures to anyone who will listen. I think most of us have had an experience in which what could and should be a forum for discovery, appreciation, connection, conversation, and discussion quickly erodes into a quagmire of anger, disrespect, slander and anonymous trolls hiding behind usernames spewing hatred. And of course we are all now well aware that there are those with ill motives seeking to stir up dissension and chaos for political reasons.

At the same time, I’ve observed that our educational institutions are increasingly willing to suppress the free expression of thoughts and opinions from faculty and guest lecturers when those thoughts and opinions are unpopular or offend the listener. There are students who seek to be sheltered from any words, thoughts, or ideas that contradict or challenge their own world view. In recent years, those who hold unpopular opinions receive death threats, are physically attacked, or are simply dis-invited from speaking.

One one hand anyone can say anything they want (and do). On the other hand anyone who holds an unpopular opinion is unwelcome and silenced. Fascinating.

Free expression and conflict over words, thoughts, opinions, and ideas have always been part of the human experience. Examples abound, such as the prophet Jeremiah.

In today’s chapter the ancient prophet Jeremiah is made aware of a plot to kill him. The source of the threat comes from the town of Anathoth which was located a few miles north of Jerusalem. What’s fascinating to discover is that Anathoth is Jeremiah’s hometown. It is also a town that was given to the descendants of Aaron who were the priests in the ancient religious system of the Hebrews. Only a descendant of Aaron could be a priest. In other words, those who were seeking to silence Jeremiah and plotting to kill him were his own people from a town dedicated to leaders of the Temple.

I’m reminded this morning of Jesus’ observation that “a prophet is without honor in his own home town.” Jesus said this right after his own neighbors in Nazareth sought to throw Him off a cliff. He could very well have been thinking about Jeremiah when He said it. It was descendants of the crew who sought to kill Jeremiah who would plot Jesus’ death, as well.

I’m also reminded that history gives us many examples in various disciplines of individuals branded heretics in their day who were revealed over time to be right. Only now in retrospect do we regard them as heroes of history. These “heretics” often suffered terribly in their day for saying things that were unpopular, politically incorrect, or by challenging the prevailing world-view. Jeremiah is just one of them.

As I do each morning, I will publish this blog post and share it on Facebook. A few people will read it. Of those who do I hope there are one or two who appreciate the post. There may be some who get pissed off simply by seeing that idiot Tom and his stupid religious posts in their feed. I’m well aware that the vast majority of people will simply ignore it. C’est la vie.

I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to express what I’m thinking about on my daily spiritual journey and to put it out there where, instantly, anyone on the planet with an internet connection can read it. Through all of human history it is only in the past 20 years or so that this was possible.

I pray that I will always be free to do so.

10 Most Popular Posts in 2014

source: sam churchill via Flickr
source: sam churchill via Flickr

As 2014 winds down, I’m taking time this week to look back at my blog stats to see what seemed to generate the most traffic. I’ve been blogging for over eight years, and it’s interesting to see which posts continue to generate interest over the years even though they may be ancient in terms of the world wide web.

I’ll be posting a few different lists this week. Here are the ten most popular posts from my blog in 2014, regardless of when they were published:

  1. 10 Ways Being a Theatre Major Prepared Me for Success
  2. Top 5 Things Wrong with “The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug”
  3. You Heard Right: We’re Moving
  4. Preparing for a Role: Rehearsal Process
  5. Preparing for a Role: How Do You Memorize All Those Lines?
  6. Getting Away from Crazy makers
  7. Theatre is Ultimate Fitness for Your Brain!
  8. “There are No Wrong Notes”
  9. Art Heals (continued)
  10. The Art and Progression of Sexual Intimacy

Top Ten Blog Posts of All Time (So Far)

Blog HeaderI’ve been blogging since 2006. In those years I’ve published just short of 3,000 posts. My blog has basically followed three main themes:

  1. General Posts about my life, what I’ve been up to, and etc.
  2. Chapter-a-Day devotional posts. I’ve blogged through the entire Bible once and have blogged through the entire New Testament twice.
  3. Theatre posts about my experiences in the art form I love.

Below I’ve listed my top ten posts in each of these themes, ranked by the number of “hits” or “views” for each post. I found it fascinating to see what posts have received the most traffic.

General
Speaking of Changes in Life
Top Five Things Wrong with “The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug”
Tom’s 30 Day Blogging Challenge: Day 24
Looney Tunes Boat: Lake of the Ozarks Shootout
Day 5: List Things That Irritate You About the Same/Opposite Sex
Day 2: How Have You Changed in the Past Two Years?
Three Indelible Life Lessons from the Game of Baseball
Striking a Chord: When a Blog Post Goes Viral
Tom Vander Well Meet Tom Vanderwell
Day 3: What Kind of Person Attracts You?

Chapter-a-Day
Getting Away from Crazymakers
Art Heals (Continued)
Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 10
Art and Progression of Sexual Intimacy
Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 11
The Curse of Being Religious
Here I Am: Did You Call Me? (My Story)
Abraham, Typology, and the Tolkien Geek
10 Ways I Tried NOT to Exasperate My Children
An Old Concept We Still Don’t Get

Theatre
10 Ways Being a Theatre Major Prepared Me for Success
Ham Buns and Potato Salad
Preparing for a Role: How Do You Memorize All Those Lines?
Preparing for a Role: The Rehearsal Process
Theatre Majors Unite!
Theatre is Ultimate Fitness for Your Brain
Preparing for a Role: Digging Into Character
Keeping Focus When Siri Joins You on Stage
Preparing for a Role: The First Rehearsal
Preparing for a Role: Digging Into the Past

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 160,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

My Top Ten Posts After Seven Years

Next month represents my 7th anniversary as a blogger. I was looking yesterday at my top ten posts of all time. Beyond the usual suspects, I found it interesting to see which posts got legs and generated more views than others. Here they are, from the home office in Pella, Iowa. The top ten Wayfarer posts from seven years:

10.  Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 46

9.  Day 19: Something that Never Fails to Make You Feel Better

8. Tom Vander Well meet Tom Vanderwell

7. Day 5: List Five Things that Irritate You About the Same/Opposite Sex

6. Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 11

5. Striking a Chord: When a Blog Post Goes Viral

4. Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 10

3. Day 2: How Have You Changed in the Past Two Years?

2. Speaking of Changes in Life

1. 10 Ways Being a Theatre Major Prepared Me for Success

As I look through the list, it’s a reminder to me of the blog posting mantra that Mike Sansone impressed up on me when I started. Always “link out” to another post, he told me. I can see that some of the posts on the top ten made it simply because they had been “linked” within a popular post. The more people read the popular post, the more likely some would click the link and explore what it had to say.

Blog on.