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Is free speech worth the cost?

Credit: PexelsIs free speech worth the cost? It has long been considered one of the fundamental rights on which our country was founded and a liberty to be prized above most others. According to a new report by PEN America, however, there is a growing sentiment among young people that, despite its lofty stature in our culture, free speech often functions simply as an idealized excuse to be cruel. The disconnect between the most ardent defenders of that freedom and the young people described in the study appears to come down to a difference in priorities. Those who prize free speech are often wary of any limitations on the exercise of that right while young people often place an increasing importance on the protection of individuals from damaging or judgmental statements.

Taken to the extreme, both views seem to favor a distorted understanding of what free speech was meant to be, yet those extremes are often where the debate takes place. As with many issues in our culture, the middle ground has largely disappeared from the conversation. PEN America is hoping to bring it back, though, by fostering dialogue with those on both sides of the divide.

That dialogue is further complicated, however, by the nebulous terms with which supporters of each extreme often describe what they want. For example, as Jennifer Schuessler of the New York Times reports, the PEN study comes on the heels of a recent Gallup poll from earlier this year that found "college students were overwhelmingly in favor of free expression on campus in general but also significantly in favor of some restrictions on 'intentionally offensive' speech."

While those restrictions sound reasonable, it is all but impossible to find a definition of "intentionally offensive" speech about which everyone can agree. That inability to find a common understanding of where the line exists between speech that is offensive and that which should be permitted has led to the recent problems over anti-Semitic comments at UCLA and appropriate Halloween costumes at Yale University, to name two of the more prominent examples.

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What Christians can learn from Samsung phones

Credit: Lee Jin-man via APSamsung Electronics has made headlines with the announcement that they are killing their troubled Galaxy Note 7 smartphone. The New York Times calls this a "major setback" for the world's largest maker of smartphones.

The company has been struggling to address reports that the phone could overheat and catch fire. Last month, it said it would recall 2.5 million phones to fix the problem. But users complained that the repaired phones were overheating, smoking, and even bursting into flames. Last Monday, the company asked Note 7 customers to power off the phones while it worked to fix the problem.

Now the company says it has made a "final decision" to stop production. Samsung will no longer manufacture or market the phones. It has already lost $17 billion in market value and could lose $10 billion more.

An editorial in South Korea's largest newspaper said, "You cannot really calculate the loss of consumer trust in money." And that's my point today.

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Is that really locker room talk?

Credit: Julio Cortez via APIf you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all. But what if something nice is utterly degrading?

On Friday, video surfaced that depicted Donald Trump describing in vulgar terms his approach towards women. "I've got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her," Trump says from a bus as he and host Billy Bush are about to make a cameo appearance on the daytime show "Days of our Lives." Trump goes on to say, "You know I'm automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait."

During a 2005 conversation with Billy Bush, then of "Access Hollywood," Trump spoke of how "when you're a star, they let you do it." "It" being such actions as groping women without their consent and moving on them like he is a magnet and they are the fridge. Trump, apologizing if anyone was offended, called it locker room talk. If that is locker room talk, we need to hit the showers.

Since then, Billy Bush has been suspended by NBC, but Trump continues his pursuit of the presidency. "I've never said I'm a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I'm not. I've said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more than a decade-old video are one of them. Anyone who knows me knows these words don't reflect who I am," Trump said.

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What does it mean to be an American?

via PexelsWhat does it mean to be an American? We've heard a lot over the past several months about making America great again or about how America is already great as is, but what does that really mean? What defines us as a nation? From the very start, we have been a people defined more by a quest for individual freedom than the commitment to something bigger than ourselves, and it seems like that might be catching up to us.

The Puritans who first colonized the New World, for example, came mostly in pursuit of religious freedom. However, their understanding of that principle was more the freedom to practice their faith as they wanted than the kind of liberty that we hold so dear today. In truth, the Puritans were often even more dogmatic and legalistic about their faith than the Anglican church they fled. And while there were some who sought true liberty of conscience when it came to the practice of faith, most of the colonies continued to have official churches that persecuted dissenters even in the years following the Revolutionary War. It wasn't until the Bill of Rights was enacted in 1791 that the freedom of religion we possess today became a recognized part of our national identity.

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Conformed or Transformed? 3 keys to God's best for your life

Credit: charcomphoto via Fotolia

A Washington State trooper stopped a driver recently for an HOV lane violation. Why is this news? The driver had a larger-than-life cutout of Donald Trump's head attached to the passenger seat of his car.

It's not unusual in election years to see politicians' heads in all sorts of strange places. I'm sure there will be a run on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump masks for Halloween. People have probably been impersonating politicians as long as there have been politicians.

When it comes to the most famous Person of all, however, imitation is more than an option—it is an imperative.

A familiar text

I preached my first sermon forty years ago. My text was Romans 12:1–2. While I hope I have changed in positive ways over these four decades, my love for this text has remained constant. It is one of the passages God has especially used in my life.

The text is familiar: "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." We could spend hours with these remarkable words, but let's focus in this article on three critical keys to God's best for your life.

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