Can our freedoms be expressed regardless of the consequence?

“Freedom of speech!” The great rallying cry in the wake of the brutal and indefensible murder of journalists and cartoonists in Paris.

Is this freedom of speech to be exercised whatever the consequences?

Or are there times when what we say and do may be counter-productive?

For instance, do we ‘speak the truth and shame the devil’?

Perhaps on occasion we may think so, but tempering our words and actions with wisdom may be the better path.

Take a personal example. A neighbour holds extreme political, racial and religious views.

Do you prefer to ‘live and let live’? Or do you engage in constructive conversation with him?

Or do you write to the local paper about him, draw graffiti lampooning him and make him a mockery among local people?

The instrument of offence in Paris was satirical cartoons, caricaturing Mohammed and Islamic leaders.

Apparently no public figure, institution or religion was out of bounds as far as the Charlie Hebdo magazine journalists were concerned.

I understand the use of satire to prick pomposity, to challenge the powerful, to expose social evils and to confront extremists.

The questions must be asked as to the impact of such satire.

Is it constructive criticism or a way of demeaning opponents?

Will it be seen as an object lesson in truth or a ratcheting up of religious and racial tensions?

Jesus attacked members of his own religion and race. “Hypocrites” and “white walled sepulchres” were his terms.

He ended up on the cross, misunderstood and hated.

Yet his motives were good; to bring God’s truth to his generation and to do it in love.

Out of the cross came reconciliation with God and neighbour.

Freedom of speech.

A precious commodity.

How and why we use it are the critical questions.