Christianity and Hate Speech

By definition, hate speech is a controversialterm for speech intended to degrade, intimidate, or incite violence or prejudicial action against someone based on their race,ethnicity,national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or disability. The term covers written as well as oral communication. The accusation of hate speech has been used at times against religion. In 2010, a preacher in North West England was charged with causing "harassment, alarm or distress" after a police community support officer (PCSO) overheard him reciting a number of sins referred to in the Bible, including blasphemy, drunkenness and same sex relationships. In 2008, Zondervan and Thomas Nelson publishers were sued for the Bible translations they published stating that homosexuality is a sin. Is Christianity and the Bible guilty of hate speech?

Certainly Scripture is clear that truth is to be spoken, but to be spoken in love (Ephesians 4:15). A Christian's speech is to be with grace, or gracious (Colossians 4:6), and one is to be ready "always to give answer to every man that asketh you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear" (1 Peter 3:15). Certainly no one should speak in a way that is intended to hurt or incite one against another.

To speak of sin, however, and what the inspired word of God says about it, is not to degrade, intimidate, incite violence, or prejudice. It is to teach truth and instruct in matters that have spiritual significance. Hearing something one may personally disagree with, doesn't always mean it is wrong or hateful. Would one sue a doctor who reveals a person has cancer and could die from it, simply because you didn't want to hear it? If a mechanic noticed you had defective brakes, but refused to mention it because of the cost of repair, would that be right?

What some call hate speech in Christianity is not hate speech at all. To expand the definition so no one will say anything another may disagree with, destroys the very nature of effective communication between individuals, groups, or societies. The apostle Paul asked some in his time, "So then am I become your enemy, by telling you the truth?"(Galatians 4:16). He went on to say they had been severed from Christ, fallen from grace (5:4). Silence would have eternal consequences! It was a great sign of love to place himself at odds with them, so they might not be eternally condemned but saved instead. No one could doubt his genuine motives, as he wrote, "My little children, of whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you" (Galatians 4:19).

Jesus told Nicodemus, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16). Christians are told, "Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children" (Ephesians 5:1). One of the ways Christians are to imitate God is to distinguish between right and wrong, the way that leads to life from that which leads to death. It is not hateful, then, to love someone enough to tell them the truth Scripture reveals. It is the ultimate expression of hate to refrain from speaking the truth in love that can save, and by one's silence, others will be eternally condemned. As Jesus said, "If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments (John 14:15)," and "ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free" (John 8:32).

Robert Johnson, Longview, TX