Are Christians guilty of hate speech?
Question: "Are Christians guilty of hate speech?"
Answer: A working definition of hate speech is "speech that is intended to insult, intimidate, or cause prejudice against a person or people based on their race, gender, age, sexual orientation, political affiliation, occupation, disability, or physical appearance." If that is the accepted definition, a Christian should never participate in hate speech. However, the problem is that the definition of hate speech is broadening over time. Proclaiming that a certain belief is wrong or that a certain activity is sinful, based on biblical principles, is increasingly being included in the definition of hate speech.
Ephesians 4:15 refers to "speaking the truth in love." First Peter 3:15 instructs Christians to defend their faith, but to do so "with gentleness and respect." Colossians 4:6 proclaims, "Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt." Sadly, some Christians fail to follow these biblical instructions. Some Christians (or at least people who claim to be Christians) speak the truth, but speak it in such a way that it is very hateful. One prominent example would be Westboro Baptist Church and its "God hates fags" slogan. Westboro Baptist Church is correct in declaring the Bible's teaching that homosexuality is sinful, but they are declaring this truth in such a way that it is intended to be incendiary, offensive, and hurtful. Needless to say, the Bible does not support such methods.
It is likely that in the near future, governments will begin declaring more speech as hate speech, thereby making it illegal. In some parts of the world, it is illegal to say that homosexuality is a sin. In some countries, it is illegal to declare one religion right and other religions wrong. This steady broadening of what qualifies as hate speech could eventually lead to any effort to evangelize being declared hate speech, since it would be "hateful" to tell a person that what he/she currently believes is incorrect.
What the perpetrators of this expanded hate speech definition fail to realize (or admit) is that to tell someone the truth is an act of love, not hate. Is it hateful for a teacher to tell a student that his/her answer is wrong? Is it hateful for a building inspector to tell a construction company that they are building on a faulty foundation? Of course, the answer to these questions is no. However, that is precisely the illogic that is being applied to current hate speech legislation. Telling someone that his/her religious views are wrong is somehow hateful. Telling someone that his/her lifestyle is immoral is somehow hateful. The logic is not, in any sense, consistent with how truth is determined in other areas of society.
At GotQuestions.org, our goal is to speak the truth in love. We do not hate Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Catholics, Mormons, or Jehovah's Witnesses. Rather, we simply believe that these groups are making some serious theological and biblical errors. We do not hate homosexuals, adulterers, pornographers, transsexuals, or fornicators. Rather, we simply believe that those who commit such acts are making immoral and ungodly decisions. Telling someone that he/she is in the wrong is not hateful. In reality, refusing to tell someone the truth is what is truly hateful. Declaring the speaking of truth, presented respectfully, to be hate speech, is, in fact, the ultimate demonstration of hate.
Recommended Resources: The New Tolerance by McDowell and Hostetler and Logos Bible Software.
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Topical Bible Questions
Are Christians guilty of hate speech?