What is Hate Speech?

I read an article on our beloved news site stuff.co.nz today about Britain barring an anti-gay US preacher from entering the country, basically cause they didn’t want the trouble (click here for the full article). Now, on this occasion I actually agree with them. Any minister who’s church website is entitled godhatesfags is clearly not speaking in line with God’s word, as we know from the bible that God loves everyone (Romans 5:8).

Homosexuality can’t be singled out from other sin. God doesn’t like it when we lie, He doesn’t like it when we steal, and He doesn’t like it when we engage in sexual sin, of heterosexual or homosexual nature.

The actions of the British government on this occasion don’t worry me for the immediate future. I’m glad that that preacher won’t be misrepresenting God’s love in the United Kingdom. But I do take issue with the potential precedent it sets. If someone who preaches that God loves all people but dislikes acts of homosexuality tries to enter the UK to preach, will they also be turned away?

What is hate speech? Even after various countries have created legislation about hate speech, it’s still up to the judges and juries of each nation to define these laws as each case goes to trial, and as they do so, they slowly set the precedents by which future cases will be judged. This kind of legislation is still young and thus open to many interpretations, and here’s the real catch:

Though in God’s eyes homosexuality is another sin, along with theft, dishonesty etc, in the eyes of secular society, homosexuality is an identity. When we refer to heterosexuals, we identify them as a musician or a politician, male or female, young or old, Christian, Buddhist or Muslim. But when we refer to homosexuals, we identify their sexuality as their main identifying factor. No one’s saying this is right, obviously by Christian AND secular standards, it is better if we identify homosexuals by the same factors as heterosexuals (occupation etc). But often we don’t, whether we should or not. And because of this large part homosexuality plays in identity, people get outraged when people speak against it.

Most people forget that Christians also hold views against aspects of heterosexuality, like extra-marital sex. But this isn’t controversial enough cause it’s not part of identity. You don’t identify someone as a person who’s had sex before marriage, you identify them as a student etc. But if they were gay you’d identify them as such.

So this identity factor is what inspires hate speech issues, cause it comes across as attacking someone’s identity, which is of course, rude. Ultimately, most people’s lack of knowledge of the bible (both Christians and non-Christians) combined with Christianity’s tarred reputation leads to misunderstandings here.

Christians believe a lot of controversial things. That homosexuals and unmarried sex partners are sinning. That Muslims, Buddhists, Mormons, Hindus, Pagans and many other religions believe a lot of lies. That even a white lie is a lie. That’s a lot of people we are saying are misled. And it’s not enough to tell people “God loves you, but He doesn’t love what you do”. If someone told me that, I’d be wondering what He does love about me. Christians have to actually go and love people and show them that God loves them, not just tell them. Then when we say, “what you believe/do is different to what I believe, and here’s why,” people will at least see where we’re coming from. There’s no two ways about it. Try telling someone they’re wrong without showing that you genuinely care about them, and maybe they will accuse you of hate speech.

And maybe they’ll be right.

If you want to tell them how to live, but not be in their life, you’re not loving them, which is one step towards hate. Now, I don’t think Christians hate people, but we’re too indifferent too often. Speaking the truth is important, but it must go hand in hand with active, consistent demonstration of the unconditional love of God.

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