Offensive Words And Offensive Actions

Bill_of_Rights_Pg1of1_ACWhen the United States formed its constitution, the framers added a Bill of Rights. First on the list was freedom of speech, religion, the press, assembly, and petition:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Throughout history some definition of these freedoms was needed. For example, in the 1960s and 70s the courts determined that burning draft cards was “free speech.” Since then other illegal activity designed to protest this or that has been deemed “free speech.”

On the flip side, more recently laws have come about to prohibit “hate speech,” which supporters want to say isn’t protected as free speech. Here’s one definition:

“Hate speech is a communication that carries no meaning other than the expression of hatred for some group, especially in circumstances in which the communication is likely to provoke violence. It is an incitement to hatred primarily against a group of persons defined in terms of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and the like. Hate speech can be any form of expression regarded as offensive to racial, ethnic and religious groups and other discrete minorities or to women” (US Legal).

This idea that what a person says can be labeled as hate speech because it is “offensive” is a little troublesome. Might not atheists find statements by Christians that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, offensive? Might not homosexuals find it offensive if a Christian says homosexuality is sinful behavior?

Already we have seen pro-abortion advocates take offense at the term “baby killers.” I admit, I bristle at that term too. But apparently being called a baby killer is more offensive than killing one’s unborn baby. The courts have said a woman has a right to kill her baby, but society says we do not have a right to say she’s a baby killer.

Please understand, I am not suggesting pro-life advocates shout “baby killer” at pregnant women walking into an abortion clinic. It may be true, but it doesn’t seem grace-filled or loving, and I believe the Bible is clear that Christians should speak in a way that marks us as different from the rest of society.

That being said, I’m concerned that “offensive words” are trumping offensive actions. Today when a Christian says homosexuality is sinful behavior, it’s almost a certainty that someone will accuse him of homophobia. The declaration that the act is sinful is offensive whereas the act itself is condoned, if not approved.

What does that mean for the free speech of Christians who still believe in an absolute standard of right and wrong? Will there come a day when our religious liberty is curtailed because the statement of our beliefs is viewed as hateful? After all, when we say Jesus is the way, the truth, the life, no one comes to the Father but through Him, isn’t that exclusive? And isn’t an exclusive attitude hateful? Well, no, not when everyone is invited to the party and those who don’t come exclude themselves, but I suspect that is a point which will be lost over time.

The other side of the coin, of course is the part about offensive actions. How offended should a Christian be at abortion or homosexuality, pedophilia, sex trafficking, drug addiction, divorce, gossip, lying, bestiality, greed, or bribery?

On one hand, I want to say, not offended at all. Sinners, after all, will act sinfully. Why should that offend me? On the other hand, if I love my neighbor as myself, I should care that others are wallowing in heinous lifestyles. I don’t believe sinful behavior is the best for anyone. I also believe there is forgiveness for all who repent and accept the payment Jesus made for our sin. Nothing is so egregious that He can’t cancel the certificate of debt, nailing it to the cross.

As I write this, and struggle to figure out all the aspects of these issues, I realize that I am responsible first and foremost to God. Should I not stand up for His truth for as long as I am able?

But what is that truth? As much as I want to see the unborn protected, the pro-life message isn’t the gospel. The overarching truth is that God loves the world and pursues sinners with the intention to bring them into relationship with Himself. He loves the unborn baby and He loves the woman about to abort her. He loves the doctor and the technicians performing the abortion. God wants them all to turn from their wicked ways and find redemption in Him.

So how do we start? By repealing Roe v Wade? By convicting Kermit Gosnell? By pointing out the inconsistencies of abortion positions to other closely held principles? By evangelizing those who don’t know Jesus? By advocating for a discussion about abortion in the mainstream media? Yes to all of it and more because it’s all free speech and an extension of freedom of religion.

But the true exercise of religion for the Christian means, in simplified form, loving God and loving our neighbor. Sometimes love involves a warning–the prophets are filled with warnings to the people they were addressing. Stop this behavior or that will happen. That’s loving. And I’m pretty sure, the warnings are not offensive to God, but the evil behavior is.

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4 Comments

  1. Dear Becky,

    I loved the way you contrasted speech with actions, because this is the crux of the matter: what shows genuine love, for our fellow man (or child, or mother?)

    Another aspect of this dilemma is the issue of law, and the quandaries it creates. I am not going to say that the rule of law, when governed and shaped by the Ten Commandments, never posed sticky problems. But I am going to say that, with the “Law of the Precedent” and without the rule of law, based on the Ten Commandments, the law is utterly doomed to create monstrous inconsistencies.

    Why? The Source of the Ten Commandments is infallible, but the source of the “Law of the Precedent” is not based on any objective reality, but on the whims of individual judges, who dare, at times, to state their own conviction and exalt that, above the traditional law, based initially on the Ten Commandments, to create a new “precedent.”

    So, potentially, a judge in each of the 50 states, could have a different precedent on any given topic. So we have high-level lunacy, which says that, because there was a euthanasia killing in Iowa, now the judge in Florida has to kill another viable person, unable to speak out, for herself.

    Love compels us, when we see people running into the busy highway, to try and stop them. How much more should we warn an entire culture, that it is running to a cliff, above an abyss?

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    • Great points, Peggy. The use of precedent to make court rulings is understandable when it comes to interpreting a law. After all, those who lived when the law was passed, understood the intention and should know best what the legislators meant when they passed it. But today we’ve confused the issue royally. Consequently, the first Amendment, meant to protect religious expression, is now being used to stop religious expression. The “establishment clause” has not been interpreted according to early precedent. Why is that? People want to manipulate the law to their own ends.

      Take what happened here in California as an example. We passed a law that marriage was between one man and one woman, but the mayor of San Francisco passed something that permitted gays to marry. Many did in the few months before the courts suspended the law while they worked out the mess. So we passed a stat constitutional amendment saying marriage is between one man and one women, but that’s been challenged. As I understand it, part of the issue is the “precedent” set with those “married” gays in San Francisco. It certainly was an issue in the campaign to get people to redefine marriage.

      I could go on. It’s upsetting how easily the rule of law can be manipulated when you think you’re above it.

      Becky

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  2. It’s shocking to me how quickly our culture has changed with regard to the gay agenda. In just the past five years, think of the stigma that now comes with an anti-gay position. No doubt the current administration bears responsibility for expediting the gay cause. I think pornography is a huge factor too. Persons with anti-gay positions are being banned from speaking engagements at the political level. I’m wondering if even the next republican candidate will cave on the issue.

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    • Bob, I think that topic shows what I’m saying here. If you poll people, you’d probably find that the number of gays in the US is still pretty small. I heard 2% some years ago, and I doubt if it’s grown significantly. However, even though the majority of people self-identify as heterosexual and have no interest in participating in homosexual activity, to voice opposition to any part of the gay agenda immediately brings down the cry of intolerance. Clearly people think it’s worse to say you object to homosexuality as sinful behavior than it is to practice homosexuality.

      And yes, this changed fairly recently. I credit TV with the greatest influence. Shows like Glee that depict gay characters as sympathetic have had a huge impact, especially on the young people who are already being told in the schools that acceptance of homosexuality is a civil rights issue and being against homosexuality is a form of hate and that you’re nothing but a homophobe if you stand against it.

      But Scripture said it would be like this–people calling evil, good, and good, evil.

      Becky

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