Offensive Words And Offensive Actions

When 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 pointing out the inconsistencies of belief in abortion with 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 Old Testament 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.

This post is a revised version of one that appeared here in May 2013.

8 Comments

  1. Society is not stopping you from namecalling people “baby killers” or whatever else you can come up with; Your right to say what you please is in no way infringed upon;

    Advocating for pro-forced birth laws is promoting forcing religions on all and taking rights.

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    • Amanda, I don’t see anyone passing a law that says a woman must get pregnant, so I don’t agree that there are such things as “pro-forced birth laws.” And someone doesn’t have to be religious to believe that life should not be taken from someone else.

      As I see it, you are concerned with “taking rights” of the woman, but what about taking the rights of the life she has brought into being? Why can she take that person’s life? In other words, aren’t there two sets of rights in conflict with one another? Why does the woman get the say? Is it simply a matter of might makes right, because clearly, the woman is in a position of power and control where as the life growing inside her is powerless and dependent. Aren’t we, in the US concerned about protecting the rights of those who cannot protect them, themselves? That’s how the concepts of free speech and free press and freedom of religion came into being.

      Becky

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      • Actually Rebecca I wasn’t referring to forced impregnation, I was referring to forced birth, which is what anti-choice is about.
        If someone believes that an early term fetus can suffer, despite the science that proves otherwise, that’s fine but they should not be able to force those beliefs onto others.
        Pregnant girls and women should not be forced into giving birth if they would rather have an early term abortion.

        Plants are just as living as fetuses; An early term fetus is no more conscious or able to experience pain than a plant; Should we ban the killing of plants to?

        And if you’re so against death, I assume you dont eat animal products ?

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        • Again, Amanda, I’d argue that there is no such thing as “forced birth” or “anti-choice,” since in this day and age, men and women likely understand how babies are conceived. Someone doesn’t simply wake up one day and find herself pregnant. She had a choice, she made it, and now, at the expense of the rights of another, she wants to be free of the consequences of her choice.

          You mentioned pain, as if that’s the only issue. We bend over backwards to save the smallest frogs or fish in order to preserve the ecology, but we allow thousands of human babies to die and we think we are not affecting humanity? First, these are people, so they have rights. Second, they are part of humanity, and we ought to see all people as valuable and enriching, but clearly, if they’re too young, or too little, and we find caring for them too inconvenient, we don’t value them.

          That’s a loss to all of humanity, in the same way that the loss of a dwindling species is to the environment.

          If you were truly against death, how can you possibly take a stand in support of people killing the weakest and most vulnerable–the human fetus?

          But I see we disagree because I don’t think plants are “just as living as fetuses.” Plants have no potential to build bridges or become neurosurgeons. They don’t reason or learn algebra. They can’t climb mountains or body surf, write poetry or compose music. And other animals are not moral beings. Dogs don’t worship or hold court. Cats don’t care if people think they’re lazy or selfish. No one looks at lions as murderers for killing the weak zebra in the herd in order to eat.

          Humans have a dignity and a sense of morality, along with the ability to think and reason, and more, that sets human life apart from plants or other animals.

          If that were not so, we should be fine with a gunman walking into a school and killing as many children as he can, using whatever means he wants, because, that’s the sort of thing a shark would do in a school of fish. But we understand that’s not the kind of behavior a moral being should do. It’s sad to think some people no longer value human life.

          Becky

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          • Forcing girls and women to give birth is not forced birth ?
            Being anti the right to choose early term abortion is not anti choice ?

            The mental gymnastics is exhausting; Did you really compare an unconscious thirteen week fetus to a child ? That’s idiotic and downright ignorant.
            Spiritual fanaticism needs to be kept out of law.

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          • Cows and chickens and turkeys and deer and goats are conscious beings able to suffer and experience pain;
            Early term fetuses are none of those things.

            Can you not see how hypocritical it is to be anti-choice and pro-animal holocaust ?

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          • I realize, Amanda, that the word “consequence” is foreign to some people. But it is still something that happens as a result of our choices. It’s not something anyone forces you to do. If someone speeds 70 MPH around a corner marked with a 20 MPH sign, no one makes them get into an accident, though they likely will crash. They made their decision to ignore the sign, to continue at the speed they wanted. They can’t sue the government for putting a curve in the road. It was their choice and the consequence was a result.

            But you complicate things, Amanda, by equating humans with cows, chickens, deer, and so on. I wonder if you read what I wrote before about humans being moral. We have a sense of right and wrong which is demonstrated by establishing a justice system and government based on laws and not simply might makes right. Animals don’t.

            You mentioned pain again, as if that is some standard of deciding what living being is valuable and what one is not. So what do you do about people born with congenital analgesia who can feel no pain? Are they not human because they feel no pain? Not as valuable?

            I don’t know on what basis you have determined that pain should be a factor in deciding who you can kill and who you can’t. It must be OK to kill, then, as long as the person feels no pain. That seems quite arbitrary and doesn’t answer any of the other points I brought up, about a person’s rights, for instance, or what a person can do for society if we had allowed them to live, or what their potential might be for self-actualization.

            Becky

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  2. Freedom of speech needs to be protected, check out my blog! Great post!

    Liked by 1 person


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