Hate Speech And The Christian


A couple things seem clear for Christians. First, hate speech is not right for someone following Jesus Christ. I just heard earlier today from a black pastor who said in his younger days when he lived in Atlanta he was not allowed to attend a white church. The church actually split over the decision, and the whole experience affected his understanding of race relations and reconciliation. I’m referring to Dr. Tony Evans who spoke on race relations at the height of the BLM protests and riots. He’s also written a book on the subject. Here’s part of the description:

Oneness is hard achieve. Let the kingdom unity of Scripture point the way.

Today’s world is torn apart. Tension is everywhere. Brother is pitted against brother, sister against sister, citizen against citizen, even Christian against Christian. It’s so hard to find agreement—much less real harmony—in our polarized society. Can there be a way forward?

Tony Evans knows how elusive unity can be. As a black man who’s also a leader in white evangelicalism, he understands how hard it can be to bring these worlds together. Yet he’s convinced that the gospel provides a way for Christians to find oneness despite the things that divide us.

If you’ve never heard him speak, here’s a video I chose randomly. He’s Biblical.

All that to say, Christians of many races believe in the unity of believers that crosses racial and ethnic lines. Christians around the world understand that hate speech is against God’s plan. I mean, if a person believes the Bible, he’ll see right there in 1 John 4:21:

If someone says, “I love God,” and yet he hates his brother or sister, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother and sister whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.

The second thing that should be clear is that we believers will soon become the target of those who accuse of hate speech, with the accusations will come the whole cancel culture pressure.

Why do I think this? If Christians are not to engage in hate speech, how is it that we will be accused of it?

We’ve already seen this. In a recent election, Christian business owners who supported voting for a heterosexual definition of marriage, were boycotted, and some were harassed. Since then, the concept of “hate speech” has only grown.

As long as Christians teach what the Bible does—that God created us in His image, but sin entered the world and marred His good creation; ever since, every human alive struggles with a sin nature that only Christ can take care of—we will be the target of hate speech. People who are deceiving themselves don’t like to be told they are sinners in need of a Savior. I even had one atheist who used to visit here some years ago, tell me that teaching children that they are sinners is akin to child abuse.

It’s not. It’s actually the most loving thing a person can do, on the par with a doctor telling a patient that he has cancer, but that there is a treatment that has 100% success rate. That doctor would be accused of malpractice if he “loved” his patient so much he didn’t want to give him the bad news about the cancer.

In the same way, Christians show our love for the broken and dying world by telling them the good news—which, of course, follows the bad news of our condition.

In reality, broken people know they are broken. They might not want to admit it. They may dress up their circumstances to look a if they are not broken, but they aren’t fooling anyone else. Just themselves. Their spouse, their kids, their boss, their fellow employees, even their good friends know the flaws and foibles. Because we try so desperately to hide our sin condition, someone needs to tell us the truth.

I just heard a program by Focus on the Family today which featured two guests who were both formerly in the transgender lifestyle. One man who had presented as a woman. One woman who had presented as a man. The woman said she finally came to understand her need to leave that life when, as a Christian seeking God, she read Psalm 139. Here are the pertinent verses:

For You created my innermost parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, because I am awesomely and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully formed in the depths of the earth;

She asked herself then, What have I done?

Praise God she and the male guest both “came to their senses,” much like the prodigal son in the Biblical parable, and returned to the life God had intended for them.

But how long will Christians be allowed to say things like God heals the broken gender-confused individual? We are on a course in which that statement will soon be considered hate speech.

The main thing, I think, is for Christians to do what Daniel did: when confronted with compromise, he made up his mind to do things God’s way. We today must make up our mind, and the sooner, the better. Are we going to continue preaching what the Bible says, or are we going to bow to the culture? Many Christians have already decided to follow the culture when it comes to child rearing. Many follow the culture in the matter of woman pastors. Where is our line in the sand, that point where we say, as the apostles said, We ought to obey God rather than man? At that point, we will likely be accused of hate speech.

Published in: on March 24, 2021 at 5:10 pm  Comments (5)  
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Hate Speech—Some Implications


I have to admit— twenty years ago I did not see “cancel culture” coming. I did not see the US President being banned from a social media platform. I did not see censorship of books in print, of cartoons. But sadly, in the name of “protecting” the world from “hate speech,” that’s where we are. I suspect we have only begun to see the tip of the iceberg.

For instance, some may not realize that back in January the San Francisco School Board voted to change the names of 44 different schools. Fortunately the decision has been stalled, but the intent is to eliminate such school names as Abraham Lincoln High School, George Washington High School, Dianne Feinstein Elementary, Roosevelt Middle School, Jefferson Elementary and Alamo Elementary. When I saw those names I thought it an odd list. Here’s the explanation, according to CNN, including one that explains why the current sitting Democrat California US Senator is included:

Lincoln was chosen based on “his treatment of First Nation peoples,” teacher Jeremiah Jeffries told the San Francisco Chronicle in December 2020.
Washington and Jefferson were slaveowners.

Feinstein, a former San Francisco mayor, was listed for reportedly ordering a Confederate flag to be replaced after it was torn down, according to the Sacramento Bee. (CNN)

This movement to expunge American history of names and statues and pictures of people associated in some way with what today’s culture has ruled harmful, is just beginning. The pictures of African-American business innovators, Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima, have been removed or changed on their product. Why? I guess because they don’t look like African-Americans of today.

And so goes the culture under the iron hand of “hate speech.” That’s why the Washington Redskins is now the Washington Football Team, and their once proud logo that depicted a fierce Indian wearing a headdress, has now become WFT printed in caps on the helmet.

Surprisingly logos such as Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers which also single out a specific group of people as representative of their respective team, have received no criticism. So, practically speaking, logos that identify minorities that have not received the “hate speech” label are OK . . . today. But tomorrow, that could change.

After all, if Diane Feinstein can be reelected to the Senate five times and receive “the most popular votes in any U.S. Senate election in history,” yet still have her name scrubbed from the name of an elementary school in her home state, then clearly the tide can turn on anyone at any time.

Perhaps the ridiculousness of this “hate speech” run amok is best seen in the censorship of six Dr. Seuss titles (they call it “self-censorship, but the media pressure spurred the action) and in the cancellation of a cartoon featuring a skunk, Pepe Le Pew.

The sad thing is, removing books like Huckleberry Finn and Uncle Tom’s Cabin from libraries because they contain the n___ word or because they depict slavery, means we are to deny a great chunk of history—not our own only, but also of the rest of the world. Certainly we should not glorify the stereotypes of old or the evils of the past, but acknowledging them seems vital. How can a people learn from their mistakes if we are never allowed to talk about them?

In addition, how are we to learn that people are not just all evil or all good—as if Abraham Lincoln, who signed into law the Emancipation Proclamation that ended slavery, was a wicked man because of some report that his treatment of Native Americans didn’t meet the 21st Century standards. Was he perfect? Of course not. But he has rightly been celebrated because of his stand against Southern secession and ultimately against slavery.

I haven’t even mentioned the change of rules in the US House of Representatives:

The 117th Congress altered the definition of “relative” to be gender-neutral and succinct. That change, in full:

(3) In clause 8(c)(3) of rule XXIII, strike “father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, first cousin, nephew, niece, husband, wife, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, stepfather, stepmother, stepson, stepdaughter, stepbrother, stepsister, half brother, half sister, grandson, or granddaughter” and insert “parent, child, sibling, parent’s sibling, first cousin, sibling’s child, spouse, parent-in-law, child-in-law, sibling-in-law, stepparent, stepchild, stepsibling, half-sibling, or grandchild” (WUSA9).

Or what about YouTube removing some 30,000 videos created by doctors and health workers who discussed reasons not to receive the Covid vaccine? Apparently it’s “hateful” to think for yourself today.

How many other businesses or books or historical figures will we lose along the way to the far, far left’s dream of a classless, sexless, “woke” society under their control?

Published in: on March 19, 2021 at 5:51 pm  Comments (5)  
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Hate Speech—What It Is


Years ago, I learned that not all speech was protected in the US by our First Amendment to the Constitution. The words as they are written sound as if they are. In fact a former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. once asserted that the Constitution and the First Amendment are not just about protecting “free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.” Here’s what the First Amendment actually says:

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. (emphasis mine)

However, as time passed the Supreme Court pivoted a bit, believing there were abridgments, or curtailment of rights, in speech. The classic example that makes such perfect sense is that no one has a right to yell, “Fire” in a crowded theater when there is no fire. To do so could be harmful, so people don’t have that freedom.

The idea of “hate speech,” then, was first tied to the concept of harm—if someone said something to incite violence, that was hate speech.

But like so many things, the concept of hate speech expanded. According to an article at The Heritage Foundation by Kim R. Holmes, Ph.D.,

All this started to change with the rise of radical multiculturalism. Under its influence the ideas of hate speech and hate crimes were invented. Instead of worrying about the violent intent of individuals, hate speech advocates wanted to ban utterances, gestures, conduct, or writing that they deemed prejudicial against a protected individual or group.”The Origins Of Hate Speech

The article goes on to identify President Clinton’s broad-brush blame placed on “the loud and angry voices of hate” for the Oklahoma City bombing, as moving the needle from blaming the actual persons engaged in speech deemed hateful to blaming people who held political or moral beliefs that they shared with that individual.

A decade later, the idea of hate speech advanced further:

In 2009, the National Hispanic Media Coalition outlined its definition in a report. It specified four areas as hate speech: false facts, flawed argumentation, divisive language, and dehumanizing metaphors.

Hate speech was no longer about the explicit words of individuals meant to incite violence, but a general atmosphere of public opinion that could be construed to encourage violence against certain kinds of people.

With this expanded definition, then, social media platforms declared a discussion of election irregularities as “false facts” (what an oxymoron), and therefore felt justified in removing those posts and even blocking any number of people from using their site.

Sadly, we have moved so far along the line that a writer at the Washington Post concluded his article by saying, “All speech is not equal. And where truth cannot drive out lies, we must add new guardrails.”

Ironically, his argument hinges on the idea that truth doesn’t always win out. We can’t just let people discuss ideas because they can be fooled. He cites some stats about middle schoolers and high schoolers to prove his point. Middle schoolers? High schoolers? Apparently his belief is that adults are just as easily fooled as they, though there was a marked increase in the ability of the older kids to discern lies.

Oddly, when I was of that middle school age, I had teachers who taught the class how to recognize loaded, slanted, negative words that were used to manipulate rather than to inform. We called it propaganda, and the USSR was the prime example of its use, though clearly anyone trying to sell something was apt to use loaded, slanted, and overly positive words to manipulate, too.

In fact, one of the reasons it’s important to know who is backing a particular article (the Washington Post vs the Heritage Foundation, for example) is to help recognize the direction of the slant those words might take.

Clearly, the move toward the use of “guardrails,” which is just a palatable way of saying censorship, is accelerating. The real issue today is, who gets to tell the rest of us where those “guardrails” are? In other words, who gets to censor our speech? Personally, I tend to think censoring someone is apt to make them angrier and less inclined to unite, rather than make them feel all peaceful and fuzzy and warm. Maybe that’s just me.

Featured photo by Stas Tsibro from Pexels

Hate Speech, An Introduction


I think the topic of “hate speech” is so significant, it needs a lengthy treatment, but I don’t think I can or should put it all into one post. First, some initial thoughts.

Hate speech fits into a wider contest of censorship, cancel culture, and the role of the press—at least it does here in the US.

Essentially the cat got out when journalists crossed a line and started calling President Trump a liar, right in their headlines of their newspapers, and then those words were quoted (or parroted) by the “legacy” broadcast media. Of course, this negative slant, not the unbiased reporting which has marked journalism over the years, fit in well with the social media bans on whatever they deemed “hate speech.”

We already had a growth in “cancel culture,” which had it’s roots in boycotts and other shaming tactics bent on hurting a company or a person financially. Initially these methods were used to foster change—such as South Africa ending apartheid. But the tool has become a sledge hammer designed more to punish than to correct.

What ironically ends up taking place is one side declares a party guilty of hate speech, then heaps hateful invective on them in a way that causes others to do the same. In other words, this atmosphere of cancel culture approves of hate speech that attacks hate speech.

Of course, the supposed goal of this process is to bring an end to ugly disagreements and disharmony. The answer is the same that the Soviet Union settled on: eliminate opposition by silencing people with opposing views. Then all can appear calm and unified.

Some may think this is an extreme way of describing what’s happening in Western culture, but it’s not. Silencing and censoring people start with small steps. The greatest surprise is that the social media giants have moved as quickly as they have.

When I first joined Facebook some ten years ago, I refused to create content on their site. As I read their agreement (well, skimmed it) I realized they were claiming the right over my work. They could use it or delete it at will. But they never actually ever did. Until now.

First, the Big Tech communication platform groups stopped acting like a platform and started acting like publishers. It was their opinion and theirs alone that decided what was “hate speech,” and would therefore be censored or not.

The greatest example of this was the successful squelching of the Hunter Biden/China story before the election. The New York Post, the fourth largest newspaper in the US, published a story about Hunter’s activities and the possibility that his father knew about what he was doing, but before many could share the story, the social media gurus labeled this fact-based story as “false,” and therefore hateful. Further, the legacy media outlets claimed, without any basis in fact, that the story was “Russian disinformation.”

In other words, people who wanted to repeat the story, to let others know what it said, were silenced, or at least restricted from passing the information along to a wide audience.

In many ways a similar treatment of the riots that erupted from BLM protests, was handled in the same way. Not completely because most people knew there was something going on. But when a reporter stands in front of a burning building and claims that the protests are “mostly peaceful,” there is a problem.

In other words, as I see it, there is a connection with “hate speech” labeling, cancel culture, and honest reporting. Now, apparently, “legacy media” outlets have no qualms about slanting their stories to meet their own particular biases. Or, more accurately, the biases of the owners and editors that run the show.

I honestly can’t remember how I found this video, but the point for this article is, this speaker is an “insider,” a journalist who knows what she’s talking about. The video is long, but I thought she was an interesting speaker and supported her claims with specific examples. I had intended to listen to a few minutes in order to get the gist of what she was saying, but ended up listening to the whole video.

More on hate speech another day.

Featured Photo by Lina Kivaka from Pexels

California’s Latest Can Of Worms


Here in California the state assembly has recently passed AB2943, a bill that, should it pass the senate and be signed into law, will likely spark any number of law suits, which could end up in the Supreme Court.

Maybe that’s the best we California citizens can hope for.

The bill is designed to label as fraud, “conversion therapy” techniques, but the language is broad, meaning that it would not apply simply to licensed therapists: “This bill intends to make clear that sexual orientation change efforts are an unlawful practice under California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act.” (as quoted by The Federalist)

Because this bill is couched in terms regarding fraud, the key issue is the exchange of money:

These “sexual orientation change efforts” must occur in the context of a “transaction intended to result, or which results, in the sale or lease of goods or services to any consumer.” (Ibid.)

Books are “goods” and pastors make money. So do Christian schools and universities. Bibles are books as well. But there’s more:

According to the bill, it includes also “efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions.” Thus, any sale of a book that makes statements that homosexual practice or transgender identification are immoral actions that people ought not to commit falls easily under the purview of AB 2943. (Ibid.)

And the bill goes further. It declares illegal the advertise of these “fraudulent” activities:

Also prohibited by this bill is “advertising, offering for sale, or selling a financial product that is illegal.” Merely advertising (e.g., on one’s Facebook page or some other Internet site) or offering for sale (e.g., on a table at a conference, regardless of whether copies are sold) “a financial product” that advocates a change of attractions, behavior, or gender expression (Ibid.)

With such broad language, I don’t see how someone isn’t going to sue someone or accuse someone of breaking this law (should the senate pass it and the governor sign it). But undoubtedly any attempt to do so will be challenged as unconstitutional because of the First Amendment protections of both free speech and freedom of religion.

I really never thought I would see these freedoms come under fire in such a blatant way in America. I suppose the Senate might still reject the bill, but in our liberal dominated state, the assembly passed it by a vote of 50-18.

Of course the early cry for the bill supporters is that opponents are exaggerating the effects the bill would have, should it become law. Factcheck has declared that the Bible is not in danger of being banned, should the bill pass. But a publication such as the National Review concludes otherwise: “Yes, California Is on the Verge of Banning Some Christian Books, Here’s How.”

Because of this bill one group from Colorado that apparently holds annual conventions in California, has canceled those events. The idea is that they have speakers who believe in marriage between one man and one woman, and they don’t want to come to California and get sued.

“Our speakers are leading Christian experts who base their presentations on theology, as well as sociology, psychology and science,” Summit President Jeff Myers said in a statement. “But the wording of AB 2943 is a dog whistle to the left that intelligent Christians holding traditional views are fair game for discrimination, smears and frivolous lawsuits.” (as quoted by the Denver Post, “Conservative Colorado ministry cancels California conventions over state bill that would ban gay conversion therapy“)

The sad thing is that in the midst of the wrangling that is sure to take place, should the bill pass, people are forgotten. And that means primarily people in the LGBT community, people who are struggling with their sexual identity and want help, and parents with confused children who don’t know who to go to with their questions.

Maybe the most powerful statements in opposition to this bill came from the two individuals in this video, who once were gay, but became Christians and Christ gave them new life. I recommend watching the first 7:30, because in truth, this is an American issue, not a California alone issue. I just listened to one pastor from Canada that says they have laws similar to the one proposed here, and he is ready to face the persecution because he plans to continue to proclaim the truth: he agrees with the Bible that homosexuality is sin, and in so doing he is not entering into any kind of hate speech. The reality, as the video below makes clear, is that declaring the truth is a way to show love. I’d only add that truth and love must be intricately woven together.

Published in: on May 2, 2018 at 6:00 pm  Comments (8)  
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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.

Freedom Of Speech


Benjamin_Franklin_freedom_of_speech_quoteFreedom of speech has become increasingly complicated. For one thing, the US Supreme Court ruled back in the mid-1900s that “speech” included things like burning the American flag. In other words, acts of protest were repositioned as speech.

Hence, the people here in SoCal protesting the August 2014 shooting in Ferguson had freedom of “speech” to block traffic by walking down the middle of some streets. Not freeways, though. Their freedom of “speech” had some limits.

A few weeks ago, freedom of speech was front and center because of the supposed North Korean threats to Sony and movie theaters that would release The Interview. This film purportedly was about two reporters who were recruited to assassinate North Korea’s leader.

It strikes me now that The Interview joked about doing what the Islamic terrorists actually did in France. Be that as it may, actors and directors and pretty much anyone in Hollywood were up in arms about the “censorship” North Korea was trying to impose on the US movie industry.

Of course those cries would be far different if the film depicted North Koreans coming to the US to assassinate President Obama. I suspect Homeland Security would have been heavily involved in squashing such a project—which probably would not have been called censorship.

Most recently, of course, has been the horrific murder of the French cartoonists/satirists which has stirred great support for freedom of speech. These individuals had the right to say what they wanted, no matter how vile. Here’s one characterization of their work:

you are underestimating the vulgarity of Charlie Hebdo. It goes beyond “offensive and immature”, the cartoons you describe are only the shallow end of the cesspool that is this publication. I grew up in France, I love the country and it’s people, and while I would defend to the death their right to do what they choose to do, I would never go as far as saying “I am Charlie”. Even for solidarity purposes. They are vile, divisive and go out of their way to insult matters of faith in ways that are just simply sick and deranged. (JMerkh’s comment to Chip MacGregor’s blog post “Je Suis Charlie”)

This latest wrinkle in the freedom of speech issue, then, has to do with whether offensive speech should still be free.

While we claim here in the US that the French satirists had the write to spoof and mock to their vile, insulting content, we don’t practice that same kind of free speech. If in doubt, think back to Donald Sterling who spoke in the privacy of his own home in a way that offended others and suffered the consequences for it.

University of California campuses and others across the country are famous for banning speech that is deemed offensive. Speakers have been dis-invited, funding has been cut off, student papers have been shut down.

NYTimes columnist David Brooks elaborated on this point in his article “I Am Not Charlie Hedbo”:

Public reaction to the attack in Paris has revealed that there are a lot of people who are quick to lionize those who offend the views of Islamist terrorists in France but who are a lot less tolerant toward those who offend their own views at home.

One example of this fact is the recent firing of the Atlanta fire chief Kevin Cochran. Cochran’s crime? He published a book that carried a few lines strongly condemning homosexuality, along with other sexual sins. First the mayor suspended Cochran and required him to take sensitivity training. At the end of his suspension, however, he was fired.

The mayor explained the decision:

I appreciate Chief Cochran’s service as fire chief. His personal religious beliefs are not an issue at all, despite the number of comments and emails I have been receiving on a daily basis. The city and my administration stand firmly in support of the right of religious freedom, freedom of speech and the right to freely observe their faith.” (“The Mayor of Atlanta Declares War on Religious Freedom”; for more information, see the Atlanta Sun Times)

George_Washington_freedom_of_speech_quoteSo the mayor affirms his belief in freedom of speech and yet fired Cochran for what he said.

I’ll say again: freedom of speech has become increasingly complicated. We’ve allowed public figures to be maligned in the name of free speech and pornography to run rampant under the same banner.

But the fire chief can’t say homosexuality is sin.

In fact in the US we’ve created a forbidden category called “hate speech” which apparently trumps the US Constitution’s protection of speech. Hate speech, you see, is not allowed.

And who determines what hate speech is?

Another of the free speech complications I mentioned.

Of course, if people didn’t malign others or say vile things about a particular religion or people group, then this topic would be moot. Free speech could be free because people regulated their own speech by determining if it is offensive and harmful to others. At the same time, groups and individuals could be a bit more forbearing rather than thin-skinned when someone directs criticism their way.

Are there really no ways of satirizing without being “sick and deranged”? Can we no longer state our religious beliefs without someone becoming offended?

The problem is clearly on both ends—speakers who have no filters for what comes out of their mouths, and hearers who assume an insult at the slightest hint of disagreement.

We’ve come a long way from the adage I was taught as a child: if you can’t say something nice, don’t talk at all is my advice.

Critique—which is the point of satire—doesn’t fall into the category of “nice,” but neither does it have to be offensive.

I wonder if there’s any hope that civilized people can once again discuss issues without rancor and name calling. It seems as if “to express an opinion” means “to offend others who see things differently.”

That certainly seems to be what the mayor of Atlanta thought.

I think we need two changes: 1) a renewal of free speech as opposed to a demand for politically correct speech and 2) a recommitment to civil discourse instead of slinging insults and engaging in vile and deranged satire.

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.

A Case Against Cursing/Swearing/Cussing


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    Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. (James 3:3, 5a)

People in the Christian writing community know that the use of “certain words” in fiction is an oft debated subject, but recently I began to think about the “why” behind the belief that these words are wrong, whether in fiction or in real life.

First, what words am I talking about? On one hand there is swearing–using God’s name in a perverse way or using the sacred to reinforce a person’s word. Sometimes swearing is accompanied by a curse–an invocation for God to bring harm upon someone. Cursing has also expanded to include “offensive words” spoken in “anger or annoyance.” I generally learned to refer to this latter category as cussing, but the Oxford English Dictionary makes no distinction between the two.

There is another category, however, one that shows up as a synonym to curse: obscenity–“an extremely offensive word or expression.”

So what does the Bible say about these?

First swearing. Both James and Jesus are in agreement that we are not to invoke God’s name or some sacred thing to reinforce the veracity of what we say. “But above all,” James says, “do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath, but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no.” The Ten Commandments states that no one is to use God’s name in vain: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain” (Ex 20:7).

If anyone wants to quibble about that because it is part of the Jewish law and therefore not something those living by grace need to worry about, they only need to remember that Jesus said the whole law was summed up with the two great commands–love God and love your neighbor. It seems like a stretch to think that God cared about the use of His name once, but no longer does. It’s a stretch to think we can love Him and then speak His name as if it has no meaning.

In addition, Jesus makes the point that blasphemy is sin and goes so far as to say blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven:

Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. (12:31-32)

Cursing is actually a little less clear. There’s an admonition not to curse parents in Exodus 21:7 (and repeated in Leviticus 20:9). In Matthew 15:4 Jesus quotes those verses but “curse” is translated as “speaks evil of.”

Both Peter and Jude specify that false prophets reviled “angelic majesties,” whereas “angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord” (2 Peter 2:11b)

James tells us not to speak against a brother or judge a brother (4:11). He also says, “With it [our tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who have been made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.”

Paul says our speech is always to be with grace so that we know how to answer each person. We can also use the commands Jesus enumerated to help determine the appropriateness of cursing someone else.

But what about cursing an object, which of course is really quite meaningless? That brings up the third category–offensive words or obscenity.

Paul is helpful in this area. In Ephesians he says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth” and “unwholesome” literally means “rotten.” Later in the book, he’s more pointed and says, “And there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting.”

Jesus makes a point that we’ll be held accountable for every careless or useless word we speak (Matthew 12:36).

In this category, there is some legitimate debate. Words have meaning, but in languages that are living, those meanings change over time. What once was considered “coarse” or “unwholesome” no longer is looked at as out of the ordinary.

For example, body parts. In times past there were certain words depicting what used to be private body parts, which a person didn’t say in public. Today those same words are the butt of many a sit com joke.

OK, did I just use a coarse expression in that last sentence? Not according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Is standard usage, then, to be the determiner for what is coarse, unwholesome, filthy, and silly? I have to answer for myself, yes. If most people think a word is vile, then I can consider that word unwholesome or coarse or filthy.

I cannot answer for anyone else, however, partly because of the nature of language. I learned from an online friend who lives in Australia that I had used an extremely offensive word in a blog post–offensive to Australians. In the US, there is no double meaning of that word. For Australians, then, that word is coarse. For Americans, it isn’t.

Words change meanings, too. So one generation might use a word in a way that is not offensive to them, but another generation might find it coarse.

Ultimately, a person’s heart determines what will come out of his mouth. Jesus said in Matthew 12

the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. 35 The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. 36 But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. (12:34b-37)

It’s a sobering statement, in light of my sin nature.

I’m thankful I have God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ for all the careless words I’ve spoken (or written), but that doesn’t mean I have a license to go and do more of the same.

James says, “No one can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.” So are we stuck poisoning each other day in and day out?

Not if God is all powerful, and of course He is. I might not be able to control my speech, but the Holy Spirit can change my heart. That’s what I’m counting on.

Published in: on January 11, 2013 at 6:08 pm  Comments (9)  
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Christians And Politics


When I was teaching, I used to feel somewhat resentful that teachers were not allowed to voice their opinion in their classroom about things like whether or not they believed in God or if they opposed same-sex marriage and the like. Granted, I taught in a Christian school, so I did have the privilege of saying what I believed, though I’m sure that’s because my beliefs aligned with my school’s.

But seriously, I thought, this is America where we have the Bill of Rights, with the protection of both free speech and freedom of religion, right there in the first amendment, and teachers can’t stand before their classes and say, I believe in God?

Slowly that restriction on a person’s freedom to express an opinion seems to be spreading, to the point that just recently a Christian agent felt compelled to apologize for stating political opinions in the articles he wrote for his agency blog. I suppose if there was some confusion that his opinions represented those of the organization, then there might be justification in refraining from making a statement about his beliefs, but I can’t help wondering where this trend will end.

I mean, those lining up at Chick-Fil-A this summer were accused of hate speech. And I’ve been in a discussion on line at a public forum in which someone says Christians have no business voicing their opinion on public policy if their religion informed their beliefs. That’s crossing the line between church and state, this person claimed.

Really?

Christians are now to be seen and not heard, even when talking primarily to other Christians, all for the fear of offending someone? I have to admit, I’m astounded by this and equally dismayed.

On the other hand, I don’t think Christians should be offensive in the way we talk to or about other people.

There’s a way to speak that is demeaning by its sarcasm or condescension and I don’t think Christians should speak that way–not because I don’t like it, but because Scripture calls us to speak with grace so that we will know how we should respond to each person (See Colossians 4:6). We’re supposed to honor all people (1 Peter 2:17), love others, and not be a stumbling block that causes someone to turn from the gospel.

However, it’s a mistake to think we should correct our way of speaking by holding our tongue altogether. What will set us apart from the world is not our closed mouths. It’s our willingness to say what we believe in a manner that puts our content front and center rather than our expression of it.

Take Clint Eastwood, for example. Many people talked about his “speech” (clearly it was a piece of theater, an ad libbed monologue) at the Republican National Convention. Those who disagreed with it found it bizarre; those who agreed found it clever. Not very many people talked about the ideas he expressed.

The Democrats worried about Bill Clinton in the same way. Would his powerful rhetoric overshadow President Obama?

In other words, in our day and age perhaps more than in any other, style has become the first measure of public discourse. Christians, then, should pay attention to how we say what we believe. And we should keep on speaking, because we live in a country that allows us to do so.

Published in: on September 6, 2012 at 6:40 pm  Comments (2)  
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