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

Name It And Claim It Theology, Or The Prosperity Gospel


profile_photo_of_benny_hinnI read an article today that the Washington Post ran, written by Dr. Michael Horton, a professor of Apologetics and Theology at Westminster Seminary, a Presbyterian and Reformed Christian graduate educational institution. Not something I’d expect to see in the Washington Post, I admit. But it’s a criticism of Donald Trump—or at least of the people he’s surrounding himself with—so I suspect that explains how the article made it into print, digitally or physically.

The title of the article is “Evangelicals should be deeply troubled by Donald Trump’s attempt to mainstream heresy.” It takes a look at the “Word of Faith movement,” exploring it’s background, development, and theology. In the end Dr. Horton exposes how televangelists like Benny Hinn, Paula White, and Darrell Scott do not preach the good news of Jesus Christ, but a different gospel.

Some years ago, I wrote about this same topic. Hesitantly. I’ve written about other forms of false teaching, but this prosperity gospel, this health-and-wealth teaching, this Word of Faith movement, has influenced, if not infected, a lot of churches in America. People get defensive. So I’ve not said a lot about this particular gospel. Which is what it is—a different gospel.

This article should have been a beginning, but it wasn’t. Maybe I had hopes the false claims would themselves extinguish the movement. But now, with people prominent in the movement also becoming prominent in government, I fear we haven’t seen the real power of this false teaching. Consequently, I’ll re-post the article, with a few minor updates, as a way to jump start more thoughts about the topic.

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One of the things that makes the “health and wealth” heresy so wrong is the way it distorts Scripture. If someone actually takes the ideas espoused by the “name it and claim it” preachers to their logical conclusion, you’d have to say that the first century apostle, Stephen was a terrible Christian. I mean, if he really believed . . .

And what was Peter going on about in his first letter when he is telling the Christians of his day that their suffering meant they were blessed?

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 1Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name . . . Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. (1 Peter 4:12-16, 19)

A “fiery ordeal” was not to be considered a strange thing. The degree of suffering was to dictate the degree of rejoicing. Being reviled for the name of Christ meant you were blessed. Suffering as a Christian meant an opportunity to glorify God. And some suffered according to the will of God.

These things don’t sound anything like the belief system of these “word of faith” preachers who say, in essence, the promises from God have to first be “claimed” to become effective. So those first century Christians didn’t know this because . . . why? Jesus forgot to tell them? Or did they know, but their faith was too weak?

When Paul said he knew how to get along in humble circumstances, to live in want, was he too weak in faith to claim the promises the health and wealthers say are there for the asking?

I think too of the prophets, who James said we should look to as examples of patience (James 5:10). Those men and I suppose women, though we don’t have their record, suffered like no other group. They were, by and large, at odds with their culture, sometimes hunted down and killed, as they were during Ahab’s reign, and often asked by God to do things that were hard.

Take Ezekiel, for example. As part of his service as a prophet, he was rendered mute—except when he was prophesying. He also had to carry out some difficult assignments, one being the mock siege of Jerusalem. For thirteen months he had to lie on his side facing a brick. He ate only small portions of bread and had a limited supply of water. When the time was up, he flipped over and did the same on the other side for another forty days.

Where was his wealth? Or health?

Then there was Jeremiah who was thrown in prison and narrowly escaped an attempt on his life. Or how about Hosea who, by God’s instruction, married a prostitute who was unfaithful to him. Repeatedly. In what way was his life prosperous?

I said at the beginning that this word of faith system distorts Scripture, but it is wrong on so many levels. For example it elevates Man and makes God little more than a servant.

It also claims that this life now is when we are to experience the joys of our inheritance. As one writer says

Perhaps the root error of the gospel of health and wealth is that it seeks to apply a theology of future glory to the believer in the here and now. But the Lord Jesus taught a theology for here and now that both sustains believers in hard times and holds out hope for tomorrow.

The false claims of the word of faith proponents distort God’s true promises and raise doubts in the hearts of anyone who has prayed believing and NOT been healed.

Clearly, God, not the words some person speaks, holds power. No amount of “positive confession” is acceptable as an excuse to order God to do whatever a person wants.

This belief system is not all that different from the lottery. Lots of poor people are putting in their money with the hope of getting rich. Well, someone is getting rich all right, but it isn’t the needy.

The bulk of this post is an updated version of one that first appeared here in April 2013.