What is hate speech? Does it fall into the category of “I can’t define it but I know when I hear it?” Most thinking Americans can tell the difference between speech that is simply expressing a positive point of view and speech that is poisoned with the venom of hatred.
When I hear people denigrate or demonize someone because of the color of their skin or the cut of their clothes I recoil in disgust. When the crazies from the Westboro Baptist Church bring out their signs wishing eternal judgment on homosexuals it angers me that they have hijacked the name “Baptist” and are using it to promote hate.
When the skinheads, the KKK, or the Nazi’s march, hide behind white sheets and burn crosses, or paint swastikas on the doors of Jewish homes and businesses I know that I am witnessing hatred unleashed. When misguided and mislabeled Christians attack abortion providers in the name of protecting the unborn or when they attack homosexuals with demeaning language or even physical violence there is no doubt hatred has won out over love.
When the New Black Panthers call for violence against white people or line up to intimidate voters to prevent them from exercising their right to peacefully choose their leaders (regardless of their skin color) we know we are witnessing both acts and verbal expressions of hate.
But what if I say that I believe marriage is meant to be between a man and a woman? What if I quote any of the many biblical passages that point to the importance of the family? Am I now considered to be a purveyor of hate simply because I hold a positive view toward the traditional family?
Prior to the late 1990’s most people in our society held to a form of negative tolerance. Under this system, you could be considered tolerant if you respected the person but rejected their view. Tolerance meant a wide range of views could be expressed and defended without the hate card being played.
But today, we are being pushed toward full-blown positive tolerance. Positive tolerance means in order to be considered tolerant you have to not only endure the views of the person expressing them you now have to embrace them. To be tolerant of homosexuality is to defend it as being on par with heterosexuality. It means to speak positively about marriage being exclusively between a man and a woman is to hate. To express a view that says Christianity is based on an exclusive relationship with Jesus Christ and to reject Christ is to choose to be separated from God for all eternity is a form of hate.
That way of thinking explains how the Southern Poverty Law Center can put the New Black Panthers and the Family Research Council on the same list of hate groups based in the District of Columbia. The Family Research Council is on the list because it is accused of being anti-gay. But FRC has never published anything hateful or even disrespectful about homosexuals. What they have done consistently and courageously is defend the traditional family and proclaim God’s Word as salt and light to sick and dark culture.
The whole controversy over Chic-fil-A started in Pennsylvania over Chic-fil-A’s decision to supply free food for a pro-marriage event. There was nothing anti-gay or hateful about the event. It was simply an event designed to extol the virtues of and strengthen the bonds of traditional heterosexual marriage. But for the radical LGBT community that was enough to cause them to accuse Chic-fil-A of sponsoring hate.
If our society embraces this radical interpretation of hate speech it won’t be long before Christianity itself will be considered a religion of hate. The prophet Isaiah warned us, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter”(Isaiah 5:20, NASV). Turning God’s love into hate by vilifying virtue is the ultimate example of turning light into darkness.