Time to Stop the Hate!

Hate that threatens violence to those with whom we disagree is wrong. Calling everyone who disagrees with you “hateful” is also wrong. It is not hateful simply to have another point of view, as some would have us believe. Both discourage and stifle the public debate that is so necessary to our form of government working. It’s time for civil discourse, not hateful words or name-calling.

“Hate” is killing America. It is time for all persons of goodwill to say “no” to hate. An ordinance pending before Memphis City Council over whether the City should prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression demonstrates why.

The ordinance, sponsored by Councilwoman Janis Fullilove, would prohibit City employment decisions from being based on homosexual behavior or gender identity/expression. There is also a companion resolution that would prohibit, in general, any discrimination among private sector employers (including churches and para-church ministries) that want to use a city facility (city park or school gym) or if they provide any services to the city (for example, architects, construction contractors, etc).

Councilwoman Fullilove now reports that she has received four death threats and had a dead cat thrown into her yard. As one who has received a couple of death threats while serving in the state Senate, I know what that is like. It is wrong. It is hateful in the truest sense. It must stop.

What Hate Is

People like the Kansas pastor who, with his church members, goes around to military funerals and other events holding signs that say things like, “God hates fags,” has forgotten one of the two great commandments—love your neighbor. Loving your neighbor does not mean never saying anything to another. I submit that it is not very loving, if you really think someone is causing or going to cause harm to themselves and fail to experience all God’s best for them, to remain silent and say nothing.

Jesus told the woman at the well, caught in adultery, that having sex outside of marriage is a sin. But note his words to those who wanted to stone her: He did not chide them for not appreciating and respecting her sexual choices. He chided them for not understanding that they, too, were sinners. Truth and grace must go together because Jesus is truth and grace.

Not to speak the truth to someone is not loving. Not to speak the truth as graciously as possible is also not loving. The people I’ve described above have forgotten that, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” It also doesn’t profit the hearer either.

It is time for the church to stand up and say “Stop the Hate!” And it’s time to say, “Let’s strive to speak the truth in love.” Let’s try to be truth and grace. Let’s try to find ways to speak to what we believe God calls evil and against God’s purpose for us in redemptive ways. The words of the prophets were hard, but also there was a message of hope in the context of a call to experience the wonderful grace of God’s forgiveness upon our repentance. Jeremiah was called “to root out and to pull down, To destroy and to throw down” (Jeremiah 1:10). But in the same breath God called him to “build and to plant.”

What Hate Isn’t

But that is not the only “hate” that needs to stop. We are killing free speech and debate by calling anyone who opposes our values and ideas as “hateful.” It has gotten to the point that anyone who disagrees about how far the law should go in accepting or even promoting homosexual behavior is ipso facto “hateful” or “homophobic.” That’s just not true. We also recently saw the NAACP say that those who oppose federal deficits, national debt and bigger government are “hateful” because they must be racists. That’s just not true. Everyone who believes that Americans should oppose those who want to see Sharia law replace our Constitution and laws is not “Islamaphobic.”

This too is wrong. This too needs to stop. It is simply not true that everyone who disagrees about homosexual activity hates people who engage in homosexual activity. It is not true that those who support smaller government and oppose deficit spending hate people who believe otherwise.

In fact, throwing around the “hate” label on everyone who opposes your point of view stifles debate. It stifles the free flow of ideas. It stops debate on the merits.

In fact, over two thousand years ago Aristotle gave us the principles of logic we still adhere to today in evaluating a person’s argument. One type of argument that he said was fallacious (not logical) was the ad hominem attack. What that literally means is “to attack the man.” We say “killing the messenger.”

Today the tactic is to avoid debate on the merit and just discredit the messenger. If you can get people to believe the speaker is mean and hateful, then people will tend to discredit what is said and not listen.

This pervasive tact is killing free speech. And when you kill free speech (along with freedom of religion), you pretty much kill the democratic republic that depends on them for its health.

Hurtful Doesn’t Make It Hateful

The old saying is “the truth hurts.” And it does. How often has a friend confronted me about something and I didn’t like it but deep down I knew they were right? My conscience bore witness to the truth of what they said. But surely we’re smart enough and civilized enough to know the difference between when something is being said in order to hurt and offend and when there is simply disagreement.

(As an aside, I might note that if our “identity” is bound up in and tied into some extrinsic thing, we have set ourselves up to be hurt. If our sense of value is tied up in people accepting with whom we have sex, where we work, what level of education or material things we have, etc., we have set ourselves up to be hurt unnecessarily. I don’t mean to be preachy, but I am grateful for the good news of the Gospel that tells me it only really matters what God thinks about me and He thinks enough about me to suffer the penalty for all I’ve done or will do wrong in order to have a relationship with me. If we ponder that long enough and often enough, we can’t help but be overwhelmed by the offer.)

Anyway, the question is whether “both sides” of these debates will have the courage to stand up and say to those on “their side,” stop the hate. Will we have the courage to allow each other to say what each believes needs to be said and to stop calling each other names like a bunch of junior high kids?

That’s where I stand. Who will stand with me?