Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Christian Hate Speech

Yesterday morning I had to clean up some graffiti. It was not spray-painted on a building, but rather on this website. Some disturbed person, who says he regularly reads this blog, left a hate-filled comment that was shocking in its vehemence and bilious anger. It made me feel, in a personal way, a tiny fraction of what others have experienced when confronted by the phenomenon of Christian hate speech. This person was upset that I did not conform to a right-wing, Bush-adoring version of Christianity, and instead of engaging in dialogue, left a pile of linguistic manure. We see this kind of behavior all too often when certain kinds of Christians, mostly evangelical fundamentalists, decide to confront some social evil they believe is spawned by the devil and abetted by the forces of liberalism. This hatred for the "other," that is, for someone or some institution which threatens their worldview, inspires them to construct signs and banners for protests like in this image.

We see Christian hate speech in obvious places, like the rhetoric of white supremacists, but hate is a subtle and insidious creature, which finds its way into our everday lives. Prejudicial jokes, epithets, and characterizations are forms of hate speech which almost all of us engage in. What pains me the most is the presence of hate speech in the church. I hear it in vile gossip or the cutting remark. I see its effects in a near-empty sanctuary, many of its members having been driven away by the "church police" for not conforming to expected dress codes, middle class behavior and values, or for simply being different. Such a congregation usually remains older, white, inward-looking, and abusive to newcomers.

The hardest place to find hate speech is on my tongue. The log of sin which hinders true self-observation, leads me to overlook all the times when I allow hell to take control over my mouth (cf. James 3). The antidote to this, of course, is to remember Jesus' words: "I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned" (Matthew 12:36-37). You would think that this verse alone would put a stop to most Christian hate speech, but the tide of religious filth flows on unabated, as our world becomes an increasingly polarized and violent place. For the final outcome of hate speech is violence. Genocide, ethnic cleansing, lynching, bombings, and war are all the demonic children of language used as a weapon against the enemy. But who is the enemy? More importantly, who is our neighbor upon whom we spew such words?


Blogger Steve said...

Great post. So convicting. So sad. So James 3.

11:29 AM  
Blogger RogueMonk said...

Wonderfully honest. I, too, find hate-speech to easily flows out of my mouth. May God help us all.

Blessings and peace, RogueMonk

12:53 PM  

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