Whom do you hate?
I get frustrated with people, and disappointed with people, and sometimes wary of people, but I can't think of any individual I hate. Not even remotely.
I can't think of any group of people I hate, either. I don't like the attitudes of some far-right-wingers, or some far-left-wingers, for that matter. But I don't hate any of them. If I did, I wouldn't have written most of my essays pleading for common sense, respect, and logic. If I hated you, why would I bother explaining myself to you?
"Hate" used to be a term to describe an exceptionally negative emotion directed at someone or something. A complete lack of love, or any degree of affection. Maybe I'm old-school, but that's still kinda what I think it means. But these days, I seem to be out of step with the evolving etymology of "hate."
It's been remarkable to watch "appreciation day" unfold on FaceBook today for Chick-fil-A, after its denigration by leaders in Boston, Chicago, and New York City. All over the country, friends of mine have waited up to 45 minutes for their chicken sandwiches, peach shakes, and waffle fries.
Ostensibly, today is a celebration of free speech, since even many liberals agree that Chick-fil-A should be able to endorse heterosexual marriage groups if it wants to. But in some corners, it has devolved into a bitter spat over the "hate speech" companies like Chick-fil-A and its president, Dan Cathy - not to mention its legions of customers today - are supposedly directing at America's homosexual community.
If you're not pro-gay-marriage, you hate gays, according to those who advocate for gay marriage.
Hate Speech Is and Isn't
To a certain degree, it's not hard to see how they can draw such a conclusion, however erroneous it is. Just this past spring, during the run-up to North Carolina's ill-conceived vote affirming heterosexual marriage (ill-conceived since it was already state law), a number of vicious and downright evil videos surfaced on YouTube depicting hick preachers spewing vitriol about gays.
These videos were embarrassing to me, and they made me both angry and ashamed. Not once did Christ make fun of sinners, nor does He ever call us to do so. Yes, homosexuality is a sin, but so is maligning homosexuals and, basically, hating them. So to the degree that such "hate speech" is repugnant to the gay community, they have a right to feel that way, and so do Christ-followers like me.
However, simply saying that homosexuality is a sin is not, in and of itself, hate speech. Gluttony is a sin, but that's not hate speech to fat people. The love of money is a sin, but that's not hate speech to those of us who are materialistic. Willfully breaking marriage vows is a sin, but that's not hate speech to the legions of churched Christians who are divorced.
Speaking the truth in love is not hate speech.
But its inverse can be. Speaking falsehoods in love may reveal our desire to pacify somebody, even if it means disregarding the truth. And if you love somebody, why would you do that? Speaking the truth without being loving can be interpreted as hate speech, because nobody likes being told they're wrong in an unkind tone.
Struggling to Re-Brand Homosexuality
And that's one of the raw issues here, isn't it? Homosexuality so wants to be acceptable and credible, and the epitome of love in our society - for better or worse - is marriage. Therefore, gay advocates believe that if they can create a mirage of legitimacy for gay marriage, that will symbolize parity with heterosexuals.
Ironically, it almost seems as though being gay without pursuing gay marriage lent the gay community more credibility. Homosexuality has existed - albeit under the radar - for millennia, even if it wasn't accepted in proper society or considered virtuous behavior. This was sort of the rationale behind the American military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that gays decided they didn't like. The military figured a soldier's sexual preference could complicate things - negatively - so it was better not to know for sure. However, gays decided that since their sexuality was too important to try and hide, it made them feel inferior to heterosexual soldiers, most of whom could live promiscuously in plain sight.
Granted, this is all part of society's grand deconstruction of sex. Both the heterosexual misappropriation of sex and marriage, and the homosexual desire to do the same. God made sex for procreation and pleasure, but most of us prefer the pleasure over the procreation. Sexual sin exists in many forms, but few of them have to do with creating even more babies. Mostly, people just want to feel good, and sex is one of the most primal ways to feel good. (Or, so I'm told.)
Follow that line of thought long enough, and eventually it becomes fairly easy to agree that it doesn't matter whether sex comes in a homosexual or heterosexual package. Well, it may not matter to us. But it still matters to God.
The Uncomfortable, Uncompromising God Factor
And that's the second big issue here, isn't it? Heterosexuals who sin don't like thinking about God, and homosexuals who sin really, truly, don't like thinking about God. At least, not the God of orthodox Christianity, and those pesky parts of the Bible that include homosexuality among lists of putrid sins.
Sins, by the way, like lust, gluttony, gossip, and other things which are abhorrent to God, whether you care about His truth or not. Indeed, no mortal who claims homosexuality and gay marriage to be wrong is sinless themselves. Believers in Christ benefit from God's grace to us, but we're still sinners. So to the extent that we point out the speck in our neighbor's eye without dealing with the log in our own, so to speak, it's become easy for us to pillory gays and, conversely, for them to get furious at us for being all holier-than-thou.
And for them to say we hate them.
Which, for some fringe Bible-thumpers, may be true. But how fair is it to classify every Christ-follower's statement of Biblical truth about gay sex as hate speech?
Badgering somebody into refuting their beliefs isn't necessarily loving, is it? Calling somebody a "hater" just because you don't like what they have to say isn't necessarily loving, is it? What is the extent to which gay rights advocates demonstrate hate by their belligerent condemnation of people who disagree with them?
Saying no unkind word would be a good habit for all of us to pursue. But speaking what we believe to be truth in a loving way - which is what believers in Christ are called to do - cannot be blithely be dismissed as "hate speech."
Or is it hate speech just because they hate hearing it?
The point may come when the Gospel of Christ is banished from American society by people who've twisted the truth of "hate" into a lie to justify their own hatred. But may we who claim the name of Christ still strive, through His grace, to be loving towards people who don't love us.
We may not be guilty of hate, but I suspect those who disagree with us may be. And maybe they hope calling us haters will obscure the real hatred that exists between us... yet not demonstrated by us.
A disingenuous tactic on their part, of course. But then again, when anyone doesn't speak the truth in love, whether they believe the Bible or not, all sorts of bad stuff can happen.