I’m not suggesting that the church is guilty of “hate speech from the pulpit. I would imagine the vast majority of sermons preached from the pulpit with respect to homosexual behavior do not involve “hate speech.” Grant it, they expose homosexual behavior to be sinful (Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). I’m sure these sermons will warn of allowing sin to have dominion over one’s life (Romans 6:14), and they will warn of the temporal and eternal consequences of practicing sin (Romans 1:26-27,32). But surely the rule is that these truths are spoken with the intent to save, and not merely condemn. The truth, spoken in love, is not hate speech, no matter how it may be received.
However, while I don’t think “hate speech” frequently occurs from the pulpit, I’m not so sure it doesn’t occur in our foyers, fellowship halls, and homes. What do I mean? Let me give you an example. Have you ever been in the presence of a brother or sister in Christ while they make insinuating remarks about men who may have some effeminate traits or women who have some masculine traits? Have you ever been in the presence of a brother or sister in Christ as they questioned the reasons behind the “singleness” of a particular man or woman? Have you ever been with brothers and sisters in Christ when someone re-enacted a caricature of a limp-wristed, lispy-voiced man or a gruffly-voiced “butchy” type woman? Better yet, have you ever done it yourself?
Tell me, if you were a person who was secretly struggling with same-sex attraction, but wanting to do right, how would you feel if you were part of this jovial circle of brethren? Or what if you were parents or siblings of a loved one who was struggling with same-sex attraction, how would you feel?
Such speech alienates those who struggle with this sinful behavior. It assures that this person who struggles with this will never approach these fellow Christians for help or understanding. Furthermore, it assures that the family members who guard their loved one’s secret struggle will never ask these fellow Christians to help share their heavy burden.
That said, how can such speech be classified as anything but “hate speech?”
Friends, we need to be a people who stand uncompromisingly against sin, but we also need to be a people who relentlessly love the sinner. We need to create an environment where sin can be confessed and abandoned, and sinners can find patience, love, and support. We need to create an environment in which repentant sinners can overcome their past as well as their shame (2 Corinthians 2:7-8). That will never happen as long as we engage in “hate speech.”
While our culture argues about how to define and apply the law with regard to “hate speech,” and while we worry about how this may or may not impact what is said from our pulpits, maybe we ought to give more attention to what is said in our foyers and pews than in our pulpits with respect to “hate speech.” What do you think?