What would you do if you had a neighbor that was a twisted white supremacist and constantly foisted it upon you and your children with Aryan flags and a KKK snowman like this evil jerk in Idaho? I was pondering this conundrum this morning. Naturally, the first thing that I’d like to do is fight back. There are all kinds of delicious suggestions that breed in my too-fertile brain when it comes to being vindictive. However, I am a Christian man and I have a vested interest in obeying the laws of my land. At the same time, I am an American man that loves my liberty and part of me fears that if I object in the wrong way a law will be made that could ultimately be used against me. Encroaching government will always ultimately target the righteous.
It is this kind of thing that makes me understand hate speech and the visceral reaction many Americans feel in response to it. What the despicable misanthrope in Idaho is doing is repugnant and infuriating. We should all hate hate speech. But hate speech has become the exclusive vocabulary for the so-called politically-correct activists who intimidate Christians from voicing biblical and moral objections to things such as abortion and homosexuality. Now things like the rational and thoughtful Manhattan Declaration are identified as hate speech and large businesses like Apple find themselves moralizing on the objectionable rhetoric of the document by refusing to sell a Manhattan Declaration iPhone app. Because Christians are instinctively aware that they are the targets of the anti-hate speech society they tend to over-simplify the problem by labeling any protest as anti-liberty with sinister anti-Christian motive. If they see that abortionists are angry with the fool that makes the racist symbol in his front yard they mute their own objections and effectively contribute to the propaganda that Christians are aloof about hate speech because it is a part of their modus operandi.
However, it should not matter to us who is angry with the white supremacist and for what reasons they are incensed. What should matter to us is the issue of the speech itself. We should hate hate speech and be among the first and the loudest to identify what it is and what should be done about it. Sadly, however, American Christians have become just like their unregenerate counterparts and no longer view right and wrong through the lens of moral absolutes, but through the eyes of partisanship. If protesting the objectionable racism of one’s neighbor aligns one with the lesbian feminist, they immediately assume that if she is angry than she must have another concern that is illegitimate. They suspect her of an ulterior motive. So, rather than endorse her agenda they’d rather disobey the Scriptures and spinelessly shut their mouths under the guise of Christian tolerance and American liberty. They justify their muted outrage (generously assuming that they are even outraged) and scorn those liberal “anti-Americans” with their immoral ulterior motives.
Ulterior motive speaks of something that goes beyond what is immediately obvious and implies that it is intentionally hidden. However, the liberal activist may be very transparent about his or her motives. She isn’t really affected one way or the other by a flag-waving nut-job in Idaho, but her desire to promote the lesbian agenda recognizes the far-reaching effect of hate speech and the even-farther-reaching effect of loud objection to it. I do not fault the homosexual activist or the bleeding-heart liberal for protesting with a deeper motive. I, too, have a deeper motive when I protest my hypothetical neighbor’s racism.
In reality, no one ever protests without a bigger issue in mind. The Christian has an “ulterior motive” as well. The lesbian feminist could suspect the deeper motives that drive the Christian traditionalist to protest and be revolted by his engagement. Little does she understand that our agenda is not partisan but justice and holiness. Therefore, if I were living next to this overt in-your-face wickedness I’d stand on the street right next to my lesbian neighbor and try to figure out a way to legally and loudly protest. In so doing, she would see that I am highly concerned about justice and that I am passionately opposed to hate speech. But she would also see that she does not get to monopolize what is characterized as hate speech and that we both have to appeal to a higher authority.
Naturally, the activists already understand the necessity of a higher authority. For them it is government. More and more laws are coming into place that prohibit the Christian from speaking his convictions about anything lest they get censured for hate speech. We too should understand the necessity of a higher authority, the place of government, and the evil of hate speech.
If we stand side by side with the homosexual and abortionists on issues that should stir up our holy indignation (like racist symbols) we simultaneous take away a little bit of the moral high ground they believe they have secured when we choose to shrug our shoulders and walk away, mumbling about how this is a free nation. And just as they are transparent with their “ulterior motives,” so also should we be transparent with our deeper motives. Our motives are not primarily our liberty, but justice and righteousness and the glory of God.
We should hate hate speech. This would be the neighborly thing to do.