Thursday, October 13, 2011

Poster Boy For Hate

Rev. Robert Jeffress has been making a lot of waves because he makes blunt statements and he has ties to Rick Perry. Bill Donahue of the Catholic League made this comment:
Where did they find this guy? When theological differences are demonized by the faithful of any religion—never mind by a clergyman—it makes a mockery of their own religion. Rev. Jeffress is a poster boy for hatred, not Christianity.
So what has this guy said? I have not gone into a lot of depth but the quotes I have see are that Mormonism is a cult. Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism are false religions. He also said, “Much of what you see in the Catholic Church today doesn’t come from God’s word. It comes from that cult-like pagan religion. Isn’t that the genius of Satan?”

OK, those are not sounding very charitable but they are likely phrases picked out of longer talks. The point is he is just plainly stating what he believes. I agree with him on some of it but not all of it. But should we call him the "poster boy for hate" because he says this? That is a very short-sighted and dangerous comment.

The one thing that Christians and especially Catholics are accused of frequently is hate speech. I think it will get a lot worse. Many people will lose their jobs or go to jail because they voice their Christian faith and society labels it hate speech. It is already happening. Mostly to people on the fringes of Christianity that make more shocking statements. Rev. Jeffress seems to be one of those. But if we start to deny people's freedom to speak that way then it won't be long before all serious religious discourse is banned.

Think about it. All evangelism takes the risk of offending someone. When we say something that might convict someone of their sin and produce repentance it might also produce another reaction. It might cause them to convict us of hate and get angry. That is why so many evangelists were martyred.

So when we see talk in society of hate speech we should be concerned. We should not be encouraging it and we should certainly not be engaging in it. So I was very disappointed to see Bill Donahue using that kind of language. He has gotten into the media frequently as a defender of the Catholic faith. Not sure how that happened but it is reality. So he needs to be careful what he says. Calling Rev. Jeffress the poster by for hatred is a very bad way to react to the statements in question. Sure he says Catholicism is wrong. The way to deal with that is to start a dialogue and try and correct some of the false statements he made.

I know most media and most people don't have the patience for that. They love to hear someone shout out a clever insult. But we can't go there. We need to be about reason and love. Calling someone hateful is not love. Putting the truth out there for anyone who cares to listen is harder but it is needed.

Then there are the true statement he made. He is not far off when he talks about Mormonism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. Sometimes we need to say negative things about other religions and we need to say them quite clearly. We even need to say negative things about Evangelicals. To say a religion is false is not to hate the people who adhere to that religion. To equate the two is a big mistake. It suggests dialogue with other religions can be meaningful or it can be charitable but it can't be both. But it must be both. We must love those in other faiths but that love must motivate us to point out the very serious problems with their religion.

Think about smoking. If someone is a smoker and I am not what is the loving thing to do? To avoid the topic of smoking? To not say one negative thing about it? But there are really solid reasons I don't smoke and really bad consequences for smoking. Should I not bring those up?


  1. I agree Randy. I read that from Donohue and thought it was way over the top.

  2. I agree, too. Granting that Jeffress (Jeffries? That's how CatholicVote has it spelled) is sadly misinformed, it still doesn't follow that he hates Catholics ... or even, to paraphrase Abp. Sheen, that he hates what he thinks Catholics are. Many if not most Evangelicals attempt to convert us out of a genuine love for their faith and desire to see us saved out of "the Whore of Babylon".

    I think Donahue goes over the top at times because 1) it gets attention to the problem and 2) he wants us to get mad (and therefore more likely to demand change). But there's a fine line between being outraged and being outrageous, a line too easy to cross without seeing.

  3. I wonder if he is concerned more with getting attention to the problem or getting attention to himself. He does a lot of good. He calls attention to some cheap shots that people hit the church with.

    I wonder if Donahue knows the "Whore of Babylon" is a biblical image? Given that it is in the bible it is fair game to advance theories about what that image might mean. If it was Jeffries own phrase I would think it was a pretty low blow but it isn't. Not even close. He likely says stuff like that without much thought.

  4. I hate the whole idea of "hate speech" as a category of expression which is to be condemned as soon as it is so categorized. It shuts down thought, tries to erase reality. Unless it is a direct and clear incitement to violence, then let'er rip.

  5. So you already have an exception -incitement to violence. But how do you define that? Does a strong pro-life speech count as incitement? Pro-life people have committed a few murders. What about a Muslim speaker praising terrorist?

    I like the idea of making it very narrow but no matter how narrow you make it the limits will be interpreted in the light of basic assumptions society accepts. The idea that Christian fundamentalism and Muslim fundamentalism are basically the same. The idea that moral teachers are somehow hating the people engaging in the behavior they condemn. If society believes these things it is pretty hard to prevent them from acting on that belief.

    So, yes, make freedom of speech stronger but also make people understand that Evangelical Christians are basically very good citizens. They might make statements you think of as extreme but most can be reasoned with.