The Correct Way to Respond to Hate Speech

We live in a country where the right to speak whatever nonsense that comes into your head, be it true or false, hateful of compassionate is mostly protected by under constitutional law. You can deny the holocaust, proclaim that the world was created by a space alien god, promote the supremacy of one race over others, refuse to acknowledge science and spew forth sexist insults against women and the law will protect you – And it should. To deny one side the right to speak is to limit the free discussion of ideas on all sides. By silencing the extremes, we risk that sane discourse will die away as well.

So, how do we as a people who believe strongly in freedom of speech stand against that which is reprehensible?  How do we fight back when the opposition stirs our soul to action with its hateful words and when calling senators does not seem powerful enough?

CA: Women's March Los AngelesLet’s start with protests which are a phenomenal way to stir up the media and rally groups together for a cause. That being said, there are a few major problems with the protest movement as of late. First, protests may quickly turn to riots. I can’t stomach most of what Milo Yiannopoulos says but the rioters who cause his events to be canceled are only bringing more attention to his ideas. He will continue to use such occurrences to make himself a martyr for his cause. The second issue with protests is the use of ignorant, often vulgar shock tactics to draw attention. Dressing as a woman’s vagina does not make a point about women’s rights. Carrying a poster depicting an aborted fetus may shock but it speaks little truth about your cause. Again, such nonsense gives the opposition fuel and prevents you from changing minds that are in fact open to change.

This brings me to my next point: Engaging in meaningful discourse. Bill Maher is having to defend his decision to have Milo Yiannopoulos appear on his show with another ap17033125284839.jpgscheduled guest, Jeremy Scahill, canceling his scheduled appearance. While on the surface, this may seem like a good protest, but it is ineffective and short sighted. Again, it only brings more attention to the opposition. Worse than that, it eliminates the opportunity for Scahill to provide a rebuttal to Yiannopoulos’ ideas. If we are to spread truth, we must be willing to engage with the opposition openly for the sake of changing minds. Yiannopoulos is unlikely to ever change his mind on his most provocative topics, but those who follow him or those still on the fence, might be persuaded.

It’s unlikely that I or you, dear reader, will even get to the national stage in terms of discourse, but there are still ways to effectively engage in meaningful conversations and even arguments against such revolting ideas. Everyone in today’s world is on some form of social media and that may be your first instinct. Unfortunately, arguments made on Twitter and Facebook are rarely productive. Face to face, personal conversations are. If a friend or family member says something you disagree with, it is alright to graciously disagree and present evidence to your point. We are often too cautious in these areas. Also, those who write, should write. Local papers need thoughtful opinion pieces and even national news sources print letters to the editor. Engage with the media however you can.

Finally, many of us are too far removed from our local elections and pollical representatives. Hopefully the changing pollical climate will unleash a wave of town hall participants and engaged voters. We’ve certainly seen the stirrings of such a movement, but we must not let the enthusiasm diminish. Whether the issue is chickens in the city limits, school choice, or community budgeting, be informed and show up to the discussions. Such actions force elected officials to pay attention to the needs and desires of their constitutions.

For now, as a closeted liberal, I can’t join the fight in the way I would like… But soon. There are changes coming to my life which promise the freedom to speak.

Who am I?

cross-images-004I’ve been asking myself that a lot in the last year. Born and raised in the evangelical church, onward to a Christian university, fully indoctrinated to believe in certain things in a certain way. That’s certainly who I was. But who am I now?

Honestly, I haven’t believed that homosexuality is sinful or deserving of condemnation for a long time. I probably shed that belief sometime in 2006 after a close friend came out of the closet to me, and I had to decided how I felt pretty quickly. As that friend’s perspective evolved, he very quickly began slamming the “love the sinner, hate the sin” response. After all, it’s hard to be close friends with someone who condemns a very large part of your life, even to the point of believing your marriage is illegitimate. If someone believed that way about my life, I wouldn’t keep them very close – even if they were nice to me.

And then there’s abortion. I was anti-abortion for most of my life simply because I did not have a full understanding of all the complex circumstances and issues surrounding it. I still don’t think abortion is a wise choice in all circumstances BUT I now see that it is not may place to pass judgment. I also see the harm that making abortion illegal would do to women and women’s health care in this country. Do I think it should be restricted in some ways? Absolutely. But I cannot support any action that would endanger the life of the mother or take away her right to a safe, legal reasonably early term abortion. I also can’t stomach legislation that would cause clinics to shut their doors for no legitimate reason.

Oh, and then there’s science. My favorite project in the second grade was creating this hamdino-1024x706.jpglarge poster that showed the evolutionary timeline. I’ve always been pro-science, and I did not even know there was such a thing as a creationist movement in the church until I was in my 30’s. One day, a pastor who I had enormous respect for stopped me to talk about a lesson he was working on discussing how dinosaurs and humans lived together in Genesis. I was so dumbfounded, I don’t even think I was able to muster an intelligent response. Really? People take those stories literally? I’m still processing this one.

This leads naturally into what I think of scripture and ultimately God. My view of God and scripture has only shifted in the last two years as I began to independently explore and honestly question my faith through the writings and arguments of Sam Harris, James Radi, and many others. First, let’s discuss the Bible. It was written in a completely enhanced-buzz-4728-1374605113-6different time and place than the world we live in now. It condones slavery, puts women in a place of subjugation, and even directs us to kill people for minor offenses of the religious law. It’s filled with contradictions. It speaks of a God who created us, loves us, and yet would condemn us to Hell if we cannot accept the barbaric human sacrifice of his son. Yes, there are good lessons in the Bible, and there is enhanced-buzz-10568-1374604593-16scripture that can be leaned on for comfort and encouragement…. But if you are a person that believes the Bible is the true and holy word of God himself…. Good luck. You have to view the whole thing in its full context, and chances are, there’s something you should be stoned over.

So I don’t believe that the Bible is the true and holy word of God. I believe that it is book
written by men trying to understand who God is/was in their time, in the context of their morality. So who is God to me now? I’m not 100% sure, and I’m comfortable with that. I’m not quite ready to abandon him entirely, but I now choose to view religion through the evolving moral lens of humanism. Call me agnostic. Call me a cultural Christian. I’m not fussed. Just please don’t lump me in with the evangelicals anymore. I might vomit.

Now that I’ve said all of this, I must confess that I have spent the last ten years or so of my life working in a form of Christian ministry. The majority of my professional experience is with Christian organizations and churches. I’ve signed agreements to statements of faith and position papers that I do not agree with now. My friends and professional colleagues are all Christians or are in the ministry. Yeah. I’m stuck and I’m surrounded!

But I am trying to get unstuck. I’ve left the evangelical church that was associated with so many stifling beliefs mentioned above, and I’ve been slightly more vocal about my views at work. This has raised eyebrows and questions. I’ll keep the blog updated as things are moving forward. Regardless, I’ll leave in a few weeks to months… I would just like to have something in place before joining the ranks of the unemployed.

So that’s me in a nutshell. I am the voice of the closeted liberal screaming at the closed door in the hope that someday, I will be able to shout from the mountaintops.

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