Avril at Romsey

… and Lancefield and Riddells Creek and Mount Macedon

Hate Speech – Hate Acts

Christianity was not the reason Anders Breivik massacred scores of people in Norway on Friday. It is hard to imagine that the overwhelming majority of well-meaning Christians around the world are anything but appalled and sickened by his actions. Christianity and Christians cannot be blamed for the actions of someone who seems to be terribly disturbed. And yet …

As a Christian, I believe that we need to ask whether there is a link between Christian hate speech and Breivik’s actions. Would Breivik have carried out this massacre without the justification that hate speech gave him? Without the concerns of Christians who believe that Muslims are ‘taking over’ Europe or that there is a war between Christianity and Islam, would Breivik have lacked the impetus to kill? Or would he have just found another pretense?

Today’s Age gave quotes from Breivik’s ‘manifesto’ including: “Day 41, June 11 … I prayed for the first time in a very long time today. I explained to God that unless he wanted the Marxist-Islamic alliance and the certain Islamic takeover of Europe to completely annihilate European Christendom within the next hundred years he must ensure that the warriors fighting for [its] preservation … prevail.” These are not the words of a sane man. And it might be impossible to keep our religious language and rhetoric so pacific as to prevent anyone from finding justification in it for their own delusions. But let me make a few suggestions for how Christians can avoid having our faith misused.

Never use the words: “God hates [some group of people]”. God is love, and to suggest that the God of love hates anyone is a category error. It’s just not possible. I would also avoid language of the “God hates the sin but loves the sinner” type. Usually the so-called ‘sin’ that is hated is something that the ‘sinner’ sees as an essential part of their identity – sexuality, for instance. God’s love is so central to the gospel that our default message should always be of the “God loves …” variety. To talk about what God might hate confuses that core truth.

Never suggest that God prefers one group of people over another. I know, the language is right there in the Bible. And the idea that God has, for example, a preferential option for the poor, has led to some extremely good theology. But it’s just too dangerous. Throughout history it has led to the idea that God prefers men to women; whites to blacks; Europeans to non-Europeans; heterosexuals to homosexuals; Christians to Muslims or Muslims to Christians. Focus instead on the fact that every human being, no matter our age, gender, race, nationality, sexuality, religion, is made in the image of God. What unites us is much more important than anything that divides us.

Never, ever, ever rejoice at the death of another human being. Especially, do not suggest that God rejoices at the death of some people or actually wants us to kill them. No matter how evil their actions, no matter how many other people they have hurt, every human being is a child of God. John Donne had it right in his seventeenth meditation: “any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee”.

Here in far-away Australia, completely safe, not mourning anyone I love, I have no right to even begin to suggest to the Norwegians how they might respond. But I can quote Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, Norwegian Lutheran pastor and general secretary of the World Council of Churches, who has said: “Let us all stay together for a world of justice and peace, without hate and revenge, but with the values of democracy, caring for the dignity and the human rights of every person. We are all created in the image of God.”

Amen.

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July 26, 2011 - Posted by | Life, etc. | , , ,

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