COLUMN: Is quoting the Bible hate speech?

Published 9:17 pm Sunday, November 26, 2023

By Maximilian Watner
Guest Columnist

Back on Friday, Sept. 15, there was a news broadcast covering the story of a woman from Finland who was on trial for “hate speech.” What caught my attention was that this “hate speech” consisted of some Bible verses from the first chapter of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, which she quoted in a tweet in reference to a pride parade: “For their women have changed the natural use into that use which is against nature. And, in like manner, the men also, leaving the natural use of the women, have burned in their lusts one towards another, men with men working that which is filthy” (1:26-27). Prosecutors argued that her interpretation of these verses, and the public expression of her opinion about them, violated Finnish hate speech laws.

What are we to make of this? What position does God take on this hot button issue? 

Well, there are three basic ways of looking at the issue.

Firstly, someone could argue that homosexual behavior was indeed forbidden in the Bible, as clearly it is (Genesis 19), but that truth evolves. Social and sexual norms have changed, they would argue. In fact, though, God and His laws cannot be altered. “Jesus Christ, yesterday, and today; and the same for ever” (Hebrews 13:8). The law against homosexual conduct is written into human nature itself. It is not a simple custom or temporary observance that can change (such as the Old Testament prohibition against eating pork).

Or, someone could argue that this behavior is indeed wrong, but that it doesn’t really matter if it’s wrong, as long as we don’t hurt anyone. However, Our Lord said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). The absence of visible, physical hurt to other humans is a weak criteria for deciding the morality of actions.

The other option left to us is to understand that, if we want to go to heaven, sexual morality really does matter. Most of those in positions of authority, even among avowed Christian leaders, are wishy-washy on this point, but St. Paul is not: “Understand that no fornicator, or unclean, hath inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Eph. 5:5).

The line of reasoning used against the Finnish woman has also crept into American society: disapproval of homosexual behavior, the argument goes, means hatred of the people doing that behavior. No one wants to be seen as hating any fellow human, and rightly so. Jesus, though, condemns only the sin and not the sinner, to whom He always extends an offer of forgiveness and reconciliation. He Himself interacted with sinners so frequently and so lovingly that He shocked His contemporaries.

When we cling to Jesus’ teachings despite the overwhelming tide of modern feeling that is against us, and when we suffer misunderstanding from popular and powerful opponents, we prove our love for Jesus. “Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake” (Mt. 5: 10).

BROTHER MAXIMILIAN WATNER is on the staff at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Buckingham County. He can be reached at webmaster@stas.org.