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Real Hate Crimes

Posted by Matt Postiff June 23, 2015 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Society  Interpretation  Bible Texts 

I think that most Americans would agree that Dylan Roof's killing of nine black church-goers last week qualifies as a hate crime, particularly because of his white-supremacist background and racist rant while he slew his victims. His act demonstrates the worst sort of depravity. But what is a hate crime and why is it a special kind of crime?

What most Americans do not understand is that all crimes are hate crimes, and that in God's sight, hate itself is a crime.

Let me address the latter assertion first: hate itself is a crime under divine law.

Leviticus 19:17 - You shall not hate your brother in your heart.
1 John 2:9 - He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now.
1 John 3:15 - Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
1 John 4:20 - If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?
Matthew 5:44-45 - But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

The Christian God commands that all people love God and love their neighbors as themselves. Hatred is the same as breaking this "great commandment" and God's assigned punishment for this crime is eternal death (Romans 6:23).

Now for the assertion that all crimes are "hate crimes."

Google shows the definition of hate crime to be "a crime motivated by racial, sexual, or other prejudice, typically one involving violence."

My definition of crime is broader than the secular definition because I count a true "crime" as an act against the law of God. Some things fall into this category which are legal but are not right in God's eyes.

My definition of hate crime is also broader than the secular definition because the motivation of all crime, whether directly or indirectly, is hate. Looking at it from another angle, crime arises from the self-love of the perpetrator rather than love for the victim.

  • Did Dylan Roofs love his victims?
  • Regardless of the skin color of the perpetrator or victim, does a mass shooter love his victims?
  • Does the abortion doctor love his victim—or his pregnant patient?
  • Does the gay couple who sues a cake maker (for not making a cake for them) love their victim?
  • Do followers of the homosexual movement love their opponents when they send them death threats?

Obviously the answer to the above questions is a resounding NO in each case. Unfortunately, in an age where boy means girl and white means black, it is not certain that this obvious conclusion will be accepted.

Undoubtedly someone who opposes what I've said above will ask about a minister refusing to perform a gay wedding or a pastor preaching against homosexuality—aren't those hate crimes? Absolutely not! Under God's law, they are acts of love, not hate. To share with someone that their conduct and beliefs are ultimately destructive is not to hate them; it is rather to show love and compassion.

Under United States secular law as construed for the entire history of the nation, such actions (or lack of action) are protected as free exercise of religion and speech; they are not criminal acts; and they certainly don't involve violence. These acts are not motivated by sexual prejudice, for the Christian motivation is not a mere preconceived opinion. Rather, the motivation is love for God and love for neighbor.

Judging the internal motivations is a very slippery task. I think we should forget about categorizing crimes into different types by motivation, and simply punish crimes uniformly.

Murder is murder—whether it it arose out of personal malice or impersonal prejudice. It took a life, no matter what the color, gender, sexuality, etc. Murder is a hate crime, and all hate is a crime too.

This post came out of a study of 1 John 3:10-24.

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