Free Speech, Hate Speech, & Intolerance

Free speech only seems to be free when it doesn’t oppose what another person chooses to believe. In the United States of America we have the 1st amendment which is supposed to guarantee the Freedom of Speech and Religion. Time and time again we see people rise up to challenge and condemn the speech of others when said speech is in direct opposition to a person or groups own beliefs. There are times in which that challenge is definitely warranted. There are other times when it isn’t.  What gets me annoyed in this day and age is how the term “hate speech” is thrown around so casually.  “Hate speech” seems to be the catch-all term to throw around when someone says something that isn’t actually hateful but is diametrically opposed to what a person believes or lives. Somewhere in the middle of all of this is when a person is also labeled “intolerant” for when what they say is in opposition to a “popular belief/opinion” but doesn’t quite get labeled as “hate speech” because it seems to be more specific than a broad generalization. The New Year is only 3 days old and between the media and people outside of it this issue is coming up so being who I am, I decided to try to break this down to see if we can have a positive and progressive dialogue and I think the first place to begin is to define a few of these terms and some of the key words in them.

Lets start with Free Speech aka Freedom of Speech.  Freedom of Speech is defined as: the right to express any opinions without censorship or restraint.  If we look at this definition carefully it says that if you have freedom of speech you can say/express any freedom that you have without censorship or restraint.  If you live in the United States especially with all of social media you have this right only in the confines of your own personal space as you don’t have this right in public being that we have laws that censor certain types of speech.  There are plenty of court cases on this issue that say this, one example I will cite here is Schenk v. United States says that you don’t have the freedom to use speech to incite actions that would harm others (wonder if our president-elect knows that).

Hate Speech is defined as: speech that attacks a person or group on the basis of attributes such as gender, ethnic origin, religion, race, disability, or sexual orientation. an incitement to hatred primarily against a group of persons defined in terms of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and the like. Hate speech can be any form of expression regarded as offensive to racial, ethnic and religious groups and other discrete minorities or to women. For the sake of this conversation since the word attacks is a part of the hate speech definition lets define that as well: aggressive and violent action against a person or place.  So for hate speech to truly be hate speech you have to actually be intentional to attack a person or group on the basis of the attributes listed above.

Lastly let’s get to the definition of intolerance: lack of tolerance; unwillingness or refusal to tolerate or respect opinions or beliefs contrary to one’s own; unwillingness or refusal to tolerate or respect persons of a different social group, especially members of a minority group.  So someone being intolerant isn’t necessarily someone who says something you disagree with now is it.  They would have to refuse to respect your opinion, stance, or choice that is in opposition to yours.  I wonder how many people who call someone else intolerant would be quick to label themselves as intolerant in light of the actual definition of intolerance.

Recently gospel singer and pastor Kim Burrell said some things in a sermon about the “homosexuality spirit”. She also spoke about “homosexual behavior” which from the short clip posted on the internet was defined as homosexual sex acts.  She called it perverted and talked about how she perceives it within the contexts of professing Christians and how it is affecting and effecting the Christian Church. There has been all kinds of words and comments about Kim Burrell being hateful, spewing hate speech, being a hypocrite as well as many other nasty things that by the very definition of hate speech is hate speech and is in violation of her freedom of speech and freedom of religion as her sermon is based on her religious beliefs.

There is a difference between being tolerant of someone’s speech and beliefs versus being in agreement. Tolerance by definition is the ability or willingness to tolerate something you are in opposition to. That shows that you have a choice. But to call someone intolerant because they don’t agree with your stance/beliefs/words and you refuse to respect their stance/belief/words by definition makes you intolerant and a hypocrite. If you want tolerance of your beliefs then you should make sure that you extend that same tolerance to others especially when it is in opposition to what you believe. We don’t have to all agree on everything or believe the same thing. You have been given free will so that you can make the choices that you deem fit for yourself. However when you say that someone is intolerant or spreading hate/hate speech choose your words wisely otherwise they may reveal that you are truly the most intolerant and hypocritical person around.  I will say it again, tolerance does not mean agreement, it means respecting someone’s choice to believe what they choose to believe they have because it is their right to make their own choice.I vehemently disagree with 99.99% of the stuff that has come of the president-elects mouth, especially when it has been proven time and time again to be a lie and some of which by the definitions of hate speech and intolerance are hate speech and intolerant, but I do tolerate and respect his right to have the beliefs that he has chosen to have.

Tolerance and agreement are 2 different things.  You don’t have to have agreement in order to have tolerance. The sooner we all learn that the better we all will be.

Free Speech, Hate Speech and Intolerance have been turned into buzzwords today that are thrown around when it is convenient or to serve an agenda as either an excuse to justify intolerance towards someone/a group of people or to divide all groups against each other in order to maintain control over them as well as anonymity as to what is being done “behind the scenes” that some people want to keep hidden.  Selah (which means stop, pause, and think about that).


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Happy New Year!!!

2017 is here!  The end of 2016 saw my attempts at regular writing in this blog get halted by the loss of my eldest brother Bruce Michael James Sr.  His death was unexpected and had a major impact on me but now I can assuredly say that I’m ready to get back into writing again.  So for 2017 I am going to try to commit to writing at least 1 blog post per week (not including this one) and I hope that you will not only read them, but comment and have dialogue as we tackle some interesting and (for some people) controversial topics.  I write in this blog because it’s my way of commenting on what I see going on in the world and expressing my viewpoint on it as well as to encourage positive dialogue on issues.  Positive dialogue doesn’t mean that we will always agree.  It does mean that agreement or not we will be respectful of one another and learn (if you don’t know how to already) how to agree to disagree when necessary.

So here’s to a great and challenging 2017 everyone.  I look forward to where we will all go and what we will all achieve.  The first post will be out later today and it will be on Free Speech, Hate Speech, & Intolerance.





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The Myth of Self-Preservation

In my opinion Self-Preservation is one of the greatest lies ever told.  It has become such a big lie in society that it has reached mythological status hence the title of this blog post. The LIE of Self-Preservation has been told to us in order to keep people from realizing that our preservation lies in our generations to follow us and the communities that we build, nurture, and grow together.

The definition of Self-Preservation according to Webster’s is:

  1. preservation of oneself from destruction or harm

  2.   a natural or instinctive tendency to act so as to preserve one’s own existence

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I’m Back!

It’s been almost 3 years since my last post, but now I’m back.  I had to reevaluate if I still wanted to write and why I was writing.  I went through many things during this process and time away.  When I started this blog, it was always with the intent of helping people and giving some wisdom and encouragement that I’ve learned along the way in life. I wanted to give back some of what has been given to me, to be who I am in a wider perspective and base.  Sometimes the encourager needs to be encouraged and the one that looks to help needs to be helped.  That has been the case for me these last 3 years, but now I’m back!  I hope to regain the readers I once had as well as to gain new readers as well. My next post will be out shortly, and it is titled: The Myth of Self-Preservation.

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Too much Church, Not enough Ministry

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and this is the first blog post that I choose to write?  Oh boy, might as well get ready.  Before we get into the meat and potatoes of this, let me make this point loud and clear:  THIS IS NOT A POST THAT IS BASHING CHURCH OR BASHING CHRISTIANITY.  THIS IS ABOUT SPEAKING TRUTH!  THIS IS NOT ABOUT TELLING PEOPLE WHAT THEY SHOULD OR SHOULDN’T DO, THIS IS BOUT SHARING WHAT I KNOW TO BE TRUE NOTHING MORE, NOTHING LESS!  I’M ALSO VERY CLEAR THAT THIS DOESN’T APPLY TO ALL CHURCHES, I’M JUST RELATING MY EXPERIENCE OF THE COURSE OF MY LIFE THUS FAR!

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time now.  Too many people confuse Church with a building, and the building with Ministry.  I used to be one of those people, going to church 3, 4, 5, and sometimes 6 (or depending on the time of year) or all 7 days a week.  In church all the time and believing that is what God truly wanted for me to do and where he wanted me to be; thinking that if I was in church all the time that I would miraculously discover my “ministry calling”.  I spent so much time in Church to the point where I really began to believe the lie that everything that I did outside of church needed to stop because it wasn’t of God.  That is one of the biggest myth’s perpetuated today.  The reality that I discovered as I worked in my old church as well as went and visited and participated in events with other churches in the neighborhood is that so many people spend so much time in church that some of the genuine things that we should be doing have been taken for granted and become routine exercises of the flesh and emotion rather than genuine acts of worship of the Spirit.  But worse of all, there really wasn’t a whole lot of actual Ministry going on.  To explain what I mean, let’s define what ministry actually is.  In the Old Testament, there are 3 Hebrew words for Ministry.  The first is:

1. Shareth: service in the tabernacle

2. ‘abodah: labor, service (of God), work

3. Yad: hand of man, strength, power, side of land, part or portion, time, repitition

In the New Testament we find 2 words for Ministry:

1. Diakonia: service, of those who by the command of God proclaim and promote religion among men; the ministration of those who render to others the office of Christian affection especially those who help meet need be either collecting or distributing of charities; the office of prophets, postles, evangelists, elders, deacoms, etc. and its administration.

2. Leitourgia: any service; of the service of workmen; of that done to nature in the cohabitation of man and wife; a gift or benefaction for the relief of the needy.

Do you get the theme of these definitions, ACT OF SERVICE.  Now some might say but Haneef, I serve my pastor, my bishop, my evangelist, my board member, etc. so what’s wrong with that?  If that is you, nothing is wrong with that, BUT what about those outside the church that are in need.  I’ve seen too many examples of “pastors” and other church leaders setting things up so that service is unto them and no one else.  As far as I know having others sever you was not part of the Great Commission or the teachings of Christ.  Unless I misread the Bible and what Jesus said about the Great Commission:

Matthew 28:16-20

King James Version (KJV)

16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.  17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.  18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

So if we are commanded to go into all the world, why are we spending so much time telling all the world to come into the 4 walls of the church?  Why are we telling people that you must forsake whatever gifting or insight doesn’t conform to the rules of the church (but is not forbidden by the Bible or is even contrary to Biblical Teaching)?  What happened to serving people and the community?  What happened to truly helping in all types of need (not just food)?  Then there’s the other side of this.  If you spend so much time in church to the point that your life is work, church, work and church, then what time do you have for your family?  What time do you truly you have for yourself?  What time do you have for your goals and dreams that are outside of church and fully aligned with God’s plan for your life?

I’ve said all that to say that like with alcohol (if you drink); food (if you overeat); or anything else that when misaligned/imbalanced can hurt you, use discretion and moderation.  Church can be a great place to learn, grow, and flourish but for most people, that is not necessarily the place of your ministry.  Take time to discover where that is, and live/work the ministry that is there for you.

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The Myth of the Overnight Success

I get consistently amazed at the idea of someone being an overnight success.  There is no such thing.  Just because a person’s success is new to you doesn’t mean that there wasn’t A LOT OF WORK THAT WENT INTO IT!  Any true success in life be it personal or otherwise comes with a lot of work.  I’ve done a lot of thinking about this as of late because when I think of some of the things that some of my students have said to me, or some of the things that I’ve seen at work with people, the myth of someone being an overnight success is exactly that, a myth.  It takes learning, practicing, applying knowledge, principles, and techniques to become proficient and successful in any endeavor.

Just because some “pop star” or “actor” gets into the spotlight and gains more notoriety; just because you hear about a new “start up” company that’s now very popular and making a lot of money doesn’t mean that they just got here or haven’t been working at it to get where they are.  Success is such a subjective term as it is, that there truly isn’t 1 universal definition that can apply to all people and all endeavors.  Just know that no matter what your definition of success truly is, it will require some effort and work on your part for you to reach a place of success.

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Don’t Overlook The “Simple” Things

In this high tech and ever connected world we live in it can become so easy to overlook the simple things in life that are taken for granted. With such a commercially driven culture that says you are not going to be happy unless you own the latest toy, gadget, car, etc…or if you don’t have the body of “supermodel/fitness model” you are not living life, it becomes very easy to be driven by an appetite to be like what advertisers say you should be instead of appreciating who you are, what you have, and discovering what you truly want. When my plane landed on Saturday morning and I had to drive home I knew what I wanted most after being away for 2 weeks was to see my families faces, to sit in my home, and just relax in my own space. I wanted to watch my son play, hear home laugh, and enjoy his smile.

This morning is now the 3rd day back from my most recent trip to India and I find myself not really thinking about the “necessities” of American life and “Western Culture” but I do find myself thinking about the smile of my son, simplifying my life, breathing deeply, as well as several other things labeled “simple” in this overly and unnecessarily complicated society we live in. India and its wonderful people have really taught me some very valuable lessons about what’s really important to me versus what I thought was important and has really given me an understanding that I need at this stage in my life. It really is worth it to go outside of your own comfort zone and live (even for a short period of time) in foreign environment. You could come back with something that many people (at least in my opinion) are severely lacking, Perspective.

As for me, well let’s just say that I have a lot of work to do to get where I want and need to be, bit it will get done and I will be the better for it.

What “simple” things are you overlooking in your life and what will you do about it once you see it for yourself?

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