Does the Bible contain hate?
Making the case that the Bible is free
of hate literature
During most of Christian history, the concept that the Bible
contains hate literature -- or even that the Bible contains passages which
recommend immoral activities -- would have been considered ludicrous, even
blasphemous. The Bible was universally considered to be the
inerrant Word of God. The text was written by
humans who were inspired directly by God. It
was viewed as the basis of all Western law and morality. It was often
referred to as the "Good Book."
This belief was shattered for many Jews and Christians in
the 19th century during the great debates about the morality of human
slavery. Many biblical passages accepted human slavery as an natural,
integral part of society. Other passages regulated, and controlled the
institution. After the abolition movement finally convinced most Westerners
that slavery was a profoundly immoral practice, Jews and Christians never
viewed the Bible in the same way again.
In modern times, the Bible has been criticized for approving
of immoral practices, like genocide,
oppression of women, and
discrimination against gays and lesbians. In 1997, a conservative Christian from Alberta,
Canada placed an anti-homosexual ad in a Saskatchewan
newspaper. The ad contained an anti-homosexual symbol and four
citations to passages in Bible -- two from the Hebrew
Scriptures (Old Testament) and two from the Christian Scriptures (New
Testament). Of particular concern was the citing of Leviticus 20:13 which
calls for the execution of at least some homosexuals who engage in at least
some same-sex behaviors. There is no consensus among
theologians about the precise interpretation of this and similar
Many religious liberals believe that it refers to the
condemnation of ritual sex in Pagan temples. They point to the Hebrew word "to'ebah"
which is often translated as "abomination." Tobeh implies a ritual
Many, perhaps most, conservatives believe that it condemns
all gay and
lesbian activity as a serious sin. In fact, in some Bible translations like
the Living Bible and New Living Translation, the word "homosexuality"
appears in these passages.
Justice J. Barclay of the Court of Queen's Bench in
Saskatchewan, Canada apparently interpreted the cited passages
literally. He found that the combination of the symbol and the citation to
Leviticus 20:13 exposes "homosexuals to hatred." 1
The verse, in the King James Version is translated: "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth
with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely
be put to death."
Justice Barclay did not rule that the Bible contains hate literature, as some Canadian
Christians believe and some Fundamentalist Christian para-church
organizations reported. He ruled that the advertisement symbol and biblical
citations together constituted hate literature under the province's Human
Rights Code. 2 The court decision was not
particularly well covered by the secular media. However, the ruling prompted massive
discussion and alarm among religious conservatives throughout North America.
By mid-2003, the Google search engine found hundreds of articles on the
Internet which are critical of this court ruling. Essentially all were on
conservative Christian web sites.
Bruce Clemenger, director of the Evangelical Fellowship
of Canada’s Centre for Faith and Public Life expressed a concern
shared by many Fundamentalist and other Evangelical Christians: that
portions of the Bible might eventually be considered to be hate literature. In response
to a Saskatchewan court decision in 2001 he wrote:
"Under the law, it is people who promote hatred, not
texts. But what if someone’s use of the Bible is deemed by a judge to be
"Publications used to promote hatred can be seized and destroyed. Would
this happen to the Bible in Canada? Perhaps it is unlikely, but what are the
implications of portions of the Bible being found to be hate literature for
the distribution or placement of Bibles in hotel rooms, schools and public
Exactly what is hate literature?
In various human rights codes, literature has been defined as
including some or all of the following: newspapers, articles, essays,
journals, books, radio and television programs, notices, signs, symbols,
emblem, and other representations. 1 "Hate literature"
is defined in the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code as including:"
||Material which is promotes the restriction of a person's or group's human rights.
||Material which promotes ridicule or hatred of a person or group.
We use the code from Saskatchewan, Canada as an example
because it was consulted by a provincial court in the case involving the anti-gay
However, it can be argued that the Saskatchewan and some
similar human rights codes are insufficiently precise. It is quite
permissible to promote "the restriction of a person's or group's human
rights" or to promote "...ridicule or hatred of a person or group..."
under some circumstances. Political cartoonists and
columnists ridicule politicians all the time. It is normally considered
acceptable to advocate stiffer jail sentences for some persons or groups -- e.g.
for convicted murderers or child molesters.
Is the Bible free of hate passages?
Consider biblical passages which promote hatred or oppression on the
basis of a person's race, religion, gender or sexual orientation:
Racist passages: There are few passages in the Bible
which are openly racist. Two exceptions are:
Matthew 15:22-28 describes an incident
between Jesus and a Canaanite woman.
Mark 7:25-30 describes the same incident,
identifying her as Greek / Syrophenician.
She pleaded with
Jesus to cure her daughter who she believed was possessed by a demon. He
first ignored her, but then explained that he was sent only to bring the
Gospel to the Jews, not to the Gentiles such as she. Jesus replied
to the desperate mother that it was not right for him "to take the
children's bread and to cast it to dogs." i.e. it is not appropriate to
take the Gospel, which was intended only for the Jews, and offer it to
Gentiles as well -- here described as sub-humans, as dogs. Jesus was an
observant Jew. In the 1st century
CE such Jews often
referred to Gentiles contemptuously as "dogs." It could be argued
that Jesus' remark was racist. However, the country of Canaan no
longer exists. So it would be difficult to make the case that the passage
constitutes hate literature today. Besides, Jesus appears to have later
changed his mind, and decided that the Gospel should not be restricted to
Jews but was for all humans.
In Matthew 28:19-20, frequently called "The Great Commission," he
is quoted as saying: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing
them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you..."
This would seem to contradict his earlier comments to the woman that the
Gospel was only for Jews.
Sexist passages: There are
many sexist passages in the Bible -- most notably in Hebrew Scriptures.
Prior to the ministry of Jesus, the Bible often describes women as inferior
to men, as sexual predators, as an item of property, and as deceitful and
untrustworthy. They could be sold permanently into slavery; the enslavement
of men was temporary. Non-virgin
brides -- but not non-virgin grooms -- were stoned to death. Some women who were raped
and who did not cry out would also be executed. However
oppressive these passages were to women one can argue that they are not hate
literature. They are simply historical documents recording the culture of Israel in ancient
times. Most of the public have rejected these Bible
passages as being worthless in today's society. At least in Western
countries, women have now been given rights almost equal to men. There are a few
exceptions, such as:
Some armed forces deny women the opportunity to enter
certain combat assignments.
Some conservative religious groups discriminate against women by not
allowing them to enter positions of authority and leadership.
But generally, Western society has abandoned the moral
code of the Hebrew Scriptures with regards to women's rights and freedoms. As the
Jewish Bulletin stated in a 2003-JAN editorial: the "Bible [is] not hate
literature....Because there are some aspects of the Bible that are not taken
literally in this day." 4 Of course,
Christian Reconstructionists might extract
certain biblical passages which oppress women and advocate that they be
applied in the 21st century. Some conservative Christians might teach that
God's will never changes, and that the anti-female passages from the Hebrew
Scriptures remain valid today. But this would only convert the original
Bible quotations into modern-day hate literature. The Bible is simply a
historical document reflecting the laws and customs of the time.
Passages teaching religious intolerance: In biblical
times, cultures in the Middle East followed a great diversity of religious
belief systems. Almost all were polytheistic in nature. With the exception
of a brief flirtation with monotheism in Egypt, ancient Israel was the only
country which worshipped a single God. The Bible taught that the
ancient Hebrews must isolate themselves from other religions and
follow only Yahweh (a.k.a. Jehovah). Some ancient Hebrew males who took wives
of other cultures were killed. Sometimes they escaped with their lives, but their marriages were declared
null and void. Hebrews who recommended that their fellow citizens worship
other Gods were to be killed. Similarly in the Christian Scriptures, many authors promoted
Christianity as an exclusive religion. Its
followers had the duty to proselytize and convert Jews and
Gentiles to Christianity. But they were to keep themselves free of
contamination from followers of other religions. In 1 Corinthians 10:20, Paul goes so far
as to say that when the Gentiles worship their Gods, they worship demons.
The biblical passages which exhibit hatred and rejection of other religions are
accurate portrayals of the beliefs of the time. However, Western society has
generally abandoned the moral code of the Hebrew Scriptures with regards
to religious freedom and tolerance. We have legislation which prohibits
oppression of people on the basis of their religion.
There are websites on the
Internet which promote special privileges for Christians and/or promote the
restriction of human rights for religious minorities. Some might quote
the Bible. But this would only convert the original Bible quotations into
modern-day hate literature. The Bible itself is a historical document
reflecting the laws and customs of the time. Biblical passages may sometimes be
incorporated into modern-day hate literature; but they are not hate
Homophobic passages: (The term "homophobic"
has many meanings. We use it here in the most common sense of wishing to oppress
gays and lesbians, and opposing the granting of equal rights to homosexuals). There are
classical "clobber" passages in the Bible which condemn certain homosexual acts.
However, theologians cannot agree on their precise
Most religious conservatives interpret the passages as
condemning all same-gender sexual activities:
Whether done by gays,
lesbians, bisexuals, or even heterosexuals, and
Whether it is within a loving,
committed relationship, or by two singles.
Many religious liberals interpret the passages as condemning
specific same-sex behaviors, such as rape, ritual sex in Pagan temples,
prostitution, heterosexuals engaging in homosexual acts against their basic
nature, child sexual abuse, or bestiality. They interpret the Bible as being
silent on same-gender sexual activities by committed couples.
behavior was a crime punishable by death In biblical times. This was quite
easy to understand if one considers the culture of the time:
Israel was under continual attack from neighboring
countries. They needed to maximize their birth rate in order to build up
their army. Thus, they needed to promote heterosexual marriage and child
The authors of the Hebrew Scriptures wanted to emphasize
that their culture was very different from the Pagan cultures in
surrounding countries. One way of doing this was to treat homosexual
behavior in a much more serious way than was done in other countries. They declared at
least some homosexual activities to be criminal acts and resorted to
execution as punishment.
Again, these passages merely reflect the cultures during
biblical times. Some people might create anti-homosexual literature which
incorporates quotations from
the Bible. But this might only convert the original Bible quotations into
modern-day hate literature. The passages are not hate literature themselves.
It is worth noting that prior to 2003-JUN-26, thirteen
states in the U.S. had laws criminalizing same-gender sexual activity.
Before that date, it might be argued that literature which advocated the
restriction of gay and lesbian rights or which promoted hatred of
homosexuals might not be considered hate literature. After all, the activity
We conclude that a case can be made that the Bible does not
contain hate literature. However, if selected passages are extracted from
the Bible, and placed in an anti-homosexual article, that the result could
be hate literature.
Some statements by conservative Christians on this topic:
Bert Haverkamp wrote an article for the Cambridge [ON]
Reporter. It said, in part:
"When I read or hear the 'the Bible is hate literature' and know that
it's God's word - that really concerns me. In the Bible, it says: 'For God
so loved the world, that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes
in Him shall not perish but have eternal life' (John 3:16). This directly
contradicts this espoused notion of 'hate literature'." 5
"Reflector" posted a brief article to FaithForum
which said, in part:
"When people say the word of God is hate literature, something is wrong.
That makes me see red. The word of God is pure and good, and homosexuals are
not, All people in general are not. I know that I for one am of a sinful
nature, just like everyone else on the earth....It's laughable to say that
the Bible is hate literature, in any light. But these things must come to
pass before the end. We will see how hateful the Bible is when every knee is
bowing to God in the day of judgement, eh?" 6
Bruce Clemenger, Director of the Centre for Faith and
Public Life, at The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada wrote a
letter to the Honourable Martin Cauchon, Minister of Justice asking for an
interpretation of a proposed federal bill C-415. He wrote, in part:
"Sacred Texts ...under the Criminal Code literature becomes
hate propaganda if it is used by someone to promote hatred against an
identifiable group. Leviticus 20:13 states, 'If a man lies with a man as one
lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be
put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.' If this text is used
by someone to promote hatred or advocate genocide as defined in the Code,
will the Bible itself be considered hate literature? Is it only in its use
that literature becomes hate propaganda or, once used inappropriately, will
it then be deemed to be hate propaganda in itself? How will section 320,
dealing with seizure of offensive material, be applied?"
"Public Incitement of Hatred ...the definition of
public incitement to hatred leaves churches and other places of worship in a
potentially difficult position. A church meets the definition of a public
place in s. 319. If a religious text such as Leviticus is read in a church
or a sermon is preached on the morality of certain sexual activities, and in
either situation activists attend to disrupt the service, would either the
reading of the aforementioned text or the preaching be considered 'public
incitement of hatred'?" 7
Pastor James Brown Jr. wrote:
"The Bible as 'hate literature', a WorldNetDaily (WND) article on October
21, 2002, described the assault against the Kingdom of Christ in Canada.
Most Christians may be surprised to hear that the Bible is being regarded as
'hate literature' by our Northern neighbors. However, this is not just
confined to Canada but is a global trend that is even being designed for
America as well. This new order of global government is at war with Christ
and seeks to destroy those whose allegiance is or could possibly be to the
Kingdom of Christ." 8
Don Boys wrote:
"Canada is a nation that has traveled this road where it is illegal to
criticize homosexuals (and others) in public. When I cross the border, I
could be arrested or at least refused entrance because of some of my books
and tapes dealing with homosexuals and others....Did you know that it is
illegal in Germany, Austria, and Lithuania to deny the holocaust? People
have gone to jail because of that 'crime.' Did you know that you only have
to suggest that six million Jews were not killed by Hitler, and you can go
to jail?....Teaching Bible truths is not hate, and I will never permit
anyone to tell me what to preach. There are not enough federal agents with
all their guns, etc., to influence my preaching. Period! The next time I'm
in Canada, I'll say what I want to say about sodomites, baby killers, etc."
The magazine editor added the following comment to Boys' article: "Remember
to the liberal mind the Bible is hate literature. Eventually this is the way
the Word of God will be classified and the time will come in American when
it will be against the law to have a Bible. Hate literature!!! Go ahead and
||Bob Davies, past president of Exodus International wrote: "The
Bible's condemnation of homosexuality is as clear and plain as the Bible's
condemnation of murder, adultery, premarital sex, kidnapping, lying and
idolatry. Further, for me to openly condemn homosexuality theologically
makes me no more a 'gay basher' than I am an 'adultery basher',
'premarital sex basher', 'kidnapper basher' or a 'murderer basher.' If you
disagree, your argument is with God's Bible. The homosexual community has
two ways of promoting their personal choices of being homosexual through
the religious forum. First, some will claim the Bible actually promotes
and condones homosexuality. Second, others try to get the Bible banned
from public use by categorizing it as hate literature." 10
||"JesusFreakGal" posted a comment to a Beliefnet bulletin board: "The
Bible will be declared 'hate literature' and those who preach from it will
be guilty of 'hate crimes.' I personally am afraid that if cases like this
occur again, non-christians may come to see those who preach from the
bible as hypocrit, [sic] and non [sic]a true christian, for believing in something
that is considered 'hateful.' Scary thought, isn't it?" 11
The text of the ruling by Justice J. Barclay of the Court of
Queen's Bench in "Owens v. Saksatchewan (Human Rights
Commission) QB02511" is online at:
http://www.aloha.net/~mikesch/bible-ruled-hate-speech.htm and at:
"The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code," Government of
Saskatchewan, Canada, at:
http://www.qp.gov.sk.ca/ You need software to read these PDF files. It can be obtained free from:
Bruce Clemenger, "Hate bill puts chill on public discussion of sexual
morality," Christian Week, 2002-NOV-26, at:
"Bible not hate literature," The Western Jewish
Bulletin, 2003-JAN-3, at:
Bert Haverkamp, "Bible isn't hate literature," The
Cambridge Reporter, 2003-JAN-14, at:
"Reflector," Posting to FaithForum.org on 2003-JUL-12, at:
Bruce Clemenger, Letter to Martin Cauchon, Minister of Justice,
http://www.evangelicalfellowship.ca/ You may need software to read these files. It can be obtained free from:
James Brown Jr., "Imminent Return or Imminent Danger?" 2002-NOV-27,
Don Boys, "Are hate crimes in our future?," FlamingTorch.org, at:
Bob Davies, "Homosexuality is Condemned in the Bible!," The
Interactive Bible, at:
"JesusFreakGal," "It's sad but true," Beliefnet.com, 2003-JUL-16,
Copyright © 2003 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2003-AUG-20
Latest update: 2004-JUL-03
Author: B.A. Robinson