Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Do we have the right to hate?

Written by: on March 7, 2024

Bothersome, that is how I found this book and my trying to understand.  I do not believe I would’ve ever been a philosophy major….it hurts my head.  My thoughts on Steven Hicks book Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault;  I get it, or I think I get it, we are going down and down the spiral of meaning with Hicks. I think, (not sure I have it right) that he is giving us first the definition and defining characteristics of “pre-modernism, medieval(400 CE to 1400 CE)”[1] and “modernism, enlightenment ( early 20th century)[2] to now “Post-modernism as the late 20th century”[3].  What I will say, in an optimistic way, is that this book is absolutely thorough!

 When trying to read this book, I was drawn to chapter on Free Speech and Postmodernism.  I’m not sure why, except it seems to go with everything we’ve been talking this semester on ideology and cancel culture.  I am wrestling with the question, can we really and truly say whatever we want?  Honestly there seems to be certain people who can say whatever they want, consequences be damned.  Hicks gets deep into speech code and the meaning of language and deeper and deeper we go..on a podcast episode with Jordan B. Peterson, they go to this very place.  They ask “who gives words meaning?” and where they lost me is when they start going to the dictionary and then start asking “who wrote the dictionary?”  “Who had the right to decide that was the meaning of the word?” and “why do we all comply?”[4]  Here is my bothersome understanding of this book:


Do we have the right to hate and use hateful language?  Last week our colleague and friend Todd Henley wisely wrote a blog about Lament. We cannot skip over lament and get to the solution to what I believe is another wicked problem of hate. So,Hicks asserts that postmodernists will say “Anyone who thinks honestly about the history of racism and sexism knows that many words are designed to wound. And if you are not a member of a minority group, you cannot imagine the suffering that the mere use of those words inflicts on people. In short, hate speech victimizes people and so we should have special protections against hateful forms of speech-not all speech: only hate speech”.[5]  This is true in my opinion, words have meaning, meanings we all agree to, and hate speech has no place in any public forum. (I would say private forums too, but who am I to say what you do or don’t say in the privacy of your home).  Where I am troubled, and please correct me if I am wrong, the author seems to go on to say, “that we have the right to hate people.  It is a free country-and some people are in fact deserving of hate. Hatred is a perfectly rational and just response to extreme assaults on one’s core values”.[6]  Okay, yes, it is a feeling word, we grow up learning the word and its meaning especially when it came to peas, right?  Hicks then says “But more directly to the point of the argument here, I argue that racial hate speech does not victimize.  It hurts only if one accepts the terms of the speech, and acceptance of those terms is not what we should be teaching.”[7]

Hate is a wicked problem, and because it is a wicked problem, I have to say how much the above paragraph is super disturbing.  On a very simplified breaking down of the words, I suppose I would say he is right; words only have meaning because we let them.  What I cannot get behind is a white male writing a chapter on racial and sexual hate speech saying it does not victimize.  All power corrupts and victimization of those not in power ie, racial minorities and women, I just cannot get behind saying, “I’m rubber and your glue, whatever you say bounces of me and sticks to you” or “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me”.  All I can say is bullshit.  We have already decided as a culture that words have meanings, and hate speech is meant to keep the “other” down.  How do we tell anyone on the other end of hate speech, that bully’s words only hurt because you allowed it to hurt you.  This is dangerous rhetoric and leads to victim blaming behavior and around and around we go.


Love is a wicked problem too. Well maybe not so much a problem (except when I say how much I love tortilla chips, that is a wicked problem to my waistline).  I know Hicks is not making any case for God’s love, but Love wins…every time.

I agree, as a voting member of a free society, that we do indeed have the right to hate others.  We do not have the right to use public forums to have hate speech.  I know there are so many sensitivities out there now, and we all will screw up in one way or another, and I don’t think any of us should be canceled, but we must be held accountable to acknowledging our ignorance, or our actions hurt someone else, even when we didn’t mean to.  Why can’t we ask for forgiveness anymore and why oh why can we not forgive?  It’s going to eat us alive if we can’t find a way past hate!

[1] Hicks, Steven. Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault. (RedlandBay, Connor Court Publishing Pty.Ltd, 2019), 8.

[2] Hicks, 15

[3] Ibid,15

[4]  Jordan B. Peterson podcast, Stephen Hicks: Philosophy and Postmodernism, Jordan’s Conversation with Stephen Hicks, May 5, 2019, Scribd.

[5] Hicks, Steven. Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault. (RedlandBay, Connor Court Publishing Pty.Ltd, 2019), 242

[6] Hicks,242.

[7] Ibid,242.

About the Author


Jana Dluehosh

Jana serves as a Spiritual Care Supervisor for Signature Hospice in Portland, OR. She chairs the corporate Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging committee as well as presents and consults with chronically ill patients on addressing Quality of Life versus and alongside Medical treatment. She has trained as a World Religions and Enneagram Spiritual Director through an Anam Cara apprenticeship through the Sacred Art of Living center in Bend, OR. Jana utilizes a Celtic Spirituality approach toward life as a way to find common ground with diverse populations and faith traditions. She has mentored nursing students for several years at the University of Portland in a class called Theological Perspectives on Suffering and Death, and has taught in the Graduate Counseling program at Portland Seminary in the Trauma Certificate program on Grief.

9 responses to “Do we have the right to hate?”

  1. mm Kim Sanford says:

    Your line of thinking is really important here and it’s something I’ve been thinking about as we’ve been reading so much about cancel culture, rational discourse, etc. On one hand, I wholeheartedly agree that we should be able to speak our mind, present our rational arguments and not have to self-censor all the time. And yes, it takes a lot of self-differentiation on the part of the listener to not get offended or take everything personally. That said, there absolutely have to be lines that we don’t cross when it comes to hate speech, racial slurs and the like. The problem (in my mind) is when that line is different for different people. And so once again the question seems to be who decides where those lines are and what do we do when we disagree? A wicked problem for sure.

    • mm Jana Dluehosh says:

      I am so thankful you caught on to my line of thinking. I was a bigger challenge than I thought to communicate it in a way that was open and inviting! I agree with you that the problem perhaps isn’t that we don’t agree, I don’t think any of us think we will all ever land on the same page, and if we do we are probably in a cult, it’s in the fact that we can agree on the rules of engagement and understand “can we” vs. “should we”. It is a huge wicked problem.

  2. OOhhhh! C’Mon Jana, lady! OH! MY! I’m feeling your post and your pain. Preach it girl! I felt like taking up an offering after reading your blog! You said what I have been waiting to say about free speech…”Do we have the right to hate and use hateful language?” But the way you worded it makes me go inward and process…
    Hate is an emotion, an intense strong feeling. And since it is an emotion, how would an emotionally healthy person handle feelings of distain, anger, or hate? Maybe an emotionally healthy person would process those feelings with others and God’s Word. They would do this in order to respond in a loving and/or graceful way because hateful words causes division, pain, and conflict. An emotionally healthy person will cause reconciliation, healing, and hope. So do we have the right to hate and use hateful speech? My answer is what does hate and hate speech lead to? What does kind words and loving speech lead to? Let’s choose whatever brings us together.

    • mm Jana Dluehosh says:

      Todd, can I pay you to just follow me around and be my personal cheerleader, motivational coach? I am grateful to call you friend. Thank you for seeing me and I’m glad my line of thought on free speech was meaningful. I especially liked how you said it brought you inward! YES!! This is where all the work begins, isn’t it. I think you and I have very similar experiences with our work with others knowing as we walk alongside others, we have to attend to our inner being and knowing otherwise we will lose ourselves and worst yet, lose our own identity as God’s beloved creatures. You are just the greatest. Thanks Todd

  3. Adam Harris says:

    Nice post Jana! I think you are on to something with WHO is saying what. This is where postmodernism might hold value if it means recognizing the worldview and lived experience we are standing in when creating our arguments. I’m still trying to figure out postmodernism and its character, but I’m not sure if Hicks was completely fair in his assessment of it. Still learning!

    • mm Jana Dluehosh says:

      Yes, this is a concept I think I’ve only scratched at. I honestly feel more confused by Hicks book then deeper into knowing. Suppose that’s the character of learning:). I’m just not on the otherwise of threshold learning on it.

  4. mm Tim Clark says:

    I really appreciate that you call out this idea that “racial hate speech does not victimize”.

    Because I think it’s a matter of perspective. If its hateful, threatening words spoken by a person from a culture (or ideology, or family, or…) that has a long history of manifesting violence towards the culture being spoken to, I would certainly think that can be victimizing!

    As you point out, when a white guy says “these are just words…they can’t hurt” he is expressing a lack of any understanding of the potential power of those words and the fear they can inspire and the actual violence they can inspire in others who are listening to them.

    So, sure, it’s a matter of perspective… which brings me back to postmodernism; Maybe that’s something we can thank postmodernity for…the ability to see and live into nuance and perspective instead of calling it all ‘black and white’ and rationalizing someone’s different lived experience away because we may not think it’s rational.

  5. mm Jana Dluehosh says:

    Live into the nuance…I like it. We keep looking for black and white and it’s in reality gray!

  6. mm John Fehlen says:

    I’ve already got my eight posts for the week, but I wanna chime in here and say how I always appreciate your perspective Jana – and frankly, just you as a human.


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