Original Research - Special Collection: Practical Theology

When two elephants fight, it is the grass that is trampled: A practical theological elucidation of the predatory attitude of hate speech

Ferdi P. Kruger
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 74, No 2 | a4923 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v74i2.4923 | © 2018 Ferdi P. Kruger | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 29 January 2018 | Published: 10 October 2018

About the author(s)

Ferdi P. Kruger, Unit for Reformational Theology and the Development of the South African Society, North-West University, South Africa


This study addresses a topic that is often neglected by faith communities, like the proverbial expression ‘an elephant in the room’, namely, hate speech. A community of believers could easily be guilty of practices of hate speech by keeping themselves silent or not being mindful in the way they talk about people. What is more is that the saying ‘when two elephants fight, it is the grass that is trampled’ represents something of the dynamics around this issue in reminding people of the harmful consequences of hate speech for people in close proximity to people who are guilty of hate speech. This article argues that a greater awareness of the intrinsic aspects involved in hate speech is needed before one could even mention the issue of combating it. The predatory attitude that underlies hate speech is examined from a practical theological vantage point. The functioning of attitudes, inner speech, attributes and silence are elucidated. The research question therefore asks whether the silence of faith communities on the predatory nature of hate speech in the public sphere contributes to the fact that people are unaware of their own attributional biases. These biases consequently gather momentum and are voiced as hate speech. This research offers analytical perspectives from the viewpoint of ethics, social psychology and communication sciences to indicate the value of speaking truth in love. Perspectives on the concept of boldness, speaking truth in love and the attitude of like-mindedness with Christ are also offered. After this hermeneutical consideration, the article concludes with practical theological perspectives on how hate speech could be addressed.


Hate speech; inner speech; attributes; attitudes


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