12 February 2015

Do you want to be offended?

Just a few more words about last week's uproar over Barack Obama's brief overview of why Christians should not be on a "high horse" about religious terrorism.

Last week I quoted one example (Jim Gilmore's) of the abusive rhetoric directed at Obama for his remarks at, of all things, a prayer breakfast. I don't intend to pile on former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore, who by some accounts did a decent job as governor of the state. He hardly fits the template of a total villain in this piece. That leaves me to wonder how it could be that a likable, churchgoing politician would feel the license to accuse the president of unprecedented offensiveness for such a mild and conventional, even pious, speech. True, that speech contained a paragraph or two of candid confession of Christian shortcomings--but nothing that the governor himself wouldn't have learned in school. Gilmore's campaigning on behalf of Martin Luther King's state holiday in Virginia is testimony that he's not ignorant about these sins.

(In fairness to Gilmore, I've written to him about my concerns through his Facebook page. If I hear anything, I'll update this.)

At no charge, here's my modest set of guidelines to protect us innocent "believing Christians" from being victimized by presidential offensiveness. Hopefully it will also protect us from other politicians, celebrities, punk feminist musicians, and each other....

How to know if you've truly been offended, and how to respond:
  1. Is the accusation actually true? How do you know?
  2. If the offenders are Christians (note: per C.S. Lewis, Christians are people who say they are Christians), have you confronted them or their representatives according to biblical guidelines?
  3. If confrontation is impractical, have you sincerely attempted in your heart to give them the benefit of the doubt? Nobody is forced to be offended. Can you honestly say that you've tried resisting the impulse (or temptation) to take offense?
  4. Do you pray for those who persecute you? Or who might appear to do so?
  5. Did someone else tell you that you should be offended? Does that person have your best spiritual interests at heart, or could there be some other agenda that he or she is serving? Do they make a living from spreading dislike of the alleged offenders?
  6. Do you already dislike the alleged offenders? Are you hoping to be offended so you can be confirmed in your dislike and enjoy the company of others sharing that dislike?
  7. Are you aware of the power of religious rhetoric and the danger of its misuse? Are you careful not to say more than you really know about the faith of another person, even a politician or celebrity?
Finally, if you can't shake off the horror of the offense committed against you, ask yourself which of the following would be the more Christ-like response:

"He has offended every believing Christian in the United States." (My emphasis.)
"Father, forgive them, they don't know what they're doing."

I'm just noticing how often I've dealt with the topic of offending and being offended in a religious context. A few examples:
I'm afraid that these frequent cases are a sign of the times, a symptom of wholesale and willful neglect of the commandment against false witness.

Another voice on the topic (Micah Bales): Does Obama owe Christians an apology?

Are Kaluga's Lutherans guilty of disloyalty to Russia?

I plan to attend the Friends of Jesus Community's spring gathering--it would be wonderful to see you there! But if you can't make it to Barnesville, Ohio, in March, maybe you can get to Balaton, Hungary, in July, for the Quaker Voluntary Action Friendship Camp.

Dream, then die. (A little imp on my shoulder is asking, "Hey, Christian, how outraged are we by this offense?")

E-Stonia and the Future of the Cyberstate.

Tail Dragger brings Chicago to Vienna, thanks to Texanoblues.


acilius said...

Very good points. You remind me of Dostoyevsky, who throughout his major novels keeps making observations to the effect that "People in general greatly love to be insulted."

Johan Maurer said...

What other writer would have written a novel entitled The Humiliated and Offended?