Engaging Culture

The “Too Easily Offended” Culture

I sometimes get frustrated with how easily people get offended today – particularly when it comes to religious topics.  I’ve been in a couple of situations lately when the issue of Christianity came up and one person in the group nearly became apoplectic.  They became so offended we had to change the subject.

The thought occurred to me that over my career, I’ve filmed in more than 40 countries, and seen many religious rites and services of all kinds.  I’ve seen voodoo and Santeria ceremonies in the Caribbean and South America, animism in Africa, and strange, hybrid Catholic-folk religion services near the headwaters of the Amazon.  But in all those experiences, I can’t ever remember once being “offended.”

What is it about our culture when we’ve become so easily offended?  I have to admit that I don’t see it when a Buddhist shares his faith.  And we live in a time when it’s political incorrect to have any issues with Islam (in some European countries it’s illegal to criticize Islam.)  So why is Christianity such a lightening rod?  And why is it when you bring up the subject people get so bent out of shape?

It’s an important question because the issue is a major obstacle to the continuing dialogue between people of differing faiths…

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  1. Unfortunately even amongst Christians within the Church world there are many who have fallen to offense (and are deeply offended as witnessed by many even on this blog) especially from leadership to members (and vice versa) of the church for one reason or the other. There are many many Christians who are just as offended as there are offended non-Christians about matters regarding the Church but I think some of it has been attributed to the abuse of power which the Church has exhibited in regards to our leadership structure both in the Church and outside of it – especially the last ten years. We have to certain extent missed what makes us Christians in the first place – our relationship, friendship and life in Christ Jesus and somehow traded it for power (unfortunately political for all the wrong reasons) and worldly authority – and I somehow I don’t think that is what the Lord primarily wanted us to do while here on earth. As soon as we begin to lord it over ourselves in the Body of Christ it has very adverse effects amongst Christians and then to the rest of the world. But I’m speaking mainly in regards to issues of offense within the Church world – that of those outside of the Body of Christ is a whole different matter which I will look into.

  2. I've found that if the name of Jesus is mentioned in a group, you can hear a pin drop. The name of Jesus has a power that makes people feel uncomfortable. Even the demons fear that name.

  3. There's a new fallacy in town, the fallacy of outrage.  "Your opinion causes me pain/anger/fear so it's invalid."  I've encountered it over and over again, starting the day I entered my junior year of college as a 28 year old Marine Corps veteran.  Significantly older than my peers, and from a very no-nonsense segment of Americana, I found this fallacy incredible.

    It's practically pandemic in American thought, and it stifles honest discourse in Science, Politics, Art and Theology.  I'm at a loss to understand how to counter it.  One minute I'm engaged in earnest discourse, the next I'm listening to the logical equivalent of Elmer Fudd singing "Feelings".  It's discordant drivel, but I'm a "meanie" if I don't drop the subject, shed a couple of sympathetic tears and comfort the histrionic party on the other side of the argument. 

    No wonder opposing parties won't engage each other in meaningful dialog.  The high drama of this debate tactic is emotionally exhausting.  Better to prose about the weather than discuss something of significance.

  4. It has become politically incorrect to talk about Islam in any kind of negative light only because people fear the potential backlash from the Muslim community.

    In terms of other religious beliefs, I can remember encountering a Hare Krishna follower at LAX airport last year. He politely came over to me and started to share his beliefs in an effort to convert me. When I told him that I was a Christian, he said, “Hey, we believe in Jesus too.” When I began to ask him “what exactly” did he believe about Jesus, he engaged me in conversation. I didn’t know anything about his beliefs so I listened and asked questions, but when I pressed him about Jesus being the only way, he began to get very angry and his smile immediately turned into a frown. He began to tell me that Jesus Christ can’t be the only way to God. As we continued to talk for a moment, he became even more angry and then ended the conversation, telling me that we will never agree on this point. I told him to have a nice day and “God bless you.” He managed to crack a smile and then walked off to a person a number of feet away.

    Christianity, is one of the issues, that in this age of relative truth, the mere mention of Jesus or the Bible conjures up the image of a God who has absolutes. A certain segment of the offended population feel this way because attached to the name of Jesus is the reality of there being “one way to heaven” and the reality of what happens to those who do not choose this Way – “hell”. So to bring up Christianity and Jesus, in many minds, is to say “let’s talk about the way you are living (SIN) and what God thinks about it.”

    Also, I am sure many people are feeling offended because of instances where segments of the Church has abused its power and authority. I am reminded of a friend from seminary who was sharing the gospel with a person who got very angry at the mention of God. My friend asked the guy, “Are you angry at God or at the way God has been portrayed?” The guy thought about it for a minute and said, “I’m angry at the way God has been portrayed.” Turns out he had some negative experiences in his past. This reminds me of what Phil said in his book, Branding Faith, “‘Perception’ is a powerful word and has enormous consequences.”

    Allen Paul Weaver III

    Author, Transition: Breaking Through the Barriers


  5. Allen…I like what you have said.  Granted there are those who have had negative Christian experiences, but I have also seen where those same individuals have used their "bad experience" as an excuse to reject the Savior.  I do believe there are times and seasons for us to speak, to act, to befriend, to reach out to one…in all that we do, we must believe that God's Word is truth and "it will not return void but will accomplish the thing that it was sent to do."  The Gospels give us the full range of the world's reactions to the Gospel message…some being rather intense/extreme.  Our job is to be obedient with this message of grace and forgiveness (salvation) and walk in bold love as Jesus did, regardless of the response.

    As for your Hare Krishna friend, I believe he will not forget that you listened and spoke truth to his soul.

  6. Now for the second part of this conversation which is, why are people so easily offended in regards to Christianity. As I mentioned earlier one of the reasons is; abuse of power and authority from the Church (and every form/facet/denomination has missed it here) within its congregation and then how this has been portrayed to the rest of the world. But another side is, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is by nature offensive to people period, (APW3 has brilliantly analysed this – I’m just putting my take on it:-)) especially those who are profiting from the things of this world’s system. Those who are in positions of wealth, status, power, who are able to live the way they want to without accountability (self is king) it is those kinds of people who are easiliy offended by the Gospel. Why should they submit to the idea that there is only one way to heaven? When of course they can buy anything, do anything and have anything they want, when they want it and how they want it. This is true for most people in the West. One thing the Lord has told me when I meet such people who hate the idea & absolute truth (yes it is an absolute truth as Jesus clearly stated it and minced no words about it) of Jesus being the only Way to God the Father in Heaven, is I ask them; how is their relationship life with either their spouse or partner or other family members? 9 times of 10 they say it is bad or they are just enduring one another. Then I ask them to do just one thing and the relationship will begin to work (I did not say it will perfect everything – I said begin). Give up self, listen to your partner/spouse and do what she says – daily. At this point they leave. But those who did it – they are shocked at how self-centred and dominant they have been they cannot believe it until they heard it from their spouse – one even said that things his parents had told him to change, and he refused, only to find the very same things his wife complaining about. People are so selfish that they are completely blinded to it let alone even ready to hear from others. In a culture that is self-indulgent, has never known what it means to suffer for something outside of itself – yes the Gospel of Jesus Christ is offensive and the higher up you are in life the harder it is to accept it. No wonder the Gospel of Jesus Christ is always responded to best by the oppressed and the downtrodden of life (even though it is for all) because it is the only faith that lifts the poor and produces value in broken people – like no other religion or belief system can or ever will. It is the only one that seeks to restore broken relationships. Finally, I heard that offended people are unresolved relationship people so when such people show up ask them to resolve the broken relationship/s in their life and the offense/s will cease to exist.

  7. The Taliban who killed the Christian aid worker in Afghanistan is an example of people who could not take it that the people this Christian woman cared for were people they had rejected, abandoned and now a Christian shows up and cares for these same rejected people all in the Name of Jesus Christ. That was too much for them. And yet if you check it out at the root of it is envy and bitterness of them seeing someone else do what they should have done but never did. She was killed violently while caring for the most forgotten people in the world; the poor and the disabled. I thank God that this made global headlines in the news media showing that there are Christians who still love God more than their very own lives to the point that they are willing lay it down for others out of His love. It is same thing happening in India amongst the outcastes and the Christians who are caring for them [the outcastes] and giving them back their dignity and value as human beings in this world – and the violent backlash this has produced from the Hindus who are mad that the very people they have rejected and isolated for centuries based on false religious beliefs are now being embraced by Christians, empowered, educated and being trained with valuable life skills that will make productive people – that is too much for the Hindus to comprehend and according to them it must stop even if this means people will be killed in the process to achieve this! At the root offense are broken relationships.

  8. I don’t see any reason to be offended by Christianity even though I am not a Christian. I believe that it all boils down to the fact that some individuals are too sensitive these days and why I do not know.

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