I’m Offended That Someone Might Be Offended

by Mike Leake on October 9, 2013 · 13 comments

“It’s as though all human encounter were one big sore spot, inflamed with opportunities to give, and truculently receive, offense.”

So wrote Robert Hughes in his 1993 book, The Culture of Complaint. Twenty years later Hughes’ statement is even more accurate. I’m a child of this little experiment of changing our world through changing our words. For as long as I can remember we have been fighting a war against those dastardly words of black and white. It seems that today we cannot handle the cold reality of concrete words.

Orwell was correct:

If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy…when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language…is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

You cannot hide behind concrete words. Political language (being politically correct) has trained us to even redefine the meaning of the word “is”. This is why we are temporarily speechless when evil confronts us. And it is also why we respond with spin instead of truth. We explain away the evil of a Boston bomber and turn him into a victim. Terrorist attacks have little to do with Islam and more with people hijacking a peaceful religion for their own ends. We’ve lost the ability to use a specific word to describe a very real evil.

The church is not immune. Rather than actually naming sin we hide behind vague terms. People are “broken” not sinful*. There is no sense in confessing our guilty actions of sinning when we can modify it and say “I’m struggling with sin”. We’re offended by the explicit.

Fear and Writing

As a pastor and writer, but mostly as a human being, I have had my fair share of offensive moments. I’ve said and wrote things poorly that caused accidental offense. I’ve even had jerky moments where I said and did things intentionally offensive. Yet, if I’m being honest my most “offensive” posts, sermons, etc. have been the ones in which I offended someone because what I said could be deemed offensive.

We are so unbelievably scared of giving offense in our culture that we can scarcely say anything of substance. Again, I think Robert Hughes nails it when he says that the ones who suffer from this craziness are

“the students…who would like to find a way of setting forth their dissatisfactions with the way America has gone and is going, but now find they can’t speak so freely about them in case they use the wrong word and thus set off flares of complaint and little airbusts of contempt from those on their left” **

Of all people, those that have their identity in Christ should be leading the charge against this foolishness. Yet, it has been my experience that most believers nod their heads in agreement with this cultural hogwash.

Don’t get me wrong. Christians ought to be very cautious about giving unnecessary offense. We must make sure that our words are gracious and seasoned with salt. Yet we are the ones that carry an offensive gospel. We are the ones that must speak in the concrete and absolute because we are the ones that herald a message which cannot be adjusted to fit our whims. We have more to lose than anyone else when offensiveness becomes the only taboo of our culture.

A Few Suggestions

I’m well aware that some self-appointed prophets can take an article like this and continue to be offensive jerks. Those that perceive themselves as truth-tellers like to excuse their jerkiness by pointing to the truthfulness of what they are saying. Therefore, we must check our hearts. Are we saying things to be needlessly offensive? If so, we should repent. Being a shock jock is just as bad as being a namby pamby that is offended at everything (including me just saying namby pamby).

Secondly, we need to ask ourselves whether we are actually offended. Or are we just playing the game of hiding from the black and white? Being offended is a trump card in our culture. Play that one and you don’t have to deal with what is actually being said. Are you actually offended? If so, should you be?

Third, we must continue speaking the unchanging truth—clearly and compellingly. We must not be afraid to make the gospel explicit, even if that explicitness is part of what makes the gospel offensive. Sometimes we can confront with the truth in a parable (a la Nathan and David). Many times it requires us calling sin by name and boldly calling people to repent and trust in Christ.

Lastly, let’s worry less about who might be offended (Mt. 15:12) and more about whether or not something is true and spoken in love. Even if you are offended by something that somebody says we still need to ask ourselves whether or not it is true. If we are the one sharing truth we are accountable for how we share that truth (in love). Don’t confuse those responsibilities.

I’m pleading with the church. Can we please not drink this cultural Kool-Aid? Will we have our identities so firmly placed in Christ that we are not so easily offended? Will we save offense for that which is truly offensive; namely, sin against a holy God.

Church, let’s not play the game.

*Though, I’d argue a term like broken doesn’t need to be totally thrown out.

**It might be beneficial to note that Hughes is no Christian sympathizer. Throughout his book he lambasts Christians as well as liberals.

1 Clark Dunlap October 9, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Wish I’d written this!

2 dr. james willingham October 9, 2013 at 2:05 pm

A humongous part of the problem is that we are being prepared for a dictatorship by the use of a dialectical methodology, and we, being unaware of it, lack the tools, verbal, propagandistic, and otherwise, with which to counter such an insidious and cunning weapon. Words can kill; they can also corrupt and change a society that is ill-prepared to handle such enmity. Even slight research indicates the hatred for the original ideals of our Republic and the theological views of those who instituted it (and it is no easy matter to fly in the face of a century of secular interpretations of our origins). We also face the problem of brainwashing to the extent that when one speaks of the realities of the past, we respond with a prepared agenda for such approaches of truth. Beginning with our first President, we were warned of infiltration and subversion, and, following well-defined courses that have been laid out for us, we evade, avoid, and see through the lens of distortion.

Thank God! There is a way out of our difficulties, namely, that of prayer for a Third Great Awakening. Such prayer pleads the promises recorded by Jonathan Edwards in his Humble Attempt even as they were pleaded by William Carey and Andrew Fuller and others, who were thus led to launch the Great Century of Missions. We can win this battle, and we will, surely, have our thousand generations as indicated by I Chron.16:15 and other like passages. Though we might yet have much to suffer on the way to victory, we are going to win and win big, taking enough souls to meet the n figure mentioned in Rev.7:9, “a number which no man can number.”

3 Doc October 9, 2013 at 3:25 pm

I truly believe we preachers have been tiptoeing through the tulips for years, too much sugar can cause health problems. If John the Baptist, while in the dungeon had said, Herod, what you did wasn’t exactly what you should have done, he may have been released.

Offences are a necessary way of life, I believe we are educated by them, when our ignorance begins to show, I think it’s necessary for an offence to come our way. I think we worry too much about being offensive, in our everyday walk as Christians, and in our duties as Ministers.

The Bible pronounces judgment on people that call bad good, and good bad. Jesus sure done a lot of offending, so did Paul. I’m convinced this preacher has done his share.

4 Christiane October 9, 2013 at 4:53 pm

Matthew 7:3-5

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?
5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

5 Ben Coleman October 9, 2013 at 9:06 pm

Being offended is a trump card in our culture. Play that one and you don’t have to deal with what is actually being said.

Exactly. I’m increasingly regarding Political correctness as the first cousin to Bulverism (which I’ve probably already covered ad nauseum on here). Bulverism essentially says “I don’t have to pay attention to your arguments because (I allege) you came to those conclusions due to some nefarious motivation.” Political correctness says “I don’t have to pay attention to your arguments because you didn’t express them in terms I find acceptable”. Both essentially are tools in the modern tactic of rendering opponents silent, rather than arguing with them.

6 Ben Coleman October 9, 2013 at 9:26 pm

From another perspective, I’ve often thought that something could be learned from FidoNet (FidoNet was an online discussion system that predated the Internet. As in other online discussion fora, they had to deal with the problem of flame wars breaking out). One of the guidelines for FidoNet discussions was “Don’t be excessively annoying. Don’t be excessively annoyed” (I seem to remember the last part sometimes being rendered as “Don’t be easily annoyed”). This translates to other, similar pairings (e.g. “don’t be excessively provoking, and don’t be easily provoked”) Politically correctness take politeness’s “Don’t be excessively offensive”, but fails to pair it with “Don’t be easily offended”, leaving the power in public discourse leaning towards those who easily take offense.

7 Mike Leake (@mikeleake) October 10, 2013 at 9:26 am

Ben, I really like the balance of this. We should have something similar here at Voices.

8 Christiane October 10, 2013 at 5:06 am

MIKE, can you expand on this, please?

“Terrorist attacks have little to do with Islam and more with people hijacking a peaceful religion for their own ends. We’ve lost the ability to use a specific word to describe a very real evil.”

9 Christiane October 12, 2013 at 8:32 am

Mike, what is your full intended meaning here, please?

10 Mike Leake (@mikeleake) October 13, 2013 at 10:08 pm

Christiane,
Rather than trying to restate my argument…allow me to ask you what you think the intended meaning is? That’ll be easier.

11 Christiane October 17, 2013 at 10:07 am

Hi MIKE,
this is my area of concern:
““Terrorist attacks have little to do with Islam and more with people hijacking a peaceful religion for their own ends. We’ve lost the ability to use a specific word to describe a very real evil.”

I would be grateful if you could expand your views on this statement: ““Terrorist attacks have little to do with Islam and more with people hijacking a peaceful religion for their own ends.”
I cannot sort out if you agree with the statement OR you feel that it is not specifically worded to express your opinion.

Again, thanks for responding.

12 Jim Hedrick October 10, 2013 at 4:33 pm

True Love Speaks Truth candidly, humbly yet urgently. Ben thanks for taking the offense on this defensive topic in church life. Keep praying for revival. May God have mercy on us all.

13 Christiane October 12, 2013 at 8:53 am

The Holy Spirit opens the hearts of men to the Gospel of Our Lord.

1 Thessalonians 1:5 “. . . our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.”

Charles Spurgeon must have been inspired by that verse when he wrote the following as a testament to the need for the Holy Spirit to be the ‘Force’ of the Gospel message : it is the Holy Spirit Who points men towards Christ the Lord.

. . ” without prayer what are the church’s agencies, but the stretching out of a dead man’s arm, or the lifting up of the lid of a blind man’s eye? Only when the Holy Spirit comes is there any life and force and power.”
“The power that is in the Gospel does not lie in the eloquence of the preacher, otherwise men would be the converters of souls, nor does it lie in the preacher’s learning, otherwise it would consist in the wisdom of men. We might preach until our tongues rotted, till we would exhaust our lungs and die, but never a soul would be converted unless the Holy Spirit be with the Word of God to give it the power to convert the soul. . . ””
(C.H. Spurgeon)

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