Sometimes being offended isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes being emotionally harmed by someone’s rant, or sentiment, or opinion is just what my soul and character needs. How could that be the case you say? Well consider the following exercise that I occasionally engage in. I write about free speech a lot. I defend it daily. I’m writing my dissertation on a defense of speech rights. So frequently I hear people say that as a white Anglo-Saxon protestant male, I’ve never experienced hate speech. Up close. I don’t know how it feels to be thought stupid, wicked, or lumped into one category with “my people.” And they are right. As a general rule, I don’t encounter racism, sexism, etc. on a daily basis. It’s cozy up here in the ivory tower. So every so often I purposely expose myself to offense and ridicule. While I could do just by picking up any article or book by Richard Dawkins, my favorite way of doing this is by looking at sites that sell t-shirts on the internet. Sites like Café Press are filled with page after page of T-shirts making fun of and ridiculing Christians. Here’s the one that is my favorite to get offended by:
The Belief that some cosmic Jewish Zombie can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him that you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree. Makes perfect sense.
That offends me on so many levels. It implies that if I genuinely believe this that I’m stupid, or irrational. It offends every Christian martyr in China that is languishing away in prison or has died with the name of that “Jewish zombie” on their lips. But here’s the thing. Something important happens when I meditate on my offense. First of all I learn to accept that the price I pay to wear my T-shirt that has the argument for the existence of God draped across the back is that others get to disagree with my entire belief system in as tacky a way as they want. Second, I get a picture of what the gospel translates to people who have a completely scientistic (not scientific) worldview. If we are nothing but a random collocation of atoms arranged by chance, then the idea of a human being who rose from the dead and offers grace for the scales of cosmic justice, really does sound strange. Suddenly, it begins to really hit home that extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. Thankfully we have it. Third, thinking about my offense forces me to CALM DOWN. To gain some distance and not lather up a good helping of Pharisee-like indignation that if I let it would have me using my least favorite phrase: “How Dare They. Think of the Kids. There ought to be a law!” Finally, it forces me to do probably the most difficult thing Jesus asked any self-righteous wind-bag like myself to do: You all know the words, sing along with me:
But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matt. 5:33)
Somewhere behind these T-shirt sentiments is a person God loves very, very much. And that goes for Nazis, Islamo-facists with their “Death to America” and even Richard Dawkins. A little exercise in offense leads to some much needed prayer (and just try to hate someone you are praying for—I dare you.) Because I need to be like my Father in heaven who doesn’t censor hatred by pouring down consuming fire on the head of the Neo-Nazi World Church of the Creator every time he invokes the name of Christ in the same breath with the phrase “Mud people”. God warms his face just the same. He holds out salvation freely for him as well.
Now all of this isn’t just academic because there is a growing trend in the world that sees offense as the kind of harm that warrants silencing in the name of social justice and equality. Commissions are being set up to hear complaints by those who have been offended and those who feel threatened by any anti-religious or bigoted sentiment. One such commission in Canada, the Canadian Human Rights Commission subpoenas the offending party to appear before the commission to answer for their words or writing. Keep in mind that the offended party has no expenses whatsoever. The offender must (if she’s smart) obtain legal counsel and appear before the commission. However, I have it on good authority that the CHRC has a 100% conviction rate. Every single person that has made it before the full commission has been forced to either apologize—or if the offended party requests in their initial accusation—render monetary damages. (As erudite columnist Mark Steyn has commented, how can you tell if a legal proceeding is a kangaroo court? One clue: If it has a 100% conviction or acquittal rate). What kind of things get you hauled before the CHRC? How about a statement by Steyn in which he says, “The number of Muslims in Europe is expanding like mosquitoes.” That’s number 16 on the commission complaint filed by the Canadian Islamic Congress. But here’s the kicker, it’s actually part of a quote from Steyn’s book America Alone where he quotes a Scandinavian Imam. Here’s the full quote:
“We’re the ones who will change you,’ the Norwegian imam Mullah Krekar told the Oslo newspaper Dagbladet in 2006. ‘Just look at the development within Europe, where the number of Muslims is expanding like mosquitoes. Every Western woman in the EU is producing an average of 1.4 children. Every Muslim woman in the same countries is producing 3.5 children.”
Now I ask you. If Steyn quoting an Imam about European birth rates is fair game, do you think, dear reader, that half the criticism on this blog would fare much better if someone gets offended or feels discriminated against? How about books that you have on your shelf criticizing Joseph Smith or Judge Rutherford as false prophets? Have you printed anything in a blog that might cause a JW or Gothardite to feel they were less than equal, or that might, just might make some crazed lunatic who just read your blog this morning kill the next JW that crossed his threshold? Remember the hypothetical killer doesn’t have to be anymore than just that, hypothetical. Don’t believe me? Ezra Levant , the publisher of the Canadian magazine, The Western Standard, has been hauled before the inquisition . . . ahem I mean commission for publishing the infamous Mohammed cartoons because a member of the Muslim community is concerned for his safety:
“God forbid if somebody reads from his Web site – [if] any fanatic reads it – and he attacks me, who’s responsible? If any crime [is] committed against me or my family, I will hold Mr. Ezra Levant responsible.”
And apparently so does the inquisition ( did I do that again? ).
Mark Steyn gives the nightmare scenario if a commission like this comes to the states:
“It is an illiberal notion harnessed in the cause, supposedly, of liberalism: gays don’t like uptight Christians flaunting the more robust passages of Leviticus? Don’t worry about it. We’ll set up a body that’ll hunt down Bible-quoting losers in basements and ensure they’ll trouble you no further. Just a few recalcitrant knuckle-draggers who decline to get with the beat. Don’t give ‘em a thought. Nothing to see here, folks.”
Bottom line: I would like it if nobody made fun of Christians. I’m tired of being stereotyped as stupid, wicked, or both. I’m tired of every time I see a movie that has a Christian in it I know he will be a buffoon, a child molester, a serial killer or all three. I’m sick and tired of evangelicals being lumped into the same 30 second side bite with the political flavor of the month. There are two problems with creating speech codes. 1) Our Constitution guarantees freedom of speech but nowhere guarantees freedom from being offended. 2) Speech is too fluid to carve up with the giant sledge-hammer of law. In the process of straining offending gnats with speech police we could end up swallowing a crisis of liberty including religious. And lest we forget our inquisitions could end up silencing voices that God even tolerates