The Anatomy of Offense :: by David Carr

In 2015 there was an Australian Rules footballer who generated much controversy through his taking offense at being regularly booed during the course of his matches. The booing was not all that desirable, of course, but it happens fairly often to certain players and most just laugh it off.

This player, though, of aboriginal descent, chose to believe the booing was racially motivated (apparently the fact that the way he played the game was objectionable wasn’t the main reason, even though many of those who booed him specifically stated as such) and it sparked a firestorm of controversy in the all forms of media, even internationally.

So in our 21st century Western world why do people seem to be falling over themselves to claim such major offense at what are often quite minor provocations. How did we get to this? And what can we do about it?  Let’s have a look at the first question to see if we can find an answer to the second.

Since the advent of the age of post-modernism from the mid-20th century, the prevailing cultural thought has been one of rejection of both objective truth and the idea of an overarching purpose of history.

Or, in the words of Jean-François Lyotard in his 1979 book, The Postmodern Condition: “Simplifying to the extreme, I define postmodern as incredulity towards metanarratives.”

Well, the Judeo-Christian metanarrative, to be precise—Jean-François—because evolutionism seems to be a pretty popular metanarrative these days!

And what have we gotten from this disgrace?  Have we become more harmonious and loving? Have we become more gracious and productive? Not so you’d notice, right?

Rather we have each become mobile repositories of our own little version of truth. Our own little gods, even. And it’s this Gnostic/New Age thinking that is the poison to true harmony and fellowship—as the apostle John so brilliantly denounced in his first epistle.

And it is in hearts warped this way that offense becomes such a powerful tool.

Historically, a person seeking to correct another could point to societal norms, be they biblical or otherwise, and charge that person to adhere to them for the greater good of a group of people.

This allows stability in the culture because children are intentionally taught the metanarrative, and the general population can mature in knowledge that they are part of a pre-existent and ongoing story for their people.

Nowadays those norms are increasingly seen as an anathema; an oppressive freedom-crushing dogma that must be discarded.  Individualism is the highest moral ideal—each person becomes the most important (and effectively only) being in their own pathetically autonomous moral universes.

Satan—he loves this stuff. He is having a grand old time splintering the world into individual micro-kingdoms. But how, then, can he unite them under his own rule? God has allowed him this in the future (Though his time will be short! Rev 12:12), but isn’t this individuality counter-productive? Here’s where the genius of post-modernism comes in.

Post-modernism has shifted the focus of authority from the external and objective to the internal and subjective. Since every individual is supposedly considered equal in this scheme we are required to respect every single one of them. And this is biblical, is it not? We are all made in the image of God (Gen 1:26).

But the twist is subtle.

This respect of individual views is fine, but it is distorted when there is no grand moral narrative to which it submits; the situation as we have it today with amoral evolution the only allowable doctrine. With the reference points for truth residing within each individual, one can only rely on that individual’s voicing of ‘their truth’ to know what it may be.

So if someone states that they are offended, then who are we to deny that truth? We are all forced to acquiesce to that person’s view of things for the sake of supposed unity. Then when someone else states their own different truth, we are forced to accept that too. And so on, and so on, all the while raiding material from our moral foundation to build a façade of peace and harmony.

Only, this is not quite true (and I can only say that because I believe in the one personal objective source of truth, the Truth incarnate, Jesus Christ).

Not everyone’s views are considered equal in practice. Evidence suggests Judeo-Christian values are no longer acceptable currency in this dialogical marketplace. I am deeply offended at the proliferation of LGBT behaviour and support today, but my view is apparently irrelevant.

I am insulted by what passes for entertainment today, but am ignored by the powers that be. I am upset when I see people who stand up for morality howled down in a most intolerant fashion by those whose only qualification for voicing their opinion is that they are in agreement with the world system.

And if anyone dare state such archaic views publically, the collective gasp of both public and social media pull so much virtual oxygen out of the air that we all get a bit giddy. We can’t tell our footballing golden boy that he is wrong to be offended and that he needs to correct his understanding of events because that would be intruding on his personal truth.  \Instead, society must conform to his warped version of reality and “be more tolerant”…or else!

And since tolerance at times bears a superficial resemblance to Christian love, many in the visible church today have gobbled up this bait-and-switch manoeuvre in order to remain popular with the masses. It’s a way of being seen to have principles without losing pop-culture street cred. A distorted reality has been mixed with the true gospel to produce an   ugly caricature, promoted by many in the faith community and applauded by a world hungry for its own disciples.

Hence, we now have a situation where a person can wield tremendous power by publically stating their offense. His or her opinion cannot be questioned, so sympathizers, keen to be seen as caring and nice people, flock in support and the offended are fawned over as helpless victims.

This provides instant gratification for a soul desperately seeking acceptance, but the reality is that this is a lollipop of sustenance for a banquet appetite (that truly only God can satisfy).  And in retaliation, merely calling the offending party careless is now too anaemic; they must be called haters, because this lifts the bar for potential punishment (all part of the plan).

All of this, as I mentioned before, is provided that the offense is not a result of holding to Judeo-Christian standards. And it is this exception which reveals the source of the deception.  It is Satan who hates Jews and Christians, the twin trumpets of God’s witness to this world. And from time immemorial he has been seeking to distract, distort, deny, and destroy God’s message of redemption to the world.

So what are we to do? Shall we tiptoe around, watering down the gospel so that it doesn’t offend anyone. Many apparently believe this, because it is the typical response in Christendom today.

But Jesus, the original Rock of offense (1 Peter 2:8), teaches us otherwise:

“If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19).

Yes, He knew this time would come:

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another” (Matthew 24:9-10).

That doesn’t sound promising for getting your best life now, does it?  But Jesus also said this:

“And blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (Matthew 11:6).

That is, if you love Jesus and all He stands for, you are blessed. Conversely then, anyone who is offended by Him and His Word, is not blessed. What is the end for them?

“Then the disciples came and said to him, ‘Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?’ He answered, ‘Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up’” (Matthew 15:12-13)

Those offended at Christ will not last. Their time will one day be up, which just happens to coincide with the time that our greatest era begins. Praise God we have this hope!

So let’s be even more diligent to proclaim the offensive gospel, because insult for the sake of Christ is of great value in our Lord’s eyes. May it be as Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:6-7:

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Amen to that.

Dave Carr