Thursday, January 15, 2015

Giving Offense

I am free, should I so choose, to offend you.

That freedom is an absolute, a fundamental part of our created nature.  That you may hold a particular perspective or a particular viewpoint does not in any way impinge on that freedom.

Neither do my sensibilities define what you may or may not say.  And you can say a great deal.

I believe in God.  You can say that "god" is a projection, a stunted and archaic fantasy created by childish minds, no more real than the Easter Bunny, Elf on the Shelf, or Krampus.  I am a person of faith.  You may say that faith itself is monstrous and hateful and delusional, the source of everything wrong with humankind.  I am a Christian.  You may say that Jesus was a madman, a delusional, the hateful faux-avatar of a fevered desert "god."  You may say that Jesus never existed at all.  You may say that Christianity is a cruel blood cult, or a repugnant tool of the Man, a proxy for teaching weakness and submission to the oppressor class.  I believe that God loves and welcomes all those who are governed by love, including gays and lesbians and the whole rest of the alphabet soup of contemporary academic genderbabble.  You can call me an apostate and a heretic and hellbound.

You can say all of these things.  You can write songs, and post videos, and draw cartoons.  You can make polemic movies.  They can be genuinely insulting and offensive.

You are free to articulate them, however and whenever you wish.

Because I am also free to ignore you.  I can shake my head, or roll my eyes at an old familiar canard.  But I do not have to receive your words and be stirred to anger.  Neither do I need to react whenever I am attacked verbally.  Your approbation means nothing, other than that you are expressing yourself.  Which is your right.

I am, more significantly, also free to attempt not to give unnecessary offense when faced with opposition.  That's a challenge, particularly when facing someone seeking an excuse to be offended.  There are ways of thinking that take offense at the liberty of others, that deny others the very rights that are assumed for those in power.

If there is an injustice being done, or harm being inflicted, I can name it and resist it.  But the ethos of my Teacher demands compassion, even for the uncompassionate, and justice, even for the unjust.  Seek grace in all things, particularly in the defiance of brokenness.

If I feel you are erring, I may say so.  But I will not actively try to weave dehumanizing mockery into those words, or to use them to inflict harm.  Not that I'm perfect at it, but it's my goal.  When I find myself messing up, I will self edit and self correct.

Should I be more offensive?  Some suggest that's the way to get things done.  But offense...if no connection is made to those who you are in tension with...does nothing to plant the seeds of transformation in them.

In my experience, it hardens, and radicalizes, and deepens the conflict, in a way that does not build towards growth and constructive resolution.