Offensive Weapons

Offensive WeaponsOur culture has raised taking offense to an art form. While there are probably many explanations for this, I came across something recently that I think explains it very well.

For my birthday my daughter gave me a copy of Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov.” As I was reading it, a quote jumped off the page at me:

“The man who lies to himself can be more easily offended than anyone.”

For those invested in lies, the only protection available is to prevent truth from being heard. And, since lies cannot go head to head with truth and win, you need a secret weapon. In the arena of ideas, that secret weapon is often “offense.” It allows you to shut down discussion on almost any topic before things get out of hand. It steps between you and truth like a celebrity’s bodyguard fending off the paparazzi.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: when you encounter a topic for which only one point of view is allowed, that acceptable point of view is probably a lie. Note carefully what I’m saying. I’m not denying there are issues for which only one view is correct, far from it. I believe in the concept of absolute truth, the law of non-contradiction, etc. I’m saying if the accepted point of view is not open to challenge it’s likely because it cannot stand up to scrutiny and so must be protected some other way such as the tactic of taking offense.

Here are a few things in that category; admittedly some of these are more vehemently defended with the “I’m offended” tactic than others:

  • The unborn are not people, they’re just a mass of tissue
  • Abortion is healthcare
  • Gender is a social construct
  • It’s possible to be physically male yet really be a woman (and vice versa)
  • Man-made global warming is a fact and is a threat to the planet
  • Macroevolution is the explanation for all the life forms we see today.
  • A relationship between two people of the same gender can be a marriage
  • Minimum wage laws help the poor
  • Government spending creates prosperity
  • Islam is a religion of peace

I could go on. To question any of these assertions is to be offensive to many in our culture. Of course the words “I’m offended” may not always be used. You will sometimes be accused of being intolerant or misogynistic or homophobic or a greedy capitalist, etc. but those are just other ways the tactic of taking offense manifests itself.

There’s also an underlying assumption in Dostoevsky’s quote: people know they are lying to themselves about these things.  Of course the transsexual or the abortionist would deny this but deep down they know truth is not on their side. That is why they are so quick to take offense. The apostle Paul speaks of this in his letter to the Romans:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. – Romans 1:18-23

Which brings us to the biggest assertion of all that this tactic is used to defend:

There is no God.

If you want to see people go from 0 to 60 on the “I’m offended” scale in nothing flat, just acknowledge God in the public square. The shortest length of time known to man is the time between when a prayer is said at a city council meeting and a lawsuit is filed by an atheist.

In the end you must expect to be labeled “offensive” if you stand for truth in our day (usually by folks who claim to hate “labels,” I might add). But when you are take heart, for when someone claims your point of view is offensive it’s likely because they have no counter arguments for it.

I Am What (I Say) I Am

I Am What I (Say) I AmIdeas have consequences and in western culture, few ideas have had more consequences (of the negative variety) in the last hundred years than existentialism.

Existentialism is a philosophy of existence that makes the individual primary. Among other things, it teaches that each person has the ability to decide for themselves the meaning of their life and who or what they are. None of that is imposed upon the individual from the outside. There is no such thing as an innate essence or design, no purpose for existence beyond that assigned by the individual.

In other words an individual is whatever he or she claims to be without regard to any external standard of measurement. This particular component of existentialism has been latched onto by modern western culture with a vise-like grip.

As a result, we have for several generations believed we could be things without actually having the characteristics of those things.

This is what allows society to take seriously people with male bodies who claim they are female and vice versa. Common sense and reality scream that human beings are born either male or female and that that can be determined based upon a rather cursory examination at the moment of birth – but existentialism says “not so fast.” It claims the right not to be boxed in by anatomy or any other external. I am the gender I say I am, all other evidence be damned.

This belief is not limited to the culture at large but has found its way into the church as well. It is the root of so-called liberal Christianity. If I call myself a Christian, others must believe it because it is what I believe about myself. I do not have to adhere to any specific beliefs or practices to be considered a Christian. I am one merely because I say I am.

So, according to existentialism, I can be a man without actually being male and I can be a Christian without actually believing what Christians believe. I am an independent free-agent and no one can tell me what to do or who I am but me. Of course this is not consistently applied. Much like the moral relativist who has no trouble identifying right and wrong when their car is stolen, existentialists have no trouble using externals to define those who disagree with them. It’s all well and good for me to claim to be a Christian while disavowing the resurrection but if you question my Christianity because of my view, you’re judgmental. But if existentialism is true, can’t I make judgments about others and still be non-judgmental simply because I believe I am?

The truth is we are defined all sorts of ways external to ourselves, many of which we don’t choose. And those definitions are often more accurate than the ones we come up with on our own. Think of the first couple of “American Idol” shows each season and the mistaken belief so many have about their identity as a singer. However, I am a son, husband and father whether I identify myself that way or not. And despite the cultural noise to the contrary, I am a man whether I see myself that way or not; I did not choose that and have no ability to change it, it is how I was designed – how ironic that that is a controversial statement in our day whereas the notion that one’s “sexual orientation” is fixed is taken as gospel.

If we are to recover as a culture we must jettison this kind of self-deception and hyper-individualism. We must move back within the realm of reality and stop believing the lie that we are completely autonomous self-creations. In short, we must place ourselves back under the authority of our Creator and Designer.

To choose otherwise is to choose destruction. Reality will not be ignored. She will eventually have her way with or without us – whether we believe so or not.