Keeping the Faith

What’s so Offensive about Christianity?

There’s a verse in the Bible that says this: “A person with discretion is not easily angered; he gains respect by overlooking an offence.” I quote from Proverbs 19, verse 11 of The Voice.  Not the talent show, mind, but a modern translation of the Bible.

A good Christian (a good anyone for that matter) is not easily offended.  There’s a certain tension about this statement because being a follower of Christ is an offensive ‘occupation’ in progressive, post-Christian Australia.  Perhaps I should rephrase that.  Being a follower of Christ is interpreted or conjured as an offensive pastime.

We are black and white in a shades-of-grey culture.

So what is it exactly that’s so offensive about Christianity?  Perhaps it’s that the Bible states unequivocally what is right and what is wrong.  People don’t enjoy being told how to live their lives.

Jesus said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) That is, there is only one way to heaven.  Christians believe in God to the exclusion of all other deities and forms of spiritual enlightenment.  Probably doesn’t go down so well in our inclusive (and permissive) culture.

And faith – what an offensive concept that is.  To ‘blindly’ follow Jesus, God, the Bible without proof of the tangible, scientific and factual kind as insurance.  If Dr Karl can’t explain it, then it ain’t worth your time!

I tuned in to an intriguing interview on Radio National recently with author and freelance writer Richard King about his new book, ‘On Offence, The Politics of Indignation’ (Saturday Extra, Geraldine Doogue, October 19).  The foundation of his thesis is that freedom of speech is nothing if we don’t have freedom to offend.

“There’s almost a sense now that if you challenge someone’s point of view, you’re challenging their personhood… to invalidate an opinion is almost to invalidate the person who holds it. We’ve lost the ability to argue and reason with people, and also the will,” King said.

A symptom of political correctness gone mad is that everyone demands their sensitivities be respected, and offence signals the end of the argument.

It feels a little like the admittance of Christianity marks the end of the argument these days.  As I have written letters to certain MPs regarding the social reforms plaguing the Tasmanian parliament of late, I have known that to quote the Bible, to speak of God or our Christian heritage is a surefire way of sending my letter to the loony pile.

Yet, I am not alone.  I am one of more than 170,000 Tasmanians who identified with a Christian belief at the last census.

Has Christianity had its day?  Is Christianity too offensive for modern culture?  Is it outdated?  Has Christianity actually brought about more harm than good?

This is, incidentally, the topic of a talk on Wednesday by Dr John Dickson, a brilliant speaker, pastor, historian and public advocate for Christianity.  He will demonstrate that the popular New Atheist claim is not only untrue, but that Christianity is inherently good – for individuals, for family, for community – demonstrated through its leader, Jesus Christ.

993402_539461956125854_261118432_nI invite all skeptics, believers and those hovering in-between to come along to Dickson’s talk, which will be followed by a Q&A session (Wednesday October 30, 7:30-9pm, Door of Hope, Glen Dhu St, South Launceston, Thursday October 31, 7.30-9pm, Stanley Burbury Theature, University of Tasmania, Churchill Ave, Sandy Bay).

For the last word on offence I quote English writer and philosopher William Hazlitt (1778-1830), “An honest man speaks the truth, though it may give offence; a vain man, in order that it may.”

First published in The Examiner for Keeping the Faith column on Monday October 28, 2013.

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19 Comments

  1. Excellent article! I write a blog at goodwritingandfun.blogspot.com.au which explores society, politics, and culture. People of Gen Y are taught that one needs to be tolerant, that is, tolerant of those who agree to not criticise others, except for those who believe in absolute morality. How hypocritical are the liberals who teach “tolerance”!

  2. Carol says

    So true, Claire! Sadly, many older people and parents are shunned by their children because they, the parents, hold Christian beliefs and try to live them ( even silently).

  3. Laura Palmer says

    there is nothing offensive about Christianity or believing in Jesus.

    there is something offensive claiming to know the truth about something that is unknown and then using that “truth” to try and dictate to others how they should and shouldn’t live.

    • Roger Martin says

      Laura, I feel so sorry for you.
      Unfortunately you will find out one day that your often repeated philosophy and views simply won’t be acceptable to your Lord and Maker.
      And….by that time it will be too late!

      • Laura Palmer says

        I feel sorry for you, that you cannot accept that other people have different beliefs and that they are perfectly happy in their lives. That you will never ever see the world for what it is, rather you will continue for the rest of your life to believe that the world fits into the narrow, subjective viewpoint of the Bible. That you live your life for a mythical after life and do not experience all this life has to offer.

    • Are you coming to the talk Laura? He’s a great speaker and writer, even if you don’t agree with what he says. Hope to see you there!

      • Laura Palmer says

        I am in two minds. I do a lot of reading and I know who the man is and what he stands for. I feel that, like I said to Roger above, that he does not see the world for what it is, rather he tries to fit it into a narrow, subjective viewpoint. That is how I see religion in general.

        On a side note, would you ever attend a Launceston Skeptics meeting about the Bible? If it was a great speaker and writer?

      • Good question. To be honest, probably not. But then, I have never shown the interest for skeptics theories that you show for Christianity.

        I would never say never though. If it was the right speaker and topic to pique my interest, the host and venue would not deter me.

        Anyway, come along and give him a chance, can’t hurt 🙂

      • And introduce yourself to me if you see me there – love to meet you. People say I look shorter in real life! Haha! Not that The Ex has ever run a full length pic 😉

      • Laura Palmer says

        Hello Claire,

        Apologies for not getting back to you earlier, but life gets in the way sometimes, as you probably know.

        Although I did not attend the talk, I did read the review on the Bible society website. There is also a recording of the talk, which I will get around to listening to.

        My problem with the talk is the fact that, although Jesus Christ did teach some wonderful things (he also said some weird things), none of what Dr John says actually proves a thing about whether the Bible is the word of God or not. It doesn’t prove that Jesus Christ was the son of God. And he doesn’t convince me that Christianity is good for all of society.

        “When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow.” This is how I see you and many Christians, including members of my own family. You have blindly adopted a religion, the one you were born into and will not see the world through someone elses eyes. You refuse to consider the alternatives.

        It saddens me that you cannot see past your own religion and beliefs and allow people to choose their own path, that you feel that every single person on this planet who does not believe what you believe is completely wrong, even though you have no evidence at all to back it up.
        The problem with Christianity is not Jesus Christ, it is the fact that it’s followers feel that they are 100% right and that everybody else is wrong. It also saddens me that you wouldn’t even consider a looking at the Bible in a different way, to look at the story behind the Bible, if you will. Until you can stand back and look at your religion with some objectivity, you will always be a voice for the naive and the bigots of this city. All I wish is that you would see things from another point of view and realise that your worldview is only one of many and that Christianity may not be the answer for everyone.

  4. Hi Claire,
    Christianity is offensive because of who Jesus is.  As you have pointed out, offence is indeed taken at Jesus’ exclusive proclamation of being the way, the truth and the life.  And this was substantiated as Jesus was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:4 NASB).
    However, we naturally take offence at this because of sin in our hearts and repress what we know about God.

    Here is an audio sermon from 2012 which considers the cause of conflict (or offence) in our world.
    http://www.fileswap.com/dl/mSRrlvqhBD/From_Hunter_to_Hunted.mp3.html

    • Laura Palmer says

      Jesus doesn’t offend me at all. He taught love and tolerance. His over-zealous followers are the ones who cause offense, the ones who put words in his mouth (where did Jesus say ANYTHING about gay people, for instance?) and who do not accept any other way of life other than Christianity, the ones who believe that they have the right to tell others how to live. Why is that so hard for Christians like yourself to understand?

      • That is an interesting comment you made. I’m curious to know, do you think Jesus ever existed on Earth? What would you think he would say to you if you were to meet him?

      • Thank you for your comment Laura.
        To say that Jesus ‘taught love and tolerance’ is misleading.  Jesus’ primary purpose in coming to earth was to die on behalf of people that they may live.
        ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ (John 3:16 NIV).
        In regard to the Bible, Jesus affirmed all of the Old Testament
        ‘And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he (Jesus) explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.’ (Luke 24:27 NIV).
        Jesus also commissioned the believers in the New Testament
        ‘Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV)
        The Bible always describes homosexuality as sin, and as ‘Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.’ (Proverbs 14:34 NKJV) therefore Christians desire laws that are both honouring to God and good for people.

      • Laura Palmer says

        Sid.

        Please, tell me, what is wrong with homosexuality? how is it not good for the people? Please don’t use the bible, as it is subjective.

  5. Neil C says

    Hello Christian folks !! Just thought I’d jot down a bit of an ol’ reply to Jan T’s very interesting question that was originally directed to Laura P……… if I may.
    Firstly, I personally have no problem with a “historic or Earthly Jesus”. A kind, intelligent, politically aware/active Jewish male living within the boundaries of the Roman Empire, in the era now known as the Iron Age.
    I do not believe that his Mummy was a virgin. This is a familiar theme in some other earlier religions, so it is no surprise that it turns up at some later stage as as part of the Christian mythology.
    I can believe that this man was a gifted healer/practitioner,
    I can believe that this kindly man was a deep thinker,
    I can believe that He was a stirring orator and a leader to many; but as a human Earth man He obviously rationalised what He thought and what He experienced against the political and economic realities that His society of that particular time period offered him. His philosophy is therefore symbiotically and inexorably linked into this rigidly unambiguous context.
    There is some reasonably supported conjecture that He was perhaps intimate with Mary Magdalene and that they produced issue. Further that Mary and baby emigrated to France after Jesus’ execution for what were essentially political crimes. (politics and religion were inseparably entwined back then).
    I believe that He may have been executed. I do not think He performed any supernatural miracles post mortem.

    What I would say to Jesus (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) ??
    I would arrange it thusly; so that He would be familiar with the structure.

    10 Conversational Commandments for Jesus…………….By Neily-poo

    1 ahh ahh ahh !! …..(Nooooo, it’s the Count from Sesame Street !!), errm Sorry !! OK start again…

    1. Women, ladies, girls are deservingly equal in value and love (in every society and every home) in every way exactly as males are !! Please tell that old misogynist homo St. Peter this, so he will make this most obvious gift from God a part of official Church dogma right from the start. Untold millions of girls throughout history, of all lands and cherished stories will thank You.
    2: Jealousy is NOT OK !! I don’t except the lowest (and the only wasted) human emotion from either adults or children. How dare you claim to be omnipotent and yet still be suffering from Jealousy !! Change YOUR Ten Commandments and yer personal outlook Laddie !!
    3. Please explain in detail how the mechanism that links Jesus’ execution on a wooden cross with nails and the redemption of Earthly peoples’ sins works.
    4. You knew what Moses was like, so why didn’t you inscribe the (Your) 10 Commandments onto slabs of alloyed Titanium rather than brittle rock?? The lack of conclusively bespoke artefacts personally attributed to you has spawned an awful pilgrimage industry, wherebys decent folks is guilted into travelling, only to then be fleeced of their hard earned coinage by those most wicked of men, claiming they have your nose or fingers, or Uncle Johnny the Baptist’s head.
    5. It turns out that that many of your officially ordained employees have regularly, throughout history……. commissioned, enabled, concealed and/or justified and mitigated crimes that must neither be seen to be, nor be able to be forgiven.
    I ask that all child abusers be permanently excluded from the Exclusive Rewards Program called Christian Heaven.
    6. Thankyou JesusGod for the new Pope !! At last someone who not only genuinely believes in you, but someone who also actually practices what he believes. Decency, humanity and humility clearly shine from him…….. I must say I’m impressed !!
    7. Jesus, please explain Benny Hinn to me. Also, please detail any financial/contractual dealings and/or business arrangements that you now have, or have had at any time in the past with Benny Hinn Miracle Crusades.
    8.Jesus (the Great Builder) see how Your Holy Church has fractured so deeply ?? See how so many of Your brand’s flavours now claim privileged or even exclusive access to You and the benefits of the Heaven Eternal Rewards For Earthly Repentance Program (HERFERP).
    Why would you co-sponsor the Book Of Morman, (a bloody spin off no less !!) when you still haven’t put any effort into getting someone/small team in to do some proper editing, a bit of story renovation (some more stuff about You, the Fam, childhood, teens, apprenticeship years….folks lap that stuff up) and perhaps some fact correction on what has been up till now Christianity’s best seller. For Christ’s sake Jesus !! Look after the core franchise and the merchandising, it worked for George Lucas !!
    9. Look here Jesus, this Mr. Allah Ackbar chappy and His family have come here to Australia now, but cos they’re here they want to be good neighbours, you know, fit in. So anyways, He asked me to ask You, Jesus, and all youse in Australia to call him “Allen” from now on. You know, Australian-ise Him. Poor ol’ Allen, how He gets anything done around Islamic Heaven when he’s got folks calling ‘im up with prayers 5 times a day is beyond me !!
    10. Jesus will ya please drop round to Claire Van Ryn’s place at:
    Number 1 Believer’s Circle, Launceston, Tasmania 7250.
    I think she’ll be the sort of sheila that may like to have a cuppa and a natter with ya. Heck she’s even got a way with words and stuff, ask her real nice and polite like……and she might even tidy up that contradictory ol’ Bible mess for y’all 😉

    • Neil C says

      OOps………. I am such a duffer !! During my over tired late night typing spree I completely misread Jan T’s question :0
      I do apologise Jan and Claire.
      I would expect Jesus to say things to me (in Aramaic, perhaps even Latin) consistent with whatever His real world persona was. I would expect Him to be a humanist, perhaps with a certain nativity to the world in which we are currently experiencing time. I would expect that He would have a deeper knowledge about things relevant to His world and time, and that He would perhaps find me a bit oddly naive about stuff too. I would expect that He would be someone who could quickly bridge the cultural gaps between us if we were in the same social situation. I would expect that He would quickly understand that we treat males and females equally now. I think He would advise me to continue down the path of being a decent man and being kind and attentive to kids no matter which philosophical or religious path I used to arrive there. I think He would say that goodly, interactive, informative parenting is the often the difference between a dynamic, healthy society and the one we have made for ourselves at present in Australia. I think He would express His boundless joy at modern, indoor hot water plumbing and flush toilets. I think He would find our stewardship and care of Planet Earth to be un-satisfactory (in the least). I think He would vocally and vociferously support the kindness of assisted compassionate euthanasia, considering the vastly different circumstances in which we live, the length of which many folks now live and the way we (through scientific and social progress) wish to die. He would tell me if He likes or dislikes hot, spicy curries, cold frothy milkshakes and milk chocolates, cos I’d like Him to try ’em.
      Then we would sit down and watch Benny Hinn Miracle Crusade programs together, having a good ol’ laugh !!
      Hope this is a slightly more relevant answer. Anyway, have fun y’all and hope that perhaps the meeting discussing “Would We Be Better Off Without Christianity?” was fun and…………resulted in a resounding YES 😉

      • You make me laugh Neil! I think God has a sense of humour anyway! The talk was really good – if I find a recording floating around cyberspace I’ll link it here. I think the majority of the audience (around 480 people I think) walked out convinced the answer to THE question was a resounding NO actually 😉 His argument was compelling, I think you would have enjoyed it 🙂

  6. Neil C says

    Hi Claire !! 🙂
    That would be great if you would put the talk up on here for all us regional folks to have an (aural) gander at. Did you contribute ??
    480 folks is a great turnout, well done !!
    If only Jesus and Allen were there to enjoy it too 😉
    Cheerio then Wordsmith Lady, from Neil.

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