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.
I 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.