I really appreciate this little meme, so I already regret playing devil’s advocate here. What a wonderful world we would live in if we could all just grasp this one little point, “it’s not all about you.”
The personal is NOT political. You don’t have to “stay up all night because someone is wrong on the internet.” We control the horizontal and the vertical, we get to choose our offense, how much, how often, over what, and over whom.
So I kind of hate to argue in favor of “taking offense,” especially in a world so heavily dominated by it. Like all extremes however, in their extreme form they just aren’t so good. I love “unity, harmony, like-mindedness” for example, but us all marching in lockstep under the “peace” of fascism, not so much. Even a beautiful concept like “peace” can be made all dark and ugly.
Imagine however, if we took offense at nothing. Not world hunger, not dying children, not the suffering of our fellow-man. Offense actually serves a vital and necessary purpose in the world. Jesus was offended in the temple, when offense was called for.
The absence of love is actually not hatred at all, it is indifference.
Citizen Tom wrote a good post called, “Why Debate?” It’s an issue that’s been on my mind, too. I have to stay in this place of constant heart check, of never-ending self-reflection, what issues are you engaging in and why, what’s the motivation?
There’s this little comic, an author is reading a bit of fan mail, a terrible review and thinking, but you read it, didn’t you? You actually read my book.!!…
It’s a bit funny, but even criticism, discussion, debate, can be forms of love. I kind of poke fun at this whole concept in my “Rave Reviews” at the top of this blog. For a long time I got nothing but complaints and criticism in the blogging world and then I started noticing how much time people had invested in coming up with some really creative ways to insult me. Took a bit of humility but I finally got to the point of saying, well, people may hate you IB, but at least they aren’t completely indifferent to you….
So why do we debate? Lots of reasons. To learn things about ourselves and other people, to clarify our own beliefs or to transform them, to introduce ourselves to new ideas, to help others open their eyes to different ways of perceiving things,and to build some unity and common purpose in the world. Thirty of us can raise a barn in a day, far better and more efficiently then one standing alone can.
Or as Proverbs says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
“Debate” is kind of becoming a lost art in the modern world. We seem to fear the market place of ideas and we tend to want to control the narrative. Rather than engaging in discussion or even in protest, we just try to annihilate and destroy the opposition.
I had a discussion about the nature of protests a few years back that was kind of eye-opening. In the days of Civil Rights and the Vietnam war, at least our protests had an objective, a goal, a desire to win over hearts and minds. Today we are more like “Occupy Everything” and don’t stop until “They” are destroyed. Who is “They?” Heck if I know. “Occupy Everything” took over a shopping square here once, people camped out in protest, so the City Council just started sending them pizzas. The Great Pizza Protest.
So as a culture we’ve kind of mastered the whole idea of taking offense and launching a protest or a riot, but the whole concept of actually communicating, engaging with one another, seems to have fallen out of favor, all the way up through the halls of congress.
We need to start not avoiding taking personal offense, but making peace with it.
I often say the bible is a love letter between God and His people, and it is, but it is also a persuasive argument, the presentation of a Great Debate, one written to win over our hearts and minds. Our hearts mostly. A bit funny, but in ancient days the brain was thought to be kind of a useless organ, our very being actually stemming from our heart and not our brains.
So why do we engage with people and attempt to civilly debate? Mostly to reflect the image of the One who spoke us into existence, who invites us to engage with Him, who woos, cajoles, and entices us with His own arguments.