Sunday, January 5, 2014

Raising a thin skinned generation. . .

Let me say at the start I do not condone racism, I do not excuse bullying, and I do not accept bigotry.  That said, however, I wonder at times if we have not gotten to be a nation of thin skinned people in search of reasons to be outraged.  I could cite a host of examples.  In politics, those who disagree with the President are labelled racist.  In society, those who disagree with same sex marriage are bigots.  In religion, Christianity remains the only group that you can insult with impunity.

As much as I am offended by the abuse, I do not think we gain anything by becoming a thin skinned society, always the victim, always filled with (self) righteous indignation, and always politically correct.  We have moved to an extreme in the opposite direction of our more overtly racist, bigoted, and divisive past.  In the process we are not less divided but more divided.  We are constantly outraged by things we ought to be able to shrug off and, in the process, we have no indignation left for that which rightfully deserves our outage. I fear for the children we raise with such constraints upon our speech and with such a penchant for being the victim.

This is not merely a debate going on outside the Church; it has entered the conversation of Christians as well.  I have personally been accused of being a misogynist for refusing the ordination of women.  I have had people tear up and claim offense because I do not approve of same sex marriage.  I have had people stomp out of my office because I mentioned that their cohabitation was not the same as marriage.  All of this happened not in the arena of culture and society but within the Church.

It seems we have forgotten everything Jesus said about turning the other cheek or how Luther explained the eighth commandment (put the best construction on everything).  Instead we divert the focus away from the real wrongs and place it instead upon imaginary wrongs -- someone has the nerve to disagree with me.  As I have posted before, we are called to speak the truth in love.  That still means to speak the truth.  I am not advocating here for personal opinion as truth but for THE truth -- the doctrine and formulations of the Church from Scripture, through tradition, down to the present moment.

In the end we have adopted a new form of Pharisaism in which moral outrage and indignation are the cover for the log in our eyes while we pick at the speck in the eyes of others.  We have learned the audacity of shifting the uncomfortable spotlight of God's Law away from us by searching for the cracks in others, especially those who speak God's Word to us.  In the end, however, being thin skinned and carrying our outrage as very public baggage, we will still be held accountable but the only One whose judgment counts.

We serve a faux Gospel that does not really offer forgiveness because we will admit none of our sins.  We have a faux church because we have no creed for belonging and no requirements of membership.  We speak only in the language of affirmation -- even though what we affirm is a temporary truth sure to change as the years come and go and sure to need adjustment as we discover more of what we like about ourselves and dislike about others.

What have we gained by
  • schools in which everyone passes and no distinction is made about grades, 
  • sports in which everyone gets to play and no score is kept except fouls, 
  • language in which disagreement is itself the worst offense, and 
  • morality in which each person gets to set their own compass -- so long as it does not in any way judge, affect, or offend others?
And what have we lost by it all?

Nowhere is the cost of our thin skinned culture more threatening than in the community where God's Word is supposed to speak unhindered and His gifts given to those with faith who come in repentance!  Grow up people.  The truth is hard not because it seeks to wound but because it has the power to heal.  Sometimes I read the lessons on Sunday morning and wonder who will  be offended today because the Lord speaks for marriage and against divorce, because the Lord places the burden of reconciliation upon the one offended instead of the offender, because not only is the truth spoken but error condemned?  Could it be that we have grown so comfortable with our wounds that we no longer seek to be healed?  That we have grown so attached to our sins, we do not want to be forgiven?  That we are so fiercely protective of the right to an opinion that we silence the Truth (or distort it)?

One of the surest ways in which sin shows itself is when we live as thin skinned people always ready to take offense and unprepared to give account of hope that is ours in Christ.  Whining is not covered by one commandment -- it is implied by all of them.  In the process of giving into the whiners, we have taught a generation you do not need to be truthful, you will not be held accountable, and you do not have to stand for anything.  So we can all be outraged at the name Redskins on a sports team while ignoring the institutionalized death of abortion... or we can all insist upon the inappropriateness of certain words that refer to people's race or ethnic background while speaking vulgarity and insisting upon our right to talk like that... or we can make violent and pornographic movies within our creative rights but insist that those who disagree are either hicks or prudes... or we can insist upon giving every spiritual kook a microphone to speak while insisting that the real religious (translate that Christian) people need to shut up.

Look at where our whining, thin skinned, victimization culture has gotten us!  The only thing left that we can all agree is offensive is the Word of the Lord than endures forever.

1 comment:

Marilee said...

Bravo! Thank you Pastor for saying what needs to be said.