A few followup thoughts on my previous post. Just what is at the core of those who say they are offended by someone else’s words or actions? Why would someone be offended, especially in the emotive sense as typical of the PC crowd? It can only be because they expect something different, and specifically, they believe themselves to be entitled to whatever it is they are being denied by the alleged offender. All offense, at least in this context, is a denial of the offended by the offender.
Yet, if you look at what is decried as offense by the PC, it is almost always simply that someone has had the audacity to have a different opinion about something, and is consequently suggesting a course of action different from that of the alleged offended. I continue to use the adjective “alleged” because in most cases, the allegations are baseless in that the offense is either trivial, seeks to claim a privilege to which the offended has no right, or seeks to alter reality in a way that is divorced from fact. In other words, disagreement, and discussion, debate are found to be offensive.
In sharp contrast to the ease with which PC personages are offended, we read in Psalm 119: 165,
Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.
Hebrew is delightfully pictorial, and here is no exception. To be “offended” literally means “to stumble” or “to encounter a stumbling block.” Thus, to be offended is presented in the word picture of someone tripping over a stone in the path that was, for whatever reason, not observed. Generally, it is usually the one doing the tripping that is injured, not the stone that causes the fall.
Living a life that is continually being offended is a sharp contrast to the Christian principle of conduct in which we are exhorted to “follow peace with all men.” (Hebrews 12:14) It is a particularly significant contrast, for example, to the Muslim propensity to be “offended” at the slightest provocation, totally ignoring the greater “offenses” they offer other religions, and, indeed, the rest of humanity; personally, I find a sword threatening to introduce space between my head and my neck, or someone wanting to paint the landscape with my anatomy, offensive to the extreme.
The sense of entitlement in taking offense is the height of pride, one of the worst, if not the worst, of man’s fallen attributes. Thus, I would again say, to be offended in the PC way is an exercise in vapor management. It is sound and fury, signifying nothing beyond one’s own inability to think beyond oneself. Consequently, it signifies more about the one offended, and about the idiots who attempt, successfully or not, to create public policy on this foundation of quicksand.
Written and posted in November of 2007 about a very specific situation, the post still contains some useful insight in how we should respond in such situations.
Our church has been praying for a young girl (elementary school age) with leukemia for 14 months, primarily for healing and the efficacy of her chemo, along with the strength to endure. This past week we got an answer. She went home to her Lord and ours. As a father of two daughters, I can imagine a little what this must be like to go through. But as Christians, the response of her family and our extended church family is in stark contrast to that usually seen at such times for those without the Christian hope we have. Yes, there is sorrow and grief, and we weep with those who weep. Yet, there is that hope, and a peace that passes understanding, that serve as a grounding foundation. It is best expressed, I think, in the words of the beloved hymn by Horatio Spafford, It is Well with My Soul:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blessed assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
I have a difficult time singing this song without tearing up because of the story behind it, and, as I said, I am a father of two daughters. Horatio Spafford was a Presbyterian lawyer with a successful business in Chicago. He had invested hugely in real estate by the shore of Lake Michigan just months before the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The disaster greatly wiped out his holdings. Adding insult to injury, that same year Spafford had experienced the loss of his only son.
Two years after the fire, Mr. Spafford planned a trip to Europe for him and his family. He wanted a rest for his wife and four daughters, and also to assist Moody and Sankey in one of their evangelistic campaigns in Great Britain. The day in November they were due to depart, Spafford had a last minute business transaction and had to stay behind in Chicago. Nevertheless he sent his wife and four daughters as scheduled on the S.S. Ville du Havre. Given what followed, the potential for self-recrimination to the point of insanity, the "if only" syndrome, hinges on this decision. He was expected to follow in a few days. On November 22, the ship laden with his wife and daughters was struck by the Lockhearn, an English vessel, and both ships sank in a few minutes. Anna Spafford found herself and her four daughters clinging to the flotsam of the wreckage, and then had the exquisite torture of watching her daughters one by one, starting from the youngest and therefore the weakest, sink beneath the icy Atlantic waves as their strength gave out.
After the survivors were finally landed somewhere at Cardiff, Wales, Spafford’s wife cabled her husband with two simple words, "Saved alone." Several weeks later, as Spafford’s own ship passed near the spot where his daughters died, he was inspired to write these words. Knowing his entire family were Christian, he penned this most poignant text so significantly descriptive of his own personal grief – "When sorrows like sea billows roll…" – yet so expressive of life’s true priorities and of the Christian hope – "My sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more."
He didn’t sing the blues, bemoan his fate, curse the gods or God, or claim any kind of victimhood. He didn’t try to sue anyone. Likewise, there is no "if only" in his words. Just the glow of a faith tried in the crucible of life shining with a brilliance I challenge any atheist to produce as a function of his belief system.
Reflect on this, that one could experience such personal tragedies and sorrows as did Horatio Spafford, yet, be able to say with such convincing clarity, "It is well with my soul." It is an enormous challenge to embrace the significance of this hymn.
Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.
From Breitbart (emphases added):
Frank Gaffney, founder and President of the Center for Security Policy in Washington D.C., defended 2016 presidential hopeful Dr. Ben Carson for saying Sunday on Meet The Press that he “would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.”
Appearing on Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot Radio, channel 125, the former Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration first defended Donald Trump. He asserted, “It is not anybody’s duty to opine, define or defend what the president’s religious beliefs are.”
“What does matter,” said Gaffney, “and what is our moral duty to address, are the policies that the president is pursuing.”
Gaffney, a man that Breitbart News’s Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon and host of BNS called an expert on everything Jihadist, said, “Sadly the president’s policies aren’t much different than those policies that a sharia adherent Muslim would espouse in terms of advancing an Islamic supremacist program.”
The holder of a Master of Arts degree in International Studies from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, Gaffney recounted that “Whether it’s with the Muslim Brotherhood, or emboldening the Taliban, giving a pass to Boko Haram, not pursuing effectively operations against Islamic State; whether it’s giving Iran the Nuclear Bomb, and $150 Billion to boot, I don’t know what Obama would be doing if he were a Muslim that he is not doing right now.”
Gaffney believes that Obama’s policies should be the “subject of very concerted debate.” He is hoping that what Dr. Ben Carson did on Sunday with his comments brings to light the fact that a president can not “uphold, defend and support the constitution of the United States” and adhere to Sharia Law. “It cannot be done. Because Sharia says, ‘No it’s not the Constitution of the United States that must govern. It is God’s law. It is Sharia. It is this repressive totalitarian, misogynistic program that must govern.’”
Adherence to the Sharia is completely antithetical to the Constitution, Gaffney argues, and he asserts that it should disqualify one from being president of the United States.
Let’s be clear here. The problem most people have is the notion that Islam is just another religion that should have the freedom all religions enjoy in this country. To the extent that a mosque were to restrict itself to the worship of Allah, however wrong I believe that to be theologically, and exhorting its adherents to obeying the laws of the land wholeheartedly, they should, indeed, have that freedom. Unfortunately, true Islam is more than just a religion; Islam is an entire geopolitical system in addition to being a religion. It’s goal is to set up a theocracy (just Google the word “caliphate” if you don’t believe me); there is no separation of church and state in Islam. This is diametrically opposed to our Constitution and the laws of our land.
And note who is leading the charge against Dr. Carson and his statements: an organization that is associated with terrorists (despite what your PC friends might tell you). Sorry, they have no, as in zero, nada, credibility.
The following was posted in January, 2008, and alas (!), political correctness still runs amuck and in ever widening circles. It’s sort of like the vampire that won’t die. We really need more people to shine the light of rationality and common sense more frequently in order to truly put the stake into the heart of this abomination. Too much damage has been, and is being done by this false philosophy.
One of my favorite words in classical Hebrew is that translated “vanity,” particularly in Ecclesiastes 1:2, “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” It is the word hebel, pronounced heh’-val (for those who really want to know, the middle letter is beth without a dagesh, thus it is pronounced as a “v” rather than the hard “b” which requires a dagesh…and if you have no idea what I’m talking about, you aren’t missing anything germane to the main point of this post…this factoid is just an exercise in my pedantic desire to provide more information that you really wanted to know; but then, it is my blog…). The word literally means “a breath or vapor, a puff of air,” and thus came to designate anything insubstantial and lacking in reality or substance – in other words, our word “vanity.” But “vacuity” would work just as well.
The heart of political correctness (PC) is the demonization of anyone who says or does anything to offend any of various and sundry sensibilities of those holding to this ideology, often taking up offenses, or creating offenses, when none truly exist.
Point Number One: To offend is defined in the Oxford University Press dictionary supplied with WordPerfect as “1. to cause to feel hurt or resentful, 2. to be displeasing to, or 3. to commit an act that is illegal or that goes against an accepted principle.” This is admittedly a concise dictionary, but it seems correctly modern in that it does capture fairly well the nuances of the PC position. The first two deal specifically with feelings, and the third can easily be fit into such a subjective framework if the principle is itself subjective in nature, for example, “Thou shalt not make anyone feel bad or uncomfortable with anything they are saying or doing.”
Compare this definition, which I would consider all too subjective and thus insubstantial, to that of Noah Webster from 1828 (and as an aside, note the nature of the examples):
OFFEND’, v.t. [L. offendo; of and fendo, obs. to strike, hit, meet, or thrust against. We use the simple verb in fend, to fend off, to fence.]
1. To attack; to assail. [Not used.]
2. To displease; to make angry; to affront. It expresses rather less than make angry, and without any modifying word, it is nearly synonymous with displease. We are offended by rudeness, incivility and harsh language. Children offend their parents by disobedience, and parents offend their children by unreasonable austerity or restraint.
The emperor was grievously offended with them who had kept such negligent watch.
A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city. Prov 18.
3. To shock; to wound; as, to offend the conscience.
4. To pain; to annoy; to injure; as, a strong light offends weak eyes.
5. To transgress; to violate; as, to offend the laws. But we generally use the intransitive verb in this sense, with against; to offend against the law.
6. To disturb, annoy, or cause to fall or stumble.
Great peace have they that love thy law, and nothing shall offend them. Psa 119.
7. To draw to evil, or hinder in obedience; to cause to sin or neglect duty.
If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out – if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off. Mat 5.
1. To transgress the moral or divine law; to sin; to commit a crime.
Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all. James 2.
In many things we offend all. James 3.
2. To cause dislike or anger.
I shall offend, either to detain or to give it.
But this phrase is really elliptical, some person being understood.
3. To be scandalized; to be stumbled.
If meat make my brother to offend – 1 Cor 8.
4. To offend against, to act injuriously or unjustly.
Nor yet against Caesar have I offended any thing at all. Acts 25.
5. To transgress; to violate; as, to offend against the laws of society, the laws of God, or the rules of civility or propriety.
We have offended against the Lord already. 2 Chr 28.
Note that, while the subjective aspect is present (and I do not deny that there is a subjective element), there is a significant increase in objectivity in this entry: the emphasis is more on the violation of principles and laws external to the one offended rather than simply their hurt feelings because someone disagrees with them.
Thus, my first point as illustrated by these definitions is simply that political correctness is vacuously empty because its primary basis is the most fickle and insubstantial of human responses, the emotions. While consistent with liberal multiculturalism with its denial of objective truth, this aspect of man is so easily manipulated and distorted that to base one’s responses on it is just plain stupid.
Point Number Two: The vacuity does not stop there, but continues in the double standard that renders the entire concept of political correctness illogical and irrational. As applied by the PC, the only offenses that are offensive are those committed by conservatives who hold to objective truth, particularly truth originating in the Judeo-Christian value system on which our country was founded. The problem is, even amongst liberals there are mutually exclusive ideologies, so you can’t avoid giving offense to someone if you stand for anything. There are as many opinions on most topics as there are people in the universe. So to attempt to hold a position that “offends” noone in this ambivalent wishy-washy way is logically impossible; what of those who are offended by wishy-washiness?!?
Someone has rightly observed that if you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything. Vacuity offers no resistance, but has no substance. Oddly enough, Paul’s description in Ephesians 4:14 comes to mind as an apt summary of what these people are truly like: “children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.”
Political correctness: an idea whose death is long overdue. May it find its grave in 2008. [Well, how about 2015?!?!]
With the current election cycle in full swing, this chapter is exceedingly relevant, and damning, for now!
Another major arena that has been adulterated by the paradigm shift from print to image is the political arena. Here in his ninth chapter entitled “Reach Out and Elect Someone,” Postman provides some additional and telling analysis and observations.
Show business is not entirely without an idea of excellence, but its main business is to please the crowd, and its principal instrument is artifice. If politics is like show business, then the idea is not to pursue excellence, clarity or honesty but to appear as if you are, which is another matter altogether….In America, the fundamental metaphor for political discourse is the television commercial….We may safely assume, therefore, that the television commercial has profoundly influenced American habits of thought. Certainly, there is no difficulty in demonstrating that it has become an important paradigm for the structure of every type of public discourse. My major purpose here is to show how it has devastated political discourse. (page 126 [emphasis added])
This latter statement is bulwarked by the following observations and conclusions:
By substituting images for claims, the pictorial commercial made emotional appeal, not tests of truth, the basis of consumer decisions. The distance between rationality and advertising is now so wide that it is difficult to remember that there once existed a connection between them. Today, on television commercials, propositions are as scarce as unattractive people. The truth or falsity of an advertiser’s claim is simply not an issue. (page 127-128 [emphasis added])
Because the television commercial is the single most voluminous form of public communication in our society, it was inevitable that Americans would accommodate themselves to the philosophy of television commercials. By “accommodate,” I mean that we accept them as a normal and plausible form of discourse. By “philosophy,” I mean that the television commercial has embedded in it certain assumptions about the nature of communication that run counter to those of other media, especially the printed word. For one thing, the commercial insists on an unprecedented brevity of expression. One may even say, instancy. A sixty-second commercial is prolix; thirty seconds is longer than most; fifteen to twenty seconds is about average. (page 130 [emphasis added])
The two quotes above contain two of the most serious assaults of television on the American cognitive ability. In previous posts, we’ve seen these same pernicious trends in other areas of culture. Continuing:
Moreover, commercials have the advantage of vivid visual symbols through which we may easily learn the lessons being taught. Among those lessons are that short and simple messages are preferable to long and complex ones; that drama is to be preferred over exposition; that being sold solutions is better than being confronted with questions about problems. Such beliefs would naturally have implications for our orientation to political discourse; that is to say, we may begin to accept as normal certain assumptions about the political domain that either derive from or are amplified by the television commercial. (page 131)
There may be a case for choosing the best man over party (although I know of none). The point is that television does not reveal who the best man is. In fact, television makes impossible the determination of who is better than whom, if we mean by “better” such things as more capable in negotiation, more imaginative in executive skill, more knowledgeable about international affairs, more understanding of the interrelations of economic systems, and so on. (page 133-134 [emphasis added])
As Xenophanes remarked twenty-five centuries ago, men always make their gods in their own image. But to this, television politics has added a new wrinkle: Those who would be gods refashion themselves into images the viewers would have them be. (page 135)
The historian Carl Schorske has, in my opinion, circled closer to the truth by noting that the modern mind has grown indifferent to history because history has become useless to it; in other words, it is not obstinacy or ignorance but a sense of irrelevance that leads to the diminution of history. (page 137)
Seemingly benign technologies devoted to providing the populace with a politics of image, instancy and therapy may disappear history just as effectively, perhaps more permanently, and without objection. (page 138)
The conclusion of this discussion in the political realm contacts American education as well as politics.
To put it plainly, a student’s freedom to read is not seriously injured by someone’s banning a book on Long Island or in Anaheim or anyplace else. But as Gerbner suggests, television clearly does impair the student’s freedom to read, and it does so with innocent hands, so to speak. Television does not ban books, it simply displaces them….Those who run television do not limit our access to information but in fact widen it. Our Ministry of Culture is Huxleyan, not Orwellian. It does everything possible to encourage us to watch continuously. But what we watch is a medium which presents information in a form that renders it simplistic, nonsubstantive, nonhistorical and noncontextual; that is to say, information packaged as entertainment. In America, we are never denied the opportunity to amuse ourselves. (page 141)
Reread that last quote and compare it to what you know about the culture that surrounds you and, indeed, permeates your own home. Is it any wonder the “touchy-feely” narcissistic rhetoric of the liberal left has become so commonplace and successful?
Having shown us the impact on political discourse, Postman will next turn to the devastation that has occurred in education.