The New ‘Right’ Not to be Offended

My wife Sharon drew my attention to this article by a single Christian woman who was traumatized in church on Mother’s Day when her pastor had all the mothers present stand to be honored and she didn’t because she wasn’t a mother and, therefore, “felt dehumanized, gutted as a woman.” “Here’s the thing,” she opined, “I believe we can honor mothers without alienating others.”

No doubt, but it’s not clear why non-mothers should feel alienated, and, as Sharon pointed out, honoring mothers also includes honoring one’s own mother, even among single women. Are we not deeply self-centered to deny that honoring of mothers one day of the year by having them stand in church?

This is simply the latest episode of the growing propensity of the belief in the right not be offended. This trend likely started with political correctness on college campuses in the 1990s, and it persists — in the past week at Northwestern University, “as Mexican students voiced disagreement with a campuswide letter [from university administrators] that advised students not to celebrate Cinco de Mayo by engaging in racially-offensive activities, such as eating tacos and drinking tequila.”

This attempt at sensitivity security to Mexican culture was so silly and clumsy that even some Hispanic students — especially Hispanic students — thought it insensitive to them: “What right have you Gringos to tell us that eating tacos is insensitive to Mexican culture and history?”

We hear about “hurtful” speech, but what many people really want, it seems, is the right not be offended. They believe they ought never to hear comments that cast them or their religion or politics or church or race or sex or vocation in a negative light.

But this isn’t a right the Constitution guarantees, and if it were, it would lead to Draconian political tyranny and, moreover, squash one of the most important, if often difficult, means of personal growth. Even the most offensive comments can contribute to our character, and for Christians, to our personal sanctification. This fact in no way absolves perpetrators of such offenses from their unbridled tongue, but God employs even sinful words to instill character and make us better people. We rarely develop character in situations of personal ease; it’s the hardships that forge character.

We suffer from a generation of sensitivity whiners who cry foul when they are not flattered to their satisfaction, or if someone makes a snide comment about a class to which they belong. But just as Christians should bear up under the epithet “nuts and kooks” without murmuring, so men shouldn’t think they have a right not to be offended when they’re deemed “brutes” by women, or women when they’re called “babes” by men, or conservatives when they’re labeled “Neanderthals” by liberals, or liberals when tagged “pinkos” by conservatives, or rural people when called “rednecks,” or gays when called “queer,” or Afro-Americans when called “blacks,” or whites when called “honkies,” or executives when called “suits,” or manual workers when called “grunts,” or overweight people when called “fatsos,” or underweight people when called “concentration camp survivors.”

Or single women, or women who have miscarried, when mothers are honored.

Or university administrators whose white — and Hispanic — students eat tacos and drink tequila on Cinco de Mayo.

It is ironic that the age that is likely the most course in human history — with liberal use of the f-word and scatological language in even ordinary conversation and flaming accusations on TV and in social media forums — is also the most thin-skinned in history.

You have a right to be treated fairly under the law.

But you don’t have a right not to be offended.