Patti Armstrong is an award-winning author and was the managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press’ bestselling Amazing Grace series. Her latest books are: Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories From Everyday Families and Dear God, You Can’t Be Serious. She has a B.A. in social work and an M.A. in public administration and worked in both those fields before staying home to work as a freelance writer. Patti and her husband live in North Dakota, where they are still raising the tail end of their 10 children.
I think some people want to be offended these days. Being offended has become an art form in our culture—something to work at, often in creative ways. (Before we go further though, let me state that I am totally against mean-spirited jokes or comments and bullying.)
Last year, I wrote about people offended by Christmas. The power of a nativity scene to send anti-God folks into a tailspin has been proven year after year. But there were some over-achievers at the University of Tennessee last year when the tax-supported Office for Diversity and Inclusion reached new heights (or lows).
Students were warned to ensure their holiday parties were not Christmas parties in disguise. Cards, games, gifts, and party foods were to be non-specific to cultures and religions. Word leaked out about that ridiculousness so the diversity police ended up with figgy pudding all over their face. They reissued a statement to just be sensitive to others. Because people might forget.
This year’s shout-out goes to the University of Florida for offering counseling services for anyone offended at Halloween. Their website explained a counselor was available 24/7 in their Counseling and Wellness Center for anyone offended at during Halloween.
Actually, I personally can see being offended by something evil connected to Halloween. But seriously, do you think getting affirmed by a counselor would help that? In such a case, I’d probably just get laughed at since it’s Halloween at a secular university.
Yet, if I called the Wellness Center to complain that someone dressed up as a Catholic priest at a party and it made me feel judged for coming as a Playboy bunny, I bet I’d get some choice-affirming comfort. The guy in the priest costume would probably get a warning.
Too Much Love?
Do you think my example is silly? Think again. At Oklahoma Wesleyan University, a student complained about a university chapel service sermon on the topic of 1 Corinthians 13. He said it made him feel “victimized.” (Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud….)
All that talk about love made him feel bad for not showing love. He complained that the speaker was wrong for making him, and his peers, feel uncomfortable. Dr. Everett Piper, the University President, gave him a piece of his mind.
In addition to informing the student that he ran a university, not a day care, Dr. Piper said: “That feeling of discomfort you have after listening to a sermon is called a conscience. …The goal of many a good sermon is to get you to confess your sins—not coddle you in your selfishness. The primary objective of the Church and the Christian faith is your confession, not your self-actualization.”
Dr. Piper advised: “If you want the chaplain to tell you you’re a victim rather than tell you that you need virtue, this may not be the university you’re looking for….At OKWU, we teach you to be selfless rather than self-centered. We are more interested in you practicing personal forgiveness than political revenge….”
Holidays that Hurt
To show that oversensitively can take place outside of universities, Bloomington, Indiana is changing the names of two of their city holidays to be more culturally sensitive. From now on, the city will call Columbus Day the “Fall Holiday” and Good Friday will be “Spring Holiday.”
It will affect the 700 city employees and anyone who reads their “closed” signs. Apparently, the decision was based on people opposed to the city posting closing signs referencing these holidays on the front doors of City Hall.
Imagine all the people that might be offended if they can’t get into city hall only to learn that the employees are off practicing penance and fasting on their Christian holiday or somewhere contemplating Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the new world?
What About Our Pain?
While citizens are being formed in oversensitivity, I’d like to know: where can I go when my feelings get hurt? For instance, after I stood with a group prayerfully supporting our North Dakota law enforcement (because pipeline protests can be stressful) I was told by a relative: “You people are the worst kind of f---ing Christians!” Never mind that I explained we prayed for everyone and nothing unkind was said.
Earlier in the month, after I wrote a post-election article saying we should pray for Donald Trump I was told: “I used to think you were a good person but now I’m not so sure.” I was called a racist and hypocrite. My husband and I have taken in five people from Kenya (four call us mom and dad and one calls us grandma and grandpa) and we had a Native American foster daughter for a year and a half, but I’m apparently a racist now.
I am hurt, but I know where to go with those feelings. The same place I always go. To Jesus and his Blessed Mother. They know all about being offended. And being hurt is an opportunity to offer it up for the offenders.
Payback will be sweet. Jesus showed me by his example how to love and pray for others when they offend me. He also told me that I have been blessed. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5: 11-12).