Dec 11, 2007

Is this statement offensive?

Wireless internet is down again…thanks Ore…so I’ll just write this in Word then upload it later.

Tell me if this statement is troublesome – “What do atheists and the Grinch have in common?”

This is what we wrote on the whiteboard at the contact table today, including a very well drawn picture of the Grinch. Yesterday we had “Communists and the Grinch.” (I think we should go for broke and write “Atheists, the Grinch, and hundreds of millions dead”) This seemingly innocent question seems to pack a lot of heat. Grant, a former atheist, came up with it.

“That statement is horrible! It really offends me! I’m gonna go report you to the campus union, you shouldn’t be saying such things on public property! Your grammar is incorrect (we had “does” originally). You are turning away people with statements like that; they can’t find Christ because of you! You should change it to “Jews and the Grinch”, that would make more sense. It’s an unfair comparison that presupposes things. You aren’t Christian, you aren’t showing Christ’s love!” Etc etc, just a handful of the things I heard at the table during 45 minutes.

Is that statement really that troublesome? Or do most atheists have such shaky convictions that the littlest thing offends them? We had one guy stop to argue the question (he acknowledged it was a question!), and I asked him if atheism was a religion. To his credit and to my surprise, he answered “yes.” It took me back. We then asked if he was an atheist, and he stormed off after telling us it was none of our business. Still, I’m proud of the guy, and I told him so.

The question was written by Grant primarily as a way to encourage discussion as well as a way for him to share his testimony (former atheist). People automatically became reactionary, viewing it as a statement instead of a question. Not only that, but they seem to only remember parts of the Grinch story. No one knew how it ended.

I found out that a girl I work with in the bookstore is a Christian; she shouldn’t have mentioned she only listened to Christian music. Then I probably shouldn’t have said that I listen to enough Hillsong already, because of church. That set off the discussion. I mentioned I listen to a lot of Christian music too…my favorite band is U2. She gave me a look at that. jjEventually she asked about Maranatha (I mentioned the table and the drama we had today) and what the drama was about. So I told her.

“That is SO offensive!” She then turned to another girl and repeated it. Both of them drew the conclusion that we were saying that atheists had no heart. Wonder how they got to that one. I explained who wrote it (Grant), what his brief testimony was (saved from atheism), what the point of the question was (discussion), as well as what the answer was (Grinch tried to control Christmas, eventually repented, etc). Nevertheless, both of them came to the conclusion that for a Christian organization to say such a thing is not only wrong but offensive and dangerous to other Christians.

So I asked the first girl more about her testimony. Grew up in a really large Lutheran church (nothing wrong with that), but didn’t realize that you needed a personal relationship with God. Within the past year or two, she has gotten truly saved and is now attending Mercy Vineyard. She didn’t know any of the names I dropped either, says she’s only been there for about a year and is just now getting involved with ushering duties and stuff.

So…here’s a prayer request. Pray first of all for this girl (don’t remember her name…call her Ms. Blonde), that God would continue to speak to her and help her grow, as well as allow her to realize the importance of asking such questions and engaging other for Christ. And second, pray for the people on campus, not only for those who stopped to talk and here what we had to say (and a few responded!), but also for those who grew mightily offended and yelled at us. They need Jesus too…I think.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The statement asks to make comparisons between a known bad thing and a something else. The association is provocative (offensive is questionable) because it presupposes that there do exist commonalities (and probably negative ones) to be compared, which may not be true at all.

To play the Devil's advocate for a moment, what would your reaction be to a sign that asked you, "How are Jesus and Hitler the same?"

While you, yourself, may be able to turn the other cheek an answer in a thoughtful way, it would likely provoke many to react poorly.
I think this is a poor way to encourage debate. It seems, at best, mean spirited, antagonistic, and well... petty.

The tactic of disparagement by association is not new. It's a common tactic of underhanded politicians and propagandists.

Take the higher road, my friend. This sort of trickery doesn't suit you. It's best to attract bees with honey, you know.

Better luck next time,