Religious Liberty and the Offended Culture

“The Apprehended Thief” by: Benjamin Vautier, 1879

The age of toleration has turned into an age of safe spaces and stress cards. Being offended is the new hobby horse of the younger generation. As Christians in this increasingly hostile and intolerant society, we have an offensive message and therefore should promote the right to be offended.

In the past, the word “offend” held a much stronger connotation than it does today. “Offend” meant that one is in “desperate straights” as Paul Helm notes. Duels ensued over being offended. Because this word has been thrown around flippantly, society has created a culture of offendedness. In turn, this offended culture has created a lack of toleration in spite of the age of tolerance.

This offended culture creates environments where newspaper cartoonists are in fear for their life because of something they drew. This offendedness leads to colleges canceling peaceful discussions because a small group of students can’t handle the content. Christians should fight for free speech because it coincides with religious liberty. By not having free speech for all people, this will eventually create an environment not suitable for someone to exercise their religious liberty. Someone will be offended and religious liberty will be shut down. Paul Helm rightly pointed out that all that is needed for a claim to be taken earnestly is for that claim simply to be offered.

We as Christians have an offensive message that will send people to their “safe places” where the coloring books are. Fighting for free speech will keep our society free where we can freely share the offensive Gospel message to this dying world. We should promote the right to be offended. Mohler write, “A right to free speech means a right to offend, otherwise the right would need no protection.”

Freedom of speech is a privilege that should be celebrated and honored. The culture of offendedness threatens the public discourse necessary to have a free society. Christians should be on the forefront of this battle. We should celebrate this freedom by not playing along with culture. Al Mohler says in his book The Gathering Storm, “Once we begin playing the game of offendedness, there is no end to the matter. There simply is no right not to be offended, and we should be offended by the very notion that such a right could exist.”

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The Reformed Conservative aims to reunite gentlemanly virtues with scholarly conversation. Standing in the great Reformed and conservative heritage of thinkers like Edmund Burke and Abraham Kuyper, we humbly seek to inject civility into an informed conversation, one article at a time, bringing clarity out of chaos.