Posted by: spacewritinguy | December 27, 2007

Anti-Christianity, PC, etc.

Recently a couple friends said to me, “We’re not anti-Christian, but…”

And the “but” was a story about how they were offended–yes, offended–that a coworker had posted quotations from the Bible on her white board. But then in the next breath they told me that “Yeah, political correctness has really gotten out of control.” Perhaps they need a refresher on what the PC take on religion usually is: it’s theirs. Not once have I proselytized to them, suggested that they return to church, or imposed my religion-based attitudes upon them. And yet they’re the offended? Ridiculous. And of course they take it personally if they’re not allowed to hang a calendar with babes or rock stars in their cube. There is such a thing as free speech, but I believe Americans have lost touch with what it means. I guess the thinking there is that ANY speech is allowed–ESPECIALLY if it’s offensive. Speech that might enlighten, inspire, or inadvertently offend is the stuff that should be banned. Yeah, that’s it. Keep the smut, but do what you can to keep those holy rollers’ mouths shut. The libertarian in me believes both should be allowed, quite frankly, and that both sides should lighten up.

These two friends were also more than a little dismayed that I had started attending church again after a long lapse (about 9 years or so, during which I’d first made these two friends’ acquaintance). I explained that I was a Lutheran (“What the hell is that?”), and that the church I attended did not require frequent doses of fire, brimstone, or snake handling. They seem unconvinced, and decided to change the topic once they realized I wouldn’t join them in some additional Christian bashing.

And speaking of free speech, Will Smith’s comment regarding Hitler probably requires some response.

“Even Hitler didn’t wake up going, ‘let me do the most evil thing I can do today.’ I think he woke up in the morning and using a twisted, backwards logic, he set out to do what he thought was ‘good.”‘ 

In essence, he meant that Hitler probably saw himself as a good guy from his point of view. Indeed, he saw himself as the savior of the Aryan race! Smith explained Hitler from a perfectly rational, if perfectly relativist point of view. If he had been a college professor, or if we still had something resembling sane intellectual debates in this country, no one would have blinked. But the situation quickly deteriorated, much to Smith’s dismay:

Over the weekend, dozens of celebrity gossip Web sites posted articles about the comment, many saying that Smith believed that Hitler was a “good” person.

This, of course, is not the same thing at all, but nuance is lost on the media when they set out to deliberately misinterpret something. Consider Ronald Reagan’s joking sound check in 1983:

My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.

Again, not the best example; but the press took this as a sign that Reagan was a bloodthirsty Neanderthal out to destroy the world. Nooooo…but again nuance is lost when others are looking for an excuse to take someone out of context. 

Perhaps Smith might have taken a different tack or used a less extreme example, but the fact remains that any good fiction writer knows what Smith said is true. You have to provide a believable motivation for your characters, even–no, especially–the bad ones today. Once upon a time, good was good, bad was bad, and no explanation was required. However, today we have a more psychologically detailed, if somewhat less moral school of fiction writing in charge. “Anti-heroes” are all the rage, and one must show how even the bad guys have a “reason” for doing what they did.

Consider Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars. While emotional instability and killing your own wife in a blind rage might “explain” a man’s attachment to domination and control (even to the point of planetary genocide), it hardly excuses him. “But he saved his son’s life and killed the Emperor. That must count for something, right?” Yeah, but only after leaving millions of corpses in his wake–including his own former mentor and best friend–to place that same Emperor on the throne. And yet we’re a sympathetic culture. If we have an “explanation” for behavior, we’ll accept it. Hell, if Hitler were to be written about by a contemporary Hollywood writer (someone who’s working, anyway), he might not be far off from Smith’s original statement.

Maybe the outrage comes from hearing such a clear articulation of the inevitable result of such thinking. “We want to explain villains’ behavior” is the stated objective. “We want to make the bad guys be just as good as the good guys” is not what a moralistic culture like America actually wants to hear or believe. And, of course, anyone who would write such a thing would back off in the face of media criticism and insist, “Oh, I didn’t really mean that.” However, ideas have consequences. Mr. Smith, having stated aloud what others thought only secretly, is facing an unpredictable backlash–at least, it was unpredictable to those who believe as he does.

So am I condemning Smith as well? No. I think what he said is entirely plausible. I don’t believe it, but he’s entitled to his point of view. If he gets blackballed out of Hollywood or sent on some “apology tour,” then he would be the latest in a long string of celebrities who have stepped on some unforeseen tripwire in the landmine that is political correctness.

Which returns us nicely to my original topic, my friends who profess not to be anti-Christian, but would just as soon see it banned from the public square. The problem with politicizing everything is that you’re only as fine as the current political opinion in ascendancy at the moment. If your innocent-to-you opinion suddenly crosses a new line in the sand, you too could find yourself a victim of persecution. There are two means of surviving such a cultural mess:

  1. Back off from politicizing every damned act, speech, or event or at least encourage a broader sense of humor and toleration that actually encourages free speech and reduces the prevalence of “offense mine fields.”
  2. Always make certain that your opinions are in the majority. This will, of course, pose problems to those who have very definite morals or opinions, but if you’re determined not to give offense, then you’ll just have to tie yourself into whatever knots the “majority” feels are necessary at the moment to avoid confrontation.

Here’s a scarier question: which step is easier?

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Responses

  1. I read your post with interest. I have to agree whole heartedly with your points made therein.

    I understand both points of view about being offended with Christian messages in the office. Actually here are several different points of view on it.

    Unfortunately and sickningly there are those in todays society who will use Christianity to give them some false appearance of trustworthiness. You can trust in me… Im a Christian. Its almost like saying that makes them automatically honest, fair, and beyond contempt. I have seen many car salesmen use this technique and I do find that to be highly offensive. They are there like everyone else to make a sale. You either have integrity or you dont. Putting the symbol of a fish on your business card and declaring that you are ethical because you are a Christian doesnt make it so. You still have a job to do and sales to make to keep your job.

    Secondly it gets offensive when they have scriptures posted and constantly talk about it in the work place. Not everyone shares the same beliefs and it would be every bit as offensive to Christians if Muslims constantly spoke of Alah and the teachings of the Koran. Its at the same level of rudeness as speaking in a foreign language that not everyone in the room understands. It gets to be an inappropriate clique and excludes.

    People also tend to speak as though theirs is the only right thinking. That makes others feel uncomfortable. There are many ways to get to heaven.

    Honestly, for me, I dont mind people having scriptures that they find inspirational in the workplace. Beauty and truth are always positive. I do draw the line though when those are forced into shared spaces where the other people might not share the same views.

    As for Will Smith, its absolutely disgusting how the media have turned a completely rational statement into something so hideous. Anything to sell a newspaper. I have seen false articles about his being a Scientologist to all kinds of stuff. But of course they wouldnt be able to print that garbage if there wasnt a market for it in our sick society. Oh how we love to see anyone with a bit of hard earned success fall.

    Tollerance, understanding, kindness and inclusion is all that is needed. I would like more companies to include Channuka, Eid, and Kwanza and Christmas in the celebrations. Understanding of someone else’s thoughts and beliefs is the first step to tollerance and acceptance. You may not agree with their choice, but at least we should be able to respect it.


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