Offense is inevitable

Published October 5, 2023

WORLD Opinions

There is little doubt that we live in an age where offense—both the giving and the taking thereof—is cheap. The disembodied, frictionless world of the internet allows for a routine level of personal vituperation that would rarely, if ever, occur if the antagonists were in the same room. And this has helped foster a world where disagreement is now frequently framed in moral terms. The persons with whom we disagree are not simply misguided or wrong. They are morally defective in some way and to be treated as such.

That the language of “safety” and “feeling safe” is now routinely applied to being exposed to ideas that one does not like while in physical proximity to the person speaking is surely connected to this. There is, of course, typically no real physical danger involved in such encounters. It’s all in the mind. But then that’s the point. In a world where bodies are rarely involved, the mind and its feelings have increasingly become the primary focus of identity.

Over at First Things, Mark Bauerlein recently pointed out that, when it comes to the new politics of identity, it is going to be impossible for Christians to avoid offending people. It is hard to argue with that. As the terms of good citizenship in the earthly city become increasingly antithetical to the terms of membership in the church, collisions are inevitable.

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Carl R. Trueman is a fellow in EPPC’s Evangelicals in Civic Life Program, where his work focuses on helping civic leaders and policy makers better understand the deep roots of our current cultural malaise. In addition to his scholarship on the intellectual foundations of expressive individualism and the sexual revolution, Trueman is also interested in the origins, rise, and current use of critical theory by progressives. He serves as a professor at Grove City College.

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