The world focuses attention on being politically correct. Avoiding some statement that might offend some particular group or person. Inevitably, by the very nature of concentrating so hard on not saying something, we invent whole new ways to be offensive.
Something that struck me recently, though, is that in the world of religious quips, it is more acceptable to add a statement or notation. To ask one to refrain is considered rude. (A great example is refraining from “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays.”)
This point was brought home by two incidents.
First, I still receive those general e-mails from friends and family which often include a verse at the end, or a statement about God blessing me. They know I am an atheist. They are well-aware that such statements have no meaning to me. But I am part of the crowd receiving the e-mail. A crowd that is mostly Christian. Should they erase that part from the e-mail before sending it to me to be “politically correct”?
Second, on a blog which concentrates in defending Christianity, an entry was placed about praying for an individual’s health. Since it is typically a free-for-all regarding discussion, not surprisingly a person eventually posted a comment regarding how prayer was ineffectual. The Christians were (also not surprisingly) shocked at the heartlessness of the comment. I have been told by people they are praying for me. Should I ask them to not, out of “political correctness”?
Don’t misunderstand me—I am not offended by some verse in a letter, or a statement of “I’ll pray for you.” Our society is pervasive with such things, and my particular environment has traditionally been inundated with it. I tend to overlook it.
But what if I did the same? What if I included in my e-mail a quote? Something along the lines of:
“Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand. – Mark Twain”
I already know my friends and family would be shocked. Offended. Taken aback. They would be hurt and puzzled over how mean it is that I would dare include such a blasphemous statement when I know they are a Christian. As if I was being deliberately odious.
Isn’t that a bit of a double standard? While I may not be bothered so much by some verse or quip, other people are. Yet Christians are not equally receptive. Part of it is the fact they are convinced they hold truth. That they are entitled to do such things, because it is the right thing to do. Adding a verse in a letter that might…just might lead someone to Jesus is the equivalent of giving a warning that drinking bleach might…just might be hazardous to one’s health.
While I am equally convinced that getting people to think with clever quotes is the “right thing to do” that is superceded by the fact that it offends others. Which is the wrong thing to do. Therefore I exercise restraint. Christianity cannot take that extra step. Offending others is part of the stamp of being a Christian.
If they are not offending us, they must be doing something wrong. If I dare ask, “Hey, can you not bother to send me a verse?” that is proof positive that the one thing they absolutely MUST do is send me a verse! It is validation that I must be “feeling the heat” and it is time to turn up the temperature.
Occasionally, in my discussions ‘round the net, I come across a Christian who says “I will pray for you.” I desperately want to tell them not to bother. It is a waste of time. Yet I know, if I dare even breath the slightest protest, they will only waste more time and effort in the endeavor. My request to not, is proof that they must.
I understand both the Christians on the blog being offended by the statements regarding the ineffectiveness of prayer, as well as the person who posted, since it was traditionally a blog that was open to such arguments. Christians have no problem (and I invite them) to post a comment on my blog regarding the fact I am going to hell, or am an apostate, or became an atheist because of some terrible sin. I will be more than happy to engage them in that discussion.
It seems a bit odd to have a blog such as this, and then complain if someone posts a comment that is not complimentary. But, Christians often feel that if we dare “return fire” on their sacred cows, it is rude and insulting. Why? Why can a Christian tell me “I will pray for you” and we must find that acceptable, but if I reply, “Good, I will think for you” then I am just being a nasty person.
Where is it written that a religious statement, regardless of the intention, must be viewed in the most positive light? Have I lost the opportunity to be offended?
Rather than pray for me, take a few moments and hug your spouse. Hug your child. Call up a friend and chat. It has more benefit.
It seems to me, the most politically correct thing to do is either stop tossing out religious post-it notes, OR stop being surprised when a few post-it notes come back your way.