Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Not Easily Offended

Yesterday I remarked that God doesn’t want any to perish, but all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), no matter how colorful or limited someone’s vocabulary is.

I saw this again on my way to Chicago recently. I talked for a couple of hours with a young man named Nick. He’s 22 years old, graduating later this spring from one of the top universities in Massachusetts. During the course of our conversation, Nick dropped several "bombs" while telling me about his New York family’s decades’ long commitment to a Hindu guru who moved to Oregon many years ago. It was both humorous and intriguing as Nick tried to convert me to this guru’s main tenets of faith. Then again, humor is a great segue into talking about our deepest religious beliefs and convictions.

After a while, Nick started railing against evangelicals. Without tipping my hand, I countered some of Nick’s misperceptions of evangelicals by saying I’ve read a lot of evangelical writings and never heard anyone espouse the things he was saying they believe and teach.

When Nick asked what I did, I briefly told him about my new book, If God Disappears, which he said sounded interesting. In fact, he seemed quite interested. So I told him about my blog where I said he could find a link to read the first chapter of my book. I then gave him my e-mail address and asked him to let me know what he thought after reading what I had to say.

Later that evening in Boston Nick went online, read some of my blog postings, and then read the opening chapter of my book. Nick then turned around and wrote a lengthy, profusely apologetic letter to me via e-mail. He was seriously worried that he had offended me. No, he hadn’t, I assured him. Why? I consciously made a decision long ago not to be offended by someone’s vocabulary or remarks. It’s a decision we all have to make. It’s counterintuitive, I know. But just because I’ll never use such words in anger doesn’t mean I have to judge others who use such terms, especially if they use them flippantly.

Yes, I realize some can use such words to denigrate others, which I do find deeply offensive. But Nick wasn’t trying to denigrate me. So there was no reason for me to feel offended or ask him to clean up his vocabulary. Any such remarks easily could have been more offensive than anything Nick was saying.  

1 comment:

Nick M. said...

Regarding your post, I did not catch it originally but just read it upon reception of your letter. I found it to have a positive core message that was distracted by a slight separatist undertone. I understand when reading your postings you are catering to your audience… I found your intent to be genuinely good, but my concern was the tone, which seemed a little simplified. Obviously your preachings and opinions are both good and well intended. When i critiqued your post earlier I was trying to negotiate or bring to light the idea of mutual understanding regardless of faith. I believe as two well tempered educated people we had a lot in common and in fact most of our beliefs, whether political or social, were similar. My concern was that the blog didn't acknowledge such similarities and good company and rather defined our conversation as a test to your good will. Your belief in openness and conversation was clear. What wasn't clear was the fact that our conversation was a meeting of two minds and not a test of your faith. I hope that you know I have no malice towards you and found you to be a wonderful person and I appreciate and respect your positive output in your books and teachings. I found your blog to be positive yet slightly tainted by the assignment of binaries. What should have been discussed, perhaps, was the ability on both our parts to understand and appreciate each other as two separate thinkers and believers, that our good will and demeanor had gifted us a conversation that continues...