Sunday, December 25, 2016

Punch in the Gut

Started this post a month ago or so...

I feel somewhat convicted. I've never much been into political-correctness. Most of the advocating I've done has been for orphans and sometimes I've sided with various movements related to Christian values.

I know a lot of minorities in America have felt "unsafe" lately, and as a white Christian I realize that I don't have much experience with being discriminated against. So I don't even really know what to say! (sidenote: some friends of ours just commented that a swastika was painted on their lawn on Christmas Eve! Devastating...)

(another sidenote: I've never gotten into the politics of holidays in Russia...not sure minorities have even really started to make their voices heard. Western Christmas falls during the Orthodox pre-Christmas fasting period.)

In U.S. culture, I have often appreciated efforts to put the "Christ" back in Christmas. I dislike the mish-mash that the holiday season has morphed into. December/January contains several DIFFERENT holidays, and I like to call them by name. When I was very young, school music programs would still contain selections from various holidays, including Christmas, etc....instead of removing everything except the most secular of songs/traditions.

Anyway, a Jewish acquaintance recently made a comment online, asking people how he should reply when wished a "Merry Christmas." Meaning, how should he keep his feelings under control. While we fight for the right to keep Christ in our holiday greetings, it literally causes others pain (being kicked in the gut was basically how he described it). I hate the word "offended" and I'm usually the one to say that Jesus wouldn't care about offending people. But really I think that boldness is more appopriate when you need to confront some hard truths. Different context.

There's a controversy going on now (that was a month or two ago), related to some Pro-Life ads featuring some people with Down's Syndrome, and that might offend women who've had abortions, or something. Again I think...who cares about offending when the cause (saving babies' lives) is so important? But...sometimes there is a third option that would better protect all involved...and in a good way, not justifying controversial actions. That's what I've been pondering.

As another example, I have never much thought about whether or not I'm offending Muslims. Please don't get me wrong, as it's not like I've been called out for doing something offensive and chosen to just keep on doing it. It's more that I have not examined my own behavior to see how it looks to people in various demographics.

When "it" happens to someone close to you, that's often the point when you change your mind. So the fact that this person on FB was putting himself out there made me stop and think. Maybe when generalizations are made about people groups, I tend to ignore it, but when a person shares about personal experience, that's when I take it seriously. I wonder if it would work for sharing about the causes that are important to me, too. Instead of sharing articles written by someone else, coming out and saying "I'm a  ____ and I feel sad about _____." Maybe those memes and things that are passed around are just too passive-aggressive. What if instead of quoting a Bible verse, I shared about how it makes me feel when my own faith is mocked, or a health condition that affects me is made fun of? And of course it depends on your audience, too!

I want the Gospel message to be heard and not silenced. And if I say Merry Christmas...well, I'm really wishing that to Christians first, and secular Christmas-celebrators second, not really addressing those who DON'T celebrate. BUT I don't want to go around "kicking" people in the gut. Hmmmmm. Makes you think...


  1. Well, I will say that on the ad with children with Down Syndrome - I was upset that France banned it because in that instance they were actually alienating people with Down's Syndrome. No one wants to add to the pain of a woman who has had an abortion, but the ad didn't say anything to those women at all, one way or another. It didn't attack these women or judge them at all. There is no way for the government to create an environment where there is no chance of a painful reminder of that past choice, even if that was the government's responsibility. That ad was upholding the inherent value of people who have disabilities, and it was actually discriminatory toward THEM for France to decide that a different (and presumably "more important") group of people somehow has a right not to see them.

    1. I started that post so long ago that I forgot what my initial reaction was! I definitely think there is a fine line between advocating and manipulating people emotionally. We shouldn't be afraid of offending anyone, but is it okay if we are TRYING to shake them up? I'm thinking about graphic anti-abortion posters and things like that. Is it exploitation to post cute photos of kids with Down Syndrome? I've given this a lot of thought more in the context of orphan advocacy. Anyway, I think I agree with you! Defending the rights of the helpless is a good thing!

  2. A lot of the people with Downs in that particular ad were speaking for themselves, of things they could still do even with a disability. We are talking about the ad that the French banned right? Did you watch it? It was meant as an encouragement for women who have children with Down's syndrome, to show that their children can live full lives and do amazing things, and it wasn't exploitive because these people were speaking for themselves. The issue of abortion was not even mentioned in that ad or addressed in any way, the French government inserted that themselves. The ad was meant to inspire and honor the value of people with disabilities, but apparently we can't even portray the lives of people with Down's syndrome in a positive way, using their own stories as examples, because some people don't want to think about them that way? That is discrimination, and offensive to people with Down's and their families. Why does their offense count for nothing here? I know there was a lot of heartache from that community when the ad was banned.

  3. Sorry, I get pretty opinionated on this topic and I think I'm coming off a little intense. 😉 It's good to think these things through. 😊

    1. Yes, I had to go back again and rethink my original thought-process. Obviously I probably had the same reaction as you, it initially. I don't want to defend the people who protested as I felt like it was kind of a lame, hypothetical argument. Just like you were saying-why invent offense on behalf of someone else, when it doesn't even fit the original context? But I made myself think of a real-life woman who'd had an abortion and how it might make her feel, and if I heard from an actual person that would make me react differently. I think I would feel compassionate. I also think there can be some passive-aggressive behavior on either side.

  4. Frankly, I think if someone feels "punched in the gut" because someone wishes them Merry Christmas, then it is their problem. Are they ashamed of their religion? If someone wished me Happy Hanukkuh, or "Holy Ramadan" or something, I's either say "Thanks, same to you!" or if I actually had an ongoing relationship explain that I'm not actually Jewish/Muslim, sorry for any miscommunication. A greeting isn't intended to be insulting! It isn't even intended to be proselytizing. In fact, probably most of the time a person who says "Merry Christmas" (at least in the US) isn't really a Christian - just a present-under-the-tree-opener.

    I do think that "correctness" is "catchy". I am planning to have the teens do a program in a few weeks that puts guys and girls in different small groups for sessions entitled, "True Beauty: Becoming the Woman God Created You to Be". and "True Strength"...etc. for the guys. I surprised myself by thinking that it wasn't quite right for women to be "beautiful" while men must be "strong". So, I cut the first part off both the titles in my email to parents, flinching while I did it.

    1. There is definitely a huge political aspect to it. I wasn't indifferent before but I felt attacked as a Christian when it was frowned upon to say Merry Christmas, so I tried to say it anyway. It was more of a DEfensive approach, if you know what I mean, but now I realize that people see it as offensive. Does that make sense? I can't explain the "punch in the gut" thing any more than to just say that it made me try to put myself in someone else's shoes.


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