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Let’s Stop Being So Easily Offended

Let’s Stop Being So Easily Offended

by Mike Duran · 52 comments

“Happy is the man who is not easily offended.” I’m not sure who said that, but it’s an adage every Christian should abide.

Is it just me or are Christians far too easily offended?

Not long ago, in a comment thread, a writer took me to task for questioning a Christian brother’s sensibilities. Certain words offended them and I should respect that. In my uniquely callous way I suggested some people’s claim of offense was a means of smokescreen. Rather than be secure in themselves and tolerate people’s quirks, lifestyles, or opinions, they could control others by claiming to be offended.

  • Your language offends me.
  • Your appearance offends me.
  • Your politics offend me.
  • Your bad habits offend me.
  • Your affiliations offend me.
  • Your taste in art offends me.

And the list goes on.

Let me just come out and say it: I am suspicious of Christians — especially “mature” Christians — who get offended easily.

Yes, Jesus warned about putting “stumbling blocks” before the “little ones”  (Luke 17:1-2 NASV) and the apostle Paul said,

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. (I Cor. 8:9 NIV)

But there’s a big difference between a growing Christian who is learning the limits of freedom and grace, who is battling to overcome an addiction or a destructive lifestyle, and an older saint who is entrenched in their “preferences” and imposing them on others. In my experience, the majority of Christians who express being offended are not “little ones,” they are these “older saints.”

Joe Aldrich, in his terrific book Lifestyle Evangelism, makes a helpful distinction. When it comes to controversial issues — watching R-rated movies, smoking, drinking alcoholic beverages, getting tattoos, gambling, certain styles of dress — Aldrich describes four main types of Christians:

  1. Professional Weaker Brother
  2. Susceptible Weaker Brother
  3. Nonparticipating Mature Brother
  4. Participating Mature Brother

A Professional Weaker Brother is a Christian who has a strong objection to something and believes others should share that objection. In other words, since drinking is wrong for him, it is wrong for everyone. He tends to be critical of those who disagree, legalistic and manipulative, and eventually will separate himself from his “sinful” bretheren. A Susceptible Weaker Brother is sensitive to a particular sin, but understands that it may not be a sin for every Christian. However, due to naivete or lack of discipline, he often vacillates, succumbs to his weakness and struggles with a guilt-free conscience. A Nonparticipating Mature Brother knows what’s sin for him and does not participate in it. Furthermore, he does not project his convictions upon others but respects individual parameters of freedom and demonstrates grace to those who differ. Finally, a Participating Mature Brother believes he has the freedom to indulge in a particular area that could be considered sin to another. Nevertheless, he is cautious to not cast a stumbling block before his weaker brothers, nor to abuse his liberty. However, in the end, his participating freedom has the potential to hinder or harm the genuine weaker saint.

Maybe it’s unique to my experience, but those Christians who are most easily offended are not new to the faith, neither are they genuinely “susceptible” to a particular temptation — they are Professional Weaker Brothers. These Christians have institutionalized their offense, turned their preferences into across-the-board commandments. They have no real desire to spread “liberty” but to enforce a set of guidelines and ideals which cocoon them in their own morality.

No, I’m not suggesting we wink at sin. There is a time to close our eyes, to plug our ears, and to flee from evil. There is a time to express being hurt or troubled by something. But if we get offended by every little thing, how will we ever interact with others, much less reach the world?

My suggestion: Let’s stop being so easily offended.

Just think of it– being un-offendable has repercussions for ourselves, and for our neighbors. Happy is the man who is not easily offended… and even happier are the people around him.

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{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark H. March 12, 2010 at 2:04 PM

Good post, Mike. I think you can take this theory and project it to the world at large, not just Christians. Most of the problems we face from the PC Police stem from people being too easily offended. Instead of practicing the "tolerance" they preach, they work instead to wipe anything that offends them off the face of the earth.

What really gets me is when people start getting offended on behalf of others. I remember some groups raising a flap over the team name of the Washington Redskins a few years back. Then Sports Illustrated polled Native Americans and found that most didn't have a problem with it.

Maybe Christians can lead the way in this area. It's a nice thought.

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Mike Duran March 12, 2010 at 2:34 PM

That's a great point, Mark. The PC crowd is probably the flipside of the Professional Weaker Brother crowd. Both have values and ideologies that they seek to impose on others. There's much to be said for letting people reach their own conclusions, as opposed to telling them what conclusions they should be reaching and then castigating them for unaligned lifestyles. Thanks for your comments!

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Nicole March 12, 2010 at 3:56 PM

Excellent points, Mike and Mark. True.

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Jay March 13, 2010 at 2:29 PM

The church getting "easily offended" might not be as big of a problem as some might think. We gather skewed data because we KNOW when people are offended; we don't know when they don't care. A pro weaker brother is likely to do something about which they are offended; the others probably aren't.

But besides that, I'm not too sure where I would fall with regards to these four groups. Probably all over the board to be quite honest. But this post isn't about me.

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Mike Duran March 13, 2010 at 2:37 PM

Jay, if you're not offended by this post, you're definitely not a Professional Weaker Brother.

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Rebecca LuElla Miller March 13, 2010 at 9:31 PM

OK, lost my first attempt. Let's try this again.

I like these categories, Mike, but I might rename a couple. I'm in #3, but I don't believe I'm mature. The way Scripture describes it, I'm weak. I don't participate in certain things because I'd be spiritually worse for it. Recognizing that fact doesn't make me mature; it makes me honest. Still weak, though.

So here's what I'm thinking:
1. Weaker Brother who thinks he is mature (and therefore believes he has the right to "help" others come up to his plain)
2. Susceptible Weaker Brother who may not know he is weak
3. Nonparticipating Weak Brother who knows he is weak
4. Participating Mature Brother

Becky

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Skadi meic Beorh April 30, 2012 at 5:01 AM

I’ll add a fifth category:

Christlike

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Iola August 21, 2012 at 4:56 AM

Yeah… but Professional Weaker Brother has a nasty habit of thinking he is Christlike…

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Vicki Trujillo June 26, 2010 at 9:31 AM

I appreciate your writing on this subject. I googled in order to stop doing the same thing, being easily offended. I want to live a happy life and encourage my own children to be free in Christ, by living the same example Christ did. Thank you, I enjoyed reading this. Vicki

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Jara August 19, 2010 at 2:37 PM

I’m not Christian but I certainly appreciate you writing this post. Because I’m exposed to the (loud/pushy) Professional Weaker Brother on a daily basis, this group has become my stereotypical image of “Christian”. Your post helps me understand that there are some differences within the faith.

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Sarah December 2, 2010 at 4:50 AM

Very good article! I’ve been studying ‘forgiving’ and realize that most of the time there really isn’t anything to forgive… we are just too easily ‘offended’!
I really thought there was an actual Bible verse that says not to be too easily offended; is there?

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willy December 10, 2011 at 1:17 PM

Ya good thinking that we’re just the ones being easily offended, not that there’s anything to forgive! in a Biblical persepctive, Proverbs 12:16 talks about that, as do a lot of the Proverbs talk about it. James 1:19. Let’s continue to seek God! And for him grant us power and grace that we may be willing to live our faith from our heart.

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luke December 13, 2010 at 5:01 PM

Let me come in from a preacher’s perspective.

It is annoying when christians are offended by every little thing that comes from the pulpit.Our job as preachers is to take people from a place of mediocrity and small and average thinking, to place of strength and ability to stand on the Word of God by themselves.

I believe any christian who is easily offended does not want to change their ways,in fact most Christians tolerate a lot of nonsense from their bosses who can fire them anytime and yet they remain in that job because of money.But if a preacher corrects them biblical they are quick to vote with their feet.
A preacher is like a gym instructor who stretches those muscle you did not know existed and you have pain in morning and to treat that muscle pain go back again until they get used.That is the only way to go to the next level.

The challenge is that people have been doing certain things for a loooooooooong time and they think they cannot change and yet everything else around them is changing except them.
Growth and maturity is never exciting.To be a champion you have to exercise real hard.

If you are a christian it is time to grow because there are certain things God wants to place in your hands but he wont because you are still behaving like a baby.

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Sadie December 15, 2010 at 4:38 PM

I found this doing a Google search. I love this post and can relate. I would also elaborate your points by suggesting that their are Christians who are easily offended in the sense that they get their feelings hurt over every, little misunderstanding or a hasty comment. I have these friends that go to our church (not very regularly, I might add) and they are constantly offended they were not invited to this or that or the other thing. They very overly concerned with what everyone else has left them out of instead of busying themselves with getting INVOLVED. It’s maddening. It’s the “what can my church do for me” instead of the “what can I do for my church” syndrome. Way frustrated over here.

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sarah fulmer March 27, 2012 at 4:52 PM

ha! I know some people just like that. I read a great quote today, that said,”When you find yourself feeling sorry for yourself, get up and walk across the tracks and find someone who needs help; help them. You’ll feel better.”
It is also true, tho, that people who are part of a group can be very selfish. It’s important that churches offer opportunities for new people to be invited to a dinner for eight, or some other small group. Being invited is very different than just showing up…

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Akachristian January 30, 2011 at 5:43 PM

Great piece~!!! I have been running in to the easily offended type here on Facebook~!!!
Esp. women~!!! It’s Jezebel folks…that spirit the MOST destructive for sure. The spirit is manipulative with emotional ploys…then intimidates…the controls and dominates~!!!
Hello~!!!
I Hate Jezebel spirit…the Book of Revelation speaks of this spirit being TOLERATED in the church~!!! Come out of the church Babylonian system…bunch of Pharisees that are Sad-u-See~!!!

Great Peace have they that LOVE THY Law, and NOTHING shall by any means offend them…Amen~!!!
IT’S in the BIBLE silly…;-}}}}}}}

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Akachristian January 30, 2011 at 5:52 PM

Who are the ‘weak’…they are those ‘weak IN conscience’…correct.
We must DEFINE weak…amen.

Not weak in physical sense….but, weak in that they are NOT ‘shoving their doctrine’ down your throat…even though they disagree?
Is this correct…as I KNOW, there is NO Prophecy of one’s own private interpretation.
And, I hope not sounding too rambling…but, I do….and now I go again…

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Sarah Fulmer January 31, 2011 at 7:18 AM

Proverbs 19:11 tells us that “a man’s wisdom gives him patience, and it is to a man’s glory to overlook an offense.” In the dictionary, it says that ‘offend’ means “to create or excite anger, resentment, or annoyance in; to cause displeasure…” SO, if I just CHOOSE to NOT BE OFFENDED, remembering that each man is accountable to God, not to me, and we are all in different places on our journey, there won’t be any anger, resentment or annoyance or displeasure generated in me… and I will not be easily offended.

Don’t you also think that Christians (of which I am one) need to remember that the Bible is for those who believe it is the Word of God! Those who do not believe, live by whatever rules their own ‘god’ lays down, whether society, or their own thinking… we should not expect an unbeliever to adhere to ‘our’ rules, any more than we should be expected to live by ‘their’ rules?

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Lin March 18, 2011 at 6:13 AM

Great article! I am having such a good time teaching teens. Their zeal for gaining the knowledge of God’s word is refreshing compared to dealing with 30+ whining , weak Christians who think the world should revolve around them. I am determined to teach my children that we are servants of Christ, not weaker , easily offended, self serving “Christians” (who should know better by now) and we should not have to tip toe around them. Thanks for the link about the 4 types of Christians. Look forward to reading more.

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Jean July 13, 2011 at 12:55 PM

I was recently on the receiving end of anger from my pastor and an elder. The pastor was offended because I appeared not to be paying attention to the sermon one Sunday. I was crocheting silently and, I hoped, unobtrusively in my lap while he talked. I am recovering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and have found that doing something mindless with my hands makes that panicky feeling go away, enabling me to pay attention to a conversation, t.v. show, movie, or on this particular day, a sermon. I had never done this in church before, but I was having a particularly difficult time with anxiety that morning and I decided to bring my crochet bag rather than stay home. I had my bible open on the seat beside me and followed along with my finger when the pastor quoted scripture, and I looked directly at him with a pleasant, attentive face whenever he walked over near my section. I really was paying attention, and I thought I was making that pretty obvious. I was truly grateful to God for giving me this coping mechanism so that I could really listen to the message and comprehend what was being said, rather than fidgeting and being completely preoccupied with the symptoms of anxiety, or having to leave the room and walk to calm down.

A week later, at a church gathering, the pastor cornered my husband and confronted him with my bad behavior. An elder of the church joined him, and the two of them harassed my husband for 45 minutes before I became aware of something wrong. They continued to carry on a very dysfunctional, irrational conversation with the two of us for another 40 minutes. The conversation went in circles. The pastor said my crocheting was offending lots of people. Then he admitted that nobody had actually said anything to him, but he knew they were silently offended. He finally confessed that he was personally offended by my apparent lack of attention to his sermon. I apologized three times, and I meant it. I never intended to offend anybody. I explained why I was crocheting. He said there must be something else I could do. My husband explained that it had taken several years for me to find a quiet, unobtrusive coping mechanism and that it was an answer to prayer. The pastor said it gave the impression of evil, and quoted the scripture about not eating pork in front of someone for whom that is a sin.

It was a terrible conversation, in which the elder backed up every statement from the pastor. It was all “we” this and “we” that, and they gave us a very hard time. At one point, the elder was screaming at my husband, inches from his face. My husband told him to back off, and he stepped back about 10 feet. So over-dramatic. The whole conversation was ridiculous and irrational. All attempts by my husband or me to inject logic or honesty into the conversation were ultimately futile.

I ended up explaining in detail about my anxiety disorder, which was humiliating for me because my voice was faltering and my audience of two was hostile. They said they didn’t understand. Lots of people seemed to be staring and whispering around us. I caught several sympathetic looks. I hung my head and cried, and the pastor and elder just watched me. When I got ahold of myself and looked up, they were still visibly angry.

My husband told the pastor that he wasn’t following the biblical directive to go straight to the person you have a problem with first, and instead had gone to an elder, and then to the person’s husband. The pastor said that that scripture didn’t apply to this situation. He said he didn’t come directly to me because he was “afraid of how she would react.” In my book, that is no excuse for going behind someone’s back. The way he handled the issue, which I believe was really his own personal issue, made a big mess out of something very small.

I asked the pastor if, after my sincere apologies and my explanation of why I was crocheting that one time, he was still offended, and he said, “I’m slightly less offended.” I asked what he wanted from me, and he said he didn’t know. When my husband pressed him, he eventually said that he wanted me to never crochet in church again. I said to the elder that I thought the two of them were making a big deal out of nothing. The elder yelled in my face, “This IS a big deal!!!”

My husband finally said that there was no point in continuing the conversation and we were going to go home. The pastor said, “This was really hard for me, but I know I did the right thing.” My husband said, “No, you didn’t do the right thing. I can see this was hard for you, but you brought this on yourself.”

My daughter and I cried on the way home that day, and out of desperation, I called a counselor the next evening and asked for an appointment because my entire family was sad and I was tired of catching them crying. She saw us the next day and didn’t charge us for the appointment. She is a member of the church, in fact the person who first invited us to check out the church. She said what happened made no sense, and is not what this church is about. She said the church needs us and people like us who are willing to stand up for what is right and to hold the leaders accountable for their own actions. She said God must have allowed this because He knows we are strong enough to handle it. I don’t feel strong. I feel beat up and scared.

Two weeks later, a second elder contacted my husband and said he and the pastor want to meet with the two of us. I emailed this elder and expressed my willingness to meet, but that I was nervous about it because I had felt bullied and shamed and didn’t want a repeat experience. He called me and said he had talked with the pastor and asked me if I intended to keep crocheting in church. I doubt I’m even going back to that church, so I said I didn’t know. He said that he had known the pastor and the other elder for several years, and there is no way either of them would yell at a church member or verbally attack anyone, and he would not allow me to say things like that about his friends. He said that, if I was afraid to talk to the pastor, I must have bigger issues. He said that I obviously had an attitude that would make it impossible to resolve anything.

I said I was very willing to talk to him and the pastor, but only if the member of our church who is a counselor is present. He said that was unnecessary and, although he would run the request past the other elders, he doubted they would agree to something so useless. He said the elders of the church are counselors. (As far as I know, one is an accountant and another is in banking….?) Then he informed me that it would be several weeks before any meeting would take place, if at all, because the pastor was going on vacation, and he himself was a busy man.

After that conversation, I called the counselor and explained that I’d volunteered her and hoped that was okay with her, and she said she was happy to come to the meeting with us. We are now waiting to see what happens next. I feel alone in this because, if I talk to anyone at church about it, I am afraid I will later be accused of gossiping.

It’s been a horrendous experience for me and my family. I feel like I’ve been in the Twilight Zone for the past several weeks, where up is down and down is up. The silver lining is that my husband and children are proud of me for standing up to the attacks, staying calm but assertive, staying rational, and being brave enough to face these people again. It would be easier for me if I had caused all this, then I could go beg forgiveness and try to change my own attitudes and behavior. As it is, I can’t find anything I did to deserve this treatment, or any way I could have handled it better. It makes me very sad.

Your article was excellent and I’m so glad I came across it. God bless you for your honesty and clear thinking. It’s amazing how the truth cuts through a lot of gunk. I wish we had more people like you in church.

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Tim George August 27, 2011 at 4:57 PM

No offense to your pastor but he really has a chip on his shoulder. If I had become offended at people not seeming to pay attention when I was preaching I would be divorced by now. My wife, sometimes didn’t look like she was listening either. How knows? Maybe she wasn’t that day. Big deal! So sorry you went through such a needless ordeal.

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Virginia September 10, 2011 at 10:45 PM

This makes me very sad, and I’m glad you found a place to let it out. Please know that we’re praying for you and your family, in our house.

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Carradee October 4, 2011 at 11:12 AM

Not sure if you’re going to see this, but maybe you could look for a church with external government, like Presbyterian. I’m a communing member of the PCA, myself. Presbyterian pastors and churches are accountable to others, which helps avoid and limit abuses.

Even at my own church, where I’m sure the pastor and some others would mind your crocheting in service, nobody would yell at you. I can say that for certain because—well, let’s just say my dad’s an elder with some views that the pastor doesn’t share. And we have side rooms, hooked up to the service, for people with noisy children, illness, etc.

Praying for you.

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Cherrie November 13, 2011 at 2:50 PM

As I am sure God knows you were paying attention and using the coping skills he gave you, I believe you are not subject to these mere mortal men who feel they have the right to call you to judgement for your innocent actions. Find your family another church.

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April March 27, 2012 at 2:14 PM

So sorry you had to experience this… where’s the grace? I have anxiety, my husband is deployed (gone for 7 months in the Navy) and I have a hard time even getting to church, if that happened to me… they’d never see me again.

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sarah fulmer March 27, 2012 at 5:41 PM

Sometimes we need to look for another family of believers to worship with… experiencing and sharing the love of our wonderful God and Father should rarely hurt.
Jesus’ words to the hypocrites were harsh, but he was kind and loving and forgiving to those who honestly fell short… although he did warn them to change their ways. God is Good!

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Skadi meic Beorh April 30, 2012 at 5:08 AM

Be comforted, and leave that congregation. They are vipers.

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Karla July 21, 2012 at 9:00 PM

Jean, it’s been over a year since you posted about the offense your preacher and elder felt at your crocheting during service. While I can certainly understand their point of view, their delivery was sorely lacking. I feel they could have just chosen to overlook your crocheting. And as a fellow crocheter, I know how one can crochet and listen at the same time, sometimes listening better than when not crocheting.

I consider the entire incident by asking if Jesus would have been offended if one of his women listeners were crocheting while he preached on the hillside. I feel pretty confident that he would not be offended. He wasn’t even offended by children, whom I assume weren’t quiet by any means since I know children, and actually asked that they be allowed to be there with Him.

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Lynette Sowell August 6, 2012 at 7:53 AM

It’s been a long time since you posted this. I hope you found another church. You should not sit under a pastor who abuses the sheep in that manner. Clearly he has issues with control. Anyone who tries to belittle another in such a manner is a bully.

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whitney October 4, 2013 at 8:45 PM

I hope you’ve found a different church. A pastor with this much bitterness cannot possibly be leading spiritually. The whole situation sounds ridiculous. They were completely unempathetic to your reasons and incredibly immature. I’m sad for you. :(

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Jean July 13, 2011 at 1:15 PM

Also applying the advice not to be easily offended to myself. Doing my best to forgive these people and let God handle what happens next.

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Sarah Fulmer April 30, 2012 at 7:00 AM

Hi Jean! I just re-read your explanation of your experience and am wondering how you and your family are doing… What a strong love you share for each other! You and your husband handled all that irrational and un-Christ-like behavior so well… are you still there? is the pastor still there?

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Rayne Krebsbach September 28, 2011 at 8:05 AM

I am an atheist and stumbled upon your article after interacting with a Christian friend who said they were offended by a comment I made (they weren’t offended by what I had said but what I COULD have said). This article is FANTASTIC and I think it is extremely useful to Christians and non-Christians alike.

“I suggested some people’s claim of offense was a means of smokescreen. Rather than be secure in themselves and tolerate people’s quirks, lifestyles, or opinions, they could CONTROL others by claiming to be offended.”

Amazing insight!! Thank you so much for writing this article!

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Lepskin69 November 27, 2011 at 8:32 AM

AMEN

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Brandon Clements December 11, 2011 at 7:56 PM

“But if we get offended by every little thing, how will we ever interact with others, much less reach the world?”

Amen. Very well said Mike, thanks.

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Jason Brown February 29, 2012 at 3:08 PM

The best place to find Christians so simplistically offended by the slightest of things: read reviews of Christian books, music, and movies on amazon and look up the 1-star ratings. THE dumbest things that pop up in any given person’s head (let alone a Christian’s) is truly astounding and shows how lacking we are in noticing people’s different tastes, expecting our own “personally perfect” standards onto others. We simply can not be satisfied with entertainment, it does feel Christians expect things to follow their own personal doctrines to the dot, to the point, to every tiny detail, then they’ll be satisfied. Otherwise, many of them find the greatest Christian books and movies (at least, in my opinion) simply blasphemous for all the wrong reasons. I suppose you could say simplistic ignorance offends me much more easily than the raunchiest horror or comedy.

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Skadi meic Beorh April 30, 2012 at 5:10 AM

A bad review is better than no review at all.

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Kierstin M May 29, 2012 at 3:02 PM

I agree, to some extent. Many Christians have made it seem that Christianity is nothing more than judging anyone who doesn’t live by their own morals. I am a Christian; I believe that it is a sin to have sex before marriage, to go against the law, and other things of that nature. But I believe that it is not my place to tell them what they are doing wrong but rather love all wherever they are at and worry about myself.

I guess what I’m trying to say is you can’t quote “Christian” into a group of easily-offended people. We all have, unfortunately different beliefs. It’s the same concept as a guy who is gay and everyone thinks he is an extreme feminist.
:)

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Earl July 29, 2012 at 11:55 AM

Actually we are supposed to let people know what they are doing wrong but it is all about the delivery and the mindset of the purpose. John the Baptist was beheaded because he told Herod that he was wrong to marry his brother’s wife. Jesus was killed because he told some of the groups in power that they were up to know good and would not go to heaven if they did not chance.

It is all about letting God guide you though rather than you be on your own personal quest. Christians are not the only people doing thing. Political correctness is the world’s version of what they argue some Christian do. They basically lump all Christians together though.
Also how can you heal someone if you don’t know what is wrong with them and if you know some is sick and don’t tell them, you could be the reason things got worst. I know in the past sometimes I was nervous about saying stuff to people because I did not know how to say something that I knew would offend but it is better I offended them and got them help than not offend them and let them die spiritually or physically.

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Earl July 29, 2012 at 12:05 PM

Also from my understanding the bible speaks on offending the spirit and not just offending someone who has unhealthy view of themselves and their morals. I almost laugh when I saw someone tell them poster that they were being offensive for referring to a man that had a sex change as a “he”. That is ridiculous. Sometimes doing the right thing will offend evil people or people doing evil. I am sure the Nebuchadnezzar was offended when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not bow down to his statue. I am also sure because of what Jesus told I believe the Pharisees comparing them to Sodom and Gomorrah they were offended. The thing is someone also brought it up what I already started picking up that when the bible says offended, they are not talking about the current meaning of the word that covers a larger range of things. You can offend a person but doing nothing at all. People who do not believe are offended by God and Jesus and they have done nothing wrong.

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Sarah Fulmer July 29, 2012 at 12:39 PM

I like your comments, Earl; some good ‘food for thought’ there.

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Brooke November 29, 2012 at 11:00 AM

Can you please tell me where you got the qoute at the end? Happy is the man… – love that!

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Headless Unicorn Guy December 21, 2012 at 12:03 AM

Professional Weaker Brethren:
“Just like Tyranny of the Most Easily Offended, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”

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