Just Because You’re Offended Doesn’t Mean You’re Right!

offended9Just a few more words about the Eagerly Offended and then I’ll shut up about them…for a while.

There’s a guy in Saskatoon, Canada, Ashu Solo, who has been offended.  He believes that he was made to feel like a “second class citizen” and “excluded” at a public gathering.  Apparently this grievous harm happened when Saskatoon city councillor, Randy Donauer, said a prayer (popularly called “grace) before a public meal for civic volunteers.  Solo maintains that Canada is a secular nation, and, therefore, there should be no public religious observances — they are obviously offensive to the non-believer.  Unwilling to tolerate this level of disrespect, Solo is taking action.  He wants to remedy the situation by fiat and remove prayer from public meals entirely, thus saving himself and all other unspecified offendees from having to endure this unbearable situation.

Ashu Solo is no stranger to being offended.  Last December, even though he admits to not seeing them himself, he was offended on behalf of others when several buses in Saskatoon displayed “Merry Christmas” messages.  At the time, Solo’s argument against “Merry Christmas” was similar to his case against grace: Canada is a secular nation, and, therefore, should not have religious messages displayed on public transportation.  It should be noted that Mr. Solo was not offended by the “Go, Riders, Go!” message, also displayed on many buses — even though it is common knowledge that ‘Riders’ football represents the dominant religion in Saskatchewan.

Regardless, since being offended is the #1 pastime in Canada, Mr. Solo has every right to participate.  However, he should have aoffended5 working knowledge of the game before he decides to play.  Unfortunately, his anti-Christian argument has two rather large Swiss cheese holes in it.

First of all, Canada is not a secular nation.  There has never been any legal provision or precedent that says so, anywhere in our history.  In fact, the first line of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms clearly states that “…Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God…”  Hardly the statement of a nation “not concerned with religious or spiritual matters,” is it?  Actually, the separation of church and state is an American concept (much like freedom of speech or the right to bear arms.)  This is a common mistake, made by many Canadians.  It comes from watching too much American TV.

Secondly, there is a major difference between Freedom of Religion, as guaranteed by the Charter, Section 2 (a) and Freedom from Religion which again has no legal provision or precedent anywhere in our history.  These two distinct concepts are also easily confused.  It comes from not paying attention in school when the lesson on the use and abuse of prepositions came up in grammar.  To clarify: in Canada, you have the right to put your faith in whatever you want, including Jesus, your neighbour’s cat, American legal nuances or nothing at all, if you so desire.  That right is guaranteed.  However, you are not protected from the religions which are happening all around you.  You have no legal right to arbitrarily stifle their observances, regardless of how offensive you believe they are to you.  In fact, attempting to quash any religious observance — including the Christian practice of saying grace — could be considered a crime given the way the Charter is written.

As “Eagerly Offended” goes, Ashu Solo is hardly in the top echelon.  However, he does demonstrate that being Eagerly Offended is clearly more an art than a science.  Without logical or cohesive arguments, it relies mainly on Western Guilt and usually targets Eurocentric practices and institutions.  For example, I doubt very much if Mr. Solo is offended by Sumo wrestling (even though it is closely associated with the Shinto religion) or Kung Fu (as practiced by Shaolin monks.) Nor would he campaign long and hard to ban either one.  To be blunt, there simply isn’t any percentage in it.  No, the key to success for the Eagerly Offended is to carefully choose a soft quarry, and by selecting a city government (large enough for media attention but small enough to have limited resources) as the offending body, Ashu Solo has made a very wise decision, indeed.

Wrestling with the Anti-Christs

I’ve had enough!  The next person who gives me the anti-Christian tirade is going to get an earful – and beyond.  It’s getting so that you can’t go to any social function, no matter how innocuous, without some clown calling down Christianity.  I’m talking about everything from cocktail parties to backyard barbeques.  These anti-Christs are getting worse than the Jehovah Witnesses, for God’s sake!  And they won’t take yes for an answer.  They always have to tell you why Christianity is crap.  I’m not particularly religious; as a child of my generation, I was raised to believe in nothing, and I’ve still got most of that left.  However, the last time I looked, tolerance included all religions, not just the ones that don’t have Jesus in them.

It’s not that I mind people expressing their opinion about religion (or anything else for that matter.)  Knock yourself out!  However, there is a time and a place; not every Christian reference demands a pit bull response.  Sometimes, it’s not appropriate.  Besides, anybody with half a brain already realizes that Western spiritual values are based on mythology — Greek, Norse, Hebrew etc. etc.  They don’t need enlightenment.  Nor are they hearing your pronouncements for the first time.  It’s been open season on Christians since long before John Lennon imagined ten million dollars in record sales.

That’s the real problem.  Despite wholesale claims to the contrary, most anti-religious dissertations are not about religion at all: they’re about Christianity.  People tend to preface their remarks with a bunch of mumbo-jumbo about organized religion, but in the end, it’s only Christians who get a kicking.  I have yet to hear anybody tie into Buddha, for example, or Guru Nanak or the thousand and one African gods.  The very same people who would blow a gasket if you so much as smirk at the pantheon of deities some religions have on offer think nothing of ridiculing Christians — to their face.  To hell with tolerance; that’s just bad manners.

I’m way out of my depth here, but for my money, if we’re going to give spiritual room to any religion, we should give it to them all – including the one our grandparents had.  That’s why we call it Freedom of Religion.  There are people in this world who worship trees (I don’t want to get into it, but if I was going to choose a God, I wouldn’t pick one who’s afraid of termites and tent caterpillars.) and they get way less trouble than your average “I’ll-go-to-church-when-I-get-there” Christian.

There is no particular insight involved in denying Noah’s Ark, the Virgin Birth or Moses parting the Red Sea.  These are allegories which all religions use to try to explain our human self-aware existence.  Nor does it take intellectual prowess to question what cannot be proven; sceptical doesn’t automatically mean smart.   Actually, I find most of the anti-Christs quite ignorant about the Christianity they so fervently decry.  But mostly there is no honour is attacking another person’s beliefs.  If we are comforted by what we know in our heart to be true (whether it be eternal salvation or Mother Nature’s bounty or multiple reincarnations until you get enough points to get into Nirvana) does it really matter if it is true or not?

The burning need to discredit Christianity is simply bigotry and intolerance dressed up as an intellectual exercise — and I can prove it.  You never hear these anti-religious people bad mouthing Muhammad.  Is that because Moslems bite back?