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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

I'm Offended!

How many times have we heard that statement in response to everything from a television program,
to a movie, to a joke, to a song, to something we've done that is really quite innocuous, to a belief we hold - really to anything and everything? Most of the time, the thing that "offends" people is nothing more than a different perspective. I'm not talking about dirty jokes, vulgar language, revealing clothing, or running naked down Main Street. I'm talking about much more benign things that only become "offensive" because they don't fit in the the speaker's usually conservative beliefs and world view. You see, somewhere along the line "offensive" became a method of trying to control the thoughts and behavior of those with whom conservatives disagreed, and there is little more vile to me than thought and behavior control. It's also cowardly, because it attempts to shut down conversation If your actions offend me, you need to stop - and debate is unnecessary.

The truth is that the whole notion of being offended has become a powerful technique among the religious right. Pastors have been toppled from their positions after "offending" church members, and the church members accusing the Pastor don't really have to articulate what it is that offended them. Presumably, talking about the things that offend one is, in and of itself, also offensive. It is the neutron bomb of conservative Christianity. Remember the neutron bomb? It was developed during
the 1970s and was a weapon deemed so vile that President Carter banned its further development or use - which no doubt means that weapons developers went ahead and built it anyway and that there are scores of these things stockpiled somewhere. What made them so vile is that they killed people but left infrastructure intact by somehow not destroying anything but living beings. This is precisely what "I'm offended" does. It removes the person in question, the "offender" without any nasty collateral damage that arises from discussing feelings and belief in an open and healthy manner. Like an assassin's bullet fired from hundreds of yards away, there is a presumably "clean kill." Of course, no kill is ever clean, and this one is very vile because it creates a culture of fear. Because the things that "offend" are most often quite innocuous, virtually anything could get one knocked off. In other words, Christianity has produced a group of wimpy, back stabbing cowards who lack the stones to take responsibility for their actions and statements.

Enter Stephen Collins, who played the pastor-Dad on the saccharine sweet television show 7th Heaven. I should start by saying that I have always had a bias against Stephen Collins - at least ever since Star Trek: The Motion Picture, when he clearly was trying to usurp Captain Kirk's position on the Enterprise, but I digress. 7th Heaven was repeatedly named the "least offensive" show on television by conservative Christian watchdogs because of its emphasis on the evils of premarital sex. As an aside, how ironic is it that after appearing on such shows many young female actors find it necessary to pose in magazines like Maxim in an attempt to try to get their careers back on track as normal young adults? Anyway, Eric Camden - played by Stephen Collins - the pastor Dad and family patriarch, upholding the sexual morality so important to single issue Christians, the icon of "good Daddy," now is cast in a new light. You see, Stephen Collins - now by his own admission - is a pedophile. That is something we all can get offended about, but so far the religious right has been virtually silent. How can this be?

It can be because "being offended" doesn't really have anything to do with being offended at all, and everything to do with advancing an agenda. I will submit that agenda is two fold. The first is to advance the conservative world view in the culture - and if they were honest about their intent, that would be fair enough. The second is more insidious and spiritually damning. The second is to ensure that followers never have to critically examine or defend their beliefs. Why would a movement not
want to have members critically examine their beliefs unless those beliefs were, shall we say, a bit shaky? Why, the very suggestion is surely offensive!

As for Collins, now 67 years old, he has admitted that he molested three girls - perhaps after checking the statute of limitations. Studies of pedophiles would suggest it's virtually impossible that he didn't molest many, many more girls. Very few, if any, pedophiles only molest a few victims. The drive to act out is very strong, and he may have only admitted to the crimes for which he cannot be prosecuted or in which the victim is likely to come forward. On the other hand, he has a shred more integrity than Bill Cosby - which is kind of like praising someone for spending three hours eating dinner at the all you can eat buffet but skipping dessert.

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