Doing the Sensitivity Sham

An extended discussion broke out in the comments of my “deny Him seventy times seven post,” and it had to do with whether or not my way of expressing myself leaves someone who struggles with same sex attraction feeling quite “safe” around people like me.

One of the themes of my writing is that of trying to get Christians to see how worldview assumptions are embedded in all language, like currants in the bread pudding. Everyone is standing somewhere, and everyone is trying to get us to go somewhere. Before we do so, may we be permitted to ask a few questions?

I write something about the current homo-jihad — because every obvious thing needs a noun — and someone else inquires as to whether my use of such a phrase might be off-putting to a hypothetical visitor to my church, if such a visitor were struggling with same-sex issues. How will you reach him if he is offended by such language and disappears, never to be heard from again?

But the problem with hypothetical visitors is that they are a construct of a worldview. They are produced in an attempt to steer the conversation. My language is moderate compared to some bomb-throwers out there, and yet no one has ever asked me to make things a bit more inflammatory for the sake of a “hypothetical editor of a neo-Confederate newsletter.” What if he visited our church, and was thoroughly offended by how carefully I minced my words, like a donkey chewing a thistle? What if he disappears, never to be heard from again? And if all my interlocutors said “good riddance!” then I would point out (mildly, as is my wont) that their concern is obviously not over the issue of people taking offense at language, but over which direction the language is taking us.

Remember what James tells us. The tongue is not just powerful in a random, destructive way. It is that, as we see through his metaphor of the spark and the forest fire. But the tongue is also a tiller, a rudder. The tongue is enormously influential in taking us where a select few, who would be the pilots of culture, insist that we go.

“Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things” (James 3:4–5a, ESV).

Why do I use the language I do? Because I have no intention of going where they want me to go. By that I include their intermediate stopping points, like the Cities of the Plain RV Park, or the final destination, which would be Hell. If you don’t want to go where they are going, don’t let them have control of your language. One of the most remarkable things about our current imbroglios is how readily Christians cede control over their language to the adversary. Friends, you are being steered.

And not by Scripture either. We obviously should not say or write anything that offends God. But offending Rachel Held Evans is another issue entirely.

And suppose someone says that by saying “Hell” a bit earlier, I am not helping them to feel safe. Right, but suppose for a moment the goal is not to make that person feel safe. Suppose that the goal is something else entirely?

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.”
“Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…
“Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you” (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe).

The reason certain people are plastering trigger warnings all over everything is not because they are unduly sensitive to a certain category of language. Rather they are unduly sensitive to the wrong sort of person getting anywhere near the rudder. If I mention rape, someone will insist that I must be more careful, more sensitive, more thoughtful. “C’mon, Wilson.” A trigger warning is most needed, they say, because the strategy is to get conservative Christians to start policing themselves. Sorry. I am not going to play ball.

The end result of this sensitivity sham is that we will get — depend upon it — a bunch of ostensibly conservative Christians shushing one another over the appropriateness of ever saying homo, while overweight lesbians in their black skivvies can be lauded for parading down the street with a big banner saying, “F*** the Patriarchy.” If ever there should be a trigger warning . . .

The reason these people are offended is that they have nothing but contempt for God’s law. “Great peace have they which love thy law: And nothing shall offend them” (Ps. 119:165).

Confusion is rampant today because the people want to sin. They want to be free from the restrictions placed on them by the holiness of God. We can point this out, and should continue to do so as clearly as we can. But pointing it out is not deliverance. If we are to be delivered from it, then God will have to be the one who rises up. “It is time for thee, Lord, to work: For they have made void thy law” (Ps. 119:126).

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Art Morrill
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Art Morrill

A tasty post seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6).

Douglas Singer
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As someone who struggles with right-column attraction, I’m not sure I feel quite safe around the new blog format/layout. Might get used to my eyes being pulled left but when it comes to visual orientation, I’ve always been somewhat of a cisreader.

Douglas Singer
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Wonderful article, by the way.

Bro. Steve
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Bro. Steve

I have grumped for years that when liberals want to destroy something good, the first thing they do is take over the dictionary.

BJ
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BJ

Doug,

I tried in that ridiculously long thread to say this very thing (except without the image I will never get out of my head, now). And yet, the entire time I felt as if this very concept should have been obvious by now. Did no one read Animal Farm?

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Under His Mercy,
BJ

Howard
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Howard

There is a an old song about “swing that gospel axe, preacher”, containing this point in another useful form: our hypothetical about-to-be-offended is already headed for hell. Where exactly will we scare him off to? The only hope for a change in destination is the whole Gospel, and the Gospel contains NO good news until you hear the bad news first.

Sara
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Sara

“The reason certain people are plastering trigger warnings all over everything is not because they are unduly sensitive to a certain category of language. Rather they are unduly sensitive to the wrong sort of person getting anywhere near the rudder. If I mention rape, someone will insist that I must be more careful, more sensitive, more thoughtful. “C’mon, Wilson.” A trigger warning is most needed, they say, because the strategy is to get conservative Christians to start policing themselves. Sorry. I am not going to play ball.” The reason I and many others plaster trigger warnings (or content notes) before… Read more »

Keith LaMothe
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Keith LaMothe

@Sara: Yet, even your expressions sound like a steering into different vocabulary and conceptualization. If someone cannot read the whole Bible without experiencing a serious traumatic episode, then there’s a need for spiritual restoration far more fundamental than any space-carving.

Whatever the means by which you were brought to hope in Christ, God be praised. But please use the Word to examine your fragility.

Sara
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Sara

Keith, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I’m a little confused — what particular vocabulary have I used that causes you concern (or seems to)? I wasn’t referring to trigger warnings before Scripture but before articles or posts discussing topics like rape and sexual abuse, which are very personal and painful in a different way, and tend to be worked through in different ways for different people. Scripture absolutely convicts as well as encourages, and can be difficult to read at times, as it should be. But it’s purpose, as I understand it, is to give us life, even in… Read more »

matilda
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matilda

@Sara, let me first say that I don’t really have a dog in the fight over Doug’s language usage, but I had to jump in on your comment. I also am a “sexual assault survivor” although I dislike that terminology, but I’ve never felt the need to have everyone put trigger warnings all over everything. I don’t find them helpful. Yes, stuff did bother me for years afterward but it was not “re-traumatizing” in the way that you are describing. If accidentally running into mention of a rape is that traumatizing, I would argue that you probably aren’t dealing with… Read more »

JASON KATES
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JASON KATES

Three cheers for worrying more about offending God than RHE or a hypothetical visitor to your church!

Mark B. Hanson
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Mark B. Hanson

@Sara,

Thanks for pleading your case as “weaker brother” (sister) personally, not theoretically. That makes all the difference.

As to the propriety of Pastor Wilson’s comments, I will leave that to the rest of the meta. After all, what’s a meta for?

timothy
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timothy

@Sara,

Could you please notify us before you post that sensitivity stuff? It makes me barf.

thnx

Sara
Guest
Sara

Timothy, I’m sad and surprised to hear that. Take good care.

Sara
Guest
Sara

Matilda,

I’m so sorry for what you went through and the difficulties you experienced afterward. I’m glad you didn’t find yourself perpetually re-traumatized. I don’t know you but it sounds like you’ve experienced healing in your life. That is AWESOME! Take good care.

Sara

Sara
Guest
Sara

Hi Meredith, I’m going to try again. My first post seems to have disappeared. Perhaps it was a glitch or I’m in moderation? In any event, I’m so sad about what you went through and the difficulties you experienced afterward. I’m encouraged to hear that you weren’t perpetually re-traumatized in the ensuing years by the triggers I described. I don’t know you except from what you wrote in your post but it sounds like you’ve experienced significant healing and that is AWESOME. It’s been my experience that people heal at their own pace. Some take longer than others, etc. That’s… Read more »

timothy
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timothy

“Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you”

Lewis got it right.

timothy
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timothy

Timothy, I’m sad and surprised to hear that. Take good care.

Sarah, please.

I am sensitivity intolerant.

The puke! its everywhere and I cannot afford a new keyboard just now and the cost of food.

A bit of brio, abruptness or directness would go a long way.

thx

Keith LaMothe
Guest
Keith LaMothe

> “what particular vocabulary have I used that causes you concern?” When I read things like: “what is healthy and life-giving for them” “created space for me” “carve safe places” My first concern is that the terms are addressing elementary teachings like sin (the death caused thereby), forgiveness, and freedom in a-biblical terms. That is not necessarily a problem, but it does increase the possibility that the speaker is (often unintentionally) steering the discussion in an a-biblical or anti-biblical direction. And this is precisely the kind of discussion that most needs to be grounded in the Word. My second concern… Read more »

Keith LaMothe
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Keith LaMothe

@Timothy:

> A bit of brio, abruptness or directness would go a long way.

Perhaps when the Lord calls you home, we will eulogize you as “a wild ass among men” (Genesis 16:12).

Warmly,
Keith

katie
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katie

Timothy is getting hard to handle. And I’ve been reading the Wilsons for nigh on 20 years.

antexw
Member

Timothy,

No worries about Keith’s arbitrary conjecture (not that I believe you are worried). As Doug noted above, arbitrary conjectures can (arbitrarily) cut both ways. Keith’s use of ‘perhaps’ equally allows for ‘perhaps not’ as far as saying anything meaningful and justified about actuality/reality. Thus, Keith’s speculation implies also perhaps you won’t be thought of the donkey type. Perhaps Keith will repent and stop supporting the arbitrary speculative sham routine … and therefore perhaps not.

Moor
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Moor

As I commented on the aforementioned entry, it has been my experience that no matter how delicately one parses and nuances the language around a particular hot-button cultural issue, the price extracted and the blowback is the same. I’ve dissected and revivified the language of sexuality in almost every imaginable culturally accepted way and still been called a bigot, a homophobe, a narrow-minded follower of bronze-age Jewish mythology, and whatever else goes for ad hominem disqualifying language these days. Based on this experience, it is my conclusion that in the public square, such language is ultimately compromised and ineffective. It… Read more »

RB3
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RB3

The lack of Christ-like compassion and gentleness for fellow-Christians, the wounded, and the weaker brethren among commenters to this blog is simply astonishing. I’m not talking about attitudes toward hostile secularists. I’m talking about attitudes like Timothy’s toward Sara. It is antithetical to the way Jesus treated, taught about, and spoke to the “least of these.”

timothy
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timothy

Pastor Wilson used the metaphor of a rudder; other metaphors will be useful, think a feedlot and the fences that funnel a heifer into the slaughter house where she stands alone (GMO free, of course) before she is slaughtered. What @Sarah and @RB3 are doing is enforcing the parameters of acceptable thought with a razor-wire kindness. Because some ‘sensitivity intolerant’ soul somewhere might regurgitate his hormone-free chicken onto his iPad due to ‘sacharine sweetness’ triggering his ‘gag reflex’ we are frowned upon for acting ‘kindly’. Now, take any of the words in the previous sentence that I have enclosed in… Read more »

timothy
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timothy

This video illustrates the dynamic: Gluten Intolerance There, the ‘allowables’ are foods, here the ‘allowables’ are ideas. @moor, Katecho, I am trying to flesh out this dynamic and state it in declarative terms, then provide the church with the rhetorical tools to end this foolishness when encountered. In this comment thread, in response to sarah (and in an attempt at illustrating the dynamic) I embraced sarah’s ‘tolerance’, redirected it and amplified it in a direction that made her look like the android in that Star-Trek episode when Kirk said, ‘this sentence is false’ and the android self-destructed. @RB3, your handle… Read more »

Keith LaMothe
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Keith LaMothe

Brian Brown: Unless I was prepared to prophesy, the “perhaps” was necessary when speaking of a future event where it looks like it could go either way. I was trying to strike the prophet who said (quite explicitly) “strike me” in hopes that we would not all be eaten by lions, but I didn’t realize that I needed to get a running start and use a metal baseball bat for the striking. But my using a future tense and theoretical construct was unnecessary and counterproductive, so I repent of adding such convolutions. Thank you for the rebuke. Let me try… Read more »

RFB
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RFB

timothy,

I do not have much time (traveling); just thought to tell you thank you for the smile I had after reading your request for a trigger warning, and how the irony of it was (seeming) missed.

It reminded me of a reply made after a particularly vintage whine: “Hey, can you please say that with your man voice?”

Drive on brother.

Andy
Guest
Andy

Or to put it in Orwellian terms…

As the sheep provide cover with their meaningless bleats of offendedness, the pigs (black skivvies or not) go on changing the chant…

“Four legs good, two legs better.”

Jonathan
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Jonathan

I tend to be thrown off when someone uses a logical fallacy at the very beginning of an argument, or makes a false equivalency when two things are clearly not equivalent. There’s obviously a clear difference between walking into a church and finding that the pastor speaks in a different manner than you do, or holds a different position than you do, and walking into a church and finding the speaker to be speaking in a manner that is actually aggressive against you or causes real negative consequences to you as a person. Saying that “some people are offended by… Read more »

RFB
Guest
RFB

Writing from 30k feet, so still being brief. When did we get so prissy?

We have not yet shed blood in our fight against sin. Do we really think that was just metaphor? Men have fought and returned without eyes and limbs, and have driven on, pressing forward; many never return. Are we supposed to now cringe at paper cuts? I think that some need a steamin hot cup of toughen up.

RB3
Guest
RB3

Timothy says: “What @Sarah and @RB3 are doing is enforcing the parameters of acceptable thought with a razor-wire kindness.” Nope, try again. I said nothing about being “sensitive” nor did Sara. Sara talked about “finding a way to serve those who have been wounded.” I talked about “Christ-like compassion and gentleness for fellow-Christians, the wounded, and the weaker brethren.” There’s probably no point in repeating our words, though, because Timothy (especially) and others have constantly demonstrated either willful misreading or blatant ignoring of the precise words and arguments of those they deem, somehow, to be God-hating or liberal or on… Read more »

timothy
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timothy

Dear @RB3 You wrote: “Nope, try again. I said nothing about being “sensitive” nor did Sara.” Sara’s very first sentence began: “The reason I and many others plaster trigger warnings (or content notes) before our writing, especially when discussing the topic of ..” So, bullocks. If you are incapable of seeing what is in front of your eyes, I cannot make you see. However, there are those who do see and cannot quite put their finger on what is wrong with Sara’s request. By interjecting my own request for a ‘trigger warning’ I laid bare the results of the technique… Read more »

Moor
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Moor

How do we imagine the prophets were received in their time (I’m thinking of Ezekiel right now in particular, and especially of his “hung like donkeys and ejaculating like horses”-style commentary)? From what I know, which, admittedly, is much less than some, the prophets were generally discounted, marginalized, berated, dismissed, accused of sedition and slander, etc. I bring this up, in part, to suggest that while Timothy is certainly guilty of divisive and derisive language, he potentially stands in a long stream of such language being used and applied by and towards the people of God. Of course, Ezekiel, et… Read more »

timothy
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timothy

@Keith LaMothe Thank you for thoughts and encouragement. Your points in your comment of Monday, April 13, 2015 at 2:24 pm are very well stated. I wholeheartedly concur with them. If I may be so bold. I have an Indian tutor (feather, not dot) who has taught me what Aristotole (Socrates?) had to say about the nature of argument (in the Greek sense of stating premises and arriving at conclusions via logical progression). Namely, that there are some people for whom only rhetoric will suffice and the calm dialectical exposition of a case (such as you did with your comment)… Read more »

katie
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katie

I don’t know if Timothy is a young man (I think not), but this from Doug in Credenda Agenda years ago seems applicable to me. I could be applying it wrongly, so “We report – You decide.” Or as The Economist quipped, “We contort – You deride.” ha! “…Truth is rigid and unyielding, and is almost as good as a baseball bat for hitting people with. I have seen this happen so frequently with Christian young men that I have decided to name the phenomenon – such should be called thunder puppies… …Jesus once rebuked His disciples because they wanted… Read more »

Paul M
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Paul M

Doug, Always enjoy your use of language…the heck with the naysayers. In a society where weakness in the pulpit is becoming the norm we need more of your ilk preaching in frank terminology and sticking to a tougher (but respectful) Gospel message…so keep on keepin’ on.

RFB
Guest
RFB

Has no one ever honed a knife on a sharpening steel? As iron sharpens iron, it is an abrasive process.

Christopher
Guest
Christopher

“…for many survivors, reading about rape or abuse may be traumatic, especially if reading such content is unexpected. I want to give survivors information ahead of time about the content of a piece so that they can make a decision as to whether to read, to wait, or to not read at all, depending on what is healthy and life-giving for them.”

It seems to me that a person who is traumatized or retaimatized by a mention of things in their past has not yet survived the incident and is therefore not a survivor.

Moor
Guest
Moor

Here’s the “Factual Feminist” on so-called “trigger warnings”. She highlights, among other things, research that shows how shielding people from dealing with the kind of trauma they faced is generally counter-productive.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hC7Ii1I8wx0

katie
Guest
katie

RFB, biblical sharpening iron is abrasive. Timothy is abrasive. Therefore Timothy is biblical sharpening iron. I never took logic (regretfully, Professor Kirke!), but I’m not sure this necessarily follows.

Kirsten Miller
Guest
Kirsten Miller

Keith Lamothe @Timothy
“Perhaps when the Lord calls you home, we will eulogize you as “a wild ass among men” (Genesis 16:12”
Keith, High Five and thank you.
Timothy, not everything requires the scorched earth approach. Save your really brutal ninja rhetorical moves for other dudes. Sara is a girl. She’s got issues. Have a little feeling for her. Feel a little protective of her, just on that basis. I mean, I know it’s hard when SOMEONE IS WRONG ON THE INTERNET, but
crikey.

Keith LaMothe
Guest
Keith LaMothe

@Timothy: Thank you, I also often think that calm explanations are insufficient. I usually refrain from the “serrated edge” when dealing with non-christians or immature christians because I am prone to the sins of pride, thinking myself clever, and rash wrath. God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. One implication is that giving grace to the proud is ineffective. Were I better man I would wield a sharper sword. May God make it so. For now I’m learning masculine speech by watching examples, asking questions, and occasionally hitting a bear with a stick. I’m pursuing brevity, excising… Read more »

Kirsten Miller
Guest
Kirsten Miller

Maybe I misunderstood your comment, Keith. I didn’t think you were complimenting Timothy there.

Moor
Guest
Moor

@Keith You have aptly summarized, and in entertaining fashion, the exact linguistic journey I am currently endeavoring. The sheer of weight of some of the parenthetical statements I’ve felt compelled to write, and the death-by-a-thousand-qualifications that I’ve sometimes died in trying to dance the dance of the internet sophomores has rarely resulted in the kind of clarity needed, for me or the readers of my comments. Furthermore, I confess my own tendency toward verbosity, and have rarely passed up the opportunity to say something in 10 words that could have been said better in 5. So, thanks for sharing, and… Read more »

Kirsten Miller
Guest
Kirsten Miller

Timothy, to clarify: I’m not saying you have to interact with Sara on the terms she’s laying out, or accept her statements uncritically. But does it make any difference to you at all that she’s a woman? Just asking. Because if not, you’ve gotten over into the other ditch and are showing a real egalitarian spirit in how you’re addressing her. She says she has issues. Somehow, that triggers (<– joke here) a desire in me to be kind to her, even if I don't agree with her assessment of what her true issues are. To sum it up, I… Read more »

Kirsten Miller
Guest
Kirsten Miller

Katie, I like your comments in this thread.

timothy
Guest
timothy

@Katie @Kirsten Please pray that the Holy Spirit search my heart and destroy any sin in it. Fwiw, I have prayed often, and continue to pray the same. To echo Moor and Keith, I do not enjoy these techniques, but they are necessary. I have a long days work ahead of me. I will reread your comments when I return. One thought in parting. If Sara is a child, why is she reading Blog and Mablog unsupervised? I do not treat children as adults nor do I treat adults as children. If this is a blog for children, then of… Read more »

timothy
Guest
timothy

@Keith @Moor The hardest part is the friendly fire. Your motives are key and must be run through the Holy Spirit and prayerfully considered. Two quick points as I leave for the days work. 1. Old-world grandmothers pack more punch than anything I have delivered. I know, because I have been on the receiving end of many a whack from a smock-clad 90 year old with wobbly triceps. They do not pull their punches. Sara, would learn much from such. I am sincerely surprised by the ‘cloying syrup’ that I am encountering in christian circles. 2. Samuel was in my… Read more »

katie
Guest
katie

Thanks Keith. I thought it was RFB giving “indirect insinuations” – insinuating that Timothy’s abrasiveness was due to iron sharpening iron. That may be so. But then again…. it may not. Direct attack may not always be the best way to get a person to examine themselves. Gentleness can sometimes feel like a blow to the chest. I think Timothy’s words to Sara were unwise. I understand the use of rhetorical force against an enemy that has co-opted that weapon and forbids anyone else to use it. I think it requires wisdom to know where to swing it, and when.… Read more »