In the Age of Outrage

We are currently several months into the Covid Chronicles,” (the Covid-19 pandemic) here in America from when the first “stay-at-home” orders and lock downs started back in mid-March 2020. Wearing a face mask has become a regular part of our attire when dressing and going out for the day as well as social distancing (a term that will be forever etched into our collective memories).

Of course, there are other significant issues going on in America right now, too, caused by racial unrest and rioting that has been occurring since May 25, 2020, when George Floyd was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis. And all of this (the pandemic, the killing of George Floyd and the following rioting, racial tensions, and outrage) is occurring during an extremely heated Presidential election year (see this link to an article published on August 4, 2020, titled, 2020: The Thelma and Louise Election,” by John Zmirak, Senior Editor of The Stream, to get his perspective on what is going on during this election cycle).

In an article published today, August 5, 2020, titled, Don’t Let Your Love Grow Cold in These Hateful Times, by J. Lee Grady, author, journalist, ordained minister, contributing editor for Charisma Magazine, and director of The Mordecai Project, he writes:

The year 2020 will go down in history as the year of national outrage. While a virus is spreading across the United States, peaceful protests for racial justice morphed into vandalism, arson and anarchy. Angry marchers in Seattle took over several city blocks while protesters in Portland tried to burn down a federal courthouse. I’ve never known my country to be so hateful.

Anger has reached a boiling point. Passengers are being removed from planes because they started fistfights over leg room. Store customers are going ballistic because other customers aren’t wearing masks. Entitled Americans, always ready to record a cellphone video, are ready to blow the whistle on each other.

We don’t care how our words hurt people anymore. We have become a vicious culture. Jesus warned this would happen when He said that in the last days, “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold” (Matt. 24:12, NASB).

We are naïve if we don’t recognize this cold-hearted hatefulness affecting Christians. I’ve noticed that people today get offended more easily and are much quicker to storm out of a church when something goes wrong.

The world tells us that ending a relationship is as easy as hitting the unfriend button. But when I read the Bible, I don’t see any room for outrage, resentment, intolerance or “unfriending.” Jesus calls us to love—and He gives us the supernatural power to do it.

Have you considered ending a relationship recently because of politics? Did you already walk out of a church or break a close friendship because of a disagreement? If so, examine your heart and ask these probing questions first:

    1. Am I giving up too soon? The apostle Paul told the Ephesians they should “always demonstrate gentleness and generous love toward one another, especially toward those who try your patience” (Eph. 4:2b, TPT). Your love will never grow unless it is stretched—and the best way to stretch your love is to show kindness when you feel like slamming a door in a person’s face.

The truth is that we often give up on relationships because we just don’t want to exert the energy to improve them. Relationships require a lot of work. When you unfriend someone just because they hurt you, you are missing an opportunity to become more like Christ.

Show some patience. Choose to love even when you don’t get anything in return.

Ephesians 4:3 (NLT) says we must “make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.” The Greek word for “make every effort” means “to be diligent; to use speed; to be prompt or earnest; to labor.” That means you shouldn’t let wounds fester. Act quickly to repair the relationship before it gets worse!

    1. Would Jesus end this relationship? When you end a friendship because of an offense, you are doing the exact opposite of what Jesus did for you. Ephesians 4:32 says “be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” You will never understand God’s merciful love if you don’t show it to others.

Jesus doesn’t flippantly write people off. He loved us even when we were sinners, and He patiently drew us to Himself using “ropes of kindness and love” (Hosea 11:4b). Before you end a friendship, judge a pastor, storm out of a church or give someone the cold shoulder, remember how aggressively Jesus pursued a relationship with you. Let His ropes of kindness pull you out of your bad attitude.

When Peter asked Jesus how many times we are required to forgive a person, Jesus answered “seventy times seven” (see Matt. 18:22b). Taken literally, that means 490 times—but Jesus wasn’t putting a limit on forgiveness. He was using the number seven to imply infinity. Stop counting how many times you have been offended and instead thank God for all the times He has overlooked your mistakes.

    1. Am I nursing a grudge? Our divisive political climate encourages people to get up mad in the morning, fuel their anger with hot political rhetoric throughout the day and then go to bed after listening to more arguments on news broadcasts. We are literally poisoning ourselves.

Many Christians have allowed similar poison in their lives because of church drama. They are mad that a pastor slighted them. They are jealous of someone who took a position they wanted. They are angry because a Christian did something hypocritical.

Resentment is deadly. It actually makes people sick. It also makes us ugly and unpleasant. Unforgiveness puts a frown on your face, wrinkles around your eyes and a sour tone in your voice.

Don’t let today’s culture of outrage infect you. Go against the flow of toxic hate. Make a decision today to work harder at maintaining your relationships. Forgive those who hurt you so your love doesn’t grow cold. (Quote source here.)

In an opinion piece published in The RecordHearld.com on October 1, 2019, Bill Tinsley, columnist, author, pastor, and missions leader, writes the following in his post titled, Age of Outrage”:

Ours has been called the “age of outrage.” Perhaps it began with news anchor Howard Beale throwing open his window in the 1975 movieNetworkand screaming into the crowded streets, “I’m mad as h— and I’m not going to take it anymore!” Whatever Beale was mad about seemed to simmer for decades until the 2016 election. Name calling, finger pointing, screaming and yelling soared to new heights and hasn’t seemed to diminish since.

Now that we are approaching 2020, the noise is escalating. With the advent of social media all accountability seems to be thrown to the wind. In this age of outrage, people say things they shouldn’t say including prejudicial bullying, ridicule and false accusations.

Even Christians seem to be outraged. It seems that Christians are primarily outraged because they sense they are losing control of their “Christian” culture. Step by step over my lifetime the cultural advantages for Christians have been curtailed. There is a sense that Christians are losing the battle as America becomes increasingly secular.

Last year Ed Stetzer wrote a book entitled,Christians in the Age of Outrage.” In his introduction, he writes, “Terrorism, sex trafficking and exploitation, systemic racism, illegal immigration, child poverty, opioid addiction… the list goes on. These issues deserve a measure of outrage, don’t they? They certainly deserve our anger. And this is part of the problem. What do we do when the anger becomes too much? When our righteous indignation at injustice morphs into something completely different? How do we know when righteous anger has made the turn into unbridled outrage?”

In March of this year he wrote, “The comments sections on YouTube are a greater testament to human depravity than all the reformers’ doctrines combined. Arguments, bullying, conspiracy theories, vitriol and irrational cesspools of misinformation and misdirection abound in our digital communication and marketplace. There is outrage everywhere–sometimes targeting Christians, but unfortunately, often coming from Christians.” [Quote source for this paragraph is located here.]

Outrage has never been the means by which the Christian faith has flourished at any time. In fact, the Bible outlines a very different path if we want to influence the culture in which we live.

Jesus said, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28). The Apostle Paul echoed these instructions, “Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14).

The Psalmist writes, “Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil and do good. Seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:13-14). “I said, ’Lord I will guard my ways that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle” (Psalm 39:1).

Does this mean Christians should never speak up? Of course not. Paul clearly spoke up and defended himself when he was falsely accused at Philippi, Jerusalem, Caesarea and Rome. But, for the Christian, there is no place for name calling, ridicule, misinformation and outrage. (Quote source here.)

In Bill Tinsley’s post above, he quoted Ed Stetzer from an article Stetzer published on April 24, 2019, titled Staying on Mission in the Age of Outrage.” The following excerpt is taken from that article:

We live in a world where our beliefs are increasingly odd and even offensive. But, as Christians, we must allow the Holy Spirit to guide our response. You see, Christians are indeed on the receiving end of this outrage machine. However, I also see churchgoers contributing to and participating in much of the online hostility and misinformation. Our digital outrage damages our witness to the world daily. It seems like people who claim to be Christians are often the worst at spreading false or inaccurate information.

There is indeed much to be concerned about in our world, and some issues deserve our indignation, even anger. Christ followers should grieve and mourn over suffering and injustice, even as we advocate and strive for change in the world.

But when is Christian anger warranted? And when does outrage defame the name of Jesus and undermine our witness? When are we righteously overturning the tables of the money changers, and when are we just wreaking havoc concerning our pet peeves? These questions do not have easy answers, but they deserve our consideration if we want to be faithful disciples of Christ.

Much of our world seems awash in division and hostility. Outrage surrounds us, and we must decide how to navigate these new and often-dangerous waters. We don’t get to pick the time we are born or the issues we face in our day. While conflict is universal to all generations, we live and minister in a unique time. Outrage spreads like a disease across our digital platforms, and Christians are not immune. How do we respond in a way that honors Jesus? We can begin by acknowledging three realities.

Drawn to Outrage

First, people have a natural inclination toward outrage. Christians are no exception; in fact, we often contribute to it.

In “Christians in the Age of Outrage,” I highlight the story of Caleb Kaltenbach, who in 2013 tweeted a picture of a Bible displayed at a Costco store. He found it funny and ironic that the Bible was apparently mistakenly displayed in the store’s fiction section. After the photo received hundreds of retweets, major news sources picked up the story. As I explain in the book:

Leading with the headline “Costco—The Bible Is Fiction,” Fox News promoted the idea that Kaltenbach had uncovered a conspiracy against Christians and the Bible. Kaltenbach was even quoted as characterizing the store’s decision to group the Bible with fiction as “bizarre.”

In minutes, “The Drudge Report” picked up the story and Christians worked themselves into an outrage over the perception of this insult with cries of boycott in the air. Suddenly, a labeling error that listed Bibles as fiction had become a covert theological statement on the very nature of Scripture. What likely happens hundreds of times in bookstores every day had become an insidious spark that unleashed Christian outrage against Costco.

Kaltenbach was not outraged. He believed, and Costco confirmed, it was a shelving error. But his story—caught up in an outrage cycle—is much more complex. You see, Kaltenbach was raised by a same-sex couple. He became a Christian, changed his views, was eventually disowned, and years later saw his biological father and mother eventually come to Christ. I’ve had Kaltenbach in my home, and found him far from being an outraged Christian. He is generous, caring and kind. His book, “Messy Grace: How a Pastor With Gay Parents Learned to Love Others Without Sacrificing Conviction,” is filled with wisdom and—you guessed it—grace!

Nevertheless, Kaltenbach’s conversion and family did not make the news. His Costco tweet did, because people are drawn to outrage. It was primarily Christians who drove that outrage—outrage based on misinformation. But who cares about facts when you can have outrage? We like the fire.

It seems someone is always fanning the flames of outrage somewhere. Why? Because offense attracts our interest. It’s human nature. We like to think of ourselves as the offended party in need of receiving forgiveness or the party able to exact an apology on behalf of someone else.

A Better Way

Second, most outrage is not righteous anger. Many people harbor outrage they think is righteous anger, because our culture often confuses the two. This is harmful for Christians and the world alike.

My wife and daughter recently became stranded in an airport parking garage at 2 A.M. when a car rental staff refused to acknowledge their reservation or offer even a modicum of accommodation. My anxiety rose as I tried, from hundreds of miles away, to get someone to help my family. I wanted to blast my outrage across the web to my quarter of a million Twitter followers.

But the Holy Spirit helped me focus on what would be productive rather than instantly gratifying. The car rental agency’s poor customer service was frustrating, rude and inexplicable. Yet I had to admit that it didn’t warrant righteous anger. So, I politely reached out online, and the folks at their Twitter account helped—perhaps in part because I did so rationally.

Righteous anger is directing our emotions and our passion of angst toward the things that make God angry. God is completely perfect, holy and separate from sin and brokenness. In short, God is righteous by his very nature and character. Whoever God is, and whatever God does, is right. What goes against the nature and character of God is unrighteous. And anger over those things that violate the nature and character of God is righteous, because it longs for the things God longs for in His righteousness.

While remaining perfectly in control, Jesus addressed brokenness, suffering and injustice with boldness, always with a righteous indignation and anger against sin. Being the perfect Son of God, he hates anything that goes against his character and the character of his Father. This is the same Jesus who cleansed the temple: “He made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts” (John 2:14).

Often, we trade this God-focused anger for a self-focused or other-focused outrage. We may direct it toward a political candidate, a pastor or even an individual we encounter in an online comments space. Angst and aggression toward a person are cheap, quick, and sinful knockoffs of righteous anger.

Righteous anger is humble and aware of our own propensity toward sin. As we focus on the nature and character of God, it changes the way we see ourselves and others. Consider Jesus’ powerful words in Matthew 7:5: “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Jesus instructs us to look inward first and see our own gaping and overt deficiencies. As we work on these, we will have a clearer view and personal experience of the righteousness of God. Then we’ll be in a better place to help others in a loving and Christlike manner. One is dependent on the other.

Conversely, outrage arises from pride, arrogance and a lack of self-awareness that always cries, “But what about … ?” There’s nothing wrong with taking the speck out of someone’s eye—and the Bible is clear that we should do it—but only after seeing to ourselves. Outrage silences the voice of nuance and self-reflection with the cries of hate and vehement reaction. Attempting to address the sin in other people’s lives without first addressing our own is hypocrisy.

God’s anger is always in the context of His kindness, drawing others toward repentance and faith. Outrage forgets or ignores this grace of Jesus. It seeks to drown out the possibility of mercy or grace, demanding retribution instead. It’s unapologetic, quick and severe. It is a shame Christians often follow this cultural pattern of reacting vengefully instead of mercifully.

Building Bridges

Third, outrage divides, but mission engages. “Culture war” is not a term I like to use, because it is hard to war with a people and love them at the same time. But it is demonstrably true that the culture has turned against many Christian values. In other words, in many ways, this came to us. We did not always create it. There is the redefinition of marriage, the denial of universal truth and the false accusation that Christianity has made the world worse instead of better. The fact is, Christians are right to reject such ideas. But we can stand up for truth without reacting hatefully toward those with whom we disagree.

How we respond when someone triggers us can help or hurt our Christian testimony. Jesus calls us to demonstrate his love and kindness, even when others unjustly accuse or malign us. I’m concerned that in this age of outrage—an age in which a personal response to an offense does not require a personal interaction—our character often reflects the world, not Jesus.

Our response matters. You see, we have a better way. Christians have the gospel, the best news ever. And the gospel brings us somber joy—the joy that comes from knowing we have salvation through Christ, and a sense of somberness because we see the wages of sin and know that many people still reject the only means of redemption. And how can we ever expect or hope that an unbelieving world will trust that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life if we treat them with disdain?

So, the question is this: How should we respond now? Of course, the answer is multifaceted. Some will, and must, defend religious liberty. Some will work to create a culture that draws others to the beauty of the gospel. Most of us will engage culture on a person-by-person basis rather than waging a culture war.

To accomplish the mission to which God is calling us, we need to stop contributing to the outrage and start engaging the outrage of others with the good news of Jesus. If Christians concentrated on loving others instead expressing outrage at our differences with them, if we showed people mercy instead of condemnation, they would see Jesus in a different light. I’m convinced this is, indeed, one of the greatest challenges of our day.

Now to be fair, our challenges are less threatening than those many faced in previous centuries. Most of us aren’t worried about impalement on stakes. But the stakes we face are still high. We must engage this moment well for the cause of Christ and his kingdom.

Salt and Light

It’s time to let go of outrage and find another way, a better way. Modeling Christ’s love isn’t just for pastors and church leaders. It’s what the Holy Spirit empowers every Christ follower to do. Jesus calls his followers to be the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.” In the Sermon on the Mount, he says, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).

Most people love darkness rather than light. As Christians, we need a steady diet of Jesus and the gospel to resist the pull toward darkness. Unfortunately, many of our churches lack biblical engagement outside of Sunday morning, and have no plan for discipling members. And many pastors are hesitant to address the inappropriate online interactions of congregants.

But Jesus does not shy away from these things. Where he sees a gap, he fills it. Where there is a problem, he lovingly tends to it. He rolls up his sleeves and gets to work in the hard and dark places of our hearts to bring wholeness, healing, redemption, and grace.

Jesus provides the ultimate example of how to live righteously in a hostile world. As Peter describes it, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23).

While we humbly work on this in our own lives, we can also point other believers toward kindness instead of rage. The same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead lives in us (Rom. 8:11). He will empower us to rise above outrage and respond with temperance.

Kaltenbach has received some pushback for promoting a message of respectful dialogue. But he doesn’t worry about the naysayers. After all, changing hearts is God’s job; ours is to share his truth boldly and graciously.

Scripture reminds us that those who cause division “do not have the Spirit” (Jude 1:19). Those who walk in step with the Spirit produce his fruit: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal. 5:22–23). Noticeably absent from the apostle Paul’s list is outrage. So let us be filled with the Spirit and walk in step with him, instead of spewing vitriol through our keyboards and smartphones.

Jesus calls us to build bridges, not unnecessarily burn them. (Quote source here.)

After reading what the three authors wrote above, I’m starting to feel the weight of weariness drop off from everything going on in our culture right now. After all, the burden is too heavy for any one person to carry, and Jesus never intended for us to carry that burden anyway. After all, he told us in Matthew 11:28-30:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I hope the words by the authors above will be of comfort to all of us who struggle to get through these particularly challenging days right now. I’ll end this post with these words from the apostle Paul found in Phil. 4:6-7: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding…

Will guard your hearts . . .

And your minds . . .

In Christ Jesus . . . .

YouTube Video: “I Will Fear No More” by The Afters:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit
here

The Age of Outrage

It’s all over social media, on TV and in movies, and in other media outlets, too. It’s on our streets and in our homes, and let’s not even talk about the political arena. It even infest our communications with each other on a regular basis.

Outrage…. It’s seems to be everywhere today. Has it become the “new” normal?

I remember back in 1990-91 when I was a graduate student at a state university that the hot topic of the day was incivility as it seemed to be taking over our society. Fast forward almost thirty years now and what we called “incivility” back then is nothing compared to the outrage of today.

In the opening to a blog post published on January 15, 2019, titled, Addicted to Outrage: A Theory On How We Got Here,” by Brian Dainsberg, Lead Pastor of Alliance Bible Church, he states:

We are addicted to outrage! There are days when I feel like I’m living in a foreign land. I scan the comments’ section or social media feed of a news outlet (yes, even this blog) and I’m jerked awake stunned over the intensity of rage that can result from the slightest provocation. How did we become such an angry culture? (Quote source here.)

Indeed, how did we become such an angry culture? Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., author, speaker, researcher, pastor, church planter, Christian missiologist, and Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, has written a book on the subject titled, Christians in the Age of Outrage: How to Bring Our Best When the World is at It’s Worst (2018). He opens his book in the Introduction titled, “Welcome to the Age of Outrage,” with the following story (pp. xi-xiv):

“You’re a liar.”

“No, you are.”

Billy is a jerk. Billy and I grew up on the same street in Levittown, New York, and I remember this thought flying through my head just before he and I got into another one of our countless fights. I’ve edited out the expletives–it was New York, after all–but every fight always ended the same: with each of us yelling at the other and storming off. We were friends because we were neighbors, but mostly we fought. As kids, that’s how most arguments go. Yelling. Fighting. Insults. Running away.

Eventually I lost touch with Billy. If I saw him today, we might still fight, but I imagine there would be fewer expletives and tears. After all, we’ve both grown up. But when I look around at the way our world deals with conflict today, I realize culture has not.

Suddenly the go-to move of politicians and journalists has become “You’re a liar,” following by the rejoinder “No, you are.” We’re bombarded with this level of discourse every day.

And it’s filtered down (or maybe filtered up) throughout the culture. Facebook is a cesspool of conspiracy theories, straw-man arguments, and schoolyard bullying. We have reached the point where the comment sections of major newspapers are a greater testament to the depravity of man than all the theology of the Reformers put together. Many publishers have removed comments from below their online articles so the vitriol will end.

These arguments have a cumulative effect, with each successive interaction ratcheting up the outrage. Even those rare instances of well-intentioned and reasonable discussion eventually fall victim to misunderstanding and offense. In these cases, I often remember Godwin’s Law: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches one.” In other words, people eventually start comparing others to Hitler. And just like that, we are off to the races of anger, insults, and division. 

Lest we get on our high horses about all those bad, angry people out there, we need to recognize that outrage often comes from Christians [at this point Stetzer mentions the 2015 Starbucks Red Cup controversy as an example]…. Stetzer goes on to state the following.

These kinds of controversies are so frustrating! This is a foolish fight on a nonsensical issue. When outraged Christians feed media outlets with stories that make Christians look foolish, that hurts the gospel. It adds to the perception that Christians are rage-addicted snowflakes and, more important, distracts Christians from their mission. That’s what fake controversies and unwarranted anger do…. [so] don’t get outraged at things that don’t matter.

Yet outrage can just as easily be directed towards Christians by a hostile world intent on shaming and attacking rather then engaging . [At this point, Stetzer gives an example involving a publication that occurred in early 2018 which shows that this publication clearly had a bias against five Christian organizations, and the publication] made no attempts at dialogue, gave no empathy or consideration as to why these [Christian] views are important or nuanced–just blanket insults aimed at provoking division.

Outrage has no time for dialogue, and it won’t be distracted by nuance or even truth….

This is a book about outrage. It’s an acknowledgement that our world, or at least our part of it, seems awash in anger, division, and hostility. Outrage is all around, so we have to decide how to walk through this. (Quote source: “Christians in the Age of Outrage,” Introduction, pp. xi-xiv.) 

In an article titled, How Can We Stay Civil in the Age of Outrage? Here are Three Ideas,”  by Sheridan Voysey, writer, speaker and broadcaster on faith and spirituality, and the author of seven books, he writes:

In 2016 I found myself in the United States at the time of the Presidential election. Heading to Nashville airport one morning, my taxi driver told me he was thinking of voting for Donald Trump and asked me what I thought. An hour of lively but friendly debate followed. As we pulled into the airport he said sadly, “I wish we could keep driving, because I can’t have conversations like this with my fellow Americans anymore. We’re so busy shouting at each other we’ve stopped listening to one another.”

His words ring true far beyond the United States. In this moment of political polarization and escalating aggression, how can we maintain a civility that keeps us talking despite our differences? I shared three ideas on this with Chris Evans on BBC Radio 2’s Pause for Thought segment recently, and have expanded them below.

Cultivating a Culture of Civility

When my taxi driver friend uttered his lament, I empathized. In previous months we’d seen the Brexit referendum bring its own measure of division to the UK, creating rifts even within families. A few months later I watched friends become enemies during Australia’s intense debate about marriage. Political antagonism is growing in Europe and other regions. Some have called this culturally polarized time the ‘age of outrage’. In taking a stand for our chosen cause, we’re losing civility in the process.

How can we stay neighborly in times of disagreement? After pondering that Nashville conversation, here are some commitments I want to make to pursue civility:

Treat Others With Respect, Not Contempt

First, I want to treat others with respect, not contempt. That means no name calling or insulting those I disagree with, no trying to silence them with derogatory labels or demonizing them in any way. It means:

    • Refusing to share ridiculing memes about them on social media (like Trump Baby or Sadiq Khan Baby). While there’s a place for satire, it’s best done from ‘within’ a group rather than directed at those ‘without’.
    • Checking our ideologies. Left unchecked, our political leanings can assign heroes and villains to news stories before time (notice how some on the Right ridiculed Christine Blasey Ford during the US Supreme Court saga before she’d told her story, while some on the Left judged Brett Kavanaugh guilty before he’d had a chance to defend himself). When we find ourselves quickly declaring someone a villain, it could be our conservatism, liberalism, feminism or other ideology speaking rather than facts. That doesn’t respect anyone.
    • Refusing to label others as ‘fascist’, ‘racist’, ‘Marxist’, ‘liberal’ or whatever other label works to silence their message before it’s heard.
    • Keeping any critiques of public leaders to verified behavior, not rumor.

Treat Other Viewpoints Fairly, Not Maliciously

I also want to treat other viewpoints fairly, not maliciously. That means taking time to understand them, refusing to spread half-truths about them, and acknowledging their merits, even if they don’t in total convince me. It means:

Disagree Thoughtfully, Not Defensively

And I want to disagree thoughtfully, not defensively. Some words, actions and policies should be opposed – and opposed firmly. But when passion runs hot, rashness can follow. I want to speak from a clear head. That means:

    • Staying out of the Twitter wars. As I’ve mentioned before, social media works ‘best’ when it is emotionally charged. Angry posts get more reaction, retweets and shares, but don’t necessarily foster greater clarity or civility. I don’t want to get dragged into the dysfunctional aspects of that system.
    • Stating our positions with confidence and humility, keeping open the possibility we could be wrong.

My model for all this is Jesus, who could be found having dinner with his opponents and whose nickname ‘a friend of sinners’ suggests he hung around people who broke his own moral rules. Jesus remained neighborly to those he disagreed with.

We’re in a time of important change. Stands need to be taken. But when history looks back may it also be said that we took a stand for civility too. (Quote source here.)

In a final article published on July 10, 2018, titled, Outrage is America’s Deepest Core Value. It Shouldn’t Be,” by Dylan Gallimore, writer, raconteur, creative director and content strategist | τετέλεσται, he states:

A debate is raging in America today over what role, if any, incivility should have in American culture, politics, and public life.

Many offer the argument that incivility and outrage should reign; that those on the wrong side of certain issues should be subjected to public shaming, harassment, and humiliation.

This debate is trivial, however, as the larger issue has already been decided: Americans have spent the last few years, both consciously and subconsciously, fixing moral outrage at the very center of society.

Incivility is merely an outgrowth of outrage culture, and today, outrage culture dominates everything.

As human beings go about defining and expressing our values, our values have a funny way of, in turn, defining us. C. S. Lewis put it this way: “we are what we believe we are.” If observing how a culture behaves enables us to discern and interpret its values, it is inescapable that, in recent years, moral outrage has stealthily but authoritatively emerged as America’s newest and most central core value.

As this phenomenon has become more and more apparent, commentators have taken their fair share of stabs at defining it. They labeled 2017the year that launched our addiction to outrage,” and asked,When did outrage become the national pastime?” Psychologists have increasingly warned ofthe dangerous pleasures of outrage,” and asked,Is our political outrage addictive?” While these are all significant and meaningful questions, they ignore a key detail: Outrage hasn’t just become an American hobby or addiction — it has become a value, as the dictionary defines the word: a principle, a standard of behavior, a judgment of what is important in life.

The point here isn’t a political one; this is an essay about American culture. If outrage, as a value, is now entrenched at the center of the American heart — and there’s a good case to be made that it is — it’s because we have put it there.

Given the pride of place we have given moral outrage, it only makes sense to explore the concept with more depth.

On its face, moral outrage appears to reflectan underlying concern with justice,” and it often does. Sending a harshly worded tweet, calling out perceived racism — these are behaviors suggestive of a strong sense of morality and an unwillingness to put up with injustice.

Yet psychologists have observed that threats to one’s moral self-image, unpleasant feelings of guilt, and a desire to restore a positive view of oneself also play roles in motivating outrage. Additionally, outrage is a social emotion; it compels individuals to express their outrage publicly in search of validation and solidarity. Which means that while outrage remains a response to perceived injustice, it can also be a self-serving emotional defense mechanism deployed to alleviate guilt, “buffer threats to one’s moral identity” and portray oneself as avery good personin the eyes of one’s peers.

Art Markman, a cognitive scientist at the University of Texas-Austin, explained it this way:

Outrage is an emotion that has three components. First, it has negative affect. That is, it is a bad feeling. Second, it has high arousal. That is, it is a strong and powerful emotion. Third, it occurs when people experience a violation of a moral boundary.

Posting politically charged content to Facebook, chastising family members who harbor differing political opinions, participating in large-scale protests— on some occasions, these expressions of moral outrage do far more to signal tribal solidarity than to actually accomplish meaningful change. And although participants can be well-intentioned and deeply motivated, the channeling of their commitment toward these ends is having an adverse effect on our national psyche.

Because of the social, reactionary, and defensive qualities of outrage as an emotion, our fealty to it as a value drives tribalism and many of the other “isms” of our time. When faced with a person or idea one perceives as threatening or different, a way to recover a sense of safety, a way to alleviate the discomfort, is by expressing moral outrage alongside those in agreement. Outrage is addictive, and functions to propel individuals toward each other in search of solidarity and validation. Thus, any group of individuals who share a common outrage target are highly susceptible to constructing echo chambers and value system — what we have called “bubbles” — dedicated to protecting the very things that the objects of outrage would seek to defile.

Today, bubbles have taken over mass media in the form of Twitter, Facebook, and cable news; our latent desires to constantly feel aligned with those moral voices with whom we agree dictates how we consume information. Anyone who looks will find an outlet for outrage, the ever-present incentive to indulge in it; they’ll find that the real product of cable news isn’t coverage of the day’s issues that aims to accurately capture what really took place, but a narrative that exports outrage as a means of harnessing political action and, most importantly, high ratings.

Chamath Palihapitiya, one of Facebook’s earliest hires, now considers social media websitesshort-term dopamine-driven feedback loops that…are destroying how society works.” The dominant attraction of posting politically or culturally charged content to social media isn’t the opportunity to engage in a healthy and meaningful conversation with others; it’s the chance that someone will engage with it and validate or challenge the poster’s outrage. That’s what drives clicks and likes and stimulates our brains’ pleasure centers. More and more, the real point of social media debates isn’t to hash out the issues, but to provide a platform for the psychologically rewarding expression of outrage, to “trigger” one’s opponents, to “troll” one’s rivals in order to embarrass them before a watching public, and to signal one’s intensity and commitment to the cause. Our technologies are facilitating these things.

This is a serious problem, since those who embrace and revel in outrage culture eventually develop a dependence toward its emotional benefits.

A few months ago, a white high-school-age girl in Salt Lake City wore a Chinese-themed dress to her prom, and subsequently incurred the wrath of thousands of Twitter users who chided her for the sin of “cultural appropriation.”

Did she violate anyone’s rights? Did she denigrate the culture she was “appropriating”? This is how outrage culture disarms one’s critical faculties — there is only room for anger; there is no room for careful or nuanced reflection on our cultural practices. At no point in the rush to condemn or defend the allegedly harmful appropriation did any of the loud voices stop to differentiate between culture-positive appropriations and culture-negative ones. In other words, was this action inherently injurious to the culture being “appropriated”? And, if so, what does criticizing the young woman on Twitter actually do about it?

Outrage culture left no room for these questions — it only left room to designate her worthy of public humiliation and the unbridled scorn of thousands of strangers.

This is, of course, absurd. Even if you happen to feel ill at ease over instances in which a member of a dominant economic or racial class avails herself of the customs and traditions of less-privileged cultures, we can agree that the moral outrage hurled at Keziah Daum on social media was wildly out of proportion to what her “crime” merited.

The reason for this disproportionate response? Because this type of moral outrage is reactionary, defensive, and socially instrumental; it is not generated in order to right any meaningful wrong, but either to solidify the status of the disapprovers within their in-groups, or to satisfy their sense of moral injury.

Twitter user Jeremy Lam identified a moment to express his moral outrage, have it validated by others, and enjoy the dopamine spike that accompanied the entire spectacle, all while contributing to the upkeep of outrage culture. He famously tweeted at Daum,My culture is NOT your goddamn prom dress,” and with that, the cultural outrage ritual was complete. His tweet went viral, as was likely his wish (if not his expectation), and thousands of others joined him in expressing their outrage and signaling their supposedly high and nuanced moral standards to one another. Obviously, 177,000 Twitter users can’t be wrong. The outrage has the backing of the social-media-dwelling masses.

That this example of outrage culture centers on two basically anonymous, random individuals is precisely why it’s instructive. Keziah Daum and Jeremy Lam are not celebrities or public figures. They don’t have audiences to entertain or votes to chase. The only incentive for random individuals to chime in and express their outrage, in this and in countless other cases, is to secure the benefits of the outrage itself.

The Daum-Lam exchange and countless others like it also reveal how outrage culture has warped the ways Americans speak to and think of one another: increasingly, we treat each other less as individual human beings and more as symbolic representations of political concepts, useful only as cultural objects worthy of praise or fury. For some, the inherent dignity, humanity, and individualism of their fellow citizens have been reduced to a trivial afterthought at best.

Not a word here is an attempt to downplay the importance of morality or the vitality of a deeply-felt emotion such as outrage. Moral outrage does have a crucial role to play in a healthy society, as some things are genuinely morally outrageous and demand that we approach them with a sense of ethical revulsion.

Without the value of moral outrage — for which Martin Luther King, Jr. had tremendous appreciation and respect — the civil rights movement likely would have failed, or at least languished. Without a strong and clear moral vision, the courage to express it, and the willingness to die for it, slavery may have persisted in America for far longer than it did. Without a healthy sense of what’s morally agreeable and what’s morally reprehensible, progress of any kind is likely impossible.

So the point here isn’t that we ought to embrace moral relativism, indifference, or lethargy, but to challenge the position that moral outrage should take its place as a core value in American society.

By elevating outrage to such a high position, we have all but guaranteed that, eventually, a purely performative — and permanent — reactionary outrage will pervade society. That is what Twitter has become. It’s what will be on tonight, and tomorrow, and the next day, on cable news networks during prime time hours.

The saying that we’re seeing a lot of recently, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention,” equates being informed with an obligation to be outraged, turning an emotion into a moral imperative. The dangers that face a culture that lives by this rule cannot be understated; equating being engaged with an obligation to be outraged is an easy way to guarantee a permanent culture war and a miserable future, as — perhaps unsurprisingly — the emotional costs of living in a furious society are high. After all, anger has been shown to negatively impact health, and it would be unsurprising if outrage culture turns out to be similarly impacting America’s rising suicide rates, its opioid crisis, and its epidemic of depression.

To combat outrage culture, columnist David Von Drehle encourages readers to “switch away from the televised outrage orgies that masquerade as news. Resist the urge to get worked up about stupid stuff that knuckleheads say. Spend more time among reasonable people doing healthy things.” Writer Trent Eady argues for more humility, for treating people as individuals and not as political symbols or representatives of their perceived identity groups, for being diplomatic and strategic in pursuit of the change one wishes to make. Recently at the Munk Debates in Toronto, Stephen Fry evoked the spirit of Bertrand Russell, and urged Western civilization “not to be too earnest, too pompous, too serious [or]…too certain” and to “let doubt prevail.”

Any combination of these suggestions would do well to begin the process of dethroning the value of moral outrage. But, like with any epidemic, the first step must be widespread awareness. The more Americans grasp that their moral sensibilities are being manipulated by a set of mutually-intensifying and degrading processes, the more our culture will begin to shake itself from our numbness and our permanent state of anger.

Our national discussion is the story we tell ourselves about ourselves, and right now, it’s poisoned with fury. We are telling each other a needlessly outrageous story in an effort to maintain a dysfunctional and harmful core value. If we are to live in harmony with one another and pursue a peaceful future, that has to change. After all, we are what we believe we are. (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with these words found in James 1:19 (NLT)–Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be…

Quick to listen . . .

Slow to speak . . .

And slow to get angry . . . .

YouTube Video: “Speak Life” by TobyMac:

Photo #1 credit here
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