The American culture of outrage is a bad portend of things to come. It’s more than a culture… it’s a pandemic of outrage. Today’s outrage is over the death of a gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo. People are either outraged at the zoo for shooting the gorilla, or outraged at the parents of the child who fell into the enclosure, or both. If you want the details, click the link above. I’m not going to rehash the story here. For me, this gorilla story has sparked a different line of thought.
What does this trend of outrage mean for us? Today it’s the controversial killing of a gorilla. Yesterday it was over an American dentist who killed a lion on a safari hunt in Africa. You don’t have to like what was done or how things happened, but is it right to ruin the life of this family. There are petitions already out there to have this family investigated for possible child endangerment conditions in their home.
Where does this kind of morally superior outrage come from? This mom and the dentist who shot Cecil the lion, both have been harshly prejudged in the court of public opinion. Their lives will never be the same, even if criminal charges are never brought. They have our culture of outrage to thank for that.
Yes. I am outraged over outrage.
I wrote a sentence in my book, Recreated, that applies here (shameless plug). “Forgiveness is crucial for human flourishing.” I believe this. The further culture drifts from the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the louder and bolder the outrage culture will become.
Why? The lynchpin of the Gospel is forgiveness. God forgives us for our transgressions when we trust Christ for salvation. That forgiveness doesn’t have a prerequisite of cleaning yourself up and making yourself deserving. You simply receive forgiveness as a gift. Then as a believer, you are commanded to forgive as you have been forgiven.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)
When this becomes a part of the fabric of your life, outrage over someone else’s mistakes and shortcomings becomes less common. Your sins begin to look like boulders and everyone else’s looks like pebbles. This culture of outrage is symptomatic that people have closed their hearts to the Gospel. When you’ve been forgiven much, it doesn’t seem that hard to forgive much.
So here’s the deal. The more outrage we give into over other people’s mistakes, the more we show how small our hearts have become. It reminds me of the Grinch: his heart was two sizes too small. As our culture becomes more hostile to the Gospel, the collective heart of our culture will shrink. We will become more critical of each other, quicker to make hasty judgments, more mindful of other people’s mistakes than our own.
Sadly, this affects Christians as much as non-Christians. It’s completely understandable that someone who isn’t a Christian wouldn’t look at forgiveness in a Biblical way. But when I see professing Christians participating in the outrage culture it saddens me because it means they haven’t really understood the forgiveness they have received in Christ.
The only remedy for the culture of outrage is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. By it we are forgiven. By it we forgive others. Christians are responsible to be the preserving agent – the salt – that works into the culture. If we’re not forgiving, the culture around us won’t be able to rise above the outrage. If forgiveness isn’t practiced we won’t be able to function as families, as friends, as communities, or as a nation.