The Supreme Court is hearing a case in which two Jewish women sued their small town for opening civic events with overtly Christian prayers. They took offense. It’s an interesting case, if you want to read about it there’s a good article here.
Let me say up front that I’m not a fan of Christians who take pride in “praying in Jesus’s name” at public events at which it is obvious that people of other or no faith are part of the gathering. It’s just not the humble stance that Christians should always take. It seems like bravado, a way of saying, “Suck it nerds, this is a Christian nation – deal with it!” I think it seems like petty, immature behavior that does more harm than good.
That being said, those who so easily take offense at someone else’s petty or immature behavior, seem to be giving into the lesser angels of their own nature as well. I get that it is annoying and even troubling when people puff up with religious bravado. But to become highly offended, especially to the point of filing a lawsuit and pursuing it to the Supreme Court, may not be the best approach to a peaceful world among people of different faiths. It’s different if there is real injury happening. I’m not sure there’s real injury in this case of flippant or insensitivity in public prayer. What do you think of this?
I do think that Richard Rohr’s is teaching is helpful here.
The Small Self: this is Rohr’s name for our ego. Only the human ego has an intense need to feel right, admired, important, successful, have status, look good, etc. Rohr calls the ego the “small self” because it’s so much more flimsy and useless than our true self. When we are living out of our small self we are easily offended, petty, and immature. The small self is so fragile that it has to constantly self protect. The small self defines itself over and against other people – it always needs an enemy and needs to win. If we are constantly offended by other people’s thoughts and actions, if we constantly feel the need to point out where everyone else is wrong and we are right, then we know that we are living primarily out of our small self. This is a miserable way to live.
The True Self: In contrast to the flimsy and fragile small self, the true self is largely invulnerable to offense. This is because the true self isn’t something we create/generate, but is something that we receive from God. The true self is the created self, the person God has made us to be. That self is safe from all hard because it is “Hidden with Christ in God.” (Col. 3:3). The true self does not need to appear strong because it is strong. It doesn’t take offense because it is able to forgive offenses in real time – immediately – without having to set the record straight or inform somebody of how they are wrong. The true self feels compassionate instead of offended. This is a joyful way to live.
If we are easily offended we are highly invested in our own ego, our own small self. A sign of true spiritual maturity is that we simply don’t become offended by others. We forgive others in real time as we also forgive ourselves. I shudder to think how much of my life is lived out of my small self, my ego.
What’s amazing about this is that all it takes to begin to subvert the small self is to observe it … see it for what it really is. All we have to do in order to begin to live out of our true self is to observe the ways in which we don’t, and then we will begin to see our ego loose traction in our lives. I am learning to pay attention to the times in which I feel offended. They tell me much more about myself, then the person, place, or thing to which I’ve taken offense.