By: Liam Watts
There is a strong belief that our generation, and to a lesser extent our society, has become a culture of outrage. Outrage means that every question, every statement, and every action one takes faces immense scrutiny, and, should anyone find fault in it, they possess the right to become personally offended. What makes this matter worse, however, is that we have elevated personal offense above truth, logic, and discourse, and even the truth of Jesus. Surprisingly, or perhaps unsurprisingly, Winston Churchill recognized this trend all the way back in 1943, saying, “Some people’s idea of free speech is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage.” Outrage is certainly not new to our generation, but it has certainly become a problem.
Now, in addition to being a generation and culture of outrage, there is also a strong belief that we are a generation and culture of apathy. This generation has been called such things as lazy, unmotivated, and apathetic. We no longer care enough about important issues to be bothered. Yet, how can we reconcile ourselves as belonging to a culture of outrage whilst also being part of a culture of apathy? I believe the answer is outrage fatigue. Outrage fatigue is a term that was coined in the early 2000s, and Dr. David Ley defines it as being “exhausted by the feeling that there are too many battles, too many catastrophes, [and] too many problems” and being unable to “muster enough energy to deal with them all.” While this is not a new term, according to Google Trends, it has seen a resurgence in usage over the last year.
So, if culturally it has become acceptable to be so often and so easily personally offended, is it possible that as a society we have grown so outraged over so many things that we no longer have the energy to care? To put it another way, have we been shouting for so long that our voices have simply grown hoarse with use? Like the singer who performs all day or the conductor who shouts from platform to platform, we come home to find we have nothing left to offer. We have exhausted all our outrage. Without the energy and the motivation to sustain a righteous anger, our generation and society have succumbed to a culture of apathy.
If this truly is the case, and we have become apathetic because of our outrage, then how do we reignite and redirect the fire of our generation and the American people towards the truth, and how do we raise the value of truth over personal offense? There is no simple answer, but according to Paul, accepting that the message of Jesus is a message that will offend people is part of it. This year, our chapel has placed our focus on 1 Corinthians, and fittingly, this is where Paul addresses this issue. 1 Corinthians 1:22-23 says that “Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (ESV). Paul is imploring us to understand that even though Jesus is not the truth that society wants to hear, we must preach Him anyway because He is the Truth.
To any student at OKWU, this statement should ring familiar, and that is because these words are the spirit of our foundational pillars: the primacy of Jesus Christ, the priority of Scripture, the pursuit of truth, and the practice of wisdom. This is not a coincidence. The pillars of OKWU were carefully crafted to provide wisdom and guidance for pursuing faith and education. Where better to look for wisdom regarding tough questions about today’s culture than Scripture? In this way, if we want to repel this spirit of apathy we must continue to boldly proclaim the primacy and truth of Jesus Christ, and not allow ourselves to be overcome by petty outrage.