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David Hegg: The power of umbrage

Posted: March 30, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 30, 2014 2:00 a.m.
 

I have come to believe if you say something outrageous loud enough and often enough people come to believe it.

Over time even the most illogical, nonsensical stuff can become so common in our society we just naturally grow to think of it as true.

Whether the problem is we are so bombarded with information that we haven’t time to think, or – more troubling – we have lost the ability to think, I don’t know. Both seem to be insightful theories with much to commend them. All I know is that people are saying stupid stuff all around me and fewer and fewer of us are noticing. I guess it is time to take umbrage with the fact that no one is taking umbrage.

When was the last time you took umbrage at something that made no sense but seemed broadly accepted? Do we even know what it means? Here you go. Umbrage: to take offense, take exception, be aggrieved, be affronted, be annoyed, be angry, be indignant, be put out, be insulted, be hurt, be piqued, be resentful, be disgruntled, go into a huff, be miffed, have one’s nose put out of joint. That’s enough to get the point I think.

Here are some examples of things that should bother us, even anger us. These are things that should make us take umbrage.

One of my favorites is “I don’t think abortion is right, but I think it should be legal.” What? What else that isn’t right should be legal? What about the person who thinks stealing your car is wrong but thinks it should be legal because he makes his living as a car thief? If “legal” no longer means “right” we’re really sinking as a society.

Here’s another one: “He might be an arrogant, manipulative liar, but he has a good heart and he means well.” In what universe? Have we forgotten that what comes out of our mouths starts in our hearts? In order to be an arrogant, manipulative liar, you first have to be arrogant in your heart and lie to yourself about the overall goodness of manipulative behavior. If you have a good heart, you’ll be a good person.

Or how about this one: “They really love one another deeply, and will remain good friends, but they’re getting divorced because they just can’t get along.” Umbrage is taken! When people “love one another deeply” they put aside selfishness and serve one another sacrificially. They face problems by working through, not walking out.

And here’s my all-time favorite: “There is no such thing as absolute truth.” Really? And are you absolutely sure about that? The sheer nonsensical arrogance of such a statement is infuriating. I just want to know why their brains don’t explode the minute those inane words escape the confines of their lips.

Okay, so now you have endured my feeble attempts at writing with umbrage. Honestly, it really isn’t my preferred style, nor does it feel that good. But sometimes an arrogant writing style is needed to knock brains off their pedestal and get them working again.

So, here’s my pitch. Let’s stop listening without thinking. Let’s demand that those who parlay platitudes and advance arguments that can lay claim to no intellectual merit or meaning find us taking umbrage. Let’s make them prove it, support it, or stop it. Of course, we need to be kind and winsome in our umbrage taking, but that shouldn’t stop us from engaging in the battle for logic and truth. So, let’s go take umbrage. But when you do, just don’t take one of mine.

David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a Santa Clarita resident. “Ethically Speaking” runs every Sunday.

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