‘Offended’
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - July 6, 2020 - 12:00am

Three times a week, I join a group of Christian businessmen for what we call a discipleship group. Half of the time, it’s about Christian values and the other half is often intercepted by “Motorcycle talk” since everyone in group except me, happens to be part of the Victory Riders and supporters of the “Ride For Life” movement where they raise money for scholarships. It’s a great group to be part of because when we really get into “The Word” and ministry, it’s all serious and useful. But that does not mean we don’t have fun and throw a lot of jokes into the mix. Being Bikers, the guys regularly share videos and photos of amazing motorcycle concepts or ridiculously funny videos.

Last week, someone shared a video of a biker faced with the challenge of crossing a one meter wide wooden bridge with an uneven surface like a roller coaster. After several minutes of fear and hesitation, he was pressured to go forward because his friend who was also on a bike had lost his patience waiting for him. As expected, the hesitant rider careened off the bridge into the river about 15 feet below. The funny thing was his impatient friend had to dive in to rescue him from drowning. Last Friday, as we met up online for our sharing and prayers, our discipler Pastor Juray Mora called out our member who shared the video and said, “I was offended by the video”. Given his sometimes, wry sense of humor, we all waited for the punch line, but there was none. Pastor Juray expressed that the video was full of cuss words and expletives from the other bikers. What made it even worse was the guy was doing it all in Ilonggo which was Pastor Juray’s dialect.

The video was so bad that most of us did not pick up or hear the expletives and even if we did we certainly would not have understood it. Nonetheless, someone was offended, not to mention it was someone whom we respected and look up to for mentoring and ministry. I have no doubt that it was a difficult decision for Pastor Juray to call out the matter and to say it offended him. But it served as a very important lesson for all of us not to simply share stuff on the Internet just for the heck of it or for laughs. Pastor Juray’s action also reminded us to first filter such materials for vulgar or offensive or insensitive language or content. As our group’s leader and as one of our pastors at Victory Christian Fellowship, his bold and honest expression of being “offended” exemplified character and conduct worthy of emulating or copying.

A few days later, I came across a Facebook post of a foreign gentleman named Paul Scanlon who shared how while attending a dinner as the guest speaker and was at a table where the host started to share a joke that he had heard before and was certain would be a racist joke. He politely said, if you don’t mind, please allow me to leave the room before you complete your joke because I don’t want to hear a racist joke that will be at the expense of others. The host stopped and did not tell the joke. Mr. Scanlon went on to tell how many people get away with such insensitive or offensive material or behavior simply because they are in power, a position or because we give them permission to do such things. Addressing his White friends Scanlon points out “Our silence is not benign but malignant. Because we become complicit in the continuation of the (racist) joke telling, it gets told again and again because when we heard it, we didn’t say anything and as socially awkward as it is knowing you’ll be penalized if you say something. I’m appealing to us because millions of us everyday have this opportunity to say something to speak up to stand up for people of colour and black people and you will be excluded and you will lose social capital but you will be a champion of a cause that you wish some had been for you at times of your life.

And I think many of us feel we can’t do anything at the large government level, we can’t protest on the streets, we don’t feel comfortable with this or that. Can you say something today, wherever you are in your life can you speak up because our silence is not benign, it is continuing the problem. We can all play a part like this every single day. Let’s speak up. Let’s play our part is what I’m appealing for.”

Between the admonition of Pastor Juray Mora and the Facebook post of Mr. Paul Scanlon I believe the good Lord is making a very clear point. Many of us in the country have grown silent, wary even afraid of calling things out because we don’t want to be labeled, bullied or hated on by people or by online trolls. In fact some people are surprised or impressed by the brave and the few who respectfully speak out against what is wrong, mistaken or inappropriate in our society particularly in governance. This should not be the exception it should be the rule, our conduct, and our norm. Whether it is about language, creed or color or value system, we who have a voice must speak out for those with out “social capital” and against those who mindlessly and with no good purpose promote what is offensive to many. Take Courage and Speak Up!

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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