You don’t have to apologise because I disagree with you

Photo by Liza Summer on

US pastor and writer Kevin DeYoung has been at it again, offending people on twitter.  This time with this tweet.  

A lot of people have been quick to react, seeing something deeply heretical and offensive in the tweet.  How, they ask, can Kevin say that we are fundamentally sinners when Genesis 1 says that we are first and foremost made in God’s image.

I don’t aim to primarily get into that discussion here because Kevin himself has responded with a more detailed thread here.

As I suspected, Kevin did not mean that the one fundamental truth that is essential to our nature is that we are sinners.  He was using the word in a more relative sense.  The gist was that, the most important thing we can say about people right now is that they are sinners and need a saviour.  All of the other stuff about our original state and our future hope are actually implied in the phrase “need a saviour.” 

Kevin also explains in the thread that his assistant tends to pull quotable quotes from his sermons in order to tweet them. So, we may read something that doesn’t have the nuance and context it originally had.

Now, as Kevin acknowledges, the phrasing could have been better. Also, this is perhaps a warning to pastors to run their own twitter feeds.  If you are too busy to write your own tweets then  you are too busy to have a personal twitter account and that’s not a bad thing!  There is a huge risk when you leave things to an assistant to pull out choice quotes, you are running the risk of being heard out of context.

However, my concern here is with how people responded to the tweet.  Some took outright offence at what he was saying, including in the clarification as though he had personally and intentionally, with malice aforethought targeted them.  The best example is this.

Note two things here. First, the use of that overused insult “mansplaining” which seems to silence any conversation.  Now, we men can be patronising and sexist, when we are then we should be challenged and we should repent. However, not every attempt to explain something is an example of “mansplaining.”  And, friends, if we always take offence and feel patronised when people explain something to us, we may well find that we stop learning.

Secondly, the demand for an apology.  The right response to this is “for what?”  Kevin shared an opinion.  It might be something that some of us thought he could have said better, it may be something that others felt didn’t need to be said at all and it was clearly something that substantial numbers of people disagreed with.  However, it wasn’t harmful.  It wasn’t even particularly offensive.  Plenty of people were able to speak up for themselves and engage with Kevin, to challenge him. The result was a further conversation with further clarification. 

The helpful next step would be for people to engage with the substance of his clarification.  Do they agree with it now or still disagree.  That’s how conversation and debate work, that’s also how we learn and grow. That certainly would be better than picking through his thread to find further things to get offended at. Indeed noting the need by some to take umbrage and resort to persoanlised attacks on DeYoung, I am inclined to observe that if we do consider our fundamental identity to be that we are made in the image of God, then we would do well to reflect that image in our communications.

However, just because I disagree with something someone says, doesn’t mean that I’m entitled to an apology.

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