My most recent young adventure book, “The Night Heroes: Runaway,” just came off the presses. It is the eighth part of the series, and for a rather unexpected reason, it was the very hardest thus far to write.
In all of these books I do extensive historical research on places, customs, mannerisms, and much more. I want to make all of them as true to life as possible. This has entailed learning about the Ravensbruck Concentration camp of WWII, the Battle of Chickamauga, the piracy years off the coast of North Carolina, and even the Moth Man saga of Point Pleasant, West Virginia.
In “Runaway,” though, the story centers on the Night Heroes rescuing and reuniting two pre-Civil War slaves, a husband who is still in bondage in Walterboro, S.C., and his wife who has been sold away from him and will be taken to New Orleans.
It was in the midst of preparing and writing this book that I encountered my great difficulty. I would have liked to write it as accurately as possible, including making the villain of the book just as bad as he would have been in real life. But I knew beyond any doubt that to do so would cause a controversy as big as the Civil War itself.
I wanted my readers to loathe this imaginary slave trader and to, therefore, be cheering for the Night Heroes as they cut him down to size. But in order not to offend by being accurate with history, I had to make his references to the slaves softer by far than they really would have been.
I am still happy with the finished product, and people are buying it and conveying to me how much they enjoy it. But as an author, there is still a twinge of sadness in my heart; I know I could have made the villain far more vile.
And therein lies the conundrum of our modern, hyper-sensitive age.
Ecclesiastes 7:9 says, “Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.” And yet our entire modern society is, if nothing else, quick to anger. People go from calm to utterly livid faster than the speed of light. We are living in the age of trigger warnings, micro-aggressions, and safe spaces.
This hypersensitivity has become the most subtle yet successful of robbers; and all of us are the victims.
Everyone everywhere is walking on eggshells. Before anyone dresses themselves or their children up in a costume, they must ask themselves if they are somehow going to be guilty of “cultural appropriation” if they do so. The cultural appropriation lunacy is even being applied to hairstyles, as if a culture can somehow trademark and patent protect the arrangement of the follicles on their heads. Literary classics like “Huckleberry Finn” and “To Kill A Mockingbird” are being banned, when as the U.K. Tekegraph observes, “the texts are both widely considered to be anti-racist texts, using historically accurate language and characters to highlight and address the issue.” ( https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/02/12/harper-lee-mark-twain-banned-minnesota-schools)
Men fear to even speak to women anymore, lest they inadvertently say something that can be misconstrued as inappropriate. Humor is being decimated, since any joke about any human can and will be viewed as offensive by someone somewhere. History is being sanitized so that modern man can stomach it, and in the process we are laying the groundwork for repeating that very history since no one will even truly know it.
Hyper-sensitivity is robbing us all blind. The fact that people’s first inclination is to get angry and dash off a tweet demanding someone’s destruction rather than to thoughtfully consider context and intent is producing a society that will tip-toe carefully to our own demise, rather than boldly charging ahead, confident in the knowledge that if we are honest of heart, people will give us the benefit of the doubt.
If I could command everyone in America’s attention for just a few moments, after I told them about the Lord, these are the next words I would say: “Everybody take a breath, step back, calm down, and don’t be so hypersensitive. A little grace goes a long way and makes everyone more willing to dare and do. If you believe someone has done wrong, discuss it with them privately. Put down the pitchforks, pick up the brooms, and sweep away the eggshells everyone has been forced to walk on.”
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Mooresboro, N.C. He is a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.