The reasons to offend (and feel offended) are not difficult to find on both sides, especially when distinctive visual imagery is at stake. In this cultural atmosphere, even the decorations on a Christmas tree in the capital city may become the apple of discord.
I intend to look at the instances like that through the lenses of civility theory. The latter is a vast field of study with many approaches and has both its skeptics and enthusiasts. I am proposing an approach that I call rhetorical civility to address the public clashes of "pious" vs. "irreverent," "offensive," or even "blasphemous;" "traditional" vs. "revisionist", "post-Christian" vs. the mix of Christian tenets and folk superstitions.
Rhetorical civility focuses on how the parties channel their opinions and how they express themselves. It does not preclude the seeds of truth in something that is expressed in an unconventional or "offensive" way, yet challenges and encourages us to be more creative in arguing something or convincing someone and more "literate" in the beliefs and convictions of each other. The article will study the trilateral enactment of rhetorical civility, drawing particular attention to the offender's concerns, the offended one's concerns, and the concerns of the broader context/audience.
This ethical evaluation of offence-giving, offence-taking, and the cultural message they send, is also meant to provide some practical proposals for policymakers, journalists, opinionmakers, social media users, and everyone concerned with the quality of our living, dreaming, and thinking together.