I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he comes to set up his Kingdom: Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths. (2 Timothy 4:1-4, New Living Translation)
Everyone likes the anti-hero, the maverick who takes on institutional authority to do what’s right for the common man. He has his own rough ethical code that endears him to us, despite his imperfections and moral shortcomings. It sounds daring and brave – maybe even sexy. Most heroes in our movies today are of the anti-hero variety whose methods, while sometimes morally suspect, are nonetheless aimed at a “greater good” (think playboy, Tony Stark, and you get the idea). With a wink and a smile, he accomplishes what other, more straightforward and morally upright (but bumbling) men at arms cannot accomplish and rides into the sunset having defeated the enemy and winning the heart of his leading lady.
The problem with this narrative is that none of our “anti-hero” types are really going against the grain in any significant way these days. They certainly aren’t challenging the accepted norms in our society. Rather, the gritty image of the iconoclast that was once the great anti-hero of yesteryear, has been replaced by poster boys for political correctness, who serve as spokesmen for moral and cultural relativism. In a day when to merely hint that one is challenging (much less disparaging) the popularly held ethos of our culture’s socially progressive, secular ideology is to guarantee oneself the status of a social pariah. If you don’t believe me, just ask Kanye West, who has recently landed himself in hot water for daring to speak his own mind rather than pushing the party line.
Every fascist regime has begun with a campaign to silence the opposition voice, and the assault on free speech in our nation has never been hotter. This campaign today is accomplished by imposing a distorted version of morality upon the public consciousness with an unrelenting regularity and strident vitriol that labels all dissent as treason and all opposing voices as subversive. Instead of all views having an equal voice in the marketplace of ideas, only those socially sanctioned voices espousing the postmodern version of tolerance are allowed to express their opinion. Ironically, in the “age of tolerance,” dissent is simply not tolerated.
For our heroes (or anti-heroes) this is a huge problem. How does one fight wrong and injustice when those are ambiguous terms? When right and wrong are replaced by personal preference and feelings, how does one identify the enemy? More often than not, the enemy today is the one who simply refuses to capitulate to the loudest voices in the room who are endlessly telling us that we are wrong, even wicked, for believing in moral absolutes. Today, the true iconoclast is the one who believes in objective, moral truth in what has been labeled the “post-truth” era. The real rebel is the one who continues to point out that taking the life of the unborn is evil, regardless of the verbiage attached to give it social sanction, that marriage cannot be redefined by black-robed judges, and that truth does not become antiquated simply because it becomes inconvenient.
We make big noise in the media about inappropriate presidential tweets and wink at the genocide of abortion – arguably the greatest evil in the history of all human evils since the victims are the most innocent and vulnerable in our society. It’s amazing what one can justify doing to another human being simply by dehumanize them with political rhetoric and fear mongering. All genocides have been committed by tyrants who were able to persuade one section of society that a particular group of people were less human than themselves and somehow deserving of reprisals of inhuman proportions. Rwanda, the Holocaust, slavery, and abortion are all examples of man’s ability to dehumanize an inconvenient segment of society to justify unspeakable evil.
There is a new bully on the block today. It’s the new morality that says every lifestyle choice must be accepted (not merely tolerated) as normal. Now states like California are endeavoring to expand the safe-space of politically correct censorship to an entire population rather than a specially designated place for the hypersensitive on a given university campus. The idea behind this is that we’re sticking up for the marginalized, protecting their rights, and respecting their lifestyle choices. It sounds good when put like that, but in reality, the opposite is true. In fact, this false assumption is based on a misunderstanding of truth itself.
Truth is by its very nature exclusive. Anytime we declare a propositional statement to be true, we are by consequence saying the opposite of that truth is false or wrong. In fact, it’s an untenable position to say there is no truth. If someone tells you, “There is no truth,” all you have to do is ask them, “Do you believe that to be true?” It’s a self-defeating statement. It’s not that anyone really believes there is no truth; it’s just that they want to redefine truth to their fit their agenda. So, what about it? Is there an objective truth by which human behavior is to be governed? Is there a right and a wrong? The Christian says there is. We believe in a God who ordered reality and set boundaries for human flourishing. He has defined for mankind what is good and what is evil, not that we might be oppressed but that we might thrive within those bounds. As every parent knows, boundaries must be set, and there is danger on the wrong side of the lines.
Telling the truth then, while seeming insensitive to our hypersensitive culture, is an act of love. Why? Because human flourishing can only happen within the boundaries that God has set. We can no more redraw the lines of right and wrong than we can remake the laws of physics that govern our universe. The same hand as immutably set them both, and He has done so for our good. Thus, justice is not served by telling people that every way is right, but by declaring what is right and true so that those who choose to do so can walk in the light of that truth and experience God’s best and highest blessings.
I know of no Christian who wants to constrain anyone to adopt Christian ideals by force. No one can be coerced into a commitment to truth, and that is not the aim of those who hold to moral absolutes. Why then is even the declaration of Christian principles held in such contempt by many in our modern culture? Why the push to privatize all religious expression? I don’t want to make lifestyles I disagree with a punishable crime. Why is it that the very state in which I live wants to make my values and views a punishable offense? If what I and millions of other Christians believe is true, then love constrains us to share what we believe with others. They don’t have to believe it, or even listen to us as we share it, but in a free society, we have the right to say it.
True justice is based on truth, and there will be none of it if we eradicate objective truth in the name of some false version of tolerance. True tolerance is not silencing dissenting voices but respecting those with whom we disagree and attributing to them the dignity we all share as fellow members of the human race – a race we believe God created to bear His very image. We share these truths and run the risk of being labeled a rebel (and far worse) in our own country, not because we think anyone is somehow inferior, but rather because we think they are made for so much more than a revised, man-made morality can offer.
What if the true hero is the man or woman who has the courage to speak the truth that can liberate those living under the oppression of culturally accepted and socially promoted lies? What if cutting against the grain of our current cultural ethos is not subversive, social treason but merely showing which way God’s lines of truth really run? It’s easy to assume someone else is being brave and saying what needs to be said, but all too often, we who believe God’s Word to be true are hiding safely behind the wall of anonymity. It’s time to take a stand for truth. That’s what brave men have always done. That’s what Jesus did. That’s what heroes do.
Dr. Randy Bunch is the pastor of West Kern Christian Center, located at 1000 6th Street in Taft, California, as well as a graduate advisor and adjunct professor at Summit Bible College in Bakersfield, California. He is the author of several books, including his new devotional, Immutable: Changeless Truth for a Changing World. For more information, or to purchase your copy, go to randylanebunch.org. For more information on the ministries of WKCC, you can go the ministry’s website at wkcconnect.org.