Is truth something we can discover or is truth something we agree on? All my education and all my life experience have taught me that my opinion has nothing to do with the truth. I have always known that truth is truth without regard to my feeling about it. I have always known that you and I can agree that green is purple, but our agreement does not make it so.
In today’s US culture, however, two people apparently can agree that green is purple and force everyone else to declare the same thing. In fact, it apparently is the case that if the pair who decide that green is purple are loud enough and represent a tiny minority of people for whom it feels life-threatening to hear someone praise the beauty of green leaves, that group could be declared to have a civil right to force everyone in the USA to call green leaves purple.
Where did I get such an idea?
I got it from the culture. The culture no longer believes that truth is reality. The culture believes that truth is what we agree on. If we agree that a rule such as “Do not kill human beings,” is way too restrictive because some human beings are inconvenient for other human beings, then we can all agree on which humans to kill, and that makes our rule the truth. If most of the people in the USA decide that one specific demographic is undesirable, then killing anyone in that demographic is normal, and acting to protect anyone in that demographic is extreme behavior, maybe even dangerous behavior. That is the way contemporary culture determines what is normal and what is extreme.
In the US culture today, babies that result from human sexual intercourse that was not intended to produce a baby are in the undesirable demographic. Babies in the “unplanned pregnancy” demographic are not treated like real human beings, because so many people are in agreement that an unplanned baby has no right to be alive. There is a cultural consensus that killing an unplanned baby is okay, even though there is nothing wrong with the baby. In a culture that believes truth is reality, that baby would be treated like all the other babies. Adults would give their own lives to save the baby, rather than call the baby ugly names and treat it like gum on a shoe sole.
Once upon a time in Germany, a culture agreed that gypsies were not real human beings. There was a widespread agreement that gypsies were sub-human. In that culture they gave policemen the job of cleaning up the human population by cleaning the gypsies out of it. In fact, about the same time, there came to be a consensus that Jews were not real humans, either. So the people who had agreed among themselves that Jews were not human began to clean the Jews out of the population. That ancient truth that human beings were uniquely precious among living things, the ancient rule against killing human beings that is written on the heart of every human being whether he likes it or not, those truths and those realities were declared outdated and obsolete, just as contemporary people are declaring that the old-fashioned rule about not killing humans has nothing to do with modern reality.
What’s more, because 50%-79% of the culture chooses to agree that killing an unwanted baby is okay, because they agree not to call the baby a human, that group in the culture pins the label extremist on people who think an unborn baby, wanted or not, is human. Reality and truth are submerged, overwhelmed by the number of people who choose to deny the truth and agree to a lie. This fact is demonstrated in a recent survey by Barna Group.
In this survey, Barna asked survey participants to label behaviors as extreme or normal. They were to react to the described behavior and specify if it were extreme. The outcome will give Christians a lot to think about.
In the Barna survey, 50%-79% of the people surveyed considered that to “demonstrate outside an organization they consider immoral” is extreme behavior. The statistic is very large: 50%-79% of the people interviewed considered it extreme for a person to “demonstrate outside an organization they consider immoral.” What might be happening if a person felt the need to “demonstrate outside an organization they consider immoral?” People who consider every unborn baby to be a human being who should not be murdered often choose to stand outside abortion clinics and demonstrate against that practice. They stand outside abortion clinics and counsel pregnant women by explaining alternatives to abortion. According to the Barna survey, 50% to 79% of Americans consider that behavior extreme.
What makes behavior extreme? Extremism is to believe something dramatically different from what everyone else believes. The standard is not truth or reality or facts. The standard is not government law or revealed law. The standard is what everyone else believes. The culture is utterly intolerant of anyone who goes his own way, chooses to be an individual, decides for himself what is right and what is wrong. Individuality is considered to be a threat to peace and good order, while communal thinking, even if it is burning down buildings, is the always the right mindset. The standard is to blend in, not to stand out, to tone down personal convictions, and reshape them to fit with the community’s convictions. Blend in. Do not stand out.
Christians will never be able to blend in. Why? Because Christians do not make their moral choices based on what everyone else is doing. Christians make their moral choices based on the revealed, absolute truth of the Bible. For Christians, morality is not up for a vote. They do not take polls to see what other people think. Commitment to God’s absolute revealed truth documented in the Bible is the baseline for Christians.
The Barna survey, not surprisingly, reveals that many people in the US now consider all Christians to be extremists. In fact, nearly half of non-religious adults in the US hold that view of Christianity. To them, to be invited to church is an extreme behavior by someone who is out of step with the real world. They would regard it as extreme if someone offered to pray for them or with them. They even consider it an act of extremism if they see someone silently reading a Bible in an airport or a public park.
There has always been pressure to blend in, ever since the first century. Ananias and Sapphira tried to blend in to their culture by lying about an offering. Simon the Magician in Samaria thought he could bribe the apostles to give him the power of the Holy Spirit. The papacy has been bedeviled for centuries by leaders who succumbed to the temptation to blend in with the world around them.
Christians were warned by Jesus himself that the world will always hate them. Today the hate is wrapped in a judgment that Christians are too extreme. It sounds almost well-meaning. If Christians would just learn how to go along and get along, their lives would be easier. But then, they would not be Christians if they did that. Christians turn away from the world and put their eyes on Jesus alone. It may be extreme, but it is Truth. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” (John 14:6) That statement does not allow Christians to blend in.