Embracing Unpopular Truth in an Age of Political Correctness
Nearly thirty years ago, Pastor John delivered a lecture series on biblical manhood and womanhood. The relevance of the series you are about to hear for yourself. It was 1993. He was speaking to college students in Dayton, Tennessee. I only recently listened to this series. Today, we feature a clip from part four, brought to our attention by a couple, David and Katharina, who listen to APJ in Germany.
Katharina wrote us to say, “The other week, my husband and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary” — congratulations to you both — “and we went away for a weekend to refocus — reflecting on the year past, and planning for the year ahead. We wanted to listen to a sermon series to give us something to think about and ponder, and this time we picked Pastor John’s lecture series called ‘Manhood, Womanhood, and God,’ a series from 1993, almost three decades ago!”
Well, thank you for the prompt. Katharina drew our attention to part 4, titled, “Lovers of Truth in a Politically Correct and Gender-Leveling World.” She sent this clip, on political correctness, where Pastor John gives examples of slogans in his day — Orwellian slogans used to bias interpretation. The following audio is not perfect, but the point is so relevant, it’s worth a listen. Here’s Pastor John in 1993.
Let me read you a text from the teachings of Jesus that is a clarion call to you this morning to be courageous in speaking unpopular things. This comes from Matthew 10:24–25:
A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.
In other words, expect to be maligned in the world. Don’t assume, when you are called a name, that you’ve suddenly made a big mistake and have said something inappropriate. “Oh, I must go back and find another way to say it so they won’t malign me.” It says you’re going to be maligned. They spit on him. They crowned him with thorns. They called him names. They laughed him to scorn. Shall we be above our teacher? That’s the point here.
So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:26–31)
Now, the point of that text is unmistakably clear because of the threefold repetition of the command. Verse 26: “Have no fear of them.” Verse 28: “Do not fear those who kill the body.” Verse 31: “Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
Jesus does not want any of you to be afraid. And the issue about fear here is what comes out of your mouth. He is asking you to speak clearly — that is, in the light, and forthrightly, and publicly (“on the housetops”) — things that will get you killed. Before your life is over, it is in all likelihood that you will be in jail for saying some of the things that I’ve said in this room in these past two days, or if not in jail, you will be the victim of random violence from certain communities in society. One of our pastors was shot at on the way home from church last Sunday night, just random, out of the towers across the street from the church. He heard the bullet go zing! and hit the ground beside him.
“I want you to be unafraid, in spite of what it’s going to cost you, to say things that are unpopular or dangerous.”
Now we have no idea. What was this? Why is this person doing this? Was it intentional? Police don’t have anything to say about it, but that doesn’t surprise me at all. Our church is known for a few controversial things. There are people who live in those towers who don’t like what we say. Guns are easily available. Some of them are not mentally stable. Now, if you decide, “Oh, I’m not going to live in a place like that — no way,” what are you? Who’s your master? What is this? Are you American, or are you Christian? Do you choose your house for safety, or do you choose your house for ministry? Jesus is real clear here: Be courageous. Be fearless. So, I want you to be unafraid this morning, in spite of what it’s going to cost you, to say things that are unpopular or dangerous.
Mature in Thinking
Now, in order to do that, you need to really exploit your time here at Bryan to become strong in the truth and strong in the word. “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature,” Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:20. He wants you to use this time here at Bryan to grow more and more mature in your thinking, to send your roots deeper and deeper into the objective evidences of God’s truth, so that when you walk out of this place and scatter all over the nation and around the world, you go with a profound conviction about a few things in the world. You will always see through a glass darkly. You will never be totally comprehensive and have all the knowledge that God has. But there are a few things that you will know.
Let me give you some examples, now, of the kind of thing I think you need to be really shrewd about. I called this talk “Lovers of Truth in a Politically Correct and Gender-Leveling World,” because I’ve lived now in Minneapolis in these past couple of years, watching the way language is so manipulated by politically correct people to get their ideas into students’ minds by circumventing reasoned argument and using clever language.
Just a few examples. My son goes to high school in Minneapolis, and I go down there sometimes to see him or to do whatever. I went down a year ago and saw two posters. They were over every doorway leading to the stairwells, so every student had to pass under these posters. They were school-sanctioned posters — and they were politically correct, and they were gender-leveling and homosexuality-endorsing. But the way they did it was oblique, and remarkably shrewd, and clever, the kind of thing that students by and large in the ninth through the twelfth grades have not been trained to discern, and spot, and unpack, and make distinctions. That’s why you are here, to learn to do that.
‘One in Ten Gay’
Here was one of them — a big, beautiful poster with color, a rainbow kind of decoration: “One in ten people are gay, lesbian, or bisexual. They could be your brother, sister, parent, or friend.” That’s all the poster said. What’s that? What’s that message? It’s crafted in such a way so that if a parent went into a principal and said, “I don’t like that,” they’d say, “Well, what don’t you like about it? It doesn’t teach anything.”
Well, there are several problems with that simple little quote. Number one, the statistic is inflated — 10 percent. What’s the point of that? The point is to create a feeling in these students, “My goodness, every tenth person in the hall is gay!” And that is the feeling they want to create, because once you feel that, you have to say, “It just can’t be as bad as I feel it is. Something must be wrong with me.” That’s the thought.
Now, it’s inflated; the numbers aren’t 10 percent. No, the National Center for Health Statistics says 3, William Simon and the Kinsey Institute say 2 to 3, the Chicago study recently says 1 percent, maybe. Nobody knows for sure. But 10 percent was one of those inflated figures.
Then here’s the second thing wrong with it. There was no moral assessment of the behavior. It’s an emotional appeal. Your parent might be gay or bisexual. Now, when that thought enters a ninth grader’s mind — “My daddy might be a bisexual” — what’s he supposed to do with that? No teaching. No standards. Just the thought sown in the kid’s brain. I’ll tell you, what happens is that he might say, “It just can’t be,” but if it keeps coming back, he’ll say, “Well, if it were, he’s okay, and it must be okay.” And so you reduce the whole moral dimension of something being right or wrong. This is politically correct manipulation of language, to put ideas into minds by short-circuiting clear, critical thinking. And it happens in every newspaper almost every day, and on almost every television advertisement, and virtually all kinds of media efforts.
‘Respect Sees No . . .’
Here was the other poster. It was even more tricky, shorter. The poster said, “Respect sees no color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability.” That’s all it said. How could you complain about that? What do you have against respect? What are you, homophobic? What are you, against disabled people?
All on the Same Level
There are several problems with it. One is that it puts homosexuality in the same category with sexuality. Gender and sexual orientation are side-by-side. Respect sees no sexual orientation, and respect sees no gender, and no color. So, once you’ve got sexual orientation listed beside whether you’re male or female, and whether you’re black or white, then you can’t feel any more strongly about this distinction than you can about these distinctions.
Nobody feels that it’s right or wrong to act black or act white. Nobody feels that it’s right or wrong for a woman to act like a woman and a man to act like a man. And therefore, obviously, nobody should feel that it’s right or wrong for a person who has a homosexual orientation to act that way — and one who has a heterosexual orientation to act that way.
That’s the message of the poster. As soon as you line up those things without any distinction — gender, color, religion, sexual orientation — you’ve told the students, “Treat them on the same level.” They’re not on the same level. To be a male or a female is a holy and good thing created by God, and endorsed by God, and in God’s image. To act out a homosexual orientation and to act out a heterosexual orientation are profoundly different than that category. That’s the first problem.
No Positive Foundation
The second problem is the statement, “Respect sees no . . .” All that the public schools can do, since they have forsaken almost all — where I live anyway. I don’t know where it is where you are down here. From what I hear, it’s amazingly different, but it’ll be here eventually, in the public schools. So, the public schools have forsaken virtually all truth and all normative reality, behavior, and God-talk. So, they don’t have any positive foundations for respect. They can’t say to a student, “Respect somebody because you see in them this . . .” They say, “Respect sees no . . .” and then list off things that respect doesn’t see. So it leaves a big void underneath. Well, why should we respect anybody? Which is one of the reasons why there is so little respect among students for anything. The schools can’t provide them with a positive foundation.
“There’s a way to respect somebody no matter what they’ve done, because they’re created in God’s image.”
The foundation for respecting black and white, and male and female, and people of other religions, is that God has created all human beings in his image. There is a way to respect a murderer. There’s a way to respect a rapist. There’s a way to respect somebody no matter what they’ve done, because they’re created in God’s image. They are not snakes. They’re not frogs or horses. They are human beings. No matter what they’ve done — no matter their sexual orientation, no matter their sex, no matter their religion — there is a respect that one can accord them even if it might mean putting them in jail. You don’t put snakes in jail.
But you can’t say anything like that. You can’t provide a foundation for respect in the image of God. And so students are left with a groundless call to respect, and they say, “What’s the deal? Why shouldn’t I shoot him? He mouthed off to me.”
Respect Does See
And the third problem is that, in fact, respect does see gender and religion. And it makes a difference. There are courtesies and forms of respect that men owe to women that they don’t owe to men. The one I could get most agreement on is that you don’t go in her locker room; you go in his locker room. To tell these students that respect sees no gender is terribly destructive. It sees she’s a woman, and I will treat her differently than I treat these guys that I’m always treating in certain ways. I will offer certain courtesies. I will offer certain respect. I will acknowledge sexual differences that will mean I don’t take liberties with her that I might take with him. To tell them, “You don’t see it,” is wrong.
Same thing with religion. Respect looks at a Satanist who’s involved in ritual satanic abuse, and he looks at a Jewish person who’s trying to keep the Ten Commandments. Neither of them knows Jesus Christ. And he will respect this Jewish person more than this Satanic person. I’d stand up in any group and say that. Respect does have eyes for gender. It does have eyes for religion. They make a difference in the kind and form of respect that you give to a person.
Learn to Discern
Well, I just plead with you, take advantage of these years here at Bryan to become discerning men and women, so that when you read in the paper, or when you see a poster, or when you look at a billboard or you hear an advertisement, you are not blown about — they don’t insinuate ideas in your mind that don’t come through the critical filter of biblical thinking.
Be the kind of people who can go to a principal and explain to a PTA group or a principal just what I’ve explained to you — why those posters are destructive — even if they don’t agree with you. The world is dying for want of people to stand up and speak that kind of truth.