Hey, Calvary Fremont –
There is a contradiction snaking its way through American culture and intellectual life. Individualism has emerged as the dominant social value in American life. And individualism can only exist because of relativism – the theory that denies absolute truth – which is the dominant philosophical value in American life. Individualism says: I can do what I want, with who I want, where I want, how I want, when I want, and I don’t have to answer to anyone for it – as long as no one gets hurt. Relativism says: Go for it!
Censorship is the contradiction of individualism and relativism. Censorship implies that there is an absolute position to be maintained and no one has the individual freedom to oppose this. Censorship says NO to individualism and relativism. Censorship is the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are “offensive.” Censorship happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others. Groupthink is the triumph of censorship.
Individualism and the relativism that supports it is contradicted by censorship and the absolutism it implies.
Ladies and Gentlemen – let’s get ready to rrruuummmbbbllleee! In this corner – individualism and freedom of conscience. In the other corner – censorship and the limiting of conscience to socially accepted narratives. (And these are determined by the cultural elites.) Frankly, I don’t know who the winner will be.
Here’s how this plays out –
Individualism says that a woman can do what she wants with her body – have an abortion, etc. But censorship says that a woman cannot do what she wants with her mind and her mouth. She cannot disagree with the narrative that the cultural elites have established when it comes to COVID, or same-gender relationships, or transgenderism, etc. The same person who encourages a woman liberty of conscience when it comes to the issue of abortion will not allow her liberty of conscience when it comes to other issues. This is the contradiction in American cultural and intellectual life.
Individualism allows free exercise of conscience and preferences, whereas censorship limits the exercise of conscience.
A woman’s conscience can guide her decision as to having an abortion, but her conscience cannot be her guide where the cultural elites have determined the narrative.
A man has freedom of conscience to change his gender and be anatomically altered to a female, but he does not have freedom of conscience to disagree with the narrative of the cultural elites.
OK, as Christians, what corner should we be in? What side should we identify with and cheer for?
Neither. We do not champion one or the other – we offer an Alternative.
Both an unaccountable individualism and a conscience coercing censorship are not what the Kingdom of God is all about. Jesus didn’t come to promote an unaccountable individualism fueled by relativism, nor did He come to coerce the conscience and establish groupthink. Neither individualism nor totalitarian control reflect the Kingdom of God.
The Bible deals with people as individuals and seeks to promote accountability to God. Unaccountable individualism doesn’t promote ultimate flourishing. Nor does the Bible promote a coerced faith – conversion at the point of a sword. Yes, this has happened in Church history – and it is ugly. It always backfires. Someone said, “Convince a man against his will, He’s of the same opinion still.”
Our desire and task as followers of Jesus is to announce that God seeks to have a relationship with each person through His Son Jesus Christ. And yes, this relationship is an accountable relationship – Jesus is Lord! There are things a Christian should do and should not do. As a follower of Jesus, I have borders I live within. Even as a parent establishes boundaries for a child to maximize their flourishing, so the Lord does with His children.
The Church doesn’t coerce conversion, nor does it censor the speech of those who are atheists or agnostics and who argue that Christianity is bogus and not believable. They should be allowed to think, write, and say what they want. If I must censor you for Christianity to move forward, I must really think that the truth of Jesus is weak. But Jesus said that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. It’s amazing how many skeptics and atheists have set out to prove Christianity is wrong and have ended up bowing before Jesus Christ!
The Church doesn’t promote an unaccountable individualism fueled by relativism, nor do we seek to censor everyone into the prison of groupthink. Ours is another vision – of all peoples and nations, tribes, and tongues bowing at the feet of Jesus, having been converted without coercion, won to Christ by the persuasive preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I don’t know whether an unaccountable individualism or a coercive censorship will prevail in the current culture war, but I know that Jesus Christ is coming soon and that the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.
Be blessed and stay healthy and follow Jesus – Pastor Tim