Tuesday, January 13, 2015

“A Time to Speak”

“a time to keep silence, and a time to speak”
(Ecclesiastes 3:7b)

It has been ten years since the Herescope blog was first launched in the Fall of 2005. 832 posts later, we are still writing and publishing, but only by God’s grace. How much longer we can do this is fully in His hands. Times are darker. So many have drifted away from the faith. We continue to write and to warn because of our love of the brethren. Our hearts break daily as we see the consequences of a church gone astray from the glorious message of redemption found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Early in the 1980s I was a right-to-life activist and leader. My first experience on a live TV debate was with a man who was the director of the local abortion clinic. The interviewer was sympathetic to his position, not mine. I was intimidated and terrified. Throughout the interview the other two had the upper hand. Finally, near the end of the debate, the interviewer, in order to attain the appearance of objectivity, asked me to comment. I blurted out, “Abortion is a barbaric and brutal solution to a complex human problem. Surely we can find other more peaceful alternatives than the shedding of innocent human blood.” There was a prolonged moment of stunned silence. The abortion clinic director appeared shell-shocked and mumbled an inarticulate reply. The interviewer hastily concluded with a garbled “something to think about; thanks, folks, for watching.”

I was surprised at what had just come out of my mouth. But I meant it with all of my heart. I hated violence. It got me thinking about the shedding of innocent human blood. How long would God tolerate it? How long would we in America continue to live in peace and affluence? I had hoped for systemic revival – true revival where people repent – but it never came.[1] The abortion mills chugged along relentlessly, and slowly society – and the church – became acclimated to it.

When the United States adopted torture as a method of interrogation after 9/11 it wasn’t surprising – at least not to me. I saw it as the inevitable consequence of decades of increasing decadence and desensitization to violence. The fact that torture was supported by a Republican administration was also not a surprise. In the mid-1980s top Party officials had bluntly informed me that I needed to face facts: they had no intention of actually changing the profitable abortion ethos. One politician sucked on his index finger and stuck it in the air. “I just vote how the wind is blowing,” he chuckled nonchalantly. No conscience, no conviction.

These self-professing conservatives, who for decades had arrogantly asserted that America was of a higher moral fiber than the Soviets, ended up adopting the very methods of brutality (not to mention lack of due process) that had been championed by Joseph Stalin. Solzhenitzyn vividly depicted this transformation process in Russia in a chapter titled “The Interrogation” in his book The Gulag Archipelago (Volume 1):
If the intellectuals in the plays of Chekhov who spent all their time guessing what would happen in twenty, thirty, or forty years had been told that in forty years interrogation by torture would be practiced in Russia; that prisoners would have their skulls squeezed within iron rings; that a human being would be lowered into an acid bath; that they would be trussed up naked to be bitten by ants and bedbugs; that a ramrod heated over a primus stove would be thrust up their anal canal (the “secret band”); that a man’s genitals would be slowly crushed beneath the toe of a jackboot; and that, in the luckiest possible circumstances, prisoners would be tortured by being kept from sleeping for a week, by thirst, and by being beaten to a bloody pulp, not one of Chekhov’s plays would have gotten to its end because all the heroes would have gone off to insane asylums….

Thus it was that the conclusions of advanced Soviet jurisprudence, proceeding in a spiral, returned to barbaric or medieval standards. Like medieval torturers, our interrogators, prosecutors, and judges agreed to accept the confession of the accused as the chief proof of guilt.
What goes around, comes around. The rise of threatening brutality would inevitably target free speech. Free speech is rooted in the biblical mandate to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) and to spread the Gospel of salvation message:
  • These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates: (Zech. 8:16)
  • But [Paul] said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. (Acts 26:25)
  • In Whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation: in Whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, (Eph. 1:13)
The level of defense of free speech and satire since the Charlie Hebdo killings has been astonishing. Yet even with the massive support worldwide there is an undercurrent of increasing unease. The threat of retribution looms. The potential for more brutality lurks everywhere. Violence prowls around all of us who write publicly.

In America we have become accustomed to the Christian Right charge that its “free speech” is being threatened by the Liberal Leftists with their politically correct causes. Indeed, this is a most perplexing inconsistency, especially in evidence on college campuses. There are apparently some on the Left who hold such aggressive agendas that they are willing to shut down the free speech of any opposition. So much for the First Amendment. So much for our 1960s dreams of tolerance and true diversity. The intellectual ideal of free and open debate in a pluralistic society is gasping to survive.

But the Left isn’t the only group that sold out its ideals. The Right also, particularly with the cooperation of the Religious Right, has abandoned the moral and ethical high ground. The mainstream evangelical press, not to mention the seminaries, fell away from their high calling decades ago, leaving in its wake a sadly truncated and denuded Gospel message. In this vacuum there arose a newfound zeal for mega-affluence, guru-like stardom and self-centered mysticism.

This rising tide of vacuity and vanity effectually crippled the Christian voice of conscience and conviction – just at a critical time when the world was starving to hear it. The moral and ethical integrity that might have raised its voice against the tortures after 9/11 was silenced as the church morphed into a garish caricature of itself. Even the elite cadre of Emergent/ing special forces were silent. Being hip was more important than being truly counter-to-the-culture. Weep on….

Those of us who published the plain old-fashioned Scriptural message, who warned of these faulty teachings and their superstar leaders, found ourselves sidelined. In fact, many of us had been blacklisted since the 1990s in the mainstream evangelical “industrial complex.” We have amazing stories we could tell… if anyone cared to listen.

It is a different day now, a scarier time. Words are powerful. Wielded words are perceived as even more threatening than wielded swords. Words have always offended the powers-that-be sitting on the religious and political thrones of the world. The Word of Truth has the potential to offend nearly everyone – The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.” (1 Peter 2:9; see also Is. 8:14 and Rom. 9:33).

This blog has often warned about the increasing use of militant language by those who are teaching radical new eschatologies of Dominionism. We presume that we may become a primary target – on that day when its teachers shift gears from their violent rhetoric to calls for real extermination. Shockingly, some of these extremists are now enabled to go mainstream thanks to their newfound associations with reputedly godly leaders – leaders who we had once hoped would have the courage to speak out against them. Now these compromisers can be found riding with the herd on the conference circuits and speaking platforms of the NAR and IHOP. Evidently hitching a ride with this unsavory group is viewed as a ticket to fame and fortune. God help us all! Even worse, this fraternizing with extremists is being justified as a way to extend God’s Kingdom.

There are pockets of good news. Especially since the demise of Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill networking empire. Decent, ordinary people got hurt. They are sharing their stories of abuse, enabling others to gain courage. They are asking hard questions, looking into the history of Leadership Network, following the money trails, re-thinking the postmodern mantras, and publishing their findings publicly on the Internet. They’ve learned that waking up to reality hurts. It is hard thing to do when a darkening dusk has settled over the slumbering church on earth. They look around and ask – where are the men who should have been standing with them? They are learning just how far the mighty have fallen.

Freedoms are diminishing rapidly. Shortly after the television interview mentioned at the beginning of this post I ran Dr. Bernard Nathanson’s film The Silent Scream (depicting an ultrasound of an actual first trimester abortion) on a local television station. I appeared on the panel discussion. Shortly afterwards a death threat arrived in my mailbox. For the next several years I never went anywhere unaccompanied. Two burly men served as my bodyguards. Were they armed? Only with prayer.

Solzhenitsyn wrote an amazing piece of advice, found in the same chapter of his book. He applied it to interrogation and imprisonment, but shouldn’t we also apply it to our daily walk as Christians?
From the moment you go to prison you must put your past firmly behind you. At the very threshold, you must say to yourself: “My life is over, a little early to be sure, but there’s nothing to be done about it. I shall never return to freedom. I am condemned to die – now or a little later. But later on, in truth, it will be even harder, and so the sooner the better. I no longer have any property whatsoever. For me those I love have died, and for them I have died. From today on, my body is useless and alien to me. Only my spirit and my conscience remain precious and important to me.”

Confronted by such a prisoner, the interrogation will tremble.

Only the man who has renounced everything can win that victory.
Jesus forewarned us, For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?” (Luke 14:28). Likewise Paul wrote that we are to consider ourselves as “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.” (2 Cor. 4:10). Should we fear? Or not!

There are many voices who have not yet spoken out, who have stayed silent for fear of retribution. (Prov. 29:25.) It is time. It is time for them to speak, to not be silent. May God grant us all courage for the time that remains to us upon this earth.

But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” (2 Cor. 6:4-10)

“I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.” (Rev. 3:18)

1.     See the article “How Can There Be Revival Without Repentance, starting on page 3 of the Sept./Oct. 2001 Discernment Newsletter: http://www.discernment-ministries.org/Newsletters/NL2001SepOct.pdf

This post is authored by Sarah H. Leslie, editor of the Herescope blog. Many of the topics mentioned in this post have been constant themes on this blog over the past 10 years.