“…no matter how the season ends, I’m still a champion. And I won’t let anyone tell me anything different.” – Dwight Howard of the NBA’s Houston Rockets
After the Houston Rockets were destroyed by the Golden State Warriors in the NBA playoffs (*note the pro-California hyperbole), one of the best players in recent NBA history uttered the above statement – providing insight into much of today’s cultural worldview. This is not to take a cheap shot at Dwight Howard who is largely (and perhaps unknowingly) just giving voice to the spirit of the age. We live in an era in which denying reality is often celebrated as long as it provides the emotional or practical benefits that each individual or group desires. The old saying is, “The truth hurts.” This may be why we have entered an era of increased reality-denial. We want to avoid the pain of the truth. Technically correct in calling himself a champion, Dwight Howard had won a Georgia high school basketball championship 11 years ago, but this was not the context of his comments. Dwight can even be given a bit of a pass for speaking off-the-cuff – without thinking much other than his recent, crushing defeat in a game. But denying reality for the emotional or practical benefit of the individual is a symptom that keeps getting worse in more meaningful areas of life. Bruce Jenner is biologically male with a Y-Chromosome and male genitalia, yet society celebrates his denial of reality because he emotionally desires to identify himself as a woman? Fully-Caucasian, former NAACP official, Rachel Dolezal insists that she is black (of modern African descent) despite the scientific and family historical evidence to the contrary? People have been lying since Eden, but this trend is a bit different. It is more of a societal expectation to celebrate self-deception. There’s a difference between lying and believing something that is false, and we live in a day in which there are few consequences for willful lying; and society celebrates the “right” to believe what is false despite all the evidence. Dwight Howard is not an NBA champion, but he “won’t let anyone tell [him] different [sic].” Bruce Jenner never was and never will be a woman, but simply acknowledging this scientific fact by using a masculine pronoun has become a form of microaggressive hate-speech. Were this only something that affects the culture we live in, it would be troubling enough. Unfortunately, this self-deception is a temptation that the church of Jesus Christ must resist in her own ranks. It is easy to point at these glaring specks in the eye of society while missing the beams in the eye of the church. For years, there have been countless funerals in which the deceased were gloriously preached as a devoted Christians when history indicated lives characterized mostly by rebellion or rejection of the Way of Christ. Christian divorces and remarriages apart from any Biblical justification or ecclesiastical consultation have become almost “blue laws” of sorts. Though I’m not a pacifist, most Christians of a strict Bible-believing bent would have been far more averse to any jobs or military service in which taking human life is a distinct possibility. Those days are over as churches that formerly advocated non-combatant service have reversed policy and celebrate the saint whose career may demand participation in killing other human beings. The list could go on, but the point is not to bash the church or individual Christians. On our best days, we all battle inconsistency and cognitive dissonance; however, the root may be that we are always tempted to forfeit thinking for feeling. Truth about the reality of our lives and spiritual conditions become secondary to how we feel (and how we want to believe) about our lives and spiritual conditions. When emotions trump truth, bondage must result since Christ declared the truth is what makes us free. Denying reality to celebrate a false form of freedom can only lead to the loss of true freedom in some way. So what happens when Christians deny reality while believing they are not doing so? The most recent example is a call for a new Reformation in conservative Christianity which advocates same-sex marriage to be considered a moral good within the church. This is a real issue for followers of Christ to consider. But the church must start by embracing a lifestyle that values truth more than comfort, truth more than making others feel loved, truth more than a misguided view of freedom. This was problematic well before any Gay Christian Reformation was proposed. The only thing that matters about what anyone believes is – “Is it true?” Increasingly we are living in a culture that doesn’t care about the answer. For followers of Christ, that is not an option – as evidenced by one incredible exchange in the Gospel of John that shows only two sides of this issue:
John 18:37-38a ESV – Then Pilate said to him [Christ], “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside…
Social media is a blessing and a curse. In one ironic way, it is both simultaneously. No other tool has been more valuable to publicize the denial of reality that plagues our society and has infected the church. It is the era in which beliefs and behaviors that are questionable folly at best or ungodly at worst are promoted by Christians online for all the world to see. Whether famous Christians publicly endorsing 50 Shades of Grey on Twitter or non-celebrity Christians posting asinine pictures on Instagram and anti-Christian philosophies on Facebook, we see an increasing disconnect between believers and the God of the Bible who has revealed Himself by virtues of love, grace, holiness, and judgment. What’s the response? I’m not sure. The temptation is to become irate with displays of Christianity that seem to deny the reality spelled out in Scripture and Natural Law. Saint and sinner alike tend to deny the real state of their souls or their need for realities like severe repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation, transformation, and the like. Yet, social media rants are ultimately not the answer. As for me and my house, I must begin by admitting my own inconsistencies and be watchful. Be watchful in knowing that my own unreliable emotions (tainted by a sinful nature) will always tempt me to deny reality – about God, about myself, and about others. So the answer must always involve a well-worn path back to the Cross of Christ. The Gospel has to be that source where the inconvenient convergence of God’s perfect love, perfect grace, perfect holiness, and perfect judgment occurs. The Gospel – accurately understood and applied – does not permit denial of reality, which is why it is often rejected by the world and resisted by many Christians. The Gospel is the chief cure for both a society and for Christians to escape our preferred bondage to reality denial. Truth is not just a principle. Truth is a Person. And in order to save us from the lies and denials of eternal reality, the Truth hurts – excruciatingly so. For the truth was crucified. To stand for truth in an age of reality denial, those who are Christ’s must be prepared to be crucified (in some manner) also. As the saying goes, truth sounds like hate to those who hate truth. But Truth is always, always worth it.
John 14:6a ESV – Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…”
Proverbs 23:23a ESV – “Buy truth, and do not sell it…”