Some of the most caring people you meet in life are ones who tell you not what you may want to hear — but what you need to hear.
Often, a person who gives you a needed wake-up call or word of correction is not trying to be a bully, or is not trying to “get up in your business,” but may be someone with a valid point that needs to be heard. The present culture of political correctness and enforced tolerance has, regrettably, removed from us needed voices of admonition and correction that previous generations would have been wise enough to embrace.
If you dare to disagree on a moral, cultural, or political issue these days, be prepared to be labeled a “hater,” a “[fill-in-the-blank]-phobe” — or you might even lose your job.
Free speech is increasingly being truncated through bullying and intimidation on the part of progressives who amount to a type of social-justice-warrior thought police. There is moral indignation shown by those who abhor the idea of moral responsibility. But in this land of constitutionally protected free expression, it is time to remind the misnamed “progressives” that just because someone disagrees with the concept of homosexual marriage, thinks the rise of Islam in the West has been a “net negative,” or believes that genetic differences between females and males cannot be changed by mental “identification,” does not mean that such persons are guilty of hate speech.
What could be said of such, however, is that they are “guilty” of logical thought, ethical conviction, and (if they speak up) moral courage. “Enforced pluralism” has brought us to the point that critical thinking skills are becoming latent and moral voices are going silent. Does the proclamation of truth really come with harsh backlash and costly repercussion? Ask Coach Joe Kennedy, a decorated U.S. veteran and high school football coach who was fired for silently, discreetly praying alone after games. Ask Barronelle Stutzman, the florist who has been left financially destitute because she faithfully stood for her religious convictions.
Stutzman’s beliefs, incidentally, are right in line with 2,000 years of biblical Christianity. The same Scriptures that motivated Stutzman to respectfully but unflinchingly stand for traditional morality were also held by the likes of Augustine, Aquinas, Pilgrim William Bradford, the framers of our Constitution, the author of the First Amendment, C.S. Lewis, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, and the late Rev. Billy Graham, to name but a few. Were all of these “haters” or “phobic”?
And yet a 2017 Washington state Supreme Court ruling mandates that as an artist and business person, Stutzman must engage in practice with which she disagrees.
The sacrifice required in doing what’s right. America’s founders courageously fought for our rights, and today we must fight to keep them. To stand for truth today, one risks being misunderstood, maligned, and maybe even unemployed. In this land of free speech, studies show that people are now hesitant to talk about their beliefs.
As a U.S. citizen, the First Amendment elucidates your inherent right to free speech and the government’s promise to protect this. Yet more than ever, people are afraid to verbalize many of their convictions about morality, truth, religion and values.
A study from the Cato Institute seems to back this up: Its 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey of 2,300 U.S. adults found that 71 percent of Americans believe “political correctness has silenced important discussions our society needs to have.” And the consequences are personal, with 58 percent saying the political climate prevents them from sharing their own political beliefs.
It’s a tragedy that so many feel they can’t speak about their views in our culture. If there were ever a time for the faithful to have a voice in our society, it is now. The fact that our nation has become so hostile toward some beliefs is a sad commentary and a tragic consequence of a culture that touts tolerance — but really only believes in it when the views are “agreeable.”
More than 60 percent of students in 2017 said the climate on college campuses “prevents some people from saying things they believe because others might find them offensive.” As most secular universities create “safe spaces” to shield fragile young adults from “micro-aggression” or “hate speech,” polls show that growing numbers of students are concerned about hostility toward free speech on campus — especially students with conservative viewpoints.
These things are disturbing because if young adults can’t express themselves while in college (when they are formulating their beliefs) they won’t be able to share their views later in life, in the face of increasing adversity. Speaking positively for God and country, standing strong for morality and truth, one may feel cultural heat and that may be daunting — but the cost of keeping silent is far worse.
“Make a choice,” this man told me. “Decide if you’re going to get your life together, follow Christ, or not.”
There is truth that hurts, truth that helps. When I think of someone courageous enough to share a hard truth, I think of Mr. Thompson. He was a businessman who attended the Presbyterian church I was a part of while growing up. Mr. Thompson volunteered in the youth and college ministry of the church, invested time with us — and I looked up to him.
Off and on during my late teens and early 20s I participated in church functions, but I was just “going through the motions.” At church I was a “poser” — showing up when there was free pizza and attending just to try to flirt with the girls. At college I was a partier. Mr. Thompson was gracious, but I suppose he could see right through me.
While hiking with my buddies at a state park one weekend, I bumped into Mr. Thompson from church. I was embarrassed that one of my youth leaders saw me with a half-downed bottle of whiskey in my hand — plus I was reeking of alcohol. Later, he sought me out and basically said, “Alex, make a choice: Decide if you’re going to get your life together, follow Christ, or not.”
Mr. Thompson threw down some hard truth that I really needed to hear at that point of my life. I’m sparing you lots of details, but the conversation he had with me back then would have probably been grounds for a lawsuit today. But I thank God that during my formative years, Mr. Thompson (and a few others) looked me in the eye and said some things that weren’t what I wanted to hear, but were definitely things I needed to hear.
The people who spoke moral and spiritual truths into my aberrant young life weren’t “haters.” They were people of courage, conviction, and care. Young people still need older, wiser voices of correction — if, in this age of progressivism, litigation, and cyber-shaming, any can still be found.
Dr. Alex McFarland is a religion and culture expert, director of Christian Worldview and Apologetics at North Greenville University, a national talk-show host, speaker, and author of 18 books, and the host of the Truth for a New Generation conference. For more information, visit www.alexmcfarland.com.
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