Chapter 1: Silence Disguised as Wisdom
When I was thirteen, babysitting was the only option for a job besides mowing lawns and shoveling snow. So I tried my hand at it briefly. One incident has stuck in my memory. It was, I could say, my finest hour. Followed by shame and guilt.
While babysitting two boys next door, I faced a difficult situation when one of them refused to go to bed. When I realized he was not going to follow my directions, I decided to bribe him. I would tell him a story. A really good story. He agreed.
I proceeded to tell him the story of Jesus. I told him about a God who had created all that is. A God who loved his creation, especially people. But the people went against God and were bad. They wouldn’t mind God, and so there was a division between them. God wanted to bring the people back to himself, so he made a plan.
I told him that God sent his Son to be born as a tiny human in a town called Bethlehem. That the baby’s name was Jesus, which means Savior. I told him how Jesus grew up and was a very obedient boy. That he respected his parents and loved God his Father. I told him how Jesus grew to manhood and went about preaching good news to the people, healing those who came in faith.
I don’t remember how many of the gospel accounts I mentioned in my tale, but he loved it.
Then I told him about Jesus painfully dying on the cross. For us. Because he loves us. And I told him about Jesus being raised from the dead, alive, seen by his disciples, and then taken to heaven in a miraculous way. All so that we could have new life in him, be forgiven of our sins, and be brought back into fellowship with God.
He loved the story. And he promptly went to sleep.
Not only did I do my job, but I shared the gospel. I was a bit proud of myself. And particularly happy when the parents came home and were pleased that the kids were asleep.
But it didn’t end there. I told my mom about the event. She said I probably shouldn’t have told that story because we didn’t know what the parents believed. They might not want their children to hear about Jesus.
Huh? Wouldn’t everyone want their children to know about Jesus?
I don’t fault my mom for her response. She was brought up in a rural area in a time when most people knew the Judeo-Christian heritage. It wasn’t sharing the gospel that she felt was wrong, but that denominationally, those neighbors might view it differently.
She impressed upon me that two things should not be discussed in public or with people we hardly know: politics and religion.
Looking for a different answer, I asked my home economics teacher at school. She backed my mom’s position. All the way. Even more adamantly. “Never discuss religion with kids you babysit. You might offend the parents.”
Fast forward to the next time I babysat those kids. The little boy asked to hear the story again. Oh, my. I would have loved to tell it again. I could see no harm in it. But I had been told . . . .
I refused to tell the story. That’s where the shame and guilt come in. To this day I regret that I crumbled so easily in the face of that advice and refused to tell this spiritually hungry child the true story about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Savior of all who believe. I can only pray that God sent someone else, at some time in this lad’s life, to finish the job of leading him to Christ. But my heart still pains me that I didn’t repeat the story and satisfy the longing of his little soul to hear the greatest love story in the world, the truth of salvation.
I don’t think that our parents and grandparents, members of the greatest generation, the builders, were consciously enforcing privatization. I don’t think they even thought of it as “privatizing” or enforcing “freedom from religion,” as is the case now. Those were years when wise people didn’t rock the boat, didn’t share in public those things considered private, and certainly hid any behavior that was outside the accepted norm of Judeo-Christian morality.
I’m not excusing them. I just think they meant well, though the counsel was ill-advised and contrary to Scripture. They were focused on cordial social interaction rather than spreading the gospel. Many of them, no doubt, believed that only ministers were qualified to “preach the gospel.” Lay people were to simply sit in pews on Sunday and live good lives the rest of the week. Their lives were their testimony. People were supposed to see their honesty, excellent work ethic, and fidelity, and recognize that such high standards were the fruit of the Christian faith (or of going to church).
Unfortunately, keeping their faith private stifled their witness for Jesus Christ. Christians learned to be silent—and then to compromise. Church members began to consider the gospel only during church hours. Door-to-door witnessing was left to “cults” or fringe movements like JWs and LDSs. Witnessing to strangers was “out of line.”
As a result, we, as believers, dropped out of the culture war and let the secular enemies run rampant. Consequently, the ungodly found the encouragement to boldly speak of their perverse activities. The change came about gradually. Heterosexual politicians didn’t announce their bedroom habits in political rallies, nor did heterosexual celebrities “celebrate” their normalcy. But gay ones did, flaunting their reprobate attitude as though it were a badge.
Today, commandeering a flawed rainbow (in most cases missing one of the colors) and celebrating “gay pride,” those who practice homosexuality have long left the “closet.” And the goal is to now put Christians into the closet, sealing their lips to public speech, prayer, or practice of worship.
People used to be offended—or at least shocked—to see homosexuals holding hands or kissing in public. Now that’s accepted, pushed on us in TV series after series. Others pretend to be offended—or at least shocked—when they see Christians praying over a meal in a public restaurant.
In screenwriting courses, I have been told to not overtly express biblical ideas in dialogue, just to hint at the Word by showing the principles through action. This is in faith-based films, where the characters are Christians. Fortunately, some writers and producers expect to see Scripture spoken in scripts, because that what’s Christians do—they speak the Word to one another. They exhort others to pray and to seek God for direction. They speak about Jesus. At least we should.
For some, too much silence and compromise has come from not speaking the Word to one another. But why should we keep silent? We have the most blessed message in all the world. Why is it that when we speak it, we are told to keep silent? We are called names, and those who oppose us are considered to have a legitimate complaint against us. But when others speak messages of disbelief, of immorality, and of false ideology, they are celebrated. Yet we are denigrated.
This cultural silencing of Christians in the name of privatization or political correctness is as insidious as was the attempt to silence the first century Christians. When we study how they handled it, we will know how we should respond to the growing pressure to be quiet about the gospel—the Word of Life. We ought not to let the cancel culture movement cancel our message of life.
In Victory through Light: How to Overcome the Growing Cultural Darkness, I focused on how naturalistic evolution, relative morality, and political correctness have darkened our culture to the point even Christians are becoming misled by, and eventually engulfed in, cultural darkness. I also covered how to gain victory over that darkness.
Victory through Voice: How to Speak Truth When the Culture Demands Silence explores privatization of the Christian faith and exhorts us to speak the truth in love. Privatization is the cultural push to silence the gospel and force Christians to compromise our values and faith to accommodate sin. We are not allowed to speak freely about the deliverance, grace, love, life, and light that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ offers to a hurting world.
We are silenced from individual witnessing in public schools and universities, the workplace, the public square, and in the secular entertainment industry. Make no mistake about it: the enforced privatization will get worse, given political trends of the socialistic left. Only intense prayer and the intervention of our holy God can stop what has been going on in this country: the eviction of truth, privatization of faith, and national rebellion against the Triune God.
Privatization is really nothing new. It occurred in the first century church and persisted through church history. It is the devil’s attack on believers in order to intimidate, threaten, and dissuade them from sharing the glorious gifts they have received. This book will focus on highlights of that attempt at privatization in the book of Acts and letters of Paul. It will touch briefly on events in church history. It will show today’s Christians how to stand up to such pressure, how to speak the truth in love, and how to “soldier on” as did Peter, Stephen, Paul, Silas, and all the early disciples.
The shadows cast by moral relativism and postmodern denial of truth make privatization all the deadlier. If all beliefs are equal (as moral relativism says) and no belief expresses an objective, absolute truth (per postmodernism), then coercing one group to be silent about their beliefs would effectively take them out of the public conversation. Silencing the group that has knowledge of absolute truth and objective moral goodness is detrimental to all. The one message which others need to hear is muzzled. The only voices left are those speaking error.
Example of Detrimental Silence
Imagine a world like this: A group of children play on a jungle gym in the park. Parents and babysitters watch from benches and under shade trees while the children play. Everyone has his or her own idea of what safe play looks like, so no one interferes when one child pushes another down the slide or hops off the seesaw with a child in the air.
One parent notices but is afraid to speak because she’s been told before that children need to play, and parents need to let them. So she remains quiet, even when a child falls off the slide and another hits the ground with a bone-shattering thump. When the children cry, she still remains silent because she’s been told not to interfere with other people’s children.
The child who fell from the top of the slide (being pushed over the edge instead of down the slippery part) lies on the ground unconscious. The child on the seesaw can’t stand up. But the parent who noticed, being privatized, doesn’t say a word. She takes her child and goes home. By then, the medical help finally arrives, and each case has complications.
This analogy doesn’t need any explanation. I’m glad our privatization isn’t this extreme, and yet the privatization of faith is much more serious, being of eternal importance.
In my example, it’s easy to see that the parent who noticed should have said something—or checked the kids for injuries. That’s just what we do. Yet in eternal matters, Christians are told to be silent—that making a stand for true righteousness is “hate speech.” For example, if we don’t celebrate sin, which our culture does not call sin but rather “an alternate lifestyle,” we are accused of being “homophobic.”
From the Beginning
As I said earlier, this attempt to silence us has gone on from the beginning of the church. It is the devil’s tool when other plans fail. We see it rearing its head in Acts 4:16–18 when the Pharisees employed it to silence the apostles in order to maintain their own hold on the people.
Today, instead of from Pharisees, we see it from the politically correct members of our culture—unbelievers, nominal Christians, career politicians, and secular celebrities. We see it from all those for whom virtue signaling is only an outward show. They speak out on social issues but do nothing to solve problems. At the same time, they presume that alternate views are less moral, less noble, and less tolerant than theirs and, therefore, must be silenced.
In Matthew 23:5–6, Jesus says that the Pharisees do everything to be seen and love the place of prominence. That’s the outward show of virtue signaling. Furthermore, in verse 13, he declares,
“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either.” (NLT)
That’s the silencing of all who disagree with them and refuse to give them a place of honor.
Acts 4 tells of Peter and John’s mock trial in front of the Pharisees. Peter and John had healed a man born lame. The Pharisees were angry, jealous, and afraid that the people would forsake them and follow Peter and John. So they arrested them and held them overnight. Then they challenged them, hoping their threatening tone would cause Peter and John to cower away in timid silence. But Peter,
filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people . . . let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health. (Acts 4:8, 10 NASB)
He even went further to proclaim, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among mankind by which we must be saved” (v. 12 NASB).
Obviously, that isn’t what the Pharisees wanted to hear, especially as they realized that Peter and John were not schooled in Torah as they were, but were simply fishermen. Their only claim to knowledge was that they had been with Jesus. But the Pharisees couldn’t deny the man’s healing. So they conferred among themselves,
saying, “What are we to do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But so that it will not spread any further among the people, let’s warn them not to speak any longer to any person in this name.” And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. (Acts 4:16–18 NASB)
The devil’s ultimate reason for the silence was to stop the message of life, love, and light. But to the Pharisees, it was simply to hold on to their power. And that is the reason for the push for our privatization today. The elite of the culture resist losing their power.
Moreover, the unbelieving world does not want to hear about Jesus, who can set them free from the darkness they live in, who can give them hope from the despair they face, and who can change the miserable life they have chosen for themselves. The secular world does not want others who are in the darkness with them to be enlightened and to find the liberty that is in Christ. The carnal Christian doesn’t want to be reminded of eternity or to be confronted with his or her failure to walk in the light they have been given.
Peter and John replied that they had to do what was right in God’s eyes, not the Pharisees’ eyes. They proclaimed, “[W]e cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (v. 20 NASB). In other words, they found it impossible to be silent about the truth. And that should be our response today. Not in pride or haughtiness, but in the boldness and love of the Holy Spirit.
The Pharisees threatened them some more, but Peter and John went back to the believers and had a prayer meeting, seeking more boldness to speak the Word, more healings, and signs and wonders in Jesus’ name. “[A]nd abundant grace was upon them all” (v. 33 NASB).
That was then and this is now, you may say. But what do we see happening now? Teachers are told to never bring up the name of Jesus, to not bring a Bible to school (or if they do, to hide it from students), to not discuss the Bible in class, and so on.
My Experiences in Education
While I substituted one day as a para in a seventh-grade classroom, the teacher (also a substitute) mentioned the Bible, in the context of the story the class had read. One student piped up, as though he could scare her: “Oooooh, you can’t say the word Bible in here.” She had a valid answer, and he backed down. But what had he heard in the past that gave him those words and the brashness to speak to a teacher that way?
While teaching non-traditional college students, I was chastised by the Dean of a supposedly Christian university’s school of professional and graduate studies for agreeing with a student who said that evolution is false and God created the world. It was in the context of critical thinking for argument presentation and identifying one’s audience to find common ground.
He accused me of unduly influencing these working adult students with my beliefs in order to coerce them into believing as I do. “You could influence them,” he wrote in his scathing review. As though that would be a bad thing. Or as though the atheist teacher doesn’t influence students with his or her view. Or as though adult students, several of whom had seen combat, who had jobs and families, could be so easily influenced by one teacher’s comments.
When the Old Testament prophet Daniel was challenged to privatize his faith, he refused, choosing instead to continue to pray to God three times a day, as was his custom. He had been set up, but he didn’t hide his action behind closed curtains. With windows wide open, he prayed in his chamber, in violation of the law which had been written to ensnare him. As David Jeremiah put it in a televised sermon, “Daniel didn’t stand down; he didn’t stand aside; and he didn’t stand against. He stood up—he stood up for what he believed.”
Daniel didn’t cower in fear of the demand to be silent. He didn’t compromise and try to sneak a prayer in when no one was looking or pretend to pray to the king while praying to God in his heart. He didn’t organize a protest against the unfair law. He just did what he always did, in faith and humility. Consequently, God—and the king—honored that stand.
When People Ask about Our Faith
Sometimes, it’s easier to witness when people ask us about our faith. If they bring it up, we can relax, thinking we have their permission to speak. It removes that fear of “offending” someone. Peter writes, “Always be ready to give an answer to every man who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you, with gentleness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15 mev). If people ask, they want to know.
Obviously, if people do not see our hope as believers, they won’t ask us about it. If we fret, worry, cower in fear, complain, bicker, or claim victimhood, people won’t realize that we have something special called faith and redemption. So they won’t ask. And we will miss the opportunity to answer.
With respect to giving an answer, 1 Peter 3:16 in the New Living Translation reads, “But do this in a gentle and respectful way.” We should tell them gently and with respect, with kindness and sincerity—not self-righteously, proudly, or judgmentally. We should tell them with reverence toward God, not emphasis on self. And we should yearn for the opportunity to share our hope with them.
© Copyright 2021, Victoria Dorshorn
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