‘”Nazi,” “homophobe,” “racist,” “sexist,” “anti-immigrant!” At the moment, those are some of the popular names used to shut people up. If an ideologue feels the need, they will use one or more of the above. The ad hominem (“at the man”) attack sticks like tar. Put the other person on the defensive by demonizing them. It generally makes them go away.
Demagogues rule when opposition is silenced. They detest the words of the wise. Their challengers must be shut up and forced to go away.
Their tongue is a deadly arrow; it speaks with deceit. (Jeremiah 9:8a NIV)
We have entered the American political season of 2018. The party holding a majority in Congress will wield tremendous power and control the purse strings. This is going to be ugly! Expect what we’ve witnessed in the recent past, that is “the politics of personal destruction.”
The late-Andrew Breitbart wrote “Politics is downstream from culture.” What goes on in our culture, Breitbart observed, will flow into the political realm. As an example, when shaming, bullying and slander permeate the culture, expect it in politics.
Borrowing from Breitbart, I suggest “culture is downstream from religion.” “Shut up and go away” edicts have been in the church a long time. Silencing the free expression of religious ideas with shunning, banning, as well as labelling non-conformists as “heretics,” has a long, dark history in Christendom. As with politicians, “Go away!” has been practiced since authorities discovered that controlling the narrative leads to the acquisition of power and its twin wealth.
It was upstream, in the spiritual realm, where punishing critics was not supposed to happen. But as with all despots, church officials became outraged by reformers that had the ear the people. (Think the Jewish rulers vs. Christ.) Threatening their status always infuriates the establishment. Consider what person the negative American media focuses on and why.
Because of the rightness of their cause the Protestant reformation succeeded in overcoming the then religious establishment. The invention of the printing press played a major role in achieving the impossible. Pamphlets of the reformers declared to the masses a previously unheard truth while they exposed the church’s corruption.
Unwilling to do away with the vestiges of their heritage, the new religious movement of reform soon began to resemble the old. They soon built cathedrals of their own. After the Protestant’s “success,” Christianity began to splinter into fragments. Though most issues were about small details like the host used in communion, the fight left wounds. Rather than hash it out using Scripture, groups, like political parties, were formed. From that crack, chasms developed.
In our day, Protestant religionists are the establishment. Now the megastars of the church hold the coveted power and wealth. We are talking about big business and media empires. If we want to know who and what is behind it, follow the money.
There is hope. Five hundred years ago, in Luther’s day, there was the printing press. We are in the information age. Our message will not be heard through the normal channels of pulpit, pastor’s conference, print and media such as radio and TV. Our teaching, however, goes out via the global internet. When God wills, it shall reach the ears of people everywhere. It will upset the status quo and change everything. If God is in it, there is nothing anyone can do to stop it (cf. Acts 5:34-39).
Some groups act like cults. They isolate their faithful from “dangerous” outside Christian influences. No reasoned and amiable debates in order to arrive at truth. No cooperation or working together for the gospel. Just heated rhetoric and cutthroat competition. Sounds like America’s Democrats and Republicans doesn’t it?
The essentials of the faith have to be guarded and defended, yet within the household of faith there must not be enemies. In essentials unity. In other matters charity.
Who made one group the sole arbiter of what’s good and holy? Who gave anyone the right to demand silence from those who desire to be heard and come in peace with Bibles open? What are today’s religious demagogues afraid of anyway?
Next, God willing, we’ll look at common ways critics are silenced, even those whose words like the prophets of old, ring true and come directly from the Lord.