Why do you want to force your opinion on me?

On Sundays at the moment we are focusing on and exploring ‘The Questions of Faith that People Ask.’ Here is the first part of the fourth question: ‘Why do you want to force your opinion on me?’

– A friend says it is up them to decide whether it is right for them to s ex outside of marriage.
– A friend says women should be free to choose whether it is right to have an abortion.
– A friend says each of us must develop our own ideas about God.

How do you respond to these statements? Why?

Jesus began his ministry by declaring: ‘The kingdom of God  is near. Repent and believe the good news!’ (Mark 1:14-15) But to many people today the kingdom or reign of God doesn’t sound like good news. ‘I want to be free, ‘ they say. ‘Let me decide what I believe and how I live. I don’t want you Christians forcing your opinion on me.’ At that the end of the move, I, Robot (2004), the robot Sonny says, ‘Now that I have fulfilled my purpose, I don’t know what to do.’ Detective Spooner replies: ‘I guess you’ll have to find your way like the rest of us, Sonny … That’s what it means to be free.’

Truth leads to true freedom and community

– A scientific report says that GM crops are safe.
– A book says that global warming is not man-made.
– A dictator says forthcoming elections will be free and fair.
– A politician announces money for a new initiative to improve educational attainment in State schools.
– A Turkish professor of history denies there was an Armenian genocide after the First World War.

How do you respond to these claims? Why?

The French philosopher Foucault writes: ‘Truth is a thing of this world. It is produced only by multiple forms of constraint and that includes the regular effects of power.’[1] Many people today believe any claim that something is true is really an assertion of power. And there is plenty of evidence that truth is often shaped by the powerful to defend their power. More than anyone, Christians recognise the way that selfishness distorts our understanding of the world. History is written by the winners. Corporate power shapes the news. Scientists are suspected of reading evidence to the advantage of commercial sponsors. Truth is corrupted by power. Truth claims are often coercive.

But if you take truth away you are left with pure coercion. If there is no right and wrong then there is only strong and weak.  A feminist anthropologist was working in West Africa. When she challenged the mistreatment of women in traditional African societies, she was told by tribal leaders she had no right to impose her Western worldview on them. It was a line of argument perfectly in tune with her own postmodern views. She found herself forced to choose between her relativism and her feminism. If there is no truth then there is no basis to say the mistreatment of women is right or wrong. She chose her feminism. If there is no truth then you can’t challenge injustice.

The claim that truth is a power play is itself a power play! It’s an act of self-autonomy. It’s an ‘assertion’ of my right to determine truth for myself without social or divine restrictions.

1. We need a power above human powers
From ancient to modern times beasts have represented imperial power (the Assyrian lion, Roman eagle, British lion, Russian bear, Chinese dragon, American eagle). In Revelation 4 the ‘beasts’ of empire submit to the throne of heaven.

2. We need a power that is selfless and liberating
This is the vision of Revelation 5 where the Lion on the throne is the Lamb who was slain. Here is a King who dies for his enemies. We believe Satan’s lie that God’s rule is tyrannical (Genesis 3), but the cross shows us that God’s rule of love brings freedom (Mark 10:45).

Christianity does require certain beliefs and practices of its members. But so does every community. ‘Community’ requires that you have certain things ‘in common’. A gay group won’t include people who reject homosexuality. Every group has certain things that define it. So the question is: Which community has in common something that gives it every reason to be kind, loving and humble towards outsiders? The common thing that most unites the Christian community is the cross: God dying for his enemies.

[1] Cited in  Tim Keller, The Reason for God,  Dutton, 2008, 37.

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