Prayer Targets: Speaking Truth to Culture; Standing for Christ in a "Cancel Culture"
February 4, 2021
"We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us."But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:28-29)
Dear Praying Friends,
Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) was born into a line of Cossack intellectuals. His father died before he was born, and he was raised by his mother. With a degree in Mathematics from Rostov-na-Donu University, he studied literature at Moscow State University via correspondence. He rose to the rank of captain in World War II, but was arrested in 1945, caught for writing a letter that criticized Joseph Stalin. After eight years in prisons and labor camps, and three more years in forced exile, he became an outspoken critic of the Soviet Union and communism and helped to raise global awareness of the Soviet Gulag forced-labor camp system. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970 in absentia. In 1973, part of his The Gulag Archipelago was published in Paris. It documented the arrest, interrogation, conviction, transportation, and imprisonment of the Gulag's victims as practiced by the Soviet Union over four decades. He was arrested and charged with treason, and in 1974 was exiled from the Soviet Union. In December he took possession of his Nobel Prize. In 1978 Solzhenitsyn gave the commencement speech at Harvard University. Here are excerpts from one analysis:
In 1978, at Harvard, America heard from a prophetic voice. His comments have proven true. Few college commencement speakers these days dare challenge our culture's rampant political correctness and secularism. But a generation ago, on June 8, 1978, the renowned Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn gave a stunning address at Harvard University that not only made those assembled there uncomfortable but provoked many to boo.
Why would the audience boo this moral giant who had stared down a brutal communist dictatorship's Gulags and won the Nobel Prize in literature? Because people expected him to celebrate the West and condemn communism, but he came over and condemned communism and the West. Not only this, but Solzhenitsyn had the gall to speak of something reviled at the time by the elites on both sides of the Atlantic: truth. "[T]ruth," Solzhenitsyn said, "eludes us if we do not concentrate our attention totally on its pursuit. But...the illusion of knowing it still lingers and leads to many misunderstandings. Also, truth seldom is pleasant; it is almost invariably bitter."
In a classic analysis of our prevailing worldview, Solzhenitsyn said the West had exchanged belief in unchanging truth for a relentless legalism. The most tragic and significant result, he said, was the absence of "civil courage." And he pointed to three lines of evidence: First, "destructive and irresponsible freedom had been granted boundless space." How a culture understands freedom -- whether to virtue or for immediate gratification -- determines its stability. As Os Guinness wrote in his recent book "A Free People's Suicide," the greatest enemy of freedom, ironically, is freedom. I would tweak that a bit--the greatest enemy of freedom is poorly defined freedom, what Chuck Colson called freedom without virtue.
Second, Solzhenitsyn pointed to the decadence of art and a lack of great statesmen... While there are certainly many courageous individuals worthy of our respect, consider how our society has defined greatness down. This is evidenced by the fact that the Arthur Ashe Courage Award by ESPN, once awarded to Nelson Mandela, will this year be awarded to Bruce Jenner -- not for his Olympic feats but for his announcement that he was a woman, a year after they awarded it to Michael Sam for announcing his sexual orientation. And we have long struggled with who to call heroes in the West: confusing celebrities and athletes with heroes. As Dr. Bill Brown, a mentor and co-author of mine, says: in other countries, heroes make history. In our country, they make CDs and touchdowns.
And Solzhenitsyn's final warning referred to the 1977 New York City blackout when, as he said, "all of a sudden crowds of American citizens start looting and creating havoc." If that reminds you of recent events, you are not alone.
Can anything be done about the loss of civil courage? Well, our friend Eric Metaxas has written about two individuals who found themselves in fragile cultural moments not dissimilar to ours: William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. While Wilberforce, by God's grace, was able to see a cultural and spiritual recovery, Bonhoeffer was not. And yet, neither man was a failure. Like them, we do not know the future of our culture, but that's not up to us. What is up to us is to courageously commit ourselves to truth and virtue, love God and our neighbor, and care for the victims of the bad ideas our culture is promoting.
As Father Richard John Neuhaus wisely said, paraphrasing T. S. Eliot, "For us, there is only the trying . . . the rest is God's business."
Speaking Truth to Culture -- A few boos at a commencement speech could not deter a man like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn who survived the Soviet Gulag. Will we have Solzhenitsyn-like courage when the crowd turns on us for our faith? (Read and watch Solzhenitsyn's Harvard commencement speech; Chuck Colson on Solzhenitsyn; John Stonestreet on Solzhenitsyn's Graduation Speech Revisited)
Standing for Christ in a "Cancel Culture" -- Solzhenitsyn lived in a full-orbed cancel culture. If you disagreed with the government or criticized the state leaders or policies, you were risking your freedom, even your life, and you could be sentenced to the Gulag. In places all over the world today, people suffer in such cancel cultures, especially Christians in North Korea, China, Cuba, and Venezuela -- in other words, wherever communist regimes rule, and also in countries where radical Islam or wars to impose radical Islam have prevailed. The U.S. has been a light to the world because of our Christian roots. Our Declaration and Constitution and their promise guarantee certain unalienable rights. However, we are seeing those rights and the people they belong to being "cancelled out" on every side. Governments have been guilty of overstepping their authority. Mandates of many kinds related to the threat of COVID have crushed businesses, jobs, families, livelihoods, retirement savings, schools, and churches.
Several social media giants have chosen to cancel users who do not agree with their political philosophy or those who express their disapproval of practices the Bible teaches as sinful and a danger to our nation. They cancel us by calling us haters, racists, and more, which could not be farther from the truth. But now, under the Biden administration and the Democrat-controlled House, numerous anti-Christian, anti-life, anti-liberty dictates have been made from the White House, and the new administration is just getting started. Now, America must endure an effort to "cancel out" former President Trump and every American who supported him. This will not "unify" America. And if the enmity that has brought such hostility and division in our land persists and continues to grow, our nation cannot stand in the long run as history and the word of God demonstrate.
God hates violence. He sent a flood to destroy all the people on earth except for Noah and his family. He ordained a law after the flood requiring men to uphold the sanctity of human life and to suffer death for shedding innocent blood.
As more and more entities violate others by "cancelling" them, there will likely be continued increase in tension. A majority of Americans disagree with having to pay taxes to pay for abortions in the U.S. and abroad. Most parents do not want to subject their children to being taught racism in the name of "anti-racism," or being taught that they may be one of a hundred genders and not the boys and girls God made them. Already, 18 states have laws that prevent counselors from helping and parents from getting help for their gender-confused children. Proposed federal legislation would expand the practice. Elections have consequences, and although a number of Executive Orders have already been signed that are wholly offensive to God-fearing people, they have not yet made the impact they will. And as last week's Prayer Targets discussed, curriculum changes are being made in some states that are not only distasteful, but abominable to Bible-believing Christians. More and more, our faith and our religious freedoms are being violated. It has been anecdotal up until now, but it will soon be systematic if God does not intervene.
If government leaders persist in openly quashing the rights and religious consciences of those with whom they disagree with no regard to the U.S. Constitution and the promises of our First Amendment, and if some of the anti-Christian values and dictates that have been predicted come true (although prayer and practical citizenship action could succeed in holding back the tide of cancel culture), we who believe could very easily be subject to more than having our Facebook or Twitter account suspended. (See: Canceling America; Canceling babies; Mike Lindell; Sen. Josh Hawley; Manhood; Cancelling History; Surviving the Cancel Culture)
- Lord, help us to pray as never before! May we respond and help others respond to your appeal and promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14 and 1 Timothy2:1-8. May we urgently repent! We pray that you will thrust out laborers to gather the harvest (Matthew 9:38) and disciple new believers and help you build up your church, producing men and women who will be both salt and light and part of real revival in America and beyond. May we not only pray but go ourselves!
- We pray for our leaders as never before, including those whose policies we are troubled by, for their souls, for their true conversion to faith in Jesus Christ and for your guidance for our leaders.
- We pray for President Biden, for Vice President Harris, House Speaker Pelosi, and shared Senate Leaders McConnell and Schumer. God, turn their hearts wherever you will. May they bow in obedience to you and bring blessing, not curses, upon our nation (Dt 28). Protect them from evil and lead them in the way, we pray. We pray for all who are in authority, both good and bad, that they would be led by you to do right and do what is best for our nation. Keep those who fear you on the path of righteousness and draw those who do not know you to yourself. Forgive us for our sins of sluggishness and inattention to you and your word. Let your church be vital and obedient -- strong to stand even amid persecution and to love those who know not what they do. May you protect each of us from every kind of cancellation.
- May we urgently and lavishly share the gospel with our fellow countrymen. Help us to win them to Christ and show them the better way. May we win those who are or would become private or public perpetrators of "Cancel Culture." Help us to be led by your Spirit like so many of our Christian forebears in pagan cultures. May we be advocates for life and the gospel in every way, even amid persecution, as so many of our forebears in the faith have had to do. May we return to you! Awaken us! And may you be glorified in America again! (Lev 26:14-39; Josh 1:8, 7:11-12; 1 Sam 12:15, 15:23; 2 Chr 7:14; Ps 119:1-8; Pr 1:23-33, 15:31-32; Jn 14:15; Jer 15:6-9; Lk 6:46-49, 11:28; Rom 6:23; Eph 5:6, 6:1-3; Col 3:5-17; 2 Tim 3:1-7; Jas 1:14-15, 22; 1 Jn 2:3-6, 3:21-22; 2 Jn 1:6)