CULTURE: Opinion, Prejudice And Perception

By Roger Penney

Culture consists of many things, history and religion among them. It affects our perceptions; therefore opinions and prejudices are often those of our particular social or religious group and its traditions. We tend to be driven very strongly by the thinking of other people, influenced by our parents and family, and then our society.

In 1904 Gustave LeBon published a book he called The Crowd. This was decades before Adolf Hitler worked out his techniques of control by mass rallies, news, entertainment and schools. LeBon saw a crowd as a very strong influence. Being a Christian often involves rejecting the influence of the crowd and other sources to stand alone and think for oneself, according to His Word and like many prophets of old.

When it comes to truth we find that we are up against practices held by our culture such as worshiping celebrities and the following of their beliefs. This is not new. The love for and loyalty towards those whom history records as great men is well documented. The love for Caesar by his soldiers is well known, as was that for Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin and a host of lesser tyrants.

Standing For What?
What is less well known is the courage and determination of brave men and women who defied popular culture to do what was right and pleasing in the sight of God. In England the anti-slavery movement was led by men and women like Wilberforce, Clarkson, Thornton and Moore. In the United States other brave persons defied popular opinion, which saw black slaves as lesser beings, and formed what became known as the “Underground Railroad.” This was a network of safe houses stretching from the slave-owning south to the north or to Canada to help escaping slaves, both men and women, from the plantations to freedom.

The slave owners and traders in Britain and America published misinformation about the lot of the slaves, giving the impression that the slaves were better off in a civilized country than in the alleged barbarianism from which they were “saved.” The clergy was told that to take people from Africa to Europe or America was to open them up to conversion to Christianity. Millions believed these lies.

The Quaker movement took up a campaign, beginning in the seventeenth century, to tell the truth about the abominable trade in human flesh and to stop it. Members of the “Society of Friends” were forbidden to own or trade in slaves. If anyone did they were put out of the movement. George Fox, its founder, even set before the governor of Barbados the question, in effect, “How would you like to be a slave?”

In Britain, Wilberforce saw a bill passed in Parliament outlawing the slave trade in 1807. It took another 27 years for slavery to be banned in the then extensive British Empire. The massive task had been to change the opinion of the rich and powerful, and that of the slavers themselves. In this they had a mighty ally: the Word of God.

Exodus 21:16 says, “And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death”(KJV). This was an effective incentive in a society which generally believed the Bible to be the Word of God. Not only seen as being real, they also saw God as One who knew and judged the thoughts, words and deeds of men. To realize that you have been disobeying God in a matter so serious that the death penalty was prescribed by Holy Writ must have had a profound effect on the slave traders and others who profited from the abominable trade.

The events in Britain encouraged the persons responsible for the semi-secret Underground Railroad and much of the public opinion in the United States finally turned against slavery. Abraham Lincoln was then able to carry out a pledge made when a young man, having caught his first sight of slavery, to “hit that thing.”

This may encourage us not to lose heart as we see the English-speaking world losing its Christian basis. Indeed, the cultural values are worsening, subtly undermined by those who regard Christianity as outmoded and disproved. “Surely the fear of God is not in this place” (Gen. 20:11).

Depending And Thinking On What?
Scripture warns us that things will be “as the days of Noah were” (Mt. 24:37). We are also warned of the rise of the Empire of Rome and its resurgence in the last days. During the first Roman Empire the lower classes were controlled by the Emperor and the Senate of Rome by two powerful means. First, corn was given to citizens eking out an existence on the edge of starvation. This was to keep them from rebelling and venturing from the vast slum into respectable areas of the city. Second, in this desolate place filled with gangs and violence, the people were given games so they would not “think too much.” There was chariot racing in the Circus Maximus as well as gladiator fighting and beast hunts, with plenty of blood and suffering, in the Colosseum. The citizens were entertained and their leisure hours taken up so they would not rise up against the government. The Emperor and Senate could go on in peace, running the empire and getting rich on the proceeds.

So what has changed? Nothing much at all. The ethics of big business and politicians are often highly questionable and the lower classes have benefits and television. The young listen to mind numbing entertainment and music on their smartphones and other devices while they wander aimlessly with nothing better to do through the wasteland of this world.

Culturally accepted practices have changed in the past through the work of God. But in today’s world we may wonder, “What can a believer do?” I would like to share one example with you.

Presenting What?
Recently a Christian drop-in center opened on London’s High Street. People come in for tea and a chat. It is a brilliant idea where once we thought the only place for gospel preaching was in a mission hall on a Sunday morning or evening. I am not suggesting that we all open drop-in centers as we must, like the couple whose vision it was, pray much about these things. But in the midst of a hostile society we can still get the Word of the gospel to the people. God will lead us if we ask.

There are “giants in the land” (see Numbers 13), giants of atheism, evolution, greed, false religion, selfishness and hatred toward God and His Son. Does it matter? The psalmist wrote: “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against His Anointed, saying, Let us break Their bands asunder, and cast away Their cords from us” (Ps. 2:1-3). Take courage! Man’s action against the Lord Jesus Christ and in disobedience to God’s Word is futile.

We have a commission to fulfill but we have to put our own house in order first. If there are serious rifts among us and if we are unsure what to believe, then we only have ourselves to blame. Paul’s words to the Philippian church are particularly relevant today: “Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind … Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:2-5). We may see this as an ideal that is not possible on this side of heaven. But the Holy Spirit would not have inspired Paul to write this had it been unattainable. Once we are reaching toward what honors God and are showing that Christians really do love one another, then and only then can we begin to influence the world around us. “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another” (Jn. 13:35).

What if the world will not listen? Well, that is the world’s problem! At least they will have heard and the Lord will be able to say to us, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Mt. 25:21). Do not let us think that there is a revival just around the corner. It may not be so. People will still reject the message we bring – rejecting the Word of God and God Himself, a dreadful thing to do!

Ezekiel was told that he was a watchman and had to sound a warning that danger was approaching. To sound the warning was to discharge his own responsibility, whether the people listened or not (Ezek. 3:4-7,10-11, 33:1-11). Do we owe it to the people around us? We who know the Word of God are to speak it to this generation while living the Word before them.

We can surely see what God is doing, what He has planned to do and has prophesied accordingly. “I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until He come whose right it is: and I will give it to Him” (Ezek. 21:27).

Author: Sebastien

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