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Afraid to Say “God” in Public: The Power of Ideas

Paul Dean
Paul Dean
2011 16 Sep

There is no doubt Edward Bulwer-Lytton was right when he coined the phrase for his 1839 play The Conspiracy, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Ideas take root in the minds of people and bear real consequences. When ideas take root in a culture there is a pressure to conform to those ideas, at least publically. That pressure is not only felt externally from the culture at large but internally whether one agrees with the idea or not. That’s the power of political correctness and its increasing influence on all of us.

By way of example, I was watching a little of the 2011 Kentucky Derby coverage when Today Show reporter Jenna Wolfe was talking to an NBC race analyst about the weather. He predicted clear skies to which Wolfe responded, “From your lips to, uh . . . everybody’s ears.” Of course, the saying is “from your lips to God’s ears,” which is an expression that God would hear the statement as a prayer and answer. She was obviously about to say “God,” caught herself, and changed up. She stuttered for a split second, appeared to be searching for what to say, and then made a nice save (from a reporting perspective).

The fact that she wasn’t sure should could or should say “God” and changed up is revealing. It wasn’t that long ago when no one was afraid to say “God” and invoked His name in normal conversation. But the politically correct climate that prevails today has changed all that. While there is the perfunctory “God bless America” from political candidates seeking to gain the evangelical vote, and the use of God’s name in vain in a number of settings, it seems that most others are not sure if they should or are even afraid to use the word “God.” This hesitancy or fear certainly represents a massive culture shift. The relatively short time-span over which this shift has occurred is astounding to say the least. Again, it’s the power of an idea (political correctness) that has brought this transformation about.

For Christians, three major implications suggest themselves. The first has to do with whether or not we have felt that internal pressure. It may be that we’re in conversation with someone and the natural thing for us to say has something to do with God. For example, when something happens my wife will say without hesitation, “that’s part of God’s good providence.” But now, it may be that we’re tempted to revise our words around people we don’t think are committed Christians. It used to be that we feared what they might think of us. Now it goes beyond that. We may fear that our words at best are inappropriate or at worst offensive. The power of cultural ideas affects all of us.

The second implication has to do with the fact that we should not be afraid to invoke or use the Name of God on a regular basis in everyday conversation. That’s who we are as Christians. And while we don’t want to be offensive and while we have the responsibility to be wise in our witness, the fact that we are different from the culture at large is part of what puts the power and reality of Christ on display in our lives. We can say things like “that’s part of God’s good providence” without being obnoxious. We can say things like “the Lord was gracious to me today” without coming across as strange. We simply need to be who we are without forcing an issue or shying away from the way we express ourselves. Someone may be offended if we say “from your lips to God’s ears” but that’s not an offensive act per se and simply points out the reality that people are different. If someone asks us not to share Christ with him we should respect that request. We should never intentionally offend others. But neither should we change who we are because of cultural pressure to be politically correct. The early Christians obeyed the rules of their respective cultures but they also went everywhere talking about Jesus. Their lives had been radically changed and they couldn’t help but show it.

The third implication concerns the power of ideas proper. We have the most profound message there is and the power of the Holy Spirit to energize that message when He sees fit. In a much greater way than political correctness has permeated this culture of ours, the Christian worldview, that is the biblical message of the reality of God and its implications, could once again turn this culture around. But it will never do that unless we put it out there in our everyday talk.

To borrow from the title of Richard M. Weaver’s 1948 philosophical work, “ideas have consequences.” The spread of the gospel in Western civilization and its beneficial influence gives testimony to that fact even as the spread of political correctness in our culture and its negative consequences does the same. The gospel can spread again. People’s lives and the culture at large can be changed. We need only remember that “the pen is mightier than the sword.” Or, to use God’s language on the subject: “the weapons of our warfare are not physical but spiritual and mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:4). 

Dr. Paul Dean invites you to discover more about the role of Government, the role of the church, and the role of the market  . . . and develop a Christian worldview. Dr. Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. Please visit http://www.governmentcurrentevents.com