Choosing freedom instead of totalitarianism
The lies that opponents of the West tell would lead to tyranny
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What must we do to respond to the crisis of human freedom in the contemporary world? This is an important question, particularly as we reflect on the UN-sponsored “International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims” that occurred last week, on March 24. Part of the answer is, “tell the truth.”
We live in a world riven with violations of fundamental human rights, and it is up to us to tell the truth about Russian aggression, China’s concentration camps, the horrors of ISIS, Boko Haram, and others. Christians have a moral framework for understanding the nature of human dignity and human agency based on the imago dei and commandment to love our neighbor.
The reason we have an international day to tell the truth about human rights violations is because of the lies that authoritarians and Communists perpetrated during and after the Cold War. The lie went something like this: Man and his societies are merely materialistic phenomena and communists strip away culture, values, and religion from society and from the individual until just the material roots of existence remain. In other words, humans are merely moldable chemical and biological material that can be deconstructed; then communists can rebuild a person and a society in our own image. That was the claim. Of course, only a small elite group controls all facets of the restructuring of a ‘new’ society.
This whole endeavor is a lie, exposed in George Orwell’s book, 1984, and in the speeches of great Americans, most notably Ronald Reagan. This powerful lie—that humans are moldable resources in a material universe to be manipulated by those who think they know best—was perpetrated by Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and others. In reality, it is just the brute exercise of control by those in power to enforce conformity through threats, surveillance, and the gulag.
We know this materialist theory never worked. But when Ronald Reagan told the truth at the height of the Cold War, calling the Soviet system an “evil empire” in his 1983 speech to the National Association of Evangelicals, he was castigated by Western elites as being judgmental, aggressive, and unrealistic. Reagan, in contrast, argued for the truth of Christianity, arguing that humanity was created in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, the human being urgently seeks something beyond the material.
The quest for freedom is a natural part of the human soul—to think, speak, practice faith, join in community, publish, and responsibly use private property. Today we are enjoined to tell the truth about human rights—that Russia is not liberating Ukraine, but is murdering civilians, and that China’s camps do not “reeducate” but enslave and torture. Moscow and Beijing operate under old lies perpetrated by the state.
There is a second lie that has a similar intellectual lineage as the first—propagating the false premise that individuals and societies are merely socially constructed phenomena and that Western Civilization and moral codes are constructed on a patriarchal, racist, and murderous set of lies justified by emphasizing conformity, male-dominance, and xenophobia. This ugly lie is perpetrated by Hollywood, political and education elites, and our universities. It rejects the view that human beings are created in the image of God with rights and responsibilities. It rejects the family as an enduring, organic institution, instead treating it as an unfair power construct.
This lie contends that Western Civilization, rooted in Christian morality, is oppressive. “Liberation” means tearing down classic understandings of law, sexuality, the family and parental rights, culture, customs, and religious faith. Deconstruct it all! This is the lie that we see in the West today, and it helps explain why activists so quickly turn to bullying lawsuits, social vendettas, and attacks by so-called ‘human rights commissions’ to achieve liberation from moral truth and the decimation of opponents who refuse to countenance the lie. Recognizing this, Reagan quoted William Penn: “If we will not be governed by God, we must be governed by tyrants.”
The greatest threat to human rights is refusing to believe what it means to be human, either by neglecting the rights of others such as China’s Uighurs or by buying into the false ideologies of Western Civilization’s opponents. It’s time for Christians to tell the truth about the challenges our world faces and declare God’s beautiful plan for humanity.
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