Miley Cyrus has become synonymous with moral decadence after her sexually-charged performance at the recent MTV Video Music Awards. Now she’s back in the news after a recent interview in which she says: “America is just so weird in what they think is right and wrong. Like, I was watching Breaking Bad the other day, and they were cooking meth. I could literally cook meth because of that show. It’s a how-to. And then they bleeped out the word ‘f***.’ And I’m like, really? They killed a guy, and disintegrated his body in acid, but you’re not allowed to say ‘f***’?”
While I obviously wouldn’t make her point in the same way, I understand it. What Americans can and can’t say is symptomatic of a culture without a compass. Since tolerance is the value that is most valued today, we must avoid giving offense at all costs. As a result, America’s Department of Homeland Security prefers “man-caused disasters” to “Islamic terrorism.” People no longer “die”—they “pass away” or “move on.” “Abortion” is “voluntary termination of pregnancy.” “Jails” are “correctional facilities.”
The pressure of tolerance is visible across our culture. There are politicians who rationalize compromise with the mantra, “you have to get elected to make a difference.” There are actors who play roles that contradict their faith convictions, claiming that they have to be known to have influence. “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar,” we’re told. “Give the people what they want” is the first rule of marketing.
On the other hand, we can also succumb to the judgmental spirit which condemns the culture we seek to change. When you read Miley Cyrus’s statement, what did you think about her? About our society? Oswald Chambers, in his classic My Utmost For His Highest, warns us: “Beware of anything that puts you in the superior person’s place.”
How can Christians engage our culture without condoning or condemning it? How do we speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15)?
I think the process begins with our intentions. Consider these passages: “the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7); “the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought” (1 Chronicles 28:9); “the Lord tests hearts” (Proverbs 17:3); God “tests the heart and the mind” (Jeremiah 11:20); “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind” (Jer. 17:10); “God knows your hearts” (Luke 16:15); God “searches hearts” (Romans 8:27).
No Christian has ever engaged culture more redemptively than the Apostle Paul. He sought neither to condone nor to condemn, but to speak God’s word to his world faithfully. In all he did, Paul wanted “to please God who tests our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4).
Do I? Do you?