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How To Tell The Truth And Be Nice At The Same Time

The following book excerpt is from Truth Changes Everything by Dr. Jeff Myers.

In the past, the truths viewpoint led to a soft tolerance that said that individual truth claims must be accepted unless they directly harm others. This has changed in the last half century with the teachings of scholars like Herbert Marcuse (1898 – 1979), a Marxist professor and the popularizer of critical theory. To Marcuse, intolerance is a virtue and tolerance is a vice. Tolerance legitimizes viewpoints that should not be tolerated. Tolerance is “serving the cause of oppression,” he says.

As more people embrace the truths viewpoint, traditional protections of tolerance, such as freedom of speech and freedom of the press, are coming under attack. Fifty-one percent of Americans now say that the First Amendment, which guarantees the right to freedom of speech and freedom of religion, is outdated and should be rewritten to prevent hate speech and better reflect the cultural mores of the times. In the truths viewpoint, psychology replaces logic. Carl R. Trueman says, “Once harm and oppression are regarded as being primarily psychological categories, freedom of speech then becomes part of the problem, not the solution, because words become potential weapons.”

Many worldviews do, by their nature and the example of their leaders, weaponize language to demean others. Take, for example, the Marxist worldview and one of its heroes, Vladimir Lenin (1870 – 1924). Biographer Victor Sebestyen notes that Lenin carefully crafted a harsh and abusive way of making his arguments and as a result “almost single-handedly … changed the language on the revolutionary Left.” His opponents weren’t just wrong. They were “scoundrels,” “philistines,” “cretins,” “filthy scum,” or other names that are too profane to mention here. One of Lenin’s close associates, Moishe Olgin, remarked, “He does not reply to an opponent. He vivisects him. … He ridicules his opponent. He castigates him. He makes you feel that his victim is an ignoramus, a fool, a presumptuous nonentity.”

Even after the fall of the Soviet Union, Sebestyen says, Communists everywhere “learned that it made sense to play the man, not the ball — and how to do it with ruthless efficiency.” It became “settled Bolshevik practice.”

Saul Alinsky’s bestselling book, Rules for Radicals, carried Lenin’s death-dealing rhetoric into American life. “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon,” he gloats. “There is no defense. It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage.”

Christians often feel especially targeted. Social commentator Rod Dreher says that “a progressive — and profoundly anti-Christian militancy — is steadily overtaking society … empowered by unprecedented technological capabilities to surveil private life. There is virtually nowhere left to hide.”

Some Christians I have talked to believe the only way Truth can “win” is to fight fire with fire. In the Summit Ministries program, we’ve tried to teach and model a different way: telling the Truth while being gracious.

Admittedly, the fight fire with fire strategy draws more attention. “Watch person X humiliate person Y in three sentences” is a social media link that will get more traction than “Watch person X respond to person Y with Truth and grace.” Yet the Jesus follower should have more than an immediate victory in mind. We may find those we disagree with irritating (they may feel the same way about us), but they still have dignity as image bearers of God with eternal souls. Here are four steps I hope and pray are making a difference in my own life and in the lives of those I communicate with.

First, speak up. If the Truth is true at every moment, then at every moment we must proclaim it. The antidote to culture-depleting indoctrination is to tell the Truth, expose people to the lies that would deceive them, show them how to refute those lies, and prepare them with the thinking skills necessary to resist falsehood.

Second, be personal. People most clearly see the Truth found in the person of Jesus when we respect their personhood and interact in a personal way. Truth rarely hits people over the head. More often, it dawns on them. “A soft answer turns away wrath” (Prov. 15:1). How do we communicate softly? At Summit Ministries, we teach students to engage in conversation and ask good questions. As Emily Dickinson says, “The truth must dazzle gradually, or every man be blind.”

Third, build trust. People have lost trust in one another. That’s the conclusion of a recent study by the Pew Research Center. Seventy percent think there is less confidence in one another than twenty years ago. Much of the distrust is based on fear of harm. Three-quarters of conservatives and half of liberals say they hold opinions they are afraid to share because they might face public shame or even lose their jobs. Many lay the blame for today’s distrust at the feet of social media. If social media is often a barrier to trust, personal interaction is a bridge to it.

Fourth, practice. We rarely get to choose the timing of our opportunities to speak Truth. We must be ready when the moment arises. This means we need to have a few basic habits of conversation in mind, such as how to ask good questions, how to affirm others’ search for Truth, and what to do if the conversation becomes hostile.

The good news is that most people want to get along and build trusting relationships.

We cannot let the worst among us dictate how we seek the best between us. It’s time to talk.

Dr. Jeff Myers is president of Summit Ministries, a Colorado-based nonprofit organization that equips and supports the rising generation to embrace God’s Truth and champion a biblical worldview.

This book excerpt is from Truth Changes Everything: How People Of Faith Can Transform The World In Times Of Crisis, by Dr. Jeff Myer, (October 18, 2022, Baker Books), @ 2022 Summit Ministries, Inc., used by permission from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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